A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
10 years ago I wrote a short piece for some friends about daffodils and Bounds Green. I was deleting a load of old files and found it. As it is daffodil time again, and there are even more people here escaping wars 'back home', I am 'sharing' it wider.
"Yesterday something happened that sort of woke me up a bit. So I thought I would tell you about it.
I was having Zoe and Simon and an old Iranian pal to supper. I bought some daffodils in town to jolly the kitchen up a bit. That is what you buy this time of year, daffodils.
I popped in to one of my little local 'supermarkets' in Bounds Green to get some decent tomatoes before going home. I parked my laden wheelie bag inside the shop while I shopped - the bunch of daffodils sticking up - the yellow flowers saying Hello Spring!
The chap on the till is from Afghanistan - a Kurd - about 30, tall, excellent English, I have known him some 4 or 5 years and we usually pass chatty pleasantries and he asks about my daughter - who he knows got married, and I joke about him chatting up the women customers etc. He is unmarried and doesn’t have a girl steady friend. He works all hours. He will have started just packing the shelves in a similar store years ago, and he is now on the till, and looks as if he has a financial stake in the business- which is a good one. Nice chap.
As he rings up my tomatoes he says, "You are the fourth person with yellow flowers. Why the yellow flowers?"
I reply with what I feel is obvious - "They are daffodils. I want something to jolly up the kitchen. "
"But why yellow flowers?"
"Because they are daffodils and daffodils are yellow. They are jolly because they say winter is over, it is spring. They are daffodils."
"Oh. ...... but they have all been yellow flowers."
"Yes. Because everyone likes daffodils because they are for spring. They don’t grow in the summer, or the autumn, or the winter, they only come up and flower in the spring. They are daffodils!! And they are yellow. You must know about daffodils?"
"No. I don’t know."
"Oh come on! How long have you lived in England?"
"Hmmm.... 12 years."
"12 years? You must know about daffodils!"
"No, it is the first time. Until today I did not know. So,............... they are Good News Flowers!"
"Yes. You are right. That's it. They are good news flowers!"
And the man sweeping the floor repeated as if it meant something to him also, "They are good news flowers."
As I walked home I nearly wept.
I wanted to tell someone about refugees, about the great diaspora. About the fact that he had come here when he was 19 and has worked and worked and no-one had talked to him about flowers. Why should they? People don’t talk to grown men about flowers. You talk to children about flowers. Children learn what the good news flowers are in their village, in their garden, in their country, with their family. Their mother tells them. Their grandfather or mother tells them. They are not even told. It is something that is just learnt. That is just sucked in slowly with being a child, and living in one's country.
And then - one leaves that place after all that simple and wonderful knowledge is inside - and you move to a different place where those flowers, those stories, those small things that make home are all totally different. And no-one ever tells you - you are grown up now, and you are so busy trying to keep it together, and learn English, and be safe, and work and more work - that you never learn what the good news flowers are in this new place.
And all the myriad of other simple things - they are all lost and not learnt again, because no-one knows or sees that those things are now missing and you need to be taught again as you were when a child, but there is no time, and no mother, and no family and no garden to play in.
Millions of people now, all over the world - refugees. The great diasporas. And Bounds Green/Wood Green has people from more countries than any other Borough.
The deep sadness of it. And the fact that I took a long time to really comprehend that anyone speaking such good English, who had lived here so long, who helps to run a fruit and veg’ and stuff shop – didn’t know about daffodils - that I also found even more sad. "
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