Brenda’s Unfortunate Record #24


My basil plant is dying. I bought it from the supermarket in October, a default purchase as I was cooking chilli prawn linguine and they’d run out of fresh packs. At the time I never imagined it lasting, in fact, I didn’t think much of it at all. But after plucking a few leaves off for that evening’s meal, I plopped it at the kitchen window and it began to thrive. 

"Thine thumb is not green."

As much as I love indoor foliage, we don’t have a single house-plant and much to the dismay of most folk I know, our back garden is a total tip. Since last March, we’ve had the excuse of downstairs building works but I’d be lying if I was to say it was much different before. 

The breadth of my skills surmounts to tackling bramble. Every few years when the days start to warm, I’ll go out with sheers and spade. It’s a bitch but eventually I batter things down and get the yard clear. Beyond that I’m a bit of a clod.

Despite being south facing, we don’t get much light. Sandwiched perfectly between giant Plane to the west and Sequoia to the east, once spring has sprung we’re plunged in near permanent shade. Another convenient excuse, but honestly ours is the darkest plot on the block. And then there’s the soil. I mean I’m no pro but part two of gardening maintenance involves me turning dirt for the next few months, lest the thorns come back. During these excavations I’ve observed how rocky and crumbly the ground is. It’s not the nutrient-rich compound you’d think was conducive to growing. This is probably a common dilemma, but the bottom-line is I’ve never had the drive nor interest to actually look anything up or do anything more. Gardening is a chore. At least in this stage of life. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate it in my more meditative twilight years, when I’m no longer pre-occupied with a pressing need to propel my self-employment forward. But for now, it’s not a priority.

In saying that a few weeks ago I went round a friend’s, kitty-corner to ours. We face onto the same terrace and in lieu of backyard access (yes yes I do feel a bit guilty) their second-floor flat is filled with vegetation, plants propped in every corner & hanging from the ceiling. When I’m in that environment I covet it. As a teenager it was the sort of space I imagined myself living in by the time I got to my age. I distinctly remember the visualisations – plants, cats and a neatly arranged, wooden curio cabinet, filled with exotic artefacts collected throughout all my travels…

I suppose in some respects I’m not that far, just more chaos minus verdure. 

Which brings me back to the basil plant. As it’s sat right behind the kitchen sink, (the epicentre of my domesticity – I’m very good with the washing up), I can’t not notice it. I started out just by keeping it watered but over the weeks as I watched it NOT wilt and die, I think that old buried notion got flickering. I got a bit attached. When no one was around, I found myself chatting to it, grooming even stroking the leaves. The weather got colder. I moved it away from the draughts, first over to the microwave and then beside the fridge. It didn’t seem as happy so eventually I put it back at the sill. Not wanting to eat it all away I went back to buying packs, only occasionally harvesting tiny amounts for the extra special garnish. But generally, it’s been left to flourish.

Over the past few weeks Basil hasn’t been doing so well. The stems have blackened and aside from a couple stalks trying their best to persevere, no amount of care seems to help. I’m worried it’s days are numbered and am trying to resist interpreting this as a broader metaphor for re-visiting youthful projections. Really, I should pat myself on the back. Attachments aside, five months for a supermarket bought pot is a pretty good run. 


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