IT IS NO good. I can contain it no longer. There are seeds to be planted, and seeds cannot be planted without seed compost. And seed compost cannot be had without a trip to... the garden centre.

This is a dangerous business, I know, but it has be done. If you are planning a similar operation yourself, a word of advice: preparations are paramount.

First, make a fire. On this, place all those lists of "must have" plants scrawled on the backs of wine bottle labels and chocolate wrappers, amassed during the winter months while indulging oneself in front of Friday night gardening programmes. Temptation removed, make a new list. This list should be made on a very small piece of paper. In my case, it should read: "Seed compost. Fertiliser." In reality, it reads: "Seed compost. Fertiliser. More snowdrops? Hellebores in flower???"

Next, remove all credit cards from your purse and place them on top of your cheque book in the middle of the dining table with all but pounds 5 of your cash. Actually, I've never done this one yet, but I'm sure it works.

As a final precaution, install in the passenger seat of your car someone with a pathological hatred of gardening. In my case, the perfect candidate is Phil, who can be relied upon to remain in the car park, tutting impatiently and tapping his fingers on the dashboard while I complete my trolley dash.

Garden centres, of course, are all designed on the Ikea principle. Hence, one cannot simply walk in, select one's products and leave. Instead one must negotiate an obstacle course which wends its way from pots of flowering bulbs, through shrubs and garden design before diving indoors for a romp around garden furniture, knick-knacks and assorted chutneys (no, I never understood what these had to do with gardening, either).

I take a deep breath, fix my gaze firmly on the toes of my shoes and make a run for it. So far, so good. I am past the half-price Christmas decorations and into seeds before I have to come up for air. Now, where was that list again? Damn. Wrong jeans. Still, no problem. Seed compost, seed compost.

With a huge sigh of relief I am at the cash tills. This is a triumph! I haven't even so much as looked in to house plants, and out in the car Phil is still serenely listening to the football. Half way home, though, I remember the fertiliser. Ah well, I can always pop back later on my own.

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