I am teaching Woy about flowers, and by extension, about me. I am not a ‘flowery’ sort of person, I would say, but nonetheless, living blooms (never plastic ones) are very much a part of me. This is because I grew up surrounded by my mother’s flowers – I see my mother’s warmth and ever-present smile in the petals and stamens and green leaves that she filled my childhood home up with. Now, decades later, there would still be flowers in my old bedroom whenever I go home.
Once, I went home to my parents’ house when they were abroad, and I was bereft when I walked into the drawing room and my bedroom. They were devoid of my mother’s blooms. It was like the whole place was lifeless and dead.
In the beginning, Woy would bring me big bunches of yellow chrysanthemums, still in the polythene wrapper. They sit awkwardly in my flat, amongst the things of my life – a watercolour painting of Yorkshire from my much-loved aunt, a crystal decanter from my dad, old Welsh placemats from my parents’ house, a silver Victorian candlestick holder.
“Well, I can’t really bring you roses, can I?” He mused. “Do you like lilies, orchids? What do you like?”
“You’ll find out.”
One day, when we were in Waitrose, I picked up a bunch of Sweet Williams and held it up triumphantly to Woy.
“They look like weeds,” he said. “But for some reason, I know these are the type of flowers you love.”
He asked, “What are they called?”
He googled them. “Hmmm, no particular history or anything. But they’re like you, aren’t they? Child of the many countries, hardy and tough. But they still look like weeds.” He shoved them into vases and jars as I put the shopping away.
“Woy,” I said to him. “Learn to see their beauty.”
“What do you mean?”
They’re not just weeds.
There’s a permanence in their impermanence, a stoicism in their delicacy, and I love their lack of pretence, their defiance, their ordinariness. Sweet Williams last a long time. A £5 bunch would last almost two weeks if you look after them (chop off the ends every 4-5 days, feed them with lemonade).
A couple of weeks ago, I had an accident on my bicycle. Woy filled my home with Sweet Williams, but this time, he arranged them with much thought behind his actions. I was completely blown away by the sweetness of his flower arrangements. They resonate with our home, our life, our way of living.
“I listened,” he said simply.
And yes, they are still well after 2 weeks, in my drawing room, my bathroom and my bedroom. I shall have to call rename them Sweet Woys.