As a young girl I lived next door to a country church and one of my best memories was helping decorate it for Harvest Festival. There would be lots of us kids darting about the skirts of busy women carrying vegetables and fruit. There were sheaves of corn and bright garden flowers and an air of bustle and purpose and, if you werent careful, errands to do. If you were lucky you could tuck the odd tomato or apple up your knickers for eating in the churchyard out of sight.
As we grew up, my sister and I became used to our mothers last-minute dashes to the church to do the flowers, in those days in little brass vases standing to attention on the altar. We were allowed to help and I loved scouring the countryside for holly at Christmas or berries and coloured leaves at Harvest and then, pre-oasis, attempting to make top-heavy branches balance in unskilled but exuberant arrangements. Once a friend asked me to do the flowers for her May wedding. We picked armfuls of buttercups, cow parsley and ox-eye daisies and filled the church with wild flowers, which just managed to last through the wedding but would certainly have been entirely dead by the Sunday morning service
We came to Woodbridge in 1965, and I joined the St Marys flower group at about the same time as Judy Dowse. I recall those years chiefly for the wonderful people we met when we all worked together to make the church as beautiful as we could for Harvest, Easter or Christmas. Even now, when we are all decorating the church for a festival, I feel those others, long since gone, there with us, sharing the sense of urgency and then achievement, the tension and then the relief, as the flowers and leaves begin to unite into a shape that will play its part in the general festive decoration. I like this feeling of continuum, being part of a long line of Woodbridge laity who have always offered what small skills they have to make the church beautiful.
Much later I discovered the solace that creating something beautiful for someone you love can provide. When my father died I spent the day before his funeral alone in his church, making two huge pedestal arrangements. The concentration required became a meditation, and then a reconciliation. Now, when I am asked to do flowers for a funeral, I always ask if there is anyone in the family who would like to help.
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