The pleasure I have in buying flowers for myself diminished greatly following a conversation I had with Marc Kent, eminence of Boekenhoutskloof, a few years back. He looked at me aghast (and with an edge of friendly contempt) when I mentioned that I’d just done exactly that. Flowers, he explained to me, are things that you don’t buy for yourself; you buy them for other people, and other people buy them for you. It’s an analysis that has haunted me ever since and made me feel inadequate each time I’ve dared to bring flowers into my house (I like them there, occasionally!).
Well, last Friday, I had some old friends, who now live in England and were on one of their regular visits, to dinner. As well as duck breasts (a maiden effort which turned out pretty well, given my modest stature as a cook), etc, I’d bought a bunch of white chrysanthemums, despite Marc Kent’s anathema. Cheap flowers, as these things go. Someone in a film once remarked sneeringly of chrysanthemums, with what I recall as a Scottish rolling “R”, that they are “such serviceable flowers”. Serrrviceable. (I’ve just googled it – yes, the witty, scathing Miss Jean Brodie it was.) Anyway, white chrysanthemums are nice enough, I think. And billions of Chinese think similarly.
My friends, though, had more elevated thought. They had, thankfully, as not really wine-people but sensitive and intelligent, realised that bringing me wine was not a great idea (I served them Mount Abora Koggelbos Chenin Blanc 2012 and Keet First Verse 2011 – which latter Chris Keet recently gave me, I should declare; both went down well). Instead, they arrived proffering a splendid bunch of white roses – 20 of them, at least. They were beautiful, and made my chrysanthemums look ordinary and … merely serviceable. I put the roses in a nice white jug and, on Saturday morning, after the washing up, got rid of a lot of the excessively luxuriant leaves and separated them into two very unequal bunches: the larger stayed in the jug, the smaller went into a plain glass cylinder.
Yesterday, I was having some doubts, but today, Tuesday, none: the roses were wilting dreadfully. Heeltemaal verlep, as they say in Afrikaans (I think). I chucked them out. My chrysanthemums, though, are standing up manfully to this hot day, and will survive many more. Is there a moral there? Beyond the value of vulgar serviceability? I have a nagging feeling there should be, but, I can’t think what it is – even with the aid of half a bottle of Fledge & Co’s Souzão 2012, whose deliciousness I have mentioned before and couldn’t resist tonight.