It was about time I tried it: a skiing holiday. I had never done any skiing before. I spent my entire life working with flowers from Africa. Winter was always our busiest time. During summer, we had time to spare. Friends of mine went skiing for the first time 30 years ago, and after that, they went every year. Sometimes even twice a year. I never minded not being able to go, as I didn’t know what I was missing anyway.
But after I’d seen some videos of my grandchildren (6 and 7 years old) on their skiing holiday, I got my daughter to book a room for me in the hotel in Northern Italy and I went over to join them. The next morning, I had my first ski lesson. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world, but I’ve got to say, skiing seems a sport for lazy people. You’ve always got the wind in your back and you’re only going downhill. The only struggle is at the ski lifts, where people are pushing and shoving in the queue. That’s when your skis get all tangled up. But once you’ve managed to get a seat, you can start relaxing again.
My ski instructor didn’t get it at all. I could see him wonder why I was putting myself through all this, at my age? But four days later, we were standing on top of the mountain together and had no other choice but to go down. I think I’ll go back next year. Even if I prefer cycling by far. As a sport, it’s much fairer. You’re using your own strength to move, and the wind comes from all directions. Cycling is much more like flower cultivation. In the flower industry, you also get to experience tailwinds as well as headwinds, things don’t always go automatically. Going against the wind, with the rain blowing in your face, makes you tough.
Last week, I received a phone call from Aalsmeer. They told me that prices had dropped, making it all too expensive for them. “Wouldn’t it be better if you just dumped half of your production in Kenya?” is what they said to me. I asked the man if he had lost his mind. Even in times of headwind, everything must go on! Lorries must drive, aircrafts must fly, and our clients need work for their permanent staff. Storage space must be paid for and how about the shops? They are waiting to be filled with flowers.
Personally, I feel it’s a great time for some extra advertising: many flowers for little money. People who couldn’t afford to buy flowers in the past, get the opportunity to try it out. And they will love it! In fact, they will love it so much that they won’t want to stop buying flowers when they become slightly more expensive again. Just like me and the skiing: it’s never too late to start – I might even go twice next year!
Simon van der Burg,
Rose grower, Timaflor, Kenya