I fell in love with the idea of camellias when I was seventeen and read La dame aux camélias for the first time. Since then, I have read the book, watched the films and the ballet and listened to radio dramatisations at every opportunity.
Marguerite Gautier, one of the most sought-after courtesans in Paris, passes every evening at the theatre or the ball: Whenever there was a new piece she was certain to be seen, and she invariably had three things with her on the ledge of her ground-floor box: her opera-glass, a bag of sweets, and a bouquet of camellias.
Camellias thrive in my Devon garden but I never cut the blooms to bring indoors. I think the spirits of my dour Scottish ancestors prevent me from doing anything quite so decadent. But my friend and neighbour has brought me great bunches of camellias from her garden as a thank you gift.
I am transported to Paris in 1850, I am dressed for the ball, the maid has entered with masses of camellias, announcing that Armand is waiting with his carriage......