Derbyshire florist offers a helping hand
“Definitely with the funeral stuff. I really enjoy doing it because you’re really helping people through this difficult time in life. It’s really. Every day is different. You never know what kind of work you’re going to get. It’s very creative work. And all the different people you meet from All walks of life.
This is Sarah Frances at the Bluebells of Alfreton, inside the town’s market hall. As she says this her smile says a lot. A florist with over twenty years of experience, she tells of her journey into the industry, giving a glimpse of herself when she was younger.
“I had a little eureka moment when I was working at a fast food restaurant, where people generally don’t appreciate what you do for them. If they have to wait five minutes for some fried chicken, they start cursing at you.”
Sarah laughed, soft cheek or not. “So I decided I’d had enough of it, you know, in my late twenties. ‘There’s got to be more to life than this kind of thing.’
From here I took a course in flower arranging in college. “Before I settled down, I had a family and a mortgage and so on,” he admits, “flower farming wasn’t even on the radar. I’ve always been very creative, but it was the recruitment office that suggested I should go and do this course… I went Got there and absolutely loved it.
Sarah tells of setting up her own boutique in Chesterfield called Arum, where her natural glow is momentarily diminished.
“I was there for six or seven years. My husband died, so that’s why I took the funeral. Things had gotten to the point where I couldn’t run a whole store by myself. I kept doing it for a little while because I didn’t know what else to do. It was either “To sit at home alone or go to work and do what I know I can do.”
“But I found the wedding and anniversary side more difficult than the funeral stuff. Eventually, I had too much to do on my own. So I sold the shop, and spent a year or so away from the flower shop, but I never found anything I liked more than that.
Sarah then returned to flower arranging here at Bluebells of Alfreton, her strength in using her loss as a tool to help others, a flower in itself.
“You have that ability to connect when people are sad, because you know what they’re going through,” she says, her glow returning.
“Knowing how happy they are with what you made, makes you feel proud. It makes you feel like you’ve made a difference. It makes the job very satisfying.”
We are looking at a bouquet that Sarah prepared for a client. The relationship between color and form, there is art here. The question is: What is the relationship with a bouquet of flowers?
“I think there’s an element of it being bright and cheerful. A lot of things are fragrant, and therefore the smell of flowers. For a lot of people, it’s the memories too. So, if their father planted dahlias or chrysanthemums in the garden, a lot of people want that meaning.” For flowers.
“We get a lot of people who have anniversary flowers, funeral flowers, where they want the same flowers that were in their wedding bouquets. For that importance, for that memory.
When asked about her most memorable moments as a florist, Sarah paused, then smiled.
“The Hindu wedding I did. It was amazing when everything was set up. I made the garlands that they wear in the Hindu ceremony proper for the bride and groom… the carnations are what I made the garlands with, and it was all red and white with bits of gold. I made The huge umbrella they use to sit under for the party… I’m not quite sure how they do it, but…”
Sarah’s laughter fills the store. The conversation turns to busy times for the florist.
“We have a Christmas coming up where we will be making thousands of holly wreaths. Who plays havoc with your hands.
“Our busiest day of the year is Mother’s Day. Even if their mother is no longer here, we have a lot of memorial arrangements ordered. Then Valentine’s Day is the epitome of selling flowers… bunches of red roses!”
Sarah smiles. “Usually women organize Mother’s Day things for their mother and his mother. Whereas Valentine’s Day is a man’s… We have a lot of people running up at the third hour of Valentine’s Day and saying: What do you have left?
More laughter. An elderly couple standing outside a store window looking at flower bouquets.
The answer to life? “Just roll with it,” Sarah says with a smile. “Not taking things too seriously. I think I learned when my husband died, that I had this ideal of ‘this is how life would be’ and it just didn’t happen at all…”
“And since then, it’s just been ‘whatever happens will happen’ I guess. There’s not much you can do to influence that. And that’s served me well over the last 13 years… just take it as it comes.”
The conversation ends with a conversation about Sarah and her partner listening to an oldies radio station last night, and they both wonder whether people will still be listening to Pink Floyd and T-Rex, the music passed down from your parents, or will still be listening to it in fifty years. Is it Girls Aloud and Boyzone?
Sarah shrugs, her laugh as bright as the flowers that fill her shop.