Daisy, Daisy, How Does Your Garden Grow?
"Are you finished, miss?" The toffee-nosed waiter asked me, evidently repulsed by my decision to wear ripped jeans to a champagne luncheon.
"Yeah, thanks." I replied, watching as his disapproving gaze shifted to my plate full of untouched Haute cuisine.
"The asparagus was not to your liking?" He sniffed, squinting his steely blue eyes at me accusingly. Actually, if truth be told, nothing on the menu was to my liking; I could kill for bangers and mash.
"Um, it was really tasty, but..." I tried to think of a satisfactory excuse, "I had a really big breakfast at Maccie D's, so I'm still feeling a bit bagged." Across the table, I heard my mum growl like an irate wildcat. I looked over at her and her scowling face reminded me of Gerard Butler in 300, well, if the king of Sparta lost the facial fuzz and got some expensive blonde highlights. I let out a sigh and shrugged; they knew I didn't feel comfortable in snooty eateries with all their frowning staff and miniscule, Borrowers-size portions. Trying to eat that asparagus was the equivalent of chowing down on a pair of cheesy feet.
"Darling, are you not having dessert?" Dad asked me, handing over a chic gold-embossed menu. Hmm, decisions, decisions...should I have one tiny biscuit with a random Kumquat plonked on top or half a teaspoon of Lavender ice-cream?
"Nah, I think I'll skip pudding," In fact, I think I was going to escape for the rest of the evening. "I may just go for a walk, thanks for the grub." Mum placed a ring-encrusted hand to her forehead and heaved a groan.
"Daisy, could you at least try to pretend you have some manners? I mean really, I could have died from embarrassment when you mentioned-" She lowered her voice so the other diners wouldn't overhear her, "A fast food outlet." I felt my eyes automatically roll as if they were purpose-built snobbery detectors. I cleared my throat and semi-shouted, "I'll see you later; I'm off for a chicken burger," Grabbing up the cardigan that was slung over my chair, I added, "Shall I bring you back some chips?" I could barely contain my amusement as I strolled out the plush dining room. Mum's mortified face was priceless.
Bounding happily down the granite stairs at the hotel's front entrance, I set off for the pathway which lay at the end of the long, scenic driveway. The reason for my stay at the Lauriston Country Hotel was supposedly a treat for passing my sixth form exams. My parents had a twisted idea of fun, and so they actually believed I'd enjoy spending the weekend with them in the middle of the Derbyshire countryside. It was Saturday afternoon, and so far I had endured a morning playing golf- not even the good 'crazy' kind- and a plateful of Foie gras- which I refused to even touch, as something which translates from French as 'fat liver', doesn't really appeal.
Ambling down the country trail, I wondered if maybe I had been swapped at birth, and somewhere out there, there was another seventeen-year old girl who absolutely loved standing outside in tartan trousers hitting small white balls and devouring tortured geese. It wasn't that I didn't love my parents, it's just we had very little in common and now that my exams were over, the 'rents were constantly nagging me about university. "You'll make a splendid dentist, Dais." Dad told me at least three times a day, making me shudder at the very thought. Nothing against the dental industry, but I didn't want to spend my life in a harshly-lit surgery, gazing into people's gobs every day, I wanted to be...a gardener. I hadn't shared this secret ambition with my parents, as I knew exactly what their reaction would be, and let's just say it wouldn't involve whoops of joy.
I abruptly stopped in my tracks when I noticed a rotting wooden sign at the edge of the overgrown path, pointing ahead to Whipstead Hall. When we had arrived yesterday, I had passed the time while my mum argued for a better room, by reading the tourist information leaflets scattered across the reception desk. Whispstead Hall apparently had some of the most beautiful grounds in England. I know most teenage girls wouldn't willingly spend a Saturday afternoon looking at rose gardens, but it was my idea of heaven.
It took me just over an hour to walk to Whipstead; though I enjoyed the walk, as in spite of the fact the British summer is usually far from summery, the sun was out and it felt so good to get away from mum and dad's constant dentistry blabber. When I finally reached the gates to the estate, my stomach was gurgling like a broken dishwasher, I hadn't eaten since my pancake and sausage this morning- I had only managed to sneak away to the golden arches when dad was stuck on the 7th hole; it was just a quick trip into Derby from the bus stop outside the golf course. The Whipstead estate car park was basically empty. Looking at the weather-beaten map situated beside the entrance, I decided the Japanese gardens sounded like a good place to start, trying desperately to ignore the increasing boom of thunder emanating from my stomach.
The Japanese gardens proved quite hard to find, and seemed further away from the main house than they did on the map. When I finally came to the fiery red bridge that signalled their beginning, I was disappointed to find it was blocked off with thick rusty chain and a sign that read-
The Japanese Gardens are currently closed to the public.
I was just turning around to leave when I saw something which caught my eye.
A white Opal orchid.
Seeing it there in the distance made me as excited as my mum probably gets when she spots a reduced Fendi bag in the Harvey Nichol's sale. It was so rare, and I had never seen one up close. It couldn't hurt to just have a quick look? Hopping over the chain, I dashed across the bridge and came to a halt beside the orchid.
"Wow." I breathed reverentially, gazing down at the pearlescent petals in wonder. Oh man, if my mum could see me now, getting excited over a plant, she would totally give me her 'you really need to get yourself a boyfriend' speech.
"You do realise trespassing is a criminal offence?" A raspy voice cut through my thoughts and I jumped back from the rare flower in fright. I turned to see a portly man with a flat cap and a bushy beard, wearing the same expression my mum had already inflicted on me back in the hotel restaurant.