In June there was a wedding at St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields. St John is a dining room, wine shop and bakery on Commercial Street and pretty much my dream space to decorate - stylish yet unpretentious, sophisticated yet informal, it is all about the food, and the wine (and the bread).
Don't you miss June? Hot and stormy, mosquito-bitten, foxglove-filled June. The first flush of garden roses, the first suntan lines, punnets of English gooseberries; June days are full of natural abundance, when the washing on the line dries in less than an hour, and it is too hot to walk on the gravel barefoot. Every year June comes around and goes so fast, and every year when it has gone I miss it.
July has been gloomy, as it usually is. I love gloominess too, though. Real weather, thunder and scudding clouds, wind in the trees, leaves scuttling across the park. My new puppy has been enjoying those.
Anita and James had the best of everything for their June wedding; sunlight pouring into a white room, crisp linen, taper candles, just-gathered flowers. The cutting garden came up trumps with scented garden roses and Californian poppies and bearded iris; we filled a whole slew of antique vases, goblets and tankards in tarnished pewter and brass. There is a distinct alchemy to the gleam of old metal by candlelight. I like imagining the history of those vessels, I believe some of them are quite old. Who received that prize after an exhausting summer regatta many moons ago, the thirsts those dented flagons might have quenched in London ale-houses long demolished.
For me, this wedding was an excellent example of how effective combined simplicity and seasonality can be. All English-grown, the majority from our own garden, flowers simply gathered in complimentary colours, diversely collected vessels, tall elegant candles, a smattering of ripe, seasonal fruit, sparkling glassware. And that's it. Nothing showy or themed or too contrived. Just an effortless celebratory feast, with delicious food and a lot of very good wine.
My heart was really in it, right from the get-go.
Everything was prepared at our studio in advance. Jess and Camille placed and tweaked the flowers and wove in a few clematis tendrils and I hung some wild dog-rose briars on the back wall from the shaker pegs. Install took three of us an hour. It was the swiftest set-up we have ever done.
Later, as our clients and their family & friends danced the night away down the street, a mile south three terrorists mounted what is now known as the London Bridge attack, killing eight and injuring forty-eight innocent civilians. We drove back the following morning to de-rig through shocked, deserted streets and wailing sirens. That afternoon, with the same familiar exhaustion that every wedding ends with, and from the sadness of that strange day, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep.
But when I look back through the photographs, all I see is joy. Flowers are joyful, they make people happy, they are a reminder of happinesses past, they are fleeting, transient, and yet there will always be new growth, whatever you do you cannot stop that. New growth will come. When times are hard I sometimes wonder what we are doing this for, Jess and I, the shlepping backwards and forwards on the motorway with our hard-won flowers (which have survived winter's frost and drought and foraging predators and plenty more besides, each one just to be admired for those few hours), the gargantuan effort we go to to convert people to seasonality and English-grown flowers over imported ones during the seven to eight months of the year when this is possible, to encourage people to think outside the box of conventional wedding floristry (more on this some other time), the early mornings and late nights and constant hustling. And really this is the wedding that sticks in my mind when I ask myself why we do it. We do it for this, these flowers, these people.
For me, the photographs here are testament to the endurance of love and friendship. I love that our work is a part of that.