Talk, Talk, Talking in Tynemouth

I had been invited by the fabulous ladies of the Tynemouth Flower Club to head to the north and talk flowers with them. I say 'fabulous' with every good reason; firstly I was contacted by Julie from the club, who by the time I met her felt like an old friend. Then another member, Sue (in the midst of a mad week putting the final touches to her new flower shop) found time to go to market and buy the flowers that I needed for the demonstration. Added to all of this kindness, I was greeted by a wonderful afternoon tea and sent home with presents, wine and chocolate.
Well they asked me to talk flowers, and boy, can I talk flowers!
Once I start I can't stop ... this is the one about the bouquet that got away...

As I talked my daughter Alex snapped away. She has just come back from Uganda and if she thought I was going to let her out of my sight after missing her for 11 weeks she was wrong! She was coming to Tynemouth too. Alex had been in Africa studying and photographing Chimpanzees and she seemed to think I was another interesting study.
Afterwards she did tell me that in a couple of the shots I looked like a meerkat, but she kindly decided to delete those.
To be honest Alex didn't put up much of a fight when I said we were going away for a few days. We were staying with my best friend Pip who lives nearby in Durham (to whom my latest book is dedicated) and she is a much loved godmother.
Although I did make the two of them work really hard as we sold and signed books on the evening.
Overall, a wonderful trip and I shall definitely be back soon to see Sue's new shop.

In Search of Blooming Scrumptious

I am traveling through Bradford on Avon in search of a pudding I can call my own.
Well, at least one that I can pretend I have made for the people we have coming over this evening.
I have also heard that there is a flower shop in the town called Blooming Scrumptious so I am keen to take a closer look. And you never know, with a name like that, I might even find my pudding there.
I walk around the back streets and over the bridge into the high street, but with no luck.
I find window boxes packed with colour ...
cook shops packed with teapots ...
a cheese shop hung with bright tissue flowers ...
a restful courtyard cafe in dappled sun shine,
even unfeasibly plump peonies in a pink window
(they were false but still very pretty),
but no sign of the flower shop.
Eventually I retire to the park and ask a passer by about the shop.
"Oh that closed down a while ago."
I hope that the florists of Blooming Scrumptious have made a floral fortune and are now sunning themselves on an exotic beach. Sadly, I suspect like other flower shops, they have found that this is a really tough time for florists.
(And if you are a rich banker reading this, please go out immediately and spend an ostentatiously huge amount from your bonus in your local flower shop.)

Being Spoilt by the Sea

I have been invited for a book signing at the very tempting, Cafe des Fleurs, which is situated near to the coast on The Stand Quay in Rye. www.cafedesfleurs.co.uk Owner, Lucy Forrester, helped with some of the styling and flowers for my latest book - including the shoe filled with rose buds that is on the front cover. I arrive clutching a framed print of this shot for her, plus a few pairs of shoes, which I thought we could fill with flowers as extra decoration for the signing.
Before I unload anything more I stroll around to a gently curving road called The Mint to find the B&B I will be staying in. Simmons Guest House is owned by Lucy's good friends, Mark and Ray, and they have kindly offered me a bed for the night, in return for some signed books which they are going to place in their bedrooms.
As I have heard from Lucy that their guesthouse is very stylish and gorgeous I call this a very good deal. So, as an extra thank you, I have put a second framed print in the car for them. This is one of my favourite shots from the book - a 'bubble' bath full of roses.
I am more than happy with our barter. And if you fancy a trip to Rye I suggest having a look at Mark & Ray's website. I rather like the fact the station is so close to the town centre, so I am already planning to come back by train for a leisurely weekend.
I do love a really comfortable bed with crisp white linen!
Having been welcomed by Ray, and dropped some bags off in my room, I head down to The Strand Quay to find Lucy again.
Everything is ready; the shop is a blaze of colour and there are piles of books waiting.
Lucy and her staff have been busy making cakes and scones, all served for their guests on vintage china.
Soon the shop is filled with family, friends and customers. Including Lucy's 5 year old nephew Ben who seems to enjoy sweeping the floor for her in exchange for brownies!
Chatting to Lucy's parents it is not long before I find we have friends in common and that their neice (also called Sally Page) used to live in the next road to me. I know it is a cliche but I am going to say it anyway - it is a small world.
After an afternoon of talking books and flowers it is back to my room to get ready for supper in one of the many interesting restaurants that seem to abound in Rye. Lucy's parents have asked us all out for dinner. I am told I must try the local fish and the sussex lamb - and who am I to argue!
I walk up to join them through this ancient and beautiful town and think how lucky I am. And if this was not all; later on I can return to my heavenly bedroom, complete with luxurious smellies, a selection of DVDs and a bowl full of old fashioned sweets.
As Billy Kelly would say (and this is best said with an Irish accent) 'Sally Page, it is not only happy you are, but blessed'

I love You More than New Shoes

I used to think that a book launch would be quite a grand affair and that one of the main aims would be to persuade journalists (who I am sure would rather be at home with their feet up) to come along and write a few words.
Now, as I launch my sixth book, I have decided that what a book launch should really be, is a good excuse to drink and party in the sunshine with your friends.
So, laden down with a car full of books and bottles we head over to Pythouse 18th century walled garden, safe in the knowledge that owner, Mitch, will look after us and keep us well fed from his Potting Shed cafe.
Bearing in mind the book's title - just one of the many flower messages in the book - it just needs some shoes filled with flowers to finish off the preparations! My florist friend Jennifer had volunteered to help me with this so earlier in the week I had hunted in my cupboard for my smartest, least scruffy shoes for her to fill.
I had also headed over to my friend Gay's house to borrow back the vintage shoes that I had used for the front cover. When I had taken the shot I had tried to use a size 6, my size, but sadly they looked like boats, so in the end I used a diminutive, dainty size 3. Emptying the shoes of roses I phoned my petite friend Gay to ask her her shoe size ....it turned out it was her lucky day.
Libby (wearing the vintage dress she bought from Nostalgia - see earlier blog) helps me hang some of the photos from the book we have prepared as framed prints, and then all that is left is to pour a glass of Champagne and sit in the sun waiting for the guests.
Always the first to arrive at every one of my book launches are my parents.
Then the garden suddenly seems to fill with people and I am busy chatting, drinking, and signing.
What to write ... oh, what to write?
Those who know my earlier books will have read about John and Rosemary Bickersteth, long time residents of Tisbury, flower lovers and keen gardeners. Sadly Rosemary has died since I wrote my first books but I am delighted to see John here this evening. In the way of coincidences, it turns out that my best friend Pip (to whom this book is dedicated) lives in Durham near John's daughter and that they are close friends. So there is much family news to catch up on.
I must have done something good in a previous life.
This time last week the rain was coming down in bleak, grey torrents as if a huge garden tap had been turned on full blast.
Now we stand around in warm Indian summer sunshine between the lush orchard and banks of herbs and lavender.
I wonder what you call a gathering of florists? A floret of florists? A bloom of florists? A bouquet of florists?
Hazel and Hannah from Patricia Knowles Florist of Farnham swap notes with Kate from
Hedge Rose of Marlborough. It is to these ladies, and many like them that I owe a huge debt of gratitude for all the help they gave me researching and shooting this books. So thank you floret of florists.


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