In everything I’ve written recently I’ve found it something of a struggle to restrain myself from employing certain phrases and words that have become a new class of cliché that I’m calling ‘the corona cliché’. These are words and phrases that have been catapulted to the top of the usage charts since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some have taken on different meanings, new significance and offer added virtue-points if you can recognise occasions when you can employ them to make yourself sound well-attuned to the struggle of others.
These words and phrases include ‘in these times’, ‘now, more than ever’, ‘challenge’, ‘challenging’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘loved ones’ and ‘zoom’ among others. Sometimes new, super-strength variants emerge which combine the force of two or more of them, such as ‘in these unprecedented times’.
If you can cast the mind back to the pre-covid era, I imagine you’d struggle to recall many occasions when someone said ‘now, more than ever’. These days, it features in every tv advert, social media post and political announcement. Such must be the strength of the way we adopt language, if you yourself use the word ‘now’, you find it difficult to reel in the words ‘more than ever’ from the tip of your tongue before they escape, in much the same way as it’s hard to restrain yourself from following the words ‘It’s nice to see you’ with the words ‘to see you, nice’.
I have been deliberately resisting the use of these Covid catchphrases for fear of sounding trite and unimaginative but it’s been…well…challenging. I’ll be typing away – drafting an Instagram post, say – and one of these phases will present itself like a mine beneath my walking feet. All of a sudden the words ‘in these challenging times’ present themselves at the front of my mind or at the tips of my typing fingers as if by their own volition.
In this blog post I’ve decided to throw off my self-exposed shackles and go hell-for-leather in using these words and phrases, perhaps as a way of cleansing myself of the need. So play along, as you read, with a side-game of Corona Cliché Bingo. See if you can spot them all and we’ll tally up at the end.
Pressing Flowers - A Pleasant Way to Pass the Time
My business centres around dried flowers. Drying flowers is something which makes a lovely project to do yourself, if you’re of a certain character. And I see pressing flowers as the entry level project, or gateway drug, to drying flowers. It’s a thing many of us will have done as children, which shows us the endeavour is far from an unprecedented challenge, but more like child’s play.
In this blog, I’d like to make a bit of a case for pressing flowers as a calming, victimless and pleasant pursuit, and therefore an antidote to the unprecedented challenges we are living through, in these times.
In recent months, we have found ourselves in the bizarre and undesirable psychological circumstance where stress levels and our instinct to fight or flight have been heightened, simultaneous to our ability to act or release adrenaline through other forms of excitement or action being quelled.
So what’s the answer to stress in the absence of cathartic action? I put forward ‘pleasantness’ as the solution.
And I further put forward pressing flowers as an example of something that embodies and could very well define ‘pleasantness’.
It is simplicity itself (child’s play, if you will.) It involves contact with nature. It offers a sense of achievement. It’s surely one of the best examples of delayed gratification. And most life-enhancing of all, it often provides a little happiness bomb of welcome surprise when, if you’re anything like me, you forget after the first few days after pressing that you ever did it and then come upon the now flattened specimen weeks, months or years later when you take a book from the shelf and spy the tell-tale sign of leaves of tissue or blotting paper peeping out between the pages. Pleasantness itself, no?
How To Press Flowers
I’m going to zoom through this because it’s not challenging.
1. Get yourself outside for a pleasant walk to somewhere flowers or leaves grow.
2. Pick judiciously and considerately.
3. Don’t limit yourself to flowers – try leaves as well.
4. Either use a flower press or find a book from among your possessions, fold a piece of paper (see note below) and place it in between two pages, lay the flower or leaf flat on the paper then close the paper and the book before weighting the book down with more books or other heavy possessions.
5. Now, more than ever, a little patience is required as you leave them alone for a couple of weeks or more before opening the pages to reveal your pressings.
A Note On Paper...
The paper is required purely to protect the pages of your book from staining.
The ideal and traditional option for pressing flowers is blotting paper, although I have managed to attain perfectly pleasing results with tissue paper and just plain old printer paper.
Having said that, one advantage of blotting paper over particularly tissue paper, is that its absorbency prevents staining on the pages of your book from any particularly juicy specimen which seep through tissue paper at an unprecedented rate.
A Note On Preparation...
I would say from my own experience that the only challenging aspect of the process is to press a flower that is far from flat in the first place.
If the stem sticks out at a right-angle from the flower head, you may need to trim off as much of the stalk as you can without causing the flower to disintegrate.
You may need to employ the assistance of loved ones in holding petals flat in the position you’d like, while you close the paper and then the book, preserving the shape.
