Learning is important, she says. I only wish I had respected that piece of information a little more when I was at school.
Matt and I moved into our first house in Stamford during October 2013 – we obviously made it a priority to test the route to the local pub; exploring a little along the way. A few doors down from our new local I spotted a stuffed heron in the window of a closed shop and, being the morbid taxidermy fan that I am, wandered over for a look. “I knew you’d like the look of that place” Matt said smugly – he’d walked past a few days before. You can imagine how thrilled I was to find this intriguing little shop window stuffed full of tiny pumpkins and aviary came with an Instagram account – “she’s got loads of followers” I gasped over the top of my pint, as I unsociably scrolled through the gallery of beautiful florals half an hour later.
That week I decided I would do one of Miss Pickering’s flower schools and, after 4 years of frequenting the shop for flowers (or sometimes just for a chat), I can finally say that I pulled my finger out this month and bloody well did one. Like many of us who dreamily follow the myriad of floristry accounts on Instagram, I’ve often romanticized about the idea of becoming a florist myself. Even after being repeatedly told it’s not at all like the charming image that’s portrayed online, I’m still reluctant to let the idea go.
Whether she likes it or not (and I hasten to add that I believe she does, thoroughly) Miss Pickering has inadvertently become Stamford’s cheapest therapist. For the reasonable price of £40-60 – or more depending on how extravagant (or guilty) you’re feeling, you can relax into the calming atmosphere of her medieval flower shop for what could easily turn into a hour of feel-good-chat and whippet snuggles from darling Valentine. And at the end you will walk out with the most incredible bunch of hand tied flowers – you don’t get that on Harley Street. (Miss P – I think I may have stolen that joke from you – I definitely stole it from someone.) I’m fully guilty of using the shop for a little respite of late which was one of the reasons I suddenly felt compelled to book myself in for a session. Erm, sorry I mean course.
Our relaxed day of schooling began thankfully without the awkward introductions of ‘who you are’s’ and ‘why you are here’s’, but rather with a cup of coffee and some essential floristry basics while Valentine made himself comfortable amongst his guests. Miss Pickering really is the most charming of teachers, with her lovely Joanna Lumley-esque voice she offers entertaining accounts of shop life in a small town with an honest perspective on today’s floristry (and beyond). The unique offering of different stems available from the flower shop is something special, and having the run of the place to select from such a beautifully curated gathering as we began our table arrangements was an exciting moment.
We broke for lunch and cleared down the workbench as a convoy of dishes arrived from The Mad Turk next door (restaurant not person) and we were given styling tips for laying a dinner party table with the arrangements we had just created. Our vegetarian Turkish feast of hummus, tzasiki, bean stew and halloumi nestled happilly inside it’s quirky English setting and we sat and ate and learnt some more of flowers and of how one transitions from neuroscience to nosegay.
After lunch we were taught the art of the hand-tie bouquet, albeit with rather garlicky breath from the tzasiki (definitely not complaining as it was so frigging delicious). The room went quiet as brows were furrowed and concentration levels peaked, you could have heard a pin cushion flower drop.
After a quick lesson in how to mimic a Dutch master still-life painting when photographing your fleurs, the day came to an end. Goodie bags were handed out and leftover lunch was pinched for hungry boyfriends.
I waddled home loaded with the blooms I had put together – Bells of Ireland poking innocent passersby on the way – with the enriched sense that comes from a day spent learning making me feel slightly taller than I did on the walk there.