Some years ago I wrote a short story entitled ‘The Irony of Floral Tributes’, reflecting on the dual appropriateness of red roses: to express love on Valentine’s Day and for funerals. Thinking about it now both occasions are ones where love in celebrated; at the beginning and at the conclusion of a relationship. Personally one cannot recall ever having received red roses other than a single one from a girlfriend many years ago. It obviously touch me somewhere deep as I tied the solitary bloom to the wooden post of the fireplace where it stayed until the petals fell off.
Flowers are one of the Spinster’s treats that and good coffee; there are always cut flowers in some room or other in the house although not usually in every room following the Salon. Today will one hopes be the last time one has to do a circuit of the house scissors and kitchen roll in hand on the lookout for stamens laden with pollen! Growing up in a house where flowers were beautifully arranged by my mother who had been to classes to hone her skills one cannot relax if a vase is displaying incorrect proportions; believe me one literally cannot pass a floral display without tweeking a stem! Pitiful thing to admit but it’s true!
Currently one has Dilys, Marega and Jill in ones bedroom; Aleksandra in the bathroom; and Jo and Gillian in the lounge. The orchids (a birthday present from M&S) are remarkably still in flower after 2 months; admittedly few amongst you would have been quite so attentive carefully cutting the stems down each week. Oh and one is embarrassed to confess that a certain Valerie Abbott resides in my office; the problem is one has no idea who Ms Abbott is. Arriving home on Monday one found a parcel on the doorstep addressed to Ms Abbott; the postal address was the house from where one currently writes. However no-one that name is known to moi or indeed any of my near neighbours. As one friend observed ‘how peculiar’ – being a wordsmith one was delighted to be re-introduced to a word that can replace ones current penchant for the word ‘curious’.
On discovering the intended recipient was not the Spinster one confesses to sighing with relief as all the vases and suitable vessels are currently occupied. Thank heavens one refrained from consigning the monster vase, (purchased for the ill-conceived foray into goldfish), to the municipal recycling facility (otherwise known as the Sunday hangout of gentleman of the Vale). The scale of glass bucket is perfect for containing the generous cache of lilies you delicious ladies presented one with at the Salon. Feeling duty bound to seek out Ms Abbott one wrote 7-8 hand written notes which one laboriously delivered to all the houses in the 30s. Clipping in and out of gates careful to close each one behind one. One knows how much it irritates when the random delivery of charity bags (sometimes 6 a week) by persons paid on a piece work basis is invariably followed by a rash of open gates squeaking in the wind! Heavens one had to have a prolonged sit down after this mission of mercy (accompanied by a strong expresso with multiple cigarettes)!
Sitting down at the dining table surrounded by a generous selection of cards and ones address book one prepared to write multiple missives of appreciation to those ladies who assisted one with the Salon. The selection of the particular card with a personal message requires focus and one was quickly engrossed in this mission. So engrossed that it was a while before one noticed someone at the front door. Leaping to ones feet to avoid the appearance of rudeness – (a frankly hilarious endeavour as one did a Marilyn style wiggle resulting in a close encounter with the door frame) – one went to open the door. The sister of the woman who lives at number 34 came to tell me her sister wasn’t Ms Abbott; one barely smothered the bemused non plussed expression one could sense was forming on ones face. After a few pleasantries incorporating a close look at the box we said our goodbyes as only strangers who have had a functionless exchange can do!
Later on there was a knock at the door (one had unplugged the doorbell earlier that day). Through the obscured glass one could see the figure of a man – forgetting that one had been helpful Postie not a couple of hours ago one hid until said person retreated (closing the gate behind him). Peering from the hall one saw the man cross the road and enter number 38 at which point one twigged why he had knocked the door! By which time it was too late to chase after him to enquire whether he had intelligence as to the whereabouts of Ms Abbott – of course one could not possibly have known that the man entering number 38 was the same person who had called at ones house unless one had seen him leaving ones property. And one was not about to confess to indulging in covert activity as twould surely have the scent of paranoia! Concluding that had he known Ms Abbott he would have taken the parcel with him one returned to the task in hand none the wiser as to the content of the conversation that never happened.
As an aside the snipping of (pollen laden) stamens has practically been a part time job for the last 6 days – an essential addition to ones day given ones challenged spacial awareness and fulsome bosom. Nasty stains across the chest area can really ruin an otherwise perfect blouse! And don’t get one started on resorting to swarfega to remove the nicotine coloured stains from ones fingertips and cuticles – yellowing replaced by an angry redness which frankly is equally unsightly and rather sore! The cure being the generous application of a good quality hand cream (a little extra present (a treat) from Auntie at Christmas). Being as uncoordinated as one is the pollen stain hazard is thus replaced with a greasy fingertips warning as ones default approach is to baste the turkey immediately on exiting the shower i.e. before dressing and you know where this order of service leads. Oh that would be a ‘trust pink’ dollop of Vanish to remove the evidence of whatever preparation one has applied and all without the bother of having actually worn the clothes!
Reflecting on ones hands, in the context of aging (provoked by having come across a postcard of Louise Bourgeois hands at 80), one remembers Granny’s worn hands (she worked in a butchers). As a child one becomes familiar with the hands of adults when crossing the road (in the absence of Tufty the Safety Squirrel (something discussed at the Speed Awareness Course)). As a small child the adult hand is at eye level affording the perfect position to scrutinise the wrinkles wrapped around each finger. Did Granny ever apply hand cream one wonders?
Following this stream of consciousness when hulling strawberries at the weekend, on a day when ones (literal) grasp on reality was poor, one managed to let the sharp knife slip through ones fingers. The weekend one may remember was balmy even reaching the dizzy heights of ‘too darn hot’ on occasions. Accordingly one was bare foot enjoying the cooling qualities of a ceramic kitchen floor. Apparently one has acquired a knife throwing skill as the sharp tip embedded itself in the top of one’s foot; please don’t worry about the potentially painful nature of this incident as one managed cannily to stab the left foot i.e. the dead one. But it did bleed quite profusely to the extent one felt weirdly proud, of one’s expanded skill set, even going as far as bunny hopping (dripping blood) into the garden where one’s companion for the weekend was enjoying a quiet read!
The day after the Salon one received a text message from a close friend to tell me her mum had died the night before. In fact at the time my friend and I were enjoying a pre bed final cigarette – around midnight. She had passed away peacefully in her sleep after a battle with cancer; she was a lovely lady. Given the abundance of flowers in ones possession it will not surprise you, nor does one think such sophisticated ladies will think the Spinster ungrateful, when one tells you that one bunch was delivered with a hug to my friend. There is never a good time to lose ones mother no matter how old they are. The love with which the flowers were given to the gracious hostess of the Salon was shared with another amazing woman.
And so these musings, quite unintentionally end where they began with the dual purpose of flowers. To celebrate a new love as much as mark the passing of a long established relationship. With an Amazonian scale affectionate cwtch my dear friend was momentarily comforted. A pause in the privacy of her newly decorated lounge considerately vacated by her husband who had alarmingly answered the door naked to the waist wearing only a pair of knee length red shorts. For once this generously proportion man dispensed with what passes for humour; one senses one makes him a little nervous and one confesses utter bemusement at a Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) obsessed man in his 50s! Half an hour later he returned wearing a shirt (unbuttoned) ‘bashfully’ apologising for having frightened the Spinster with the ‘impressive’ display of flesh. Quite a satisfactory outcome all round and then we got on to the price of funerals of which more later!