Debbie Howells

On beginnings

By on 8th June 2014 in Blog Posts

Last week started with a flower order – for a country wedding.  With the checking and checking again, of the flower varieties I’d picked, the number of stems needed – enough plus a good margin without blowing the budget.  A trip to a local nursery – the amazing – to hire tall, scented columns of jasmine.  An early morning drive to the wholesaler.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of flower markets, wall-to-wall with colour and scent, a window into the nuances of each season (an early spring, a hot dry summer, you’ll see it here);  the ungodly hours etched on the faces of the traders; the steely restraint it takes only to buy what you need.

A well-worn routine follows, of unpacking and unwrapping, the cutting of stems and stripping of leaves and thorns; the buckets of cold water, the choice of light or shade or degree of warmth, to either coax petals to unfold or hold them closed.

This wedding was an abundance of soft, summer flowers in joyous shades of orange and yellow, set off by the dull red of Leonidas roses and pinpricks of white – tiny spray roses and cow parsley.  Sunflowers – a favourite of the bride, spice-scented stocks, orange-red freesia and also daisies, small and simple but with a loud voice that hails summer.  The finishing touches were leggy buttercups, grasses and loose-trailing wildflowers that had invaded the flowerbed in our front garden, now clambering through their cultivated companions with the same unruly irregularity.

For once, my car smelled pretty instead of like dogs, but far better than that, the bride loved them.  And after early thunderstorms, the skies cleared and the sun shone.  (And the jasmine columns were a triumph, too.)

After, though, I drove home feeling a strange kind of emptiness – my own choice, but for now, there are no more weddings in my diary.  And the emptiness is actually freedom, the end of the flowers a beginning, because now I can focus full time on writing.
It’s how it goes, I think.  Ends-of eras are usually about beginnings – and with change inevitably comes challenge.  I remind myself of this often, because I know too well, it’s easier to stick with what you know.  Can be much harder to take that leap of faith into the unknown, even when your heart tells you it’s right.
Yesterday I got talking to a florist who is just starting out.  Her shop is full of local, seasonal flowers, the kind I love most, and it’s gorgeous in there – and I didn’t feel a flicker.  Not the smallest hint of I-wish-it-was-me-in-her-shoes (though I had to stop myself buying her delphiniums).  I wish her lots of luck but I won’t miss those early mornings and I’d quite like my nails to grow again. (Flowers are completely rubbish for your hands).
So now?  I’ve been waiting for this.  For as long as people want to read my books, I’ll be writing.

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  1. mrscarlielee says:

    Oh dear, tears in my eyes. What a lovely thing to read – dreams coming true. And oh crap – I’m supposed to be taking the dogs (I’m sat here actually in my wellies), but I must read your other posts first.
    Well done, Debbie, you’re a brilliant inspiration.

    • Oh, thank you Carlie… it’s just extraordinary and I’m still pinching myself. Up until last December, having locked myself away writing The Bones of You, I was thinking here I am again, submitting another book in a genre that was new to me – and to which I had absolutely no idea what the response would be. But that’s how it goes, isn’t it, until you get the phone call or email that changes everything…