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Archive for July 24th, 2009

Day 96 - Architectural Plants Guest Blog

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Guy’s brother Tom has asked me to write something about Guy, our relationship with him and his precocious propensity for extreme physical exertion…

Guy used to visit our nursery in Nuthurst with his parents Tina and Nigel and by the age of 16 had approached us for some holiday work on the nursery. Such a pleasant and fresh faced youth had to be given a chance but nothing had prepared us for the sheer gusto with which he threw himself into his work. Whether it was potting on plants, tidying the nursery, making observations about the business or just being incredibly friendly, everything was done with extra extra enthusiasm. Needless to say, everyone adored him and the question “Is Guy coming back this year?” was on many people’s lips. He came and went through school holidays, gap years and university vacations but eventually, after his graduation from Bournemouth, tearful and final good-byes were made as Guy went off to start his ‘proper job’ in London. Final good-byes, my eye! He was back three weeks later mouthing oaths about how awful it had been in the city and demanding a permanent position at Architectural Plants. It took about a minute and a half to negotiate terms and conditions. I just said yes to everything.

Guy’s infectious enthusiasm and tendency to be highly productive was great but it was his interest and grasp of business that attracted me most. Often we used to meet up on the nursery and have our little philosophical chats about life, the universe and everything but there was one particular observation he made, aged about 18, that intrigued me. “Angus, maybe you could explain something to me. You seem to be incredibly well organised here and do everything well but almost every other job I’ve ever had has been at places that seem incredibly inefficient and badly organised. How come they manage to survive?” I answered him then and I’d answer him now : “Guy, I’m 40 years older than you and I haven’t got the faintest idea”. Only an exceptional young person would have noticed such a thing and would have asked such a question. The boy will go far.

Back to extreme physical stuff. I fear that Guy and Andy’s current predicament of being stuck in uncooperative currents in the middle of the Indian Ocean could be partly my fault. When he was working here full time after abandoning his first proper job in London and knowing that he ‘quite liked going for runs and bike rides’, I told him about a rather unlikely sponsorship deal I’d agreed with a chap called Stuart Turnbull. Stuart and his friend Ed Baylis, for reasons best known to themselves, wanted to buy a boat and row it from La Gomera in the Canaries to Antigua in the Caribbean and they needed some dosh to do it. Sponsorship is just another way of advertising one’s company and we’d often been asked to sponsor under 14 football teams which I’d always rejected due to an absence of interest in football but two loonies who wanted to row across the Atlantic Ocean with ‘Architectural Plants’ plastered down one side of their little boat? Irresistible. Right up my street. But it was Guy’s reaction to this news (that I thought might be of a mere, fleeting interest to him) that caught me out. His eyes became wider than I’d ever seen them before, there was a massive in-take of breath and all of you who know Guy can imagine his retort - “Oh God I’d absolutely LOVE to do something like that!”. Oh no, what had I done? His poor parents! It seems that mad look in his eyes never left.

That was in 2005. It wasn’t long after that, that I was made aware of the fact that there were stirrings in the rowing department. Guy had even found a friend called Andy who apparently shared his ambition to do something balmy in a rowing boat. In the meantime, further evidence of Guy’s desire to push himself to the edge came in the build-up to the Iron Man competition - preparations for which we were always kept closely abreast of - and an incident in Tuscany on a plant buying trip in 2006. It was just before Christmas and dark when we checked into our hotel in Montecatini Terme. We pointed out some of the sites including the original little medieval hill town - Montecatini Alto - that hovers over 1,000 ft above the spa town where we stayed. “Cor, I’d really like to run up there”. “Don’t be silly Guy - it’s over a thousand feet up, pitch dark and pouring with rain. You’d never find your way up or down and you’d probably die anyway” we all said in a vain attempt to dissuade him. “Go and have a nice bath in your room and we’ll all meet in the foyer for supper at 7.30″. He was there in the foyer at 7.30 all right. A little pinker than usual but full of beans and bursting to tell us about scrabbling up and then down a mountain in the dark and wet and back to the hotel in time for tea and how much fun it was. We sat listening with our mouths open. At last, the penny had dropped. Guy’s nuts. Then he did it again the following evening before supper. Took the road this time - a steep series of hairpins making a round trip to the village and back of about 12 miles. Before tea. You can imagine after reading this how I was going to react when the inevitable question came. I had no choice. “Angus….. we think we’ve found a boat and think we’d quite like to row it across the Indian Ocean through 40 ft waves and hurricane force winds. Can we have some money please?” Rarely have I handed over several thousand quid to anyone with such alacrity. I’d built up an enormous affection and admiration for Guy over the years and I hope I’d always encouraged him in his deranged enterprises. Did I really mean it when I tried to talk him out of running up to Montecatini Alto on a horrible wet night? Of course not - I’d have been bloody furious if he hadn’t. Adventure, whether physical or mental must be encouraged and I’m very proud to have played a little bit in assisting these two in their’s. To some lesser mortals, I might point out - “It doesn’t all end in Mauritius you know”. These two know that, so I wouldn’t bother.

Angus White, Owner

Architectural Plants Ltd