Magazine article The Spectator

Flower Power

Magazine article The Spectator

Flower Power

Article excerpt

On Friday morning I was on guard duty in the church for the NSPCC's Flower Festival. `You should take a book along,' the local jeweller had advised me at the preview the night before. That seemed like a good idea, although in the end I took along the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator instead. I sat down on the pew behind the jar that had been left out for donations, and tried to fold the newspaper into a discreet size, reasoning that, if the Anglican Church is the Tory party at prayer, then the Daily Telegraph is surely the Anglican Church at breakfast. But you can imagine the noise I made and, while I had served and consumed cheese and wine quite happily in the church the night before, I felt as if I was drawing attention to a rather sleazy activity.

There's something very mammonish about newspapers - or perhaps there's just something very mammonish about origami. That's what I hoped as I put the Telegraph on one side, hunched further down in my pew and tucked into Anne McElvoy in The Spectator. At that moment, my NSPCC boss turned up. My place on the local committee is akin to that of Pike, the `idiot boy' in Dad's Army. I sit in meetings with my eyes glazed and one leg vibrating until I'm brought round by a direct request such as `bake two dozen scones for Wednesday week', or `guard the flower displays on Friday morning'.

`You really need to watch everyone who's going round the church, Leanda,' my boss informed me with the impatient smile she delivers when I'm being particularly infuriating. `People have been known to steal things from the displays and sometimes they will even pull out a flower or two.'

I stood up like an awkward teenager and put my glasses in my handbag. 'Er, of course,' I muttered apologetically, and strode off to check out the three old ladies iss hovering around the Oranges and Lemons display by the altar. They seemed to be rather expert on the subject of flower arrangements, and were probably members of the local branch of NAFAS - The National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies. This organisation, which is now about 40 years old, has about 100,000 members nation-wide and raises about 500,000 a year for charity. The women who arrange flowers in churches are at the heart of it. Over the years their arrangements developed into festivals that raise money for the Church and various charities, as well as the shows that you see on a small scale at agricultural fairs and on a bigger scale at places like Chelsea. …

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