How to carry flowers in public: a spotter's guide

Based on my own previous experiences of commuting with a bouquet, and today’s observations of people struggling with blooms on public transport, I present this handy guide to how to carry flowers (either given to you or on your way to present them to someone else), without looking ridiculous.

There are in fact six main carrying stances:

bride1. The Bride

Stance: Single or double-handed, bouquet held in front of the body.

Notes: Tendency to look like blushing bride. Must avoid slow-walking, or wearing of white clothing.


nonchalant2. Nonchalant

Stance: Single-handed, bouquet held upright but tilted at a slight angle.

Notes: Pose suggests that the holder is unaware that they are holding a lovely bouquet of flowers, or that this sort of thing happens all the time. “What’s that? Nice flowers? Eh? Oh, you mean these flowers? Yes, I suppose they are…” NB: Can play havoc with weak wrists.


down3. The Sweep

Stance: Single-handed, bouquet grasped around the base and facing downwards.

Notes: Signals embarrassment about receiving or carrying flowers. Usually accompanied by intense blushes. Very effective for de-petalling the blooms, as downwards-orientation and pendulum motion conspire with gravity to cause petals to drop off.


torch4. The Torch

Stance: Single-handed, bouquet held upright, slightly aloft and at a right angle to the body, but at some distance.

Notes: Usually adopted by boyfriends/husbands, this posture signals that the carrier has bought the flowers for someone else, and is merely conveying them to their intended recipient, plus do you really think I’d be caught dead carrying flowers around in the street? Do you? Well, do you? What sort of bloke do you think I am? etc etc. NB: Can be painful on upper arms/shoulders if used for a long time.


award5. The Award

Stance: Single-handed grasp, with bouquet resting in the crook of the opposite arm.

Notes: The award for best flower carrying posture goes to….*drum roll*…. whoever carries their flowers like this! Impossible not to seem as if you are receiving an award, or holding a large, florid baby.


karaoke6. The Microphone

Stance: Single-handed, bouquet held upright and slightly aloft directly in front of the body, near the face.

Notes: Can seem as if you are about to break into karaoke, depending on the type of flowers. Avoid bulbous blooms.

Of course, it’s best to remember that, on today of all days, nothing says “I love you” like dead vegetation

Know your place

My new commute involves taking the train and transferring at a big, busy urban interchange. I’m learning a lot about my commute – and the fine art of commuting – of which more in time, I’m sure.

But a little glimpse for now: last night, waiting at St Pancras, I noticed that the people on the opposite platform (waiting for the northbound train) were huddled in particular formations relating to where the doors open when the train eventually arrives.

Know your place

This tells us three things.

1. The train’s obviously going to be busy when it arrives, so proximity to the door is everything
2. You’ve got to do a lot of commuting before you know not just which zone to stand in so you’re near the exit when you get off, but where the doors open
3. If you’re not standing in prime position (by the doors when they open), you’re going to get left behind

Empty sky

Just found this 2003 photo from when we first moved to SW14

For as long as I’ve lived in London, I’ve lived under the flight path.

That’s not saying much, of course – most of central, west and south-west London is affected by plane noise, as they circle over the suburbs, make a languid turn over Tower bridge and then approach to Heathrow along the Thames.

I remember standing on the school playing fields (when I should undoubtedly have been chasing a hockey ball or hustling to class) and looking up at planes not so far overhead, trying to identify the airline from the tail fin design. Alitalia. BA. Pan Am. SAS. Lufthansa. Countries in the sky.

For most of the last decade, I’ve lived directly under the flight path, in Mortlake by the river, which is the point where the wheels come down on the landing approach.

When we first moved here, I was hyper-aware of the planes. I’d wake up as the first flight droned overhead around 04.30, before dropping off again. And then, throughout the day and evening, every thirty seconds, they’d rumble over on their way to landing: loud enough that you’d miss a few seconds of important dialogue in the film you were watching, or have to pause your conversation for a spell. Before Concorde stopped flying, the air would be thunderous for nearly a minute as it slid overhead.

Snow. My. God.

The icy drifts of SW London

Not to underplay the serious inconvenience caused by inclement meteorological conditions to some parts of the UK, but I’d just like to take a moment to reflect on this typically calm and understated headline from yesterday’s London Evening Standard:


A few points.

If you’re still measuring the snow in inches rather than feet or yards, it’s not an “extreme” weather event, it’s a “bothersome” one. The words “extreme weather” should apply to total snowmageddon, not tobogganing & a bit of a whinge about slippery pavements.


On the night train

Sorry for the recent silence: I’ve been on the road a bit – or rather, on the rails. First, a dash around the country, taking in Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh in the space of 4 days, and then a week later, I took the Caledonian sleeper to Fort William, which was a first for me, and highly recommended.

Inside the sleeper carriage

Oh it’s very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.

So this is what it's like to be in prison

And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there’s not a speck of dust on the floor.

There is every sort of light – you can make it dark or bright;
There’s a button that you turn to make a breeze.

Comfort kit on the Caledonian sleeper

There’s a funny little basin you’re supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.

Caledonian Sleeper lounge car

Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
`do you like your morning tea weak or strong?’…

Breakfast on the move

[Poem: TS Eliot’s Skimbleshanks, of course]

And this is what you wake up to the next morning:

Dawn viewed from the Caledonian Sleeper

[The following is from a mail I wrote to someone who asked how I’d booked it and what it was like]

There are four sleeper services to Scotland that I know of, between London and:

— Glasgow
— Inverness
— Aberdeen
— Fort William

The Glasgow service leaves London very late – 11.15pm or so, I think – and arrives into Glasgow around 6.40am. This is a bit of a problem because then you’re stuck in Glasgow before breakfast, so if that’s where you’re going, I’d recommend taking a daytime train. London – Edinburgh is about 4 hours, and Lon-Gla is about 5 during the day.

