many shades of green

A young family relocates from inner-city Sydney to the outskirts of Brisbane, settling in an area of small farms and open spaces. Gavin, who is a lawyer, feels totally out of place in his new home, the wholesale palm and foliage plant nursery (open to the public) that his wife Tess had had her heart set on. Tess on the other hand knows everything there is to know about the natural world of plants; she takes her husband in hand and educates him almost daily on his new duties as a grower.

To make ends meet while they establish their business, Gavin takes a part-time job with BWS Lawyers, headed by the bullying Mr Bunbury, where his workmate in the office is the temptingly beautiful Zara, further complicating matters. It’s a life divided between legal problems and growing seasons.

Little daughter, Missy, grows up in a wonderful child’s world of flowers, small animals, birds and her very own strawberry bed.   

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-16-8  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 330
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: Gordon E. Carr
Zeus Publications

Date Published: 2014
Language: English



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Read a sample:



What do women want? That is an age-old question that men have been trying to answer for centuries. Even if husbands, lovers, boyfriends, relatives, employers think they know the answer, they are usually wrong, because women themselves are not sure what they want, and why many feel dissatisfied with the hand that fate has dealt them. The fact is that women have many shades to their personalities (that doesn’t include grey).

This story is about shades of green embraced by one determined woman and her husband (a lawyer) who tries to understand the mystery of it all. It also shows how wives can play fast and loose with a chap’s aspirations, dignity, manhood and self-regard when he is placed in an unusual, strange and challenging environment in which she is comfortable and quite at home and he isn’t.

Also, just to make things clear from the start, this novel has no association with another that has shades in the title (grey or otherwise). It’s about life in garden beds and similar outdoor pursuits and not the indoor variety of beds. The discerning reader should not be disappointed. He or she can still learn about a green life far from the frantic and buttoned-up lifestyle of modern city life.   



‘You mean to say that BWS Lawyers are putting on a woman lawyer? Really? Right after they hired that new bloke, Gavin, or whatever his name is? I can’t believe it. The place is such a boys’ club including both the senior and junior ranks. Behind the scenes it’s us girls who do all the work and we aren’t even lawyers,’ said pretty brown-eyed Emily at the usual early morning staff get-together before CEO Mr Bunbury turned up.

‘I think it’s because legal firms are being pressured to take on female lawyers as it seems the law schools are turning out more female lawyers than males these days,’ said young, earnest, No.1 junior lawyer, Cyril Wadley. ‘So, to be seen doing the right thing, this firm has thrown a lifeline to an experienced young lady called Zara Arrowsmith and I hear she is supposed to start today.’

‘Would that make us a mid-tier firm, do you think?’ asked Ranichar Chowdhary, the No.2 junior lawyer, who came from Fiji. ‘I am always reading in those law magazines and newspapers about law practices being in tiers. I always thought tiers had to do with big cakes like wedding cakes with one cake on top of another?’ 

‘No, I don’t think so, Ranichar, just one or two more lawyers won’t take us up a notch or a tier. I think the top-tier firms have a staff of hundreds, and the middle tier, much more than us. We would have to be at the bottom of the pack. Mind you, there’s dozens of firms the same size as us and hundreds or perhaps thousands of sole practitioners, many working from home.’  


In the country on the other side of town an exasperated young woman (a wife) was saying: ‘Gavin, what are you doing?’

The aforesaid Gavin was operating a backpack device in the middle of a large greenhouse where he was spraying potted palms.  

‘I’m spraying these, because they are covered in green grubs that are chewing holes in the leaves. Why do you ask? I thought it was self-evident.’ Gavin tried to not sound frustrated and annoyed at the question.

‘It’s strange, Gavin, but I think you’re just spraying water and have forgotten to put in the chemical. And, do you know how I know? It’s because I can’t smell it and usually that particular pest spray has a very pronounced odour and I can’t smell a thing!’   

‘Oh my goodness, Tess, you’re right. How on earth could I have been so forgetful?’

Gavin looked rueful. Here was he, a successful lawyer pottering around in a greenhouse with a bossy and know-it-all wife in charge and he would far sooner have faced an angry judge in a courtroom.   

