So what’s it really like having lovely flowers delivered by Freddie every week? Writer, mother, former LA actress and now London-dweller Misti Traya tells all in her exclusive new monthly Flower Diary…
When faced with spending Father’s Day with his family, my father-in-law opted to go on a 52-mile hike alone instead. His nickname is Grumpy.
To be fair, his overnight Ridge Walk was for charity and was probably more peaceful than staying in Amersham with our four year old.
Red kites swooped across the sky as my husband and I waited with cups of tea for Grumpy to cross the finish line. An enthusiastic dog zipped through the gates with her owner and everyone cheered as the little animal did a victory lap for cuddles. They gave her a medal. When Grumpy arrived, a little less zippy, he too was rewarded with a medal and a cold beer, before we packed him up in the car where he snored all the way home. That evening we fêted our hero with roast beef and baked Alaska, though it was more like baked Alaska in Hawaii as the ice cream had melted.
On Monday morning we drove from Buckinghamshire back to Southeast London through a summer storm. From the backseat, Helena piped up. ‘Mommy, I don’t like thunder and frightening. It scares me.’
The clock on the dashboard said it was 10 a.m. but it felt more like ‘Round Midnight as Thelonious Monk played and heavy water drops pelted the windshield. I was soggy and sad as we carried our bags up the stairs to our flat.
Then I saw it: a long brown box from Freddie’s Flowers propped up against the wall.
Like Santa, they had come when I wasn’t looking. And like a small child, I couldn’t wait to tear the wrapping open. Lo, what did I find? Pink peonies!
Perhaps you could say it’s because I’m American but I like too much. For me, too much is usually the perfect amount. This is why I went with the more is more mentality when choosing how to display them and crammed all the stems in one vase, even though there were more than enough to fill several. Suddenly the dark skies outside seemed less so and, with peonies and a cup of tea, life felt sunny again.
In the evening the full strawberry moon lit up the sky and that night the storm of all storms swept through the island with felt like a great foreshadowing of doom.
The peonies were still lovely!
Helena’s nursery was being used as a polling place so her class went on a field trip to a local farm. Of course, this was the excursion I had signed up to chaperone. As an ex-pat from Los Angeles, I can tell you nothing has made me feel more British than guiding a bunch of little children through a torrential downpour to look at wet angry animals and a flooded muddy pond.
In summer, no less.
You know how when you’re an adult most things you have to do are boring and commonplace? Yeah, well not immediately after a Brexit referendum. Nothing is boring and commonplace immediately after a Brexit referendum.
For about a year, we’ve been flirting with the idea of moving to Kent. But when did our estate agent decide to get back to me about a viewing? Friday morning. Even he had to admit his timing was bad as we nervously giggled our way through a discussion about estimated value while wondering whether the entire country was about to implode.
As we spoke, I changed the water for the peonies. Smelling their perfume was like breathing in a bit of calm. And now I had pink on my mind and a yen to make strawberry shortbread sundaes.
I spent most of the day scrubbing the balcony outside, like a Cockney charwoman of yore, except I was wearing a blue silk dress. In the evening an old friend of my husband’s came over for dinner. My husband is a wine writer and we have a lot of terrific drinks in the house.
We sipped aperol cocktails and watched Helena showing off until she eventually dismissed herself and ran up to bed in a strop. She was pretending to be a hungry dinosaur by eating the flowers on the windowsill when I had to repeat several times, ‘Please don’t eat the lilies!’
As the words left my lips, I was suddenly reminded of Jean Kerr, who penned a humorous collection of essays about suburban life in 1957 called Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.
Doris Day played her in the film version. I’d hope Anna Kendrick would play me, but Olivia Colman is probably a more realistic casting choice.
Having consumed a very good bottle of rioja and lots of Armagnac the night before, we awoke on Sunday to the ‘roar of the butterflies’, as Bertie Wooster would have put it. And the school’s summer fair. As much as I was dreading the occasion, it proved to be the best of all possible worlds. Helena bought a Snow White costume for £1 and ran riot with her friends while we nursed hangovers in the shade.
The covers band was comprised of 10 year olds who were surprisingly good. They started off with Blur then moved on to The White Stripes. Nothing quite like Seven Nation Army as performed by a bunch of primary school children to make you smile on a Sunday afternoon.
Peony petals were finally on the floor when we came home so I had a cull and placed the still happy ones in a smaller vase.
The next morning a new Freddie’s floral arrangement was delivered by 8:30 a.m. Now the flat is filled with a “billion stars” and snapdragons. It’s an arrangement of green and white that even when I’m alone makes me feel like I have a friend in the room. They are so cheerful and sunny I can’t help but think the summer weather will stay…
Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009. After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.