But if you’re going further north, then the sleeper is a good option, in at least one direction (I took the sleeper up and then a daytime train back down – it’s possible to do the journey from Oban – London in a day, but it’s a lot of sitting on trains!)

The sleeper I took left London at 9.15pm, and arrived in Ft William about 9.45am. Clearly it didn’t take that long to do the journey, but the train was moving (slowly) for most of the time, stopping a few times in sidings for 30 mins or so. It’s one big long train until Edinburgh when it splits into the three sections – Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William. I was asleep for most of it, though I was vaguely aware of waking up at one point, peering out of the window and finding myself at Edinburgh Waverley station.

I think the route is something like: London Euston – Watford – Crewe – Birmingham – Preston – Carlisle – Edinburgh – Crianlarich – Rannoch – Fort William.

I woke up about 8am with breakfast being delivered to my cabin, which I ate looking out over Rannoch Moor – a stunning bit of the world.

In terms of photos, I took most of the pics through the (rather grubby) window of the carriage, either in my berth or in the seating car a little further down the train. The secret is to take lots and lots and lots of shots, and one is bound to come out well eventually.


It must be time for another rant about commuting, surely?

Given that I currently spend a minimum of two and a half hours in transit every day, I’ve been pondering for a while whether there’s a particular thing that would improve my commute.

Certainly less time on public transport would be a boon, but would unfortunately mean living somewhere either entirely unaffordable or unsavoury, neither of which I’m keen to do.

So in the absence of cutting the time spent down, I’ve been wondering whether the addition or removal of anything specific might actually make the whole thing more tolerable.

Not going yet

The short list so far includes:

  • Air conditioning on the tube: not a big thing at the moment, and I understand there’s work under way, but some of the lines – the Victoria, mainly – do seem to get ever so fetid in summer rush hours
  • Turning off the heating on London bus services: I know that it’s probably related to the engine of the bus, but there’s been times on my twice-daily bustrek that I’ve been sure I could smell something singeing. Like human flesh. Forty years ago, we managed to put a man on the moon. Are we seriously unable to stop grilles pumping out heat on buses during the hottest part of the year?
  • People shutting up on the tube: I know it’s a bit anti-social, but on the longest bit of the tube journey, I generally try and read, and if people are shouting at each other in English, Spanish, French or German, I find it enormously distracting, no matter how loud the music in my ears is. So sometimes I wish they’d SHUSH or (better and less grumpy) that there was a dedicated reading/quiet carriage, like on long-distance trains.
  • Less human chaos in and around King’s Cross Underground station: I know they’re redeveloping it at the moment, but the fact that there’s only one main entrance/exit which is around a hairpin corner from the ticket gates means that every day – without fail – is a seething mass of bewildered tourists and idiots dragging suitcases behind them and tripping people up while looking for the right exit for the Eurostar, all bottlenecked into a pretty narrow space.

    Plus don’t get me started on the poor escalator and platform etiquette I observe daily – standing still in the “fast lane” or in the doorway to a platform is still one of the quickest ways to get punched in the back of the head in London. Fact.

    In fact, I feel that a general reduction in human idiocy between stepping off the tube and stepping into the office would be a massive (but unlikely) improvement: the main problem here is that I work close to a major transport hub, so all human life is there, albeit mainly just standing about gormlessly and smoking.

    And on a related point, whose bloody stupid idea was it to put a major bus stop on a bit of pavement just around the corner from the station on York Way? The pavement is so narrow and there are regularly 100+ people waiting for the next bus to trundle along, and since they’re not as well-versed in the art of queueing as their W/SW London compatriots, that makes it impossible to actually walk down the pavement, which instead means anyone wishing to do so needs to make a detour into the (three lane, busy) road, which can’t be a long-term good idea.

The tube renovators can't spell

All of these things are irritating, and removal/refinement/improvement in each area would doubtless improve both the experience of commuting and the state of my mood when I arrive in the office or back at home.

But after much consideration, I must conclude that the single thing that would improve my commute – and, I’m sure, that of countless other poor souls in London – is some sort of ASBO preventing people in branded T-shirts from handing out free commuter newspapers while standing in the middle of the pavement.


I appreciate that their job is to hand out free newspapers, but standing in the middle of a busy public thoroughfare, desperately thrusting free sheets into the hands of harassed commuters may well be an effective way of dispensing resources but it’s a remarkably piss-poor strategy for making people feel well-minded towards the companies who instruct their minions to do so.


Every evening is like a gauntlet of dodging the eager profferings of these branded thrusters. It’s not enough that I don’t actually want to take one of their papers – I still have to dodge and swerve around them as they slow traffic by standing directly in front of the entrance to the station, or in the middle of the pavement, or at the point at which the pelican crossing disgorges onto the main pavement from the road.

I don’t blame the individuals, but I do wish I could get a message to their shift supervisor, or whoever instructs them in the tactics of their tasks.

So here’s a message, specifically to whoever’s in charge of distribution training at thelondonpaper and London Lite, in the hope that this mention will get picked up by their social media signal filters:

Tell your uniformed distributors to stand beside rather than in the flow of foot traffic around major stations and busy areas.

If you don’t, I’m going to report them – and you – for causing an obstruction and endangering safety on the public highway, and start a campaign to get your antisocial tactics banned altogether.

Here endeth the rant.

Never parted

On the tube, they cannot let go of each other. There must always be something touching – thighs; fingers; shoulders; lips.

When a single seat becomes available, he urges her to take it and then hovers in front of her. She reaches out; they touch.

On the tube; they cannot let go of each other