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  • Writer's pictureSheila Claydon

A memory in flowers

The cover of the latest edition, published by Books We Love

Second edition Ebook

The original cover when the book was one of 2 full length stories published together

In recent blogs I have written about how the covers of some of my books have changed over the years as new editions have been published. How, too, I have transitioned from using the pseudonym Anne Beverley to my own name of Sheila Claydon, and how this also affected the publication. (see above)

Today I am blogging about the third of these vintage books, Bouquet of Thorns, and I have chosen this one because of the flowers and because it is almost Christmas. My mother was a very talented florist and because florists are always very busy in the festive season, I sometimes got to help her in those long ago Christmases. Although I was given the unskilled jobs such as sweeping floor and filling vases with water, occasionally far more exciting things happened, and these are the seasonal memories I cherish.

I was born and raised in Southampton, England, which is a coastal city with a port used by liners from across the world. Nowadays it is the busiest cruise terminal and the second largest container port in the UK. In those far distant days, however, when cruises were only for the very wealthy, people would spend days and weeks aboard ship travelling to places such as South Africa and America, instead of flying as most do today. And that was how, from quite a young age, I was able to accompany my mum when she went on board what were then some of the most modern liners in the world, to decorate the state rooms, the various lounge and dining areas, the ball rooms and other communal places, and deliver personal bouquets to individual cabins. Sometimes I even got to do the personal deliveries myself...not exactly knocking on the cabin door and handing over the flowers, but taking them to the correct deck and searching out the bedroom steward who would then take charge of them.

Walking up the gangway carrying a bouquet of flowers or a box of plants made me feel very important but even better was going down to the galley to see the chefs at work, and then being served a meal that was far more exotic than anything I got at home because it was in the days before we all began to adopt the dishes of other countries and cultures. I would often be given chocolate, cakes and fruit to take home too. I tasted my first Hershey bar courtesy of a steward on an American liner, long before they were sold in the UK. Pineapple too, and mango. And many other things that are available most places now but which weren't then.

So Bouquet of Thorns not only reminds me of those far off Christmases, it also reminds me of my mum, and every word written about the flowers and the floral displays in the book comes from that. Helping her taught me a lot, and it's thanks to her that I know how to care for cut flowers, how to revitalise them when they start to droop, and how best to display them. I know the best way to pot up plants too, and care for those, and, like my mum, that has tipped over into loving and caring for garden plants as well. So although those visits to the vast and glossy liners in the port of Southampton are long past, I still remember how it felt to be accepted by the crew and, probably because I was young, given so many treats. To this day I still remember most of the things my mum taught me about flowers too, the same as I remember the joy of those Christmases past.

If you like flowers too, then click on book snippets for a short extract from Bouquet of Thorns.

Happy Christmas and I hope you are able to make some happy memories that stay with you, even in these difficult times.

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