Flowers make humans happy. And this fact has got very little to do with the role they play in romantic courtship and woo-ing.
Flowers brighten a room. They add fragrance to a corner. They bring life and colour and a conversation topic. I feel happy when I look in the window of a house and see a bouquet of flowers on someone's window sill. When I have a vase full sat in the middle of my own dining table, I am much more likely to smile than if they weren't there. I'm so convinced by the soothing and heeling properties of flowers that I wrote a short story about it.
Here, in Amsterdam, it's almost impossible to walk for more than a minute in any direction and not see someone with one or several bunches of flowers attached to the back of their bike, or balanced in one hand as they cycle along. (By the way, as far as Dutch-people-carrying-things-on-bikes goes, this is nothing. I've seen people happily riding bikes while balancing step-ladders, mirrors, metal pipes and Christmas trees in one arm.)
I don't think any other city has as many flower shops per capita as Amsterdam does - though I'd happily be proved wrong - and even in my local Albert Heijn supermarket, which is relatively small as supermarkets go, there's a display stretching out across more than twelve metres, dedicated solely to flowers.
I've come to the conclusion that with so many flowers and such an active market for them, Dutch men and women do not wait for their partners or friends or family or acquaintances to buy them for them. That's not to say this isn't a thing, it is. Flowers are a lovely wait to say "thank you" or "congratulations" over here, but it's not the main reason flowers are bought over here. Dutch people buy flowers for themselves. Bunches and bunches of them, week after week after week.
It must be catching because I've also started to do the same. I feel our house is bare when there are no fresh flowers in them. I own more vases than I ever have (not hard considering I don't think I'd ever owned one) and I can tell which seasons are just around the corner according to the flowers that start to fill the buckets outside flower shops. (I always get excited when I see tulips because it means spring is on its way, and peonies will always signal the first scent of summer.)
And yet these flowers are not just for me. They are for NewMan. They are for our friends who visit. They are for our neighbours who often gaze on me working by the window in our dining room where behind me a vase of flowers often sits. They are for the passers-by who can see into our house and when they do catch a hint of colour.
Last week, NewMan surprised me with two bunches of tulips. It was the first time he'd bought me flowers since, well, we lived in London. I assumed that now I'd regularly started to buy them for myself he'd no longer see the need for him to do so. I also thought that if I always had flowers in the house, why would it feel special when he brought them instead of me?
I'm happy to say, it ALWAYS feels special when someone buys you flowers. Maybe even more special because he still felt the urge to do so after I'd made it my own domain for so long.
So buy yourself flowers. You won't stop anyone else doing it for you and it won't feel any less special when they do. In the meantime, you will have beautiful, colourful, joyful flowers making you smile and anyone else lucky enough to see them.
Frances M. Thompson
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