This is a story about Bernard. In a past life, Bernard must have had quite a way with the ladies, or have been a Catholic. But now, he lives a quiet life, spending his days looking over the garden from the relative safety of the conservatory. He is either a grandfather or a great grandfather, I can’t quite remember, but whichever it is, he is responsible for a number of offspring, possibly in the region of 25 now. Quite the achievement. Bernard is, of course, a spider plant.
Some parents buy their children goldfish to teach them about death. I believe I bought myself a spider plant to teach me how clingy inanimate objects can prove to be if you water them once a fortnight.
I bought Bernard (named after the milkman from my childhood) to bring a little life into my first university home around six years ago. I gave him a sunny spot in the box bedroom and offered him the remains of many cups of tea, which he drank down gratefully. He grew and grew, and eventually stopped growing when I’d repotted him for the third time, but despite being temporarily assigned a solitary lifestyle during my travelling months, refused to die.
As anyone with a spider plant will know, it’s bloody impossible to kill them. Every few months or so I will forget my poor spider plant parenting (there are numerous offspring in every room of the house, so I’m just thankful they don’t need much besides soil in terms of possessions) and make the mistake of thinking I am actually a member of adulthood due to plant ownership, and venture into the green depths of the garden centre and come home with something slightly smaller, spikier, bushier or, dare I say it, flowerier. A few days pass and I admire my new addition to the botanic family dotted around. Another day may pass before I notice a withered patch or a few brown leaves. I panic. I water them, I don’t water them – what if I’m drowning them? More time passes and with each new day comes a renewed sense that I cannot care for any plant more adventurous than a spider plant. I look at Bernard. He seems to be saying ‘I told you so’. I sigh and keep the new thing that was green but is now brown for a little longer before accepting defeat and letting it go to the big compost heap in the sky (aka, the brown bin). Then I go and water all 25 spider plants. It’s probably been a few weeks.