2021 – A Year in Two Definite Parts

January 5, 2022
Snowdrop in earthenware bud vase

Firstly, well done if you’ve noticed I’ve used the word definite in the title and that it’s spelled correctly. That probably means that you also relied upon a certain police drama by Jed Mercurio to see you through the odd gloomy Sunday at the start of 2021.

I doubt any of us skipped into 2021 with high expectations but I’m quite sure none of us knew that the first 6 months would be lived in limbo and with no real sign of an end to the pandemic. Taking too many photos sometimes brings rewards, because as well as knowing the vagaries of the British weather each year and what was growing when, I now have a Visual Diary of A Yorkshire Flower Lady that I think will continue into post pandemic times and, let’s hope, they are coming soon.

The first part of my ‘look back at 2021’ covers January to May, and the slow way of life that was forced upon us as once again we stayed in our homes and went precisely nowhere much. 

Snowdrop in earthenware bud vase

The snow-filled days of early January and early February were made more magical because we could go no further than the back field, and the lack of visitors meant thick blankets of pure white perfection as far as the eye could see. Mesmerisingly, each afternoon seemed to stay lighter for longer and the reflection of the snow from the field drew my eye to a new upstairs windowsill for photography. No self-respecting snowdrop went without a 3pm appointment on a long piece of stone and, when glistening green sea gems from Cornwall arrived in the post from a friend, I wasted a good hour thinking ahead and composing January for a future calendar. 

The Flower Fettler’s Year, a small book of calming photographs, useful words and smooth pages to soothe the soul was a lifesaver in many ways. It meant that all of our flowers and photographs from 2020 hadn’t been completely wasted and, having been forced to stop our usual business of classes and weddings, it was also a much-needed small financial cushion. Maybe more importantly though, the job of wrapping those books in marbled paper, carefully cutting angled corners of ribbon and writing small notes to hundreds of kind and generous flower lovers meant that I didn’t feel quite so alone as I might. When some of those flower lovers sent notes and photographs showing the little books had arrived safely, despite lockdowns across the world, I was chuffed to bits. 

There’s always a false warm day in February where you can drink tea outside and where people start to boast about all the seedlings they have growing. Do not be fooled. Although I can’t pretend that the full sun on the 28th February wasn’t much needed, especially as there was no sign at all of an end to our contained circumstances.

The month of March was greyer than any I can ever remember. The first lamb didn’t arrive until the very last day, and nor did the tulips. Trying to ‘make do’ with broccoli leaves and crocuses became very trying indeed and when a box full of Belle Époque tulips arrived from Cheshire I’ve never been so happy. This was the year that, for a special birthday, I’d had dreams of visiting a small bulb growing place in Holland but this box, containing the faded pink and gold treasure carefully packed in alpaca fleece and complete with their bulbs, kept me out of trouble for two weeks. In years gone by tulips have caused me a lot of trouble. Ironically in a year which was trying to be turbulent these tulips signified a turning point.

April and Easter saw our horizons broaden. You could meet friends outdoors and travel beyond your immediate area. It seemed that the garden sensed this shift and everything began to burst into life all at once. Fritillaries grew abundantly beside hellebores, narcissi and tulips as if they had all been waiting for a signal from the Chief Medical Officer that it was safe to come out. A late snowfall in April toppled some of the delicate stems again sending me into the kind of despair that only my best Frances Palmer or Jill Shaddock bowls can get me out of. Often things I make come out of this kind of adversity, when you’re forced to pick every broken stem and anything which is obviously not going to mend itself and you simply put them all in the right bowl, in the places they tell you they want to go. That’s my favourite way to work; let the garden tell you what to do – no skill required. 

But skills are what folk need and I was itching to teach some people and have a little life back in the workshop and to be able to look for the pockets of light in which to capture forever on camera the work of others. As the country finally opened up in May, so did our workshop, garden and kitchen table. In a week which started off sunny and ended in torrential rain, we welcomed Eilidh, Sarah and Emily. They all had important weddings to do and wanted to make the best bouquets, the kind that dance and move and sit in perfect harmony with the bride and her dress…..oh yes, I’d missed people, and, I realised I’d also missed weddings …..because we all have our own line of duty don’t we?