Say it with flowers

By Sandra Conway, Member of Hampstead

I became a florist almost by accident.  After I left school I decided to take a year off before going to university so I worked for my father.  He had a factory manufacturing ladies’ lingerie and I enjoyed working there but I felt the need to try something else.  I had always been interested in hairdressing so I decided not to go to university but attend Barrett Street Technical College, which is now known as The London College of Fashion, where I would study hairdressing, wig making and beauty culture.  I really enjoyed the two years I studied there and passed my City & Guilds’ exams.

For a couple of years I happily worked at a lovely hairdressing salon.  It was whilst I was working there that I met my husband Iky Moses; the trouble was he went to the races and lost his gutkers and braces.  To say the least I made an honest man of him and took him away from fast women and slow horses!  We were soon the proud parents of a young family.  I occasionally worked part time but having four children, motherhood took over and I became a full time mum.

It wasn’t until my youngest started school that I answered an advertisement to be a part time driver for a florist shop and got the job for a few hours every day.  When a vacancy came up in the shop I decided to apply for it and was accepted. As well as learning so much from everybody I worked with, I went on intensive training courses.

It wasn’t long before I was arranging flowers for orders.  I worked really hard and eventually became manageress – not bad for somebody answering a driving advertisement.

After fifteen happy years the owner decided to sell the business.  It was then that I decided to open my own shop ‘Wicked Flowers’. It was small but I made it very pretty and people would comment how it brightened up the street.

Like all businesses I had to work hard with many early morning visits to the flower market at 5am, making up the flower orders and keeping the shop clean.  I employed a part time driver and a florist to help in the shop.  I was very lucky as I had lovely loyal customers who had followed me from the other shop.  Soon we were in demand for weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc and things were going really well.

I can recall on one occasion when things did not go quite to plan.  It was for a big wedding, so with the van filled with pedestal and table arrangements we left London for the venue in Cambridge.

It was a perfect day, blue skies and warm sunshine.  Annette, my florist, and I were looking forward to arranging the flowers.  We found the church up a winding lane; it was lovely, set amongst beautiful willow trees.  We unloaded the van and took all the flowers into the church.  The interior was very pretty with stained glass windows, carved seats and a dark red tiled floor.  We placed the pedestal arrangements on either side of the altar.  The colours were lovely, pink peonies, white lilies, roses and a touch of purple lizzie; the perfume was wonderful.  We decorated each pew end with bunches of peonies and placed arrangements on the window sills at

each side of the church.  We erected a canopy at the beginning of the aisle and covered it with flowers.  It was hard work but when everything was in its place we took photographs and congratulated each other on a job well done.  We thought the guests would be arriving at any moment but no-one came.  Annette who was waiting outside came back and said “It’s OK Sandra I can see people arriving.  The doors opened and in walked two women dressed in black followed by others also dressed in black.  I had heard of black and white weddings but not with the guests dressing in black too.

I ran outside and to my horror saw a hearse turning into the gates.  I ran over and asked the driver what was going on.  He looked surprised and said a funeral of course.  I must have gone pale because he asked me “What was the matter?”  When I explained that we had just decorated the church for a wedding, he said that there was no wedding booked for that day.  He then asked “Have you got the correct church?” I replied “What do you mean? This is St. James’s”.  “Well” he said with a smile, “It is St. James’s but St. James the Protector, the church you want is further up the lane.  I felt sick.  My phone began to ring.  The bride’s mother was screaming down the phone: “Where were we? The church has no flowers, the guests would be arriving any minute and the marquee was not decorated.”

“Don’t worry” I said “Everything is OK”.  The driver had been listening to this conversation and said “My passenger” with a nod to the hearse “Won’t complain if we delay the service for a short time whilst you remove everything”

So that is what we did.  We managed to remove everything without damaging and loaded up the van again.  With grateful thanks to the driver, I drove like a maniac to the other church, where by the skin of our teeth managed decorate the church and marquee before the wedding party arrived.