A Note On Pressing Leaves...
My invitation here is straightforward – do it.
Interestingly shaped leaves are highly gratifying to press. I find they invariably maintain their shape and colour fantastically, while not all flowers do.
What’s more, if you don’t press leaves, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity for making greetings cards with such captions as ‘Congratulations on passing your exams – it must be such a re-leaf’ or ‘Can you be-leaf it’s your birthday’.
Don’t cut yourself off from a world of leaf-related puns. Times are challenging enough.
What To Do With Your Pressed Flowers
1. Greetings Cards & Gift Wrap
Just for arguments sake, let’s say you one day found yourself in some dystopian scenario where usually reliable sources of last-minute greetings cards like Paperchase were forcibly closed and you couldn’t justifiably just nip out for a birthday card before the last post goes because it wouldn’t be deemed as essential travel.
Now imagine your relief in that challenging situation to remember that waiting, ready to serve, between the leaves of your heavy hardbacks are the answer to an instant solution which in fact makes it look like you’ve gone the extra mile for your loved one by not only hand-making a card and giving the personal touch, but putting in the thought weeks in advance when you pressed the flower.
A piece of card, a dab of glue, your best handwriting and an envelope that fits, and all of a sudden smugness replaces panic.
If, while you’re at it, you’ve happened to come across a decent gift you can repurpose and, rising from the ashes you’ve gone from a forgotten birthday to a handmade card and a gift ready to post, you can zoom up the admirable friend rankings by matching your gift wrap to your handmade card by gluing another of, preferably the same type of flower to the wrapped (re)gift.
Now, more than ever, all you need to do is flag down one of the four or five couriers currently making a delivery on your street, send the card and gift on its way to your loved one, then sit back and wait to be tagged in an Instagram appreciation post on the birthday.
If, for any reason at all, you find yourself getting a bit bored of the way your walls look, and perhaps you begin to crave the feeling of being on the outside of your house, you could think about bringing the outdoors in (not necessarily a Corona Cliché, but hard to hold back once the flood gate has been left ajar) by getting some of your pressed flowers and foliage into frames and hanging them up around the place.
The kind of frames with metal edging and two panes of glass (name of these on a postcard please?) which are very popular in these times and eminently Instagramable, are an obvious choice. They are great hung in a window because they show off the transparent delicacy of some pressed petals (although, be prepared for the colours to fade quickly if you do this.)
You can showcase just one flower or leaf if you have one of unprecedented interest and beauty, or you can compose a pleasing meadow-like scene using a mix of specimens. The challenge is making sure your pressed flowers and foliage stay in place and don’t zoom straight to the bottom once you close the frame and hang it upright.
I sometimes favour a more traditional wall frame with a hardboard back and maybe an internal mount, so I can arrange my flowers and leaves exactly how I’d like onto a piece of paper, securing them with a hidden blob of glue or even making a feature of a little strip of tape across the stems. Now, more than ever, you have the option to add a botanical annotation to the backing paper before placing the glass over the top and securing the whole thing in the frame. Then your home can look like the natural history section of all the museums you can’t visit.
If your home office set up includes a laminating machine, things are about to get pretty good for you.
I could almost leave it there, because I’m sure you know now what you need to do. But I will offer these words – bookmarks, placemats…and unprecedented (just to get the quota up).
A rather splendid application of the laminated pressed flower that I’ve seen on the internet is a crown. Made by arranging a row or two of pressed flowers in a repeated pattern down the long edge of a laminating pouch, running it through the machine, then cutting out the flowers making a crown-like zig zag cut down the centre of the laminated sheet and taping the two short ends together to make a crown that fits your head. Great for children (she says, as if she means it isn’t ok for a grown up to have a laminated pressed flower crown, but not meaning that at all.)
Now, more than ever, I’m coming to the end of this unprecedented blog post.
If, in these unprecedented times you have some spare time in between Zoom calls, I would invite you to take on the challenge of pressing flowers and to share the idea with your loved ones.
If you were playing along with Corona Cliché Bingo, let’s see how you did with the final tally…
In these times (including variants) – 3
Now, more than ever – 4
Challenge – 4
Challenging – 4
Zoom – 4
Loved one(s) – 4
Unprecedented – 7
Give yourself liberal bonus points for spotting one ‘in these unprecedented times’ and two ‘unprecedented challenge’s in quick succession.
Well done if you scored high. If you didn’t notice a single one, it isn’t really your fault, it’s just that you’ve become blind to them because of the profligate and debauched bandying of these once modest, now vainglorious expressions.
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