“Are you happy with your choice?” he asked as I straightened up from taking a picture of the serried ranks of roses.
A country accent, bright blue eyes, collar length white hair thinning on top and shabby clothes. He had a petite and exquisitely turned-out woman clinging to his arm. Black high heels, flawless makeup, long black coat. His question seemed serious.
“Well, I like the picture but I don’t like the roses” I replied, after a pause for thought.
“Well, they look far too artificial. Too many petals crushed into too small a space. They look forced, as though they can’t breathe. They’re a bad shape. And the colour,” I added, warming to my theme, “there’s too much dark blue and purple in it. They look bruised. Battered. Attempting perfection and failing.
“I’m sorry…” suddenly catching a glance of the expression on the woman’s face, “these are just my opinions and I’m sure many people feel differently about them.”
“No, I’m interested”, he replied, folding, unfolding and refolding a small piece of paper in his hands, a receipt perhaps.
“But daddy!” the woman exclaimed in a voice which carried not the trace of an accent but betrayed her youth. I realised with a shock that she was in her very early teens.
“There are lots of other roses”, she said. “What about those?” She gestured to a bunch of buds in a sepulchral shade of near black.
“What do you think of them?” he asked.
“Too gloomy. They look like they’ve come off the set of a gothic film.”
His daughter had let go of his arm, presumably exasperated by the sudden complication of what I assumed was supposed to be the purchase of a valentine’s gift for her mother.
“What I’m worried about his how much they’re going to set me back” he said, rather grimly, as he again mechanically folded and unfolded the piece of paper.
“Well, this is Liberty, so whatever you buy will probably be the best of its kind”, I offered as the only consolation against excessive outlay I could think of.
“As well as the most expensive”, I thought as I shook his hand and left them examining the display, relieved he hadn’t asked me what I would choose.
Outside the tube station an altogether different approach to the rose trope. What would I choose here? The red-pawed cream bear holding a bunch of artificial roses? the rose-patterned-cellophane wrapped pink fluffy heart with “I love you” stitched in curlicues of scarlet? Or the string of flashing fairy lights twined with a creeper of blowsy rose-red plastic-petalled blooms?
As difficult a decision and no doubt involving products with a similar hefty mark-up albeit starting from a lower base price. Choices, choices.
Tomorrow, valentine’s day, I go to a mediation meeting to discuss the Solomonic topic of splitting the children. Not to mention the property. I’m perhaps not best placed to appreciate the current proliferation of roses, whatever form they take.
But I shouldn’t think about it too hard because there’s all sorts of mother-daughter shit which would do my head in. And besides I would be too busy fiddling around trying to eat the damn things. Have you ever tried getting all those hundreds of seeds out?
PS Don’t forget to enter the Global Voices Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest! Even a cynical old saddo such as I might have a go, probably the very best antidote available for rose-overdose.