The human condition means that very quickly the unfamiliar becomes familiar and a sense of normality prevails.Twice a week there was a large market dating back centuries. The flower selling with their magnificent displays meant that I could fill my houses with whatever was in season for less than £10 a week.
Spring meant cream vases full of sweet smelling lilac or blue hyacinths for the sitting room. The door to this room at the front of the house was mostly kept closed and the perfume of the hyacinths mixed with the faint scent of lavender polish from the antique desk brought back memories of my grandmother’s elegant old house.
Daffodils and jonquils of every shade of yellow and white filled every surface in the kitchen. The family joke was that you could never find a jug for the custard, gravy or mint sauce as they were all full of daffodils.
My favourite flower receptacle was a blue and white striped jug chipped and a little bashed round the edges over the years. It had belonged to my great grandmother Hannah and it always took pride of place on my kitchen table wherever I lived.
Hannah had taught me the art of flower arranging when I was small. She had owned a magnificent hotel and left most things to the staff but the flowers were her domain even into her eighties.
Each spring the rows of tulips were breath-taking and I would stand and chat to the lady flower seller whilst making my choice. She would always laugh when I asked for the same thing. “Arms full of orange parrot tulips to go.please”
For summer, with its warmer weather, I brought out my mother’s crystal vases and bought fat pink peonies, majestic white lilies, and lilac phlox for the dining room .White pottery jugs held huge orange marigolds on the kitchen window ledge and pine dresser.
I love the smell of autumn bonfires and wet leaves. My favourite flowers for the house were my antique blue vases either side of the mantelpiece filled with bright yellow, white and bronze chrysanthemums. I also loved to put huge purple pots of them by the front door for passers-by to enjoy.
The things I loved most in autumn were the fat orange pumpkins used as doorstops whilst they waited to be transformed by little hands into lanterns for a Halloween treat.
Winter for me has always meant poinsettias. Large Red ones, of course either side of the dining room fireplace but also pink and cream ones scattered about the house. On the console table stands an African violet, watered carefully, to avoid splashing the leaves and a Christmas cactus with its fat pink buds.
Then just before Christmas miraculously the perfect daffodils arrive again. In a perfect slender vase, looking for all the world like forced rhubarb stands a tiny bunch of hope for the coming year.
Excerpt from The Lotus Generation by Carole McCall published on December 1st 2014
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