It had all come about because of a sea-change, or in this case a green-change, when Tess said she had had enough of city life in Sydney and wanted to move with their three-year-old daughter, Melanie (called Missy), to the country to a farm or a plant nursery. Gavin’s mind ran back to the conversation that preceded it all. 

‘A plant nursery? I’m not a farmer. I don’t know much about growing things. I’m a lawyer. That’s been my life.’

‘Well, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t change. Look, here’s an interesting property advertised just north-west of Brisbane, a plant and palm nursery, on five hectares with a large shade house and a comfortable three-bedroom house. It would be perfect for the three of us. A tree-change if you like.’   

‘You mean the opposite of a sea-change?’ 

‘No, not opposite, silly, very much the same, only a bit inland rather than on the coast.’ 

‘Well, er, it would be a massive change.’   

Although not so much for Tess, he thought, as she was always growing plants and cuttings in jam tins for sale at church bazaars or at the door and spending a lot of time in their garden. She liked nothing better than weeding, pruning, creating new flower beds. Gavin left it all to her. 

As always, Tess (as wives do) had the final word. ‘The change wouldn’t be all that much and it would be great for Missy. She loves to run around and with all that space she’ll think she’s in Disneyland.’ 

Three-year-old Missy was avidly listening to all this and thought it must be important, they both looked concerned. 

Married almost five years, Gavin had learned, as husbands did everywhere, it was not easy to argue a point with a wife once she had an idea in her head, was running with it, and when it was something she really wanted to do. 

Gavin didn’t want to lose his lawyer’s life and besides, they needed the money as the nursery wasn’t earning much at this early stage. He managed to get a part-time position with BWS Lawyers as two of the partners, Messrs Wolfe and Swindley had left to join a much larger firm that specialised in mining and banking matters with many branches overseas. Now the senior ranks consisted of Mr Bunbury, who was the CEO of the firm, and Gavin Crumpton.

‘It’s a pity his name didn’t start with an S,’ said Mr Bunbury. ‘He would have fitted right in with our BWS business name. Damned odd name, anyway, Crumpton, wonder where that came from.’  

Gavin found himself sharing an office with the very attractive, also newly-hired and experienced Miss Arrowsmith, a feisty young lady all afire with youthful zeal to right the wrongs of the world. Gavin thought he would try to put her attractiveness right at the back of his mind and just concentrate on work. He didn’t think he would mention her good looks to Tess. Those observations were best left unsaid. Most husbands knew it was safer that way. 

Gavin, hired as a part-timer, would be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, nine to five each day, leaving him the rest of the week to become a nurseryman. 

‘You have a plant nursery?’ commented Miss Arrowsmith. ‘That’s interesting. How did that come about? Where is it, is it far out of town?’ 

‘Ah, it was my wife’s idea initially, and it’s out west a few kilometres, place called Ferngrove. Actually, I suppose, you could say she’s the nurseryman; she’s much better at the growing business than I am.’ 

‘You’re married then?’ commented Miss Arrowsmith. ‘By the way, Mr Crumpton, my name’s Zara.’ 

‘And mine’s Gavin,’ said Gavin, trying not to blush when Zara looked him full in the eyes. Gavin wished women wouldn’t do that to him, it made him nervous. He also knew that when he got home he would be cross-examined about the people he would be working with, particularly the women on the staff. 

‘Ah, so here we are, both starting a new job,’ said Gavin, trying to sound light-hearted and easy with the world when the fact was he felt otherwise. 

‘The people here seem to be quite nice,’ commented Miss Arrowsmith, ‘although I don’t know about that Mr Bunbury, he’s a bit overwhelming. I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of him, make some stupid error, or something like that. He reminds me of those brooding heavies you see in the gangster movies on TV.’ 

‘I’m sure he’s not like that. Probably when you’ve been here a while and get to know him, you’ll find he’s kind and helpful at heart.’ While he was saying this, Gavin didn’t really believe his words himself. He, too, thought Mr Bunbury could be a bit of a handful. 

