At the end of January I went and spent a week with a dear friend of mine in Devon. The trip had been planned for months, since well before Christmas. It just so happened that 2 weeks before I went, the stars aligned and the Keira messaged me to say they would be opening a florist. The day of my arrival would be the day before they opened.
I will try not to dwell too much on the journey, but I will say this: Great Western Railways, you do good work. After an unexpected diversion through Paddington I was on a GWR train, in extremely comfortable surroundings, speeding down to Tiverton Parkway.
I have always enjoyed travelling by train. It’s steady and you meet all kinds of people. I also love the steady rhythm of the tracks, and the gradual changes to the scenery as you travel down. The journey across the countryside to Devon is particularly lovely because if you sit on the right side of the train you see all manner of riverboats.
If you’re watching closely you may also see some raptors, although I couldn’t tell what kind they might be as we were travelling at some speed.
When I arrived in Tiverton. I was greeted by my friend in a four by four. I am used to seeing four by fours in Hove, usually driven by mums on the school run, but in Devon they are truly prolific. Another difference is that they are all covered in mud. As Keira drove me to their farm cottage I could see why. The weather was changeable, from rain to drizzle, throughout the week. The road that lead up to their house? Generous to call it a road. It was more like the start of a horror film, where the friends hoping for a getaway end up stranded in the company of a serial killer. Keira informed me that they could easily be snowed in an extra week than the surrounding area, simply because they were that much more rural.
Once we had unloaded the car we headed back to the shop to finishing helping with the set up. It was impressive the amount thy had managed to accomplish in a week, but we were still another 9 hours of hard work away from being finished.
Originally we had planned to be finished around 7, but there were a lot of flowers which needed conditioning, and a window display to set up. I learnt which flowers did need cutting and placing in water, which needed wiring, and the correct dosage for plant feed. At midnight we called it a day. Our minds having long since turned into pumpkins. A couple of glasses wine and 5 hours of sleep and we were up again and back in the shop for opening day.
The rest of the week passed in more of a blur. Initially I had been swept up in the romance of playing shop for a week, but by Tuesday, the enormity of what my two friends are attempting hit me. It’s hard work running your own business and even though they both have good heads on their shoulders, they are taking a big risk.
On Tuesday I put my foot down. As of 5:00 when we left the shop, there would be no shop talk. Instead I would cook food and we would all have an evening of relaxation and much needed rest.
When I said good bye to them at the end of the week, I had mixed emotions about what I was leaving behind. I had genuinely enjoyed working in the flower shop for a week, engaging and talking with the people who came through the door, getting a brief glimpse of peoples lives. Flowers may be considered by many to be a luxury item, but they accompany us all through significant events. Birth, death, weddings, sickness and celebration. As humans we weave the beauty of flowers into our lives so naturally. Knowing now the effort that goes into de-thorning each rose, to wiring each germini, only made me appreciate their beauty even more.
I really enjoyed the community spirit that inhabits the small market town of South Molton. Throughout the week many people came in to welcome Keira and Alex to the town. Once introduced, people smiled and waved as you walked passed them in the street. People shared parts of themselves easily and openly. Instead of feeling claustrophobic, it was warm and friendly. It made me want to join in and help the community of South Molton. For all the hard work we were putting in, I felt part of me relax and unfurl with the honest heart of the town.
There was also part of me that really wanted to stay in that shop and help my friends with what the road ahead. I am writing this the day after I return to Hove, but by the time you read this Valentines day will have just passed. As you can imagine this will be their busiest day of the year, and fingers crossed will set them up for the following months. So it was with a jumbled heart I bid my good friends goodbye.
What I noticed on the journey, more so on the way back, was that as the train transitioned from rural countryside to urban environment, the noise level increased on the train. Not just because there were more people. One man sat on his phone behind me talking the whole way from Southampton Central to Hove (and probably beyond). Noise leaked from headphones and chatter started in the background. Despite how busy it had been setting up the shop, it had been quiet, peaceful in a way that is rare to find in the city.
What I did find back home however was this beautiful little boy.