There is a photograph of me aged six, posing as if for a Kodachrome ad, in a field of sunflowers. I don't know if that picture records the precise moment my passion began, but I look pretty happy to be standing in a crowd of giant, gaudy yellow flowers. Three decades later, I still can't suppress the joy when pressing my face into a pillowy rose or hedgehog-shaped chrysanthemum. One of my most pleasurable afternoons as a journalist was spent witnessing the petal-harvest at Chanel's private jasmine fields in Grasse in Provence, the tiny white buds fogging the warm air with perfume. I am a flower addict. And at this time of year, I shop for them in the same way other people shop for shoes.
Cut flowers are one of life's greatest indulgences, as Elton John knows only too well – he once admitted to spending £293,000 on bunches in a single year. Flowers lift the heart for two or three days, then wilt and depress it, producing a morose atmosphere in the home that can only be improved by – another bunch. Sometimes I feel guilty about the air miles. In my defence, I don't have a garden or even a terrace so I can't grow my own, and these moments of pure contemplation, of sensory pleasure as the perfume unwinds my memory – I swear they're worth the expense. And it is some expense.
The value of the UK cut-flower industry is worth a colossal £2bn, and the majority are sold through supermarkets. Waitrose has just announced their cellophane bunches will now be packaged with a scratch-and-sniff label to give customers a preview of the scent – supermarket flowers are now usually sold furled and tightly unripe. I'm lucky enough to have a local flower shop, and I am mostly loyal to it, despite the icy demeanour of the florist, a man with round glasses and a bush of wild, curly hair, who smokes roll-up cigarettes inside the shop, overwhelming the scent of his lilies and freesias. Unlike the stems sold in supermarkets, his blooms aren't offered in pre-packaged bunches at £3.99 a go, they brim out of buckets unmarked with a price, forcing the customer to guess the cost. No matter what I buy, or how small I ask the bunch to be, I always end up handing over a £10 note.
In May and June, though, one can steal flowers in Britain. Not from a shop, but just with your nose and eyes, there being so much on display for free. Forget next week's Chelsea Flower Show. Its horticulturalist crowds and enforced amazement doesn't appeal to me. Other people's front gardens, though, are suddenly captivating. Sunday afternoon was spent gazing at the lilacs dripping from the front of so many houses around where I live, so wet and super-scented after the rain.
Is there anything else in nature so loaded with pleasure for the senses? A vase of flowers might mean mere decoration to some, or even be barely noticeable (I don't think my boyfriend sees the vases around our home). Not me. I can understand why botanists at Kew Gardens were this week so thrilled to have revived the smallest flower in the world, the thermal waterlily, from the brink of extinction; I know why Elton blew all that cash at the florist ("Yes, I like flowers," he said then); I was touched that my downstairs neighbour thought that a meaningful apology for her noisy 3am party on Saturday night would be a gleaming bunch of dark pink tulips, left by my door last night with a note. There's always room for another bunch.
Roger and his friends were made for poetry
I remember when I "got" poetry for the first time. I was already a year into an A-level English course when I realised that twiddly stylings and overblown metaphor were ultimately in service to something more fundamental: rhythm. So I don't find it preposterous that the All England Tennis club has appointed a poet in residence for Wimbledon, tennis being the most rhythmically pleasing of sports. Matt Harvey has been engaged to write a poem a day during the tournament, capturing its drama and history.
If he's clever, he'll avoid the cringey, twee, back-and-forth rhythm of that best-known of tennis poets, Sir John Betjeman. Poor Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, the "shock-headed victor" who beat him so emphatically one twilight in Surrey. Although the Poet Laureate insisted that she was fearsome on court, the plodding beat of that famous poem betrayed her as a player quite without style. A better lesson might be taken from the late author David Foster Wallace who in 2006 captured the hectic rhythm of the modern game in a breathless, soaring essay titled Roger Federer as Religious Experience. As it is, I don't think Harvey will be stuck for inspiration. In tennis, even the swearing is lyrical.
You can plaster my walls any time, darling
What does young model Lara Stone see in her new husband David Walliams? "He's so funny," she is reported as saying. Katy Perry presumably thinks the same of her fiancé Russell Brand. Lara and Katy obviously didn't get the memo. The ideal man du jour isn't so much quick-witted as a quick fixer: in the kind of coincidence that happens only in the News of the World, this week we learnt that both Kerry Katona and Lily Allen have found love with painter and decorators. Cue much hilarity from the NOTW writers ("Kerry's getting emulsional"). Actually, I think these girls are on to something: a chap who finishes work early, is macho and yet has an eye for interior décor. Who wants to live with a he-diva besotted by his own wit, when you could have the home of your dreams – and a man who might actually hang around to share it with you?Reuse content