Ten long years ago, in 2010, when I was a Working Gal, a colleague of mine decided to make the seaside town of Bognor Regis the Sunflower Capital of Britain.
I remember it well - local school children all received sunflower seeds which they were invited to plant and nurture in honour of their home town which was proud of its title as the Sunniest Town in Britain (though this title
has been hotly contested over the years by Eastbourne, among other seaside towns.) Local newspapers covered the challenge and much valuable publicity was gained. Lots of children, just as importantly, undoubtedly gained a great deal of pleasure from planting
their seeds and watching them grow. The target was for no fewer than 55,000 sunflowers towering over gardens, fields, parks and school playing fields. I think the initiative may even have made it into the Guinness Book of Records.
Two years later I retired, cantering off the corporate carousel and looking forward to a full and happy retirement. My garden still bears witness to my working days - from our tamarisk
tree, gloriously rampant in Lockdown, which was planted in 1986 to commemorate the opening of a local day centre to the beautiful (and equally rumbustious) ceoanthus bush, a retirement present from two of my former colleagues. What’s more, ever since
I retired, I have been growing sunflowers in my back garden, initially as an annual competition between Mr B and me. Annoyingly, despite all my planting, watering and generally encouraging the plants with rallying calls when they seemed to be wavering, Mr
B invariably wins. Year after blooming year.
Then this year, after planting out four sunflowers for the annual contest plus ten more seedlings, one for each grandchild,
I found I had quite a few seedlings left over. Having expended a considerable amount of love and care (plus much cajoling when waiting for the seeds to germinate) on every single seedling, the least I could do, I felt, was to find good homes for them all.
I balanced a tray of potted plants on top of an (empty) wine box and attached a sign which read: “Bringing you sunshine - sunflower seedlings free to good homes.”
To be honest, I was already wondering what I would do with them if nobody claimed them - poor little waifs and strays, unwanted by anyone. I kept looking out of my kitchen window, hoping to see somebody - anybody - claiming the poor things and carrying
them off to their Forever Homes. Imagine my delight and excitement when every one of them was claimed. I didn’t even see most of them go...
so excited was I by the success of this small initiative that I decided to plant more seeds. I hit a snag when the Lovely Kay, doing my weekly shop for me, reported back that there was nary a packet of sunflower seeds to be had in the shops. She did, however,
come up with an Above and Beyond Solution to the problem by sorting through her bird seed at home and picking out all the sunflower seeds. It took her simply ages and certainly served to strengthen my resolve to make all her efforts worth while.
You will be pleased to hear that I am still dispensing sunshine, albeit from a strict social distance - every time I fill a tray with tiny plants, they disappear in no time
at all. I like to think that later this summer there will be giant sunflowers blooming in gardens all over Worthing - and at least some of them will have germinated on my very own windowsill. So far, something like forty plants have been adopted, another ten
are waiting, plaintively, on the garden wall for their adoptive parents and there are goodness knows how many still to be planted up. I will run out of pots and compost before I run out of plants. We won’t make the Guinness Book of Records but then that
was never the plan.
As Eric and Ernie memorably once (or, more accurately, more than once) sang:
“Bring me sunshine, in your smile
Bring me laughter, all the while
In this world where we live, there should be more happiness
So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow...”
Happiness that’s what we need, in these Lockdown
Days. Smiles, and laughter and a sizeable helping of joy. Plus, it goes without saying, a brand new bright tomorrow.
Long live my sunny sunflowers. Wherever you