‘All the rest seem great,’ continued Miss Arrowsmith. ‘I just love that young Indian man, Ranichar; I think he’s so cute. I can just imagine him wearing a turban and riding an elephant.’ 

‘As he comes from Fiji,’ replied Gavin, ’no possibility of elephants there.’

As soon as he said that he wished he hadn’t; he didn’t want to sound like a smart-arse or a put-downer. 



‘Gavin, there’s several things I need you to do. Firstly I want you to type up a price list of what we will soon have on offer as the growing season progresses,’ said Tess. ‘It must be alphabetical. Here, I have hand-written it out starting with Aptenia Cordifolia and going right to Verbena. Palms are listed from Alexandria through to Phoenix Roebelinii. Run off a few hundreds of those and we’ll post them out to plant retail shops. We’ll add conditions such as “cheque with order please” and I think we’ll state that freight and insurance is the responsibility of the purchaser.’ 

‘Quite right, my dear, always best to make conditions clear from the start. It’s the legal way as well. What’s that you’ve got there?’

Tess was leafing through a colourful brochure. 

‘Vans – we have to buy a van for local deliveries. Interstate orders will get picked up here by the long-haul drivers.’ 

‘Local deliveries? A van? Who will do the delivering and drive the van?’ 

‘You, of course, Gavin. I will be far too busy doing the potting, cutting, transplanting. And when Missy starts school you can drive her there as well.’ 

‘But, but, I, er, you know, I, um …’ Gavin ran out of words. Here was he, a lawyer for goodness sake, expected to run around like an ordinary delivery bloke in shorts and sweaty shirt. What would happen if a client saw him after he had appeared spruce and smartly suited in court? Tess just didn’t get it. 

‘What’s the matter, Gavin, cat got your tongue? Perhaps you’re a little bit worried about being seen in a delivery van and not your usual BMW?’ Tess gave him a wry smile. ‘Anyway, we need another vehicle as you take the car to the office half the week so I need wheels here when you’re away.’ 

Gavin was feeling that he would far sooner face an overweight, menacing Mr Bunbury at the office than a small, slim and know-it-all wife, who expected him to comply with every demand she made. 

‘So much for that,’ said Tess, knowing quite well Gavin would agree to all she asked of him. ‘So how was your day at the office? Did you miss me? What are the people like?’ 

‘OK, in order: my first day went very well; yes, I missed you; the people there seem to be very nice. Another lawyer started the same day.’ 

‘Another lawyer, they must be building up staff. What was she like?’ 

‘How did you know she was a woman, the new lawyer I mean?’ 

‘Just woman’s intuition because you looked so pleased with yourself after you came home. I’ll bet she’s pretty.’   

‘Ah, well. She’s young but experienced. Anyway, she’s new like me but there are two juniors there and support staff to take her in hand and look after her.’ 

‘And pretty?’ 

‘I never noticed. I had my head down studying my files. You know, first day and all that. I had plenty on my mind.’ Gavin knew, too late, it was the wrong thing to say to an inquiring wife. 

‘I’ll bet you did.’ 


‘Had plenty on your mind! Never mind, Gavin dear, I’m only teasing you. Missy and I know you love your wife and your little daughter and our lovely nursery. How about an end-of-the-day drink to cheer you up? What with having to type up a plant list and consider buying a van you certainly have lots more on your mind. Then, while I am getting the dinner you can read Missy a story.’ 

Gavin was glad of the change of pace, hoisted Missy up on his knee and proceeded to read about an Itsy Bitsy Spider. After this Missy scrambled down and came back with her Beatrix Potter book and demanded her dad read to her about Benjamin Bunny, followed by Jemima Puddle-Duck. The little girl carefully traced the colourful illustrations with her finger as he read.   

Later, Gavin sank thankfully into bed, gathered Tess in his arms and said, ‘Goodnight, darling.’ 

‘And?’ came the whisper.  

‘And, I love you … is there more?’ 

‘No, no more tonight. I’m far too tired what with all the potting, shovelling potting mix and all that. You might be in luck tomorrow night. I’ll be taking it a bit easier tomorrow.’ 

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