Finance: The day a dealer admitted he'd said it with flowers

On the Floor
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The Independent Culture
Perhaps it's only the lingering effect of a long, gloomy winter, but by the end of last week I felt as if I'd been the main course at a buffet for vampires. I spent most of Saturday in bed, or semi-comatose on the sofa watching various sporting events. It makes for confused viewing; if anyone had asked me in the evening who won the Grand National, I'd probably have said Tim Henman.

In the circumstances, it seemed a good idea to pass on dinner at the Bluebird, despite Giles and Sarah's insistence that I'd really like the man the had lined up for me. Sorry, I said, no interest. Besides, I was saving myself for the weekend's main event: the Sunday morning flower market at Columbia Road.

I try to get there early, at about eight, though that's still an indulgence compared with the rest of the week. At that time, the crowds aren't too bad, so I wander round peacefully gathering an armful of roses, ranunculus and freesias. By the time the pounds 40 in my purse has nearly vanished, I have enough blooms to fill several large vases.

I also have a hunger the size of a national debt, so I retreat to the nearest cafe (this part of the East End having risen above "caffs") and load up on smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and a gallon or two of coffee.

Which is where I was this last Sunday, just embarking on the third mug, when my mobile rang, and it was my old mate Jane to tell me she was at the market and was I here too?

A couple of minutes later she came bounding into the place, laden with flowers and looking happier than I'd seen her for days. "I know," she said, "there's just something about Columbia Road that cheers me up no end. All these delicious smells and colours, and the anticipation of a happy afternoon snipping stems and making arrangements."

So we fell to analysing our obsession with Columbia Road, and came to the conclusion that that, after five days in the testosterone-laden atmosphere of your average trading room or corporate finance department, it's essential for our sanity to go off and do something girlie. And what could be more girlie than flower-arranging?

"Of course, the boys wouldn't understand," I said; "they'd think we were mad."

"Oh no," Jane piped up. "They might say we were mad, but they only do that when they're scared that we're right and they're wrong, and they want to undermine us. And what could be more wrong than only treating us as equals if we behave exactly like they do?"

"Good point," I replied, before switching to less vexing subjects, such as the best recipe for chocolate cake, and whether carnations or chrysanthemums are the nastiest flowers in the world, and what with that and the flower arranging, Sunday slid away extremely agreeably.

Monday morning started indecently early, as usual, and it was nearly lunch time before I was in the mood to look at anyone, let alone talk to them. So I was already tucking into bacon and avocado on brown when I noticed that Freddie seemed rather pleased with himself. I knew it couldn't be because of work; the only phone call he'd taken all day was from his tailor.

"What gives, Freddie, old boy? Did you get lucky at the weekend," I asked, expecting the usual sly brush-off. But, to my surprise, he blushed.

"Yes, I did," he said, "very lucky. I'm back with my girlfriend, and I won first prize in the county flower-arranging contest."

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