A Lonely Florist's Guide... Part One... It Shouldn't Happen...
Do I have 'I'm a volunteer sign me up' stamped across my forehead? I should be embracing my retirement not embarking on a new career. Why did I let Baleesha talk me into it? And why is she called 'Baleesha' anyway? She's more Essex than Egyptian is my Nordic bottled blond florist.
'My parents wanted to call me something exotic, they hated their names' she confided at some point in our distant but ivy entangled past.
'And what would their names be?' Asked with the enthusiasm only afforded to a terminally boring morning of the bucket washing variety.
'Janet and John.'
Fair point, that could be an incentive. It must have been fun when she started reading. I can imagine the scene in the classroom bearing in mind Baleesha put the 'A' into anal.
'Here comes Janet and here comes John1' the teacher encourages.
'No' replies Baleesha even at that tender age almost certainly a great stickler for accuracy. 'Here comes Mummy and here comes Daddy.' The teacher undoubtedly conceded defeat first.
Now she merely makes my life a misery.
'Oh it'll be fun' she said, when the adult education department contacted us, suggesting we set up a course for wannabee florists.
'No it won't!' Every sane gene left in my body screamed. 'It will be hard work. It will be tortuous. It will mean even less sleep. It will be anything but fun.'
'I can do all the practical floristry bits and you can teach them how to set up and run a business. Oh go on you know you want to.'
She knows me not at all. How many years have we worked together? At least seven. She is an Arsenal fan for heaven's sake, and passionate about it to boot. I don't even understand the offside rule. She does clubbing I do cocoa. She is hitting the biological clock countdown I am mid menopause. The only thing we have in common is our gender.
'People who want to set up a flower shop need psychiatric help.'
She doesn't disagree.
'They don't need a career change, they need prozac!'
'Aw go on. Let's just try it for a term.'
'Baleesha we argue about everything. It won't work.'
I obviously do have 'I'm a volunteer' stamped on my forehead. The first class is tonight. If we don't have at least ten people signed up it will be the last class. There can't be ten people in this village who are certifiable enough to want a career in flowers. The village couldn't support ten flower shops. It can barely support two pubs.
The stress is doing my irritable bowel no favours. I'm late for the flower market. It's four AM, the three AM alarm didn't go off and I am not great at putting make up on whilst driving at speed. Oh no! Flashing lights. Ambulance perhaps? Bo*****s! Traffic police.
'I'm sorry officer. I'm late for market was I speeding?'
'You could say that Madam.'
'Madam!' It's four o'clock in the morning and even in this light I can't get away with a 'Miss'!
'Did you see how fast you were going?'
Did I see how fast I was going? Is he mad? At this hour I can barely see the road let alone the speedometer.
'Oh I'm so sorry. I thought it was a sixty-mile an hour limit.'
'No madam it's a thirty mile an hour limit and you were doing eighty.'
I can't have been doing eighty! This van doesn't do eighty. It would fall apart at fifty.
'Don't I know you?' His colleague, her of the big hat and bovver boots... Heavens it's the WPC who gave me a parking ticket last Thursday.
'Yes you own the flower shop in the village don't you? You did my Nan's funeral flowers last year, they were beautiful'
Thank you Nan. (She obviously doesn't remember the ticket).
'Oh go on Gov just give her a warning. They do really nice flowers and it's hell getting out of London once the rush hour starts.'
'All right but watch it next time. You could lose your licence you know.'
'Thank you officer. I won't do it again.'
Best not mention the multiple braking as you approach traffic lights game, guaranteed to make them change to green... excellent tip from a cabby friend.
Why is the market so awake at this ungodly hour? It's like stepping out of a church and into a rock concert. Testosterone not simply rising positively engulfing.
Where is Baleesha? Why wouldn't she agree to come up in one vehicle?
'You'll be late. You're always late and you can't drive.'
I'm only an hour late. How late is that? It's hardly my fault the alarm didn't go off... OK I might have set it for PM. And I wasn't to know that half the Met was going to be on the A3 or that someone was going to nick my parking space. Well maybe it's not actually 'mine', but it's where I always park. OK 'park' might be a slight exaggeration. There she is! She's not wearing a parka. Her nipples look like traffic cones!
'You're not wearing a parka!'
'I know but it is summer. I'd forgotten how cold it is in here. You're late!'
Great... Dodgy Douglas, King of the Kangaroo paw, the market Del Boy has spotted Baleesha without her parka. He is quite revolting. A sexual harassment charge waiting to happen. Look at him eyes leering, single brain cell on a roller coaster... here it comes.
'Look out boys, fresh raspberries at two o'clock!' Cacophony of wolf whistles.
'Tee b****y hee Doug you know what you can do! Leave her alone. She's virtually married!'
'No I'm not!'
'Shut up! You are now. I told you, you should always wear a parka to market. Here put this on.'
She struggles with my emergency fisherman's jumper.
'Not half as filthy as the market boys! Just put it on.'
'They are a bit gorgeous.'
'The market boys, perhaps one of them could be the father of my children?'
'No they could not. You wouldn't have anything to talk about!'
'I wasn't planning to do much talking and anyway I bet they like football... we could talk about football'
'They're all Chelsea supporters!' Their fanciability rating plummets.
'Come on let's get the flowers and go!'
'I got you a roll... salmon and cucumber and a cup of tea.' She thrusts the offending excuses for repast into my hands.
Joy... fish rolls at 5 am. I eat. It buys me wake up time.
'Why are you wearing red eyeliner?' This as the last of the fish roll bypasses my digestive system and heads towards my anus at a speed reminiscent of a Concorde take off.
'Back in a mo.'
Southward flight to the Favella dungeons that house the ablution block... block being both pertinent and accurate. Having bade a fond farewell to the fish roll and most of last night's Korma, trodden carefully over the bits left by those that have been before, and averted my eyes from the early morning sexual activity taking place in the only clean, but unfortunately open, cubicle, catch a glimpse of my mother in the graffiti dressed mirror.
Oh my G*d she is wearing red eyeliner. And black lipstick.
The sexual activity reaches its improbable climax.
Baleesha really wants us to encourage others into this unsavoury and unhygienic lifestyle. Let's hope that only nine turn up for the class.