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Everyone has a story. How nice is it to see the Subterranean Flowers stall outside Angel tube? Here flower seller Erguz Behloul talks about flowers, his Islington customers and future plans. Interview by Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill
Emerging from the Northern line at Angel, one of the first things youâll see are the colourful buckets and bouquets of blooms at Erguz Behloulâs Subterranean Flowers stall. âIâve been at this spot for five to six years working with Jamie, the licencee,â says Erguz who grew up in Hackney before moving from Dalston into a flat in Islington. Although itâs a wet April afternoon, plenty of people stop to pick out a bunch of flowers â roses and tulips proving popular choices for both men and women – until the big bloomed peonies arrive.
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Flower sellers really brighten up the grey city environment, but Erguz has been in the trade for long enough â nearly a dozen years â to know itâs a tougher job than it looks to passers by or on instagram.
âItâs cold! One winter I was crying with cold but if I donât sell, I donât get money,â he says wrapped up in in jeans, hoodie and jacket, âand it can be stressful. Thereâs a lot more to it than you might think â making money and interaction, youâve got to handle people well.â
âYou get people with attitude, trying to impress the girlfriend or trying it on, saying theyâve only got this money. Youâve got to be intuitive if they hustle and know when someone is quite genuinely a little bit short and you need to let them off. If people annoy me, I donât say it verbally but I use my body language,â adds Erguz kitting up in latex gloves so he can strip the lower lily leaves while talking to Islington Faces.
Places Erguz Behloul likes in Islington
- âI like Islington Green. I donât go there much, but I should do more.â
- âI know the people in Pret on Islington High Street well. Last thing I drank? A macchiato.â
- âI like seeing films at the Vue in Angel Central.â
- I know most of the people in Angel tube. They are nice and let me use their water.â
- âVirgin Active (Islington Angel Gym at 33 Goswell Road) is a great gym and thereâs a lovely sauna and Jacuzzi.â
At a spot like this Erguz sees many rushing commuters, but he also meet people needing to kill time and the plain lost. âIâm terrible with directions, so Iâm really aware when I ask a question about directions. Iâll say âexcuse meâ, âsorry to interruptâ.Â So on the stall I do get a bit annoyed being asked where a place is when people have made no effort. I can see theyâve just left the house, and probably think they are the only person on Earth who has asked me how to get somewhere in Islington. But when people have sat nav on their phone, and are still confused, then Iâll help.â
Itâs a top spot for celeb watching too. Erguz lists just some of the people-off-the-telly whoâve bought flowers from him â comedian Alan Carr, Gwyneth Strong (never forgotten as Cassandra Trotter, Rodneyâs wife in Only Fools & Horses) and Boris Johnson. âBorisâ wife (Marina Wheeler) has bought loads from me; weâd have regular chats. Sheâs lovely,â he says.
Nothing cheers up the day like a bunch of flowers, whether you buy them for yourself, friend or family. Erguz avoids throwing away his flowers, so getting a bargain is always possible. âAs the flowers get older Iâll sell them cheap, or I just top up the bunches bought by my regulars because people really appreciate extra flowers and that keeps them coming back,â says Erguz warning that, âa lot of flower people just sell at their usual price but then they get a bad reputation.â
Now 37, as spring comes Erguz hopes to retrain.
âI was puffing a lot during GCSEs and did a lot of drugs. After GCSEs I didnât feel I was getting an education so I left school. Obviously, I donât do drugs now,â he says. âIâm thinking about what I liked to do as a kid. As you get older there are so many financial responsibilities â the cost of living and I like to eat healthily. I go to the gym a lot so Iâm thinking about being a personal trainer. Some guys say that thereâs no money in it and maybe I need something that is a bit more lucrative? Anything worth doing or you are passionate about seems to have no money in it â thatâs your fate,â he says, stretching to ease the pain in his side from a recent gym injury.
Even if making money is the main reason Erguz works on the flower stall, he also likes this job because heâs making all the decisions. âIâm independent. I like being myself, and I think thatâs important,â he says finishing off the lily stems. Hereâs wishing Erguz the chance to have a go following his sporting dreams. For now the best way to help is by spoiling yourself and saying yes to a lovely bunch of roses from Subterranean Flowers.
- Subterranean Flowers â stall is open every day, from about 11am-9pm, outside Angel tube at 25 Islington High Street, N1.
Over to you
If youâd like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at theÂ A-Z Â index, orÂ search by intervieweeâs roles orÂ Meet IslingtoniansÂ to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola