1. Be my (sweaty) Valentine
It's early 1999. I'm in Australia for a conference, sent 10,000 miles for a 2-hour presentation, my remit to be perky and convince people to promote our books better than others. I arrive on Valentine's Day and, since my slot isn't until the next day, I figure I'll go for a run and try and re-ignite the Pollyanna bounce that's won me this gig in the first place. I've been travelling for what feels like a couple of years, so I dig out my running gear and head off into the Hunter Valley. It's gorgeous; February is the height of summer, so the neighbourhood gardens are full of flowers and mad-looking birds dive around. I run a couple of miles out to a boardwalk landing pier and stop to take in the craziness of being out here, in the middle of nowhere, barely a day and a half after commuter-crazy London.
On my way back to the hotel, a young-ish guy is hanging over one of the garden gates. When he sees me slogging sweatily past, he waves for me to stop. Because I am genetically predisposed to (a) talk to anyone and (b) always trust strangers (I know, I know), I stop. He hands me a beautiful pink rose, cut from the garden.
"I saw you go past" he says, channeling Jason Donovan rather than Heath Ledger, more's the pity, "and just wanted to say Happy Valentine's Day".
2. I wouldn't touch her with yours, pal
It's New Year's Eve 1996 (?). I'm in Paris with the boys, visiting our pal Ol, he of the boundary-less phone calls. We end up in some very un-chic divey bar; sawdust on the floor, cheesy music, the works. It's minus WhatNow?! outside and we're all together again for a few days, so we don't care.
A few minutes after midnight, one of those rose-sellers arrives in the bar. I'm huddled in a corner with Ol, putting the world to rights as we were wont to do. The flower guy comes over and waves a rose in my general direction. Ol and I wave back at him, in dismissal, but he's persistent.
"A rose for the beautiful lady?" he asks, in French.
Quick pause for an editorial note here: Ol's bilingual, and though it's not like we speak French together, I was studying it for the first four years we knew each other, so he knows I'll understand him.
Oli looks at the guy, then at me. Then he leans towards the flower seller and said, gesticulating in disgust,
"Look at her! Honestly - would you buy her a rose? C'mon, mate, don't be crazy. I'm not wasting my money like that"
I'm not in the slightest bit upset - this is our MO, and Ol knew that he'd get plenty of grief from me in return. The poor flower seller, though, had no idea what to do. Panicking, he thrusts an armful of roses at me, and with a muttered - "Here - happy New Year" - flees into the night.
3. Heaven knows I'm miserable now
I'm 19, and in my second term at college. I come back to the room after a long day of trying not to feel sorry for myself (nothing wrong beyond the usual late-teenage angst which seems so insurmountable at the time) and trip into the hugest pile of flowers I've ever seen, before or since. And by pile, I mean pile. There are close on 30 bunches of blooms, of all sorts - roses, irises, carnations, early daffodils (always the worst when you're homesick for the green, green grass of home).
Each room door in halls has a pinboard on it, where you leave a piece of paper for your mates to write notes on should they happen round in your absence (oh, the random rituals we had before the joys of texting). I clear a path through the Amsterdam Flower Gardens that now consitutes my hallway and read the message scrawled on the board. It's from Theo, one of my best mates and sort of substitute brother (not that I've ever had a brother, but if I did, I imagine our relationship to be like mine and Theo's; lots of fighting and utter reliance).
I went to the market at the end of the day and told the flower guy he'd never seen anyone as pathetic and sad as you, so he gave me all these for a fiver. Hope these make your Thursday better. Theeee "