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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Lawrey

48 - Odd bindings

My mother would never have cut flowers in the house.  Her spartan disposition prejudiced her against anything too showy.  She did not approve of vulgar red-pouting roses, for instance, and she wouldn’t tolerate that colour or that flower in her home or on her person. As for gladioli, well, I need hardly say more.  Mum was also hyper-empathetic, and she felt unbearably deeply for any poor plant that had been cut off in its prime, believing that flowers should be left to grow and blossom in the wild. 

But it was Christmas Eve, and I needed an extra touch of colour to my festive table.  With Miley Cyrus’s permission ringing in my ears as I wandered the aisles, I started to search for a bunch of festive flowers to buy for myself. But I wrinkled my nose at the glitter globes stuffed into blowsy bouquets of Christmas chrysants in Santa colours on offer there.   Showy red and white blooms proliferated at Morrisons, too, interspersed with gaudy bunches of silver baubles.  Definitely not my style.  But in a bucket in a corner, small and neglected, I found a small bunch of delicate freesias more suited to my taste and budget.  These blossoms were pink, silken, understated – a perfect symbol of the ending of the old and the start of the new. 

As we digested our Christmas dinner, I started to paint and draw them.  A friend had sent me a little sketchbook for Christmas this year.  There were 65 pages in that little book, and on the back inside cover was stamped a brand name: Odd Bindings. 

Odd bindings indeed – as I filled the pages, I reflected on all kinds of things and when my human visitors had flown home, the freesias stayed with me on the table. I would leave them there for as long as it took me to complete the sketchbook.

Sometimes I just tried to draw the spotted pattern on the petals in wet brush spatters of paint, sometimes I drew the curling stems in sticky oil pastel, allowing my marks to transfer through and between pages.  Sometimes I was deliberate and detailed in my mark-making inspired by these small but complex flowers whose flowing petals reminded me of Cinderella’s pretty dress.  But theirs was a Cinderella story in reverse, and as time went on, their fine silk turned to crinkly cinders.  

Not even on page thirty, the freesias were fading fast, now fluffy round the stems. The scent that filled the air had a new pungent urgency.  I pushed on with my drawings.

New shapes formed in my vase of cut flowers - funereal forms and cemetery contours. My drawings became more angular – as stems bent arthritically downwards.  The once-soft leaves hardened into spikes – ridges standing out like on the nails of an old lady’s fingers. 

A memento mori.  I thought of my mother’s objections to cut flowers. 

Is this really a form of murder? Depends whether each little head is really a little head, or whether the bulb is actually the nerve-centre of the plant.

They are certainly a reminder of transience. 

My final drawing is a skinny figure in blue biro, its crinkled rag of a silk dress curling round its core, shrivelling into itself – but still beautiful in its own way. 

Sketchbook completed, sadly I discarded the remains of my freesias.

Cut flowers are not bulbs, and I like to think of green new shoots like soft fingers stirring through dark soil, probing upwards until they emerge, still anchored to their bulb, their store of energy and food and moisture, but now able to bask and dance, to breathe in the sunlight of south Africa where the freesia is native and grows wild.  Cinderella dances forward.  Summer is fast approaching.  Time to head off to the beach and write my name in the sand. 




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