x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A weekend at a garden centre? Only if there's a robotic T-Rex

There was my partner, perusing various outdoor plants with the rather sweet, innocent enthusiasm of someone who had blissfully ignored our only-quite-recent horticultural failure. And there was I.

Not too long ago, I was dragged to a garden centre by my better half. It doesn't sound like much, I realise, but I feel somehow this wasa major turning point in my life, a moment that – years down the line – I will look back at and say: "That is when you turned into the sort of guy who is dragged to garden centres on weekends."

It was a puzzling choice of destination. We don't have a garden. We live in a flat on the 12th floor that doesn't get much in the way of direct sunlight. Our last attempt to "make the balcony look nice" resulted in what was a vibrant bougainvillaea transforming in the space of two weeks into a forlorn stump poking out of a plant pot amid a sea of dead leaves and petals.

But there we were. On a Saturday. In a garden centre. There was my partner, perusing various outdoor plants with the rather sweet, innocent enthusiasm of someone who had blissfully ignored our only-quite-recent horticultural failure. And there was I.

For her sake, I was trying to look eager (OK, so that's not true at all), but all I could really think was that this was the sort of thing I was now going to be doing with my weekends.

No longer would Saturday mornings involve trying to piece together the previous night's antics using the collective evidence of screwed up receipts, club wristbands and assorted bruises. No longer would I wake up to find at least one shoe, sometimes not even mine, still on.

No, from now on I was going to be the sort of guy who gets up, eats muesli, drinks guava juice and is then dragged to a garden centre, or an out-of-town mall, or something equally hideous.

So, as my partner picked some pretty flowers that I can absolutely guarantee will be dead by the time you read this, off I sloped, staring at my feet and wondering where my youth had vanished.

Not even the awful ceramic garden ornaments would rouse me, and I'm a bit of an idiot when it comes to awful ceramic garden ornaments (my prized possession is a panther called Dave that sits proudly in the lounge).

There were other men there in similar situations, I could tell by their look of general despondency. But there were others who genuinely looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Is this what's going to happen to me? Am I soon going to start getting giddy about the prospect of a weekly jaunt to Garden World or whatever it's called? Shudder.

In the end, my day was spared by the most unlikely of objects. Having traipsed past the tropical fish, garden furnishings and vegetable seeds, I found myself alone with my gloom near some ceramic barbecues.

Suddenly, my despair was broken by a roar, and I turned to find a plastic animatronic dinosaur, about four metres long, wiggling its rubber tail and chomping its kid-friendly teeth.

This is where I was found later on, pointing and giggling at the idea that someone might want to outdo their neighbour's garden gnome collection and, well, a robotic T-Rex would probably do the trick.

Sure, trips to garden centres at weekends might not bode well. But I think when the time comes that I stop finding ludicrous animatronic dinosaurs funny is when I should really start to worry.

aritman@thenational.ae