Saturday, 18 February 2012

Say It With Flowers

If middle-class Samantha Upward gives people flowers she has them wrapped in paper, not cellophane.

It’s difficult to find bouquets that aren’t in trendy colours like purple and green (including ornamental cabbage) which are probably grown in the third world and involve air miles and a union-less labour force. In the 80s Samantha loved flowers hand-dried in a shed in Norfolk by somebody with a double-barrelled surname, especially those giant seed heads. They were a terrible dust trap and were eventually thrown out never to be replaced.

According to John O'Farrell in Things Can Only Get Better, in the 80s some people were so politically correct that they thought flowers were right-wing. I really did know someone who thought cut flowers were murder.

Eileen Weybridge, or possibly her husband Howard, creates elaborate arrangements with dead leaves and red berries that last all winter. Nature morte, or what Sam sneeringly calls “dead life”. Bryan Teale buys Jen a bunch of daffodils from a street stall or petrol station. She cuts off the ends and puts them in a plain glass square vase and may call them “blooms”. Her women’s magazines used to have flower-arranging tips but now they’re just full of celebrity gossip. She also has a floor vase with sticks or curly twigs that she bought at a knick knack shop near the London Dungeon. Eileen puts rosebuds in a green glass bud vase.

Pound shops still sell plastic flowers, so somebody must be buying them. Slightly passé cafés and unsuccessful businesses have papery fake greenery impersonating trees in a tub in the foyer or creepers around the dado. The cafés also have lustre-cum-marble tiles and diamond-shaped mirrors. And the failing businesses have 20-year-old pink and grey carpet tiles. They'll get "listed" status one day (maybe not the carpet tiles).

The Definitelies leave bunches of flowers (still wrapped in cellophane) outside royal residences and at the sites of local murders with handwritten messages (MISS U 4EVER UR A STAR IN HEVEN LIL ANGEL). The Upwards shudder and write complaining articles in the broadsheets. It offends them on several counts:

showing emotion in public
caring about someone you don't know
plastic is unnatural and made of chemicals
it looks untidy
it reminds them that the non-Upwards they share these islands with are far more numerous than they are

“Public sentiment has evolved its own crude form [of mourning] – bouquets are left in their cellophane to show they were shop-bought, not humble cut flowers. This un-English sentimentality dates, of course, to the mass hysteria that followed Diana’s death, when Kensington palace was turned into a charnel house of putrescent daffs.” Spectator, July 31 2004

1 comment:

  1. But who exactly complained about the "putrescent daffs"? Who exactly are the readers of the Spectator? The Upwards? They are supposed to be left-wing?!