‘I’m a Freddie’s customer and I’m running out of vases’

Misti shakes off the January slump with tap dancing, marmalade and a visit to an art deco palace. Also, she starts running out of vases…

In the first flower diary of 2017, Misti shakes off the January slump with tap dancing, marmalade and a visit to an art deco palace. Also, she starts running out of vases…

Every January, I find myself in a perennial slump. When asked what’s the matter? My answer is always the same. Inertia problems. Perhaps I wouldn’t have such difficulty springing to action if not for all those mince pies a month ago. Which is why, in an attempt to lower my BMI and boost morale, I have signed up for tap dancing lessons.

When I was very little, I used to press bottle caps into the soles of my sneakers and pretend I had tap shoes. In my imagination Shirley Temple had nothing on me. Last week was my first lesson. I had the most fun ever. That said, I am a long way from performing Little Miss Broadway.


Do you know the difference between fog and mist? Apparently it is visibility. If visibility is one kilometre or less, it is fog. If visibility is equal to or exceeds a kilometre, then it is mist. Recently there have been lots of both. Especially in Greenwich next to the Thames.


One afternoon after a trip to the Dog & Bell, my family and I walked along the river. At least we thought it was the river. We couldn’t really see it. A fact that made me feel like Pip in Great Expectations. Would we too run into a convict on those banks? Though the ambience was a bit spooky, the sound of the tide soothed me. It’s as close as I get to hearing the ocean in London.

We continued our walk until we stumbled upon an impressive building with skulls and crossbones on the gateposts. “Look, mummy! It’s a pirate castle!” our daughter cried.


Actually, it was St. Nicholas Church in Deptford Green but according to its history, pirates did go there before sailing the high seas. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Maybe not pirates, but sailors. Sir Francis Drake and Captain James Cook among them. Rumour has it the church’s macabre entrance inspired the Jolly Roger.

I was surprised to discover when walking around the graveyard that it is the final resting place of poet and playwright, Christopher Marlowe. He met his untimely death when he was stabbed at a local pub in 1593. Ah, Southeast London. I love you but plus ça change. Nearby, a bush of small yellow roses was covered with dew.

roses at pirate church


Maybe it’s because I recently became a British citizen or perhaps it’s because Henry and I are now both early-middle-age, but we decided to join English Heritage. Our first trip as members was to Eltham Palace. King Henry VIII spent much of his childhood there. Queen Elizabeth I, not so much. In the 1930s the Courtaulds acquired the lease on this medieval property and revamped it in art deco splendour. You should see the bath. The wall behind it is covered in gold.

eltham palace bath

Personally, I can’t wait to spend time in Eltham Palace’s sunken garden this summer. The Courtaulds loved their flora and fauna. Stephen grew orchids in the greenhouse that won several Royal Horticultural prizes whilst Virginia was mad about roses. There is a red one named in her honour.


upcycled as a vase

Speaking of roses, my pale pink and cream coloured ones from Freddie are still thriving. As are the white Antonov blooms from three weeks back. To be honest, I’m running out of vases. Not that I’m complaining. A flat full of flowers really does salve the soul. Particularly when they smell as invigorating as eucalyptus or look as sunny as solidago.


Last week’s arrangement inspired me to make marmalade, the scent of which is so uplifting. I find nothing makes my skin feel quite as supple as being in a kitchen filled with Seville orange steam.

Now that I think about, maybe January isn’t that dreary. Or maybe I’m happy because I’ve got tap tomorrow and a box of lilies and tulips just arrived.




at Coworth Park

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.


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