... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Plucky plants

I used to work in an open plan office, with about twenty-eight other people, and quite a few plants. Apart from one brief visit in October, I last left the office on March 17th. So did everyone else.  From time to time, one or two people wound wonder what to do about the plants, but by and large we were far more concerned about the students, each other, and getting our teaching and - for me the really big adventure - assessment all online in a really short period of time.

I mentioned that if someone else would fetch the plants, I'd be happy to look after them.

Then it was forgotten again. Only t'Boss had access to the office. I told him I would look after the plants if he would fetch them.

Then nothing happened for a bit. By this point I fully expected all the plants to be dead, which was a bit sad.

Finally, on July 1st, a car double parked in the middle of the road outside my house, and a motley collection of pot plants was quickly offloaded.

They weren't dead. Despite having been left for fifteen weeks in a stifling office, not one of them was dead. To be honest, most of them hadn't been particularly well tended even when we were sharing the office with them, so I ended up repotting every siingle one of them, at the same time as stripping off all their dead bits.

Then I sent an update to all my colleagues, written in the breathless style of a cut-price foreign correspondent:

July 2nd 2020
From your local reporter:
Finally released after a fifteen week ordeal, the process of recovery can now begin for these brave survivors.

A group of plants found themselves innocent victims of a university's scramble to lockdown in mid-March.

A weeping fig wept as it described how it and its companions thought that they had been abandoned, trapped without food or water throughout the hottest spring on record.

Unbeknownst to them, however, the plucky plants had not been forgotten. Former colleagues, working from their homes across the city, were working on plans to liberate their valued oxygenating companions. Plans which finally came to fruition on Wednesday night, when rescuers finally breached the alarm system and entered the abandoned building.

Sadly, not everyone made it through the ordeal, and the rescue mission occasioned some collateral damage. A money plant told your reporter: 'Don't get me wrong, it was a really great effort, but I'm gutted that some of my shoots got left behind.'

The surviving plants were taken to a secret location in the west of the city, where they are undergoing a careful programme of rehydration.


A couple of months later, I followed up with a human (OK, vegetable) interest update:

September 1st, 2020

Two months on from their dramatic rescue, we catch up with the plants of Edgar Allen House


Sun streams into a light airy attic; a gentle breeze wafts across a group of plants basking beneath the open Velux. A cluster of spider plants, looking green and vigorous, huddle together; two venerable money plants watch indulgently over a tray of cuttings; an amaryllis relaxes in the corner. The scene looks idyllic, and a far cry from just two months ago when the plants, dehydrated and terrified, were snatched in a daring raid from locked down Edgar Allen House.

On arrival at the reception centre the exiles were given new pots, compost and water, and, above all, time to recover from their ordeal.

The weeping fig, who told me in July of their terror at having felt abandoned by the authorities, now shyly shows off its new leaves. One of the most vulnerable of the plants, staff at the reception centre had initially feared for its life, but the slow process of recovery has begun.

When I last spoke to the money plant, it had expressed concern at the way the rescue had been managed. What does it think now?

'The operation was particularly tough for us' it told me. 'We had a lot of casualties. But, you know, it had to be done. To be honest, it cleared out some of the dead wood. But we lost a lot of youngsters too that day. Those that came through though ... they're stronger and more independent than ever. The money plant community will be fine.'

Some of the rescued plants have moved on from the reception centre. One spider plant told me about its new home in a bathroom.

'I do miss the intellectual cut and thrust,' it said, from its position on the windowsill, 'But the humidity is awesome.'

Another has been lucky enough - along with its twenty-seven offspring - to find a place in a study.

'This is the sort of office I always dreamed of,' it sighed. 'Of course, I miss the others, and I know I will go back to Edgar Allen House one day. But a lot of the little 'uns will be putting down roots and staying here, I'm sure of it.'

All the plants agreed that their place was at Edgar Allen House, and most were anxious to return. The amaryllis said 'It's not easy being a university office plant - the heating, the air conditioning, the postmodern angst ... but it's what we know. Some of us have done it for generations. It's not just a job, it's a way of life.'



  1. That's interesting. I wrote that in one account, previewed and published it, and viewed it, and the photos all came out fine. Open it in another account and they're not there. Are you getting the photos?

  2. If not, just imagine a few spider plants, a fern, a weeping fig with no leaves, and some money plants with bits dropping off everywhere.

  3. Also no photos, perhaps one day I will know what a weeping fig, money plant, and Amaryllis look like :-)