Nobody wears carnations anymore

Peter Rosengard negotiates a tricky few days in Dublin

Last Saturday I was reading the paper on a plane on my way to Dublin.

Now I’m not the kind of man who likes to hit a successful cafe chain when it’s down, but the news that Patisserie Valerie discovered that they didn’t have £10,000,000 in the bank but were £20,000,000 in the hole came as a surprise.

I can understand how they didn’t notice that they were short of £20,000,000  I mean who looks at their bank statements? But I’ve no idea how they didn’t notice that their mille-feuilles were clearly short of a few feuilles. It was obvious to anyone looking at their cakes  and don’t even get me started on the crème anglaise.

I was going to Dublin for a big celebration, so I’d decided to turn up wearing a red carnation buttonhole. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a red carnation these days?

“There’s just no demand for them,” my local florist told me before I left. “How about this one, though?” she asked as she held up a tiny pink one the size of a penny.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.

Before my flight I called ahead to the hotel in Dublin. “Please, can you buy me a big red carnation and put it in my room for my arrival?”

“No problem, sir.”

In the taxi from Dublin airport, I talked to the driver about the world’s best news story from only a few days earlier  about the Irishman who was late for his flight at Dublin Airport and tried to catch his plane by leaping over a security barrier, bounding onto the runway and putting his hand up like he was stopping a bus. The only problem was that the plane was already moving along the runway. “Wait a minute! Stop!” he cried before being wrestled to the ground by half a dozen policemen.

“He was a silly fellow,” the driver said. “Everyone knows you can’t stop the plane once it’s started moving.”

When I got to my room there wasn’t a carnation anywhere in sight. Then I spotted on the pillow a tiny red carnation, again the size of a penny. I called reception.

“A large red carnation you’re wanting? Leave it to me, Sir.” Five minutes later there was a knock on the door. Tom the concierge was holding a huge red carnation. He also had a four inch steel pin in his hand.

“You can keep it in place with this, sir.” It was identical to the pin used to kill a target by the beautiful woman assassin in the hit TV series Killing Eve. In any “stop and search” I’d be arrested. (“Officer, it’s just a pin for my buttonhole!” “Right, sir, of course it is, just come with us.”)

“There’s no call for large red carnations in Dublin, Sir. So what I’ve done is stuck ten little ones together.”

“That’s very inventive of you, Tom. Thank you,” I said. “By the way, have I got any creases in the back of my jacket?” I asked, turning around.

“Well, it is a little crumpled, sir, but you’ve got an ironing board in the cupboard.”

I’ve never ironed anything in my life. I burnt my thumb testing whether it was hot, then the board collapsed twice and my first attempt at pressing left a big vertical mark on my blazer. Then the board collapsed again.

The night after the event I’d flown over for, I was fast asleep at four in the morning when my bedside phone rang.

“What is it?” I shouted. “Is the hotel on fire?”

“Your taxi’s here, sir.”

“My taxi? It’s four in the morning! I booked it for four in the afternoon. I like to get to the airport early but this is ridiculous.”

I hung up.

My flight back to London wasn’t until six that evening.

In the dining room at breakfast I ordered a glass of fresh beetroot juice. It’s meant to be good for bringing down your blood pressure  which I was sure had risen dramatically as a result of being woken in the middle of the night.

Turning the page of the Irish Times, I managed to knock the entire glass of juice all over my white shirt and tie and the white table cloth. I stood up and gazed into in a large mirror on the opposite wall. I looked like I’d just been stabbed in the chest multiple times by the woman in Killing Eve.

It was my only shirt.

“Are you sure you’re alright, Sir?” they asked me at the gate to my flight. “You wouldn’t like an ambulance?”

“An assassination attempt?” the man sitting next to me on the plane asked.

“Beetroot juice,” I said. “It should come with a hazardous materials sign, like dynamite.”