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Tulips from Amsterdam.

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:08pm

Well, daffodils actually. But they could have been tulips.

We had to go to my son's school last week for a start of year meeting, and as we were waiting for the bus on the way back, I noticed that the little Piazza in front of us was covered with crates and crates of bulbs.

Bulbs. (Fall-rise intonation, as in Yes, that's what I said ). We don't get bulbs in Milan - or at least, only very rarely, sold in ones or twos, and at exorbitant prices.

Milanese bus stops have this neat litle device which tell you how far away the next bus is, and this one said five minutes. So I left my husband and my son at the stop and popped across the road for a look. Just a look you understand.

But when I saw the prices ... In Italian terms, they were giving them away. And I had almost no money with me.

I looked around for the guy who was selling, and heard him talking to another customer. He was speaking in English - with a decidedly Dutch accent. Aah. (Fall-rise again, this time as in So I'm buying direct from the producer. That explains the prices.) I asked him how often he was there, with a view to coming back with some cash. Once a year, was the reply.

Ah. (Falling tone this time as in This could be a problem. ) But though I didn't have much money with me, I did have a husband. So back I go and say that they could get the bus and go home, but I was going shopping - oh, and could I have some money?

An audible sigh was heard and eyes went up towards heaven. But a wallet was pulled out and I was handed a blue banknote. I'd been hoping for a brown one, you understand, but he knows me. He knows me.

Back I skip. Almost all the bulbs are tulips, of all the varieties under the sun. It's tempting, but I "did" tulips this year, and space on the balcony is limited. So I go for daffs instead.

There are also racks of plants. I avoid the cyclamen, which I've got already, and pick up six heathers, a veronica and some asters. All so cheap that I'm not even counting. But that's about all I can carry, and I must surely have spent all the money I've got by now. How much? €12,45 - but call it €12. Whaat? (rise-fall intonation as in This guy's giving them away and he's still giving me a discount? )

So at that point I decide that I might just stretch to some more bulbs. Let's round it up to €15 and call it a day ...

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