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My Bourgeois Basil Plant

I love my bourgeois basil plant.

And am rightly ashamed.

How did this happen?  When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor (this was before my astronaut phase) and believed that it was perfectly possible, if not desirable, to live out of a tent and bucket, and scoffed when my Mum insisted on putting a coffee mat underneath my mug, and took a certain contrary pride in looking scruffy and didn’t care if my room was a mess so long as nothing living actually came scuttling out of the works…

… and now some of these things still apply… I mean, my room is still a mess… and I’m still not about to win any style prizes…

But!  Now that I am a council tax paying, home-owning member of the middle classes, a strange bourgeois instinct has overwhelmed my soul, and in no way does this manifest itself more clearly than in my basil plant.  This delicate little creature is currently on its third incarnation, its previous two siblings having died of, respectively, not being watered for four weeks when I was with the RSC, and winter; and to be honest, if this one were to die I’m not sure I could take the emotional strain.  Yesterday morning I left the house at silly a.m. to travel across London to Hampton Wick (which I’m told is still in London, but felt suspiciously like the country to me…) and when I got back, my fine upright basil plant had spontaneously started to wilt.  Cue cries of dismay, rending of hair, gnashing of teeth and a general shocked response of ‘but why god?’  It wasn’t just a minor wilt; in the 12 hours of my absence my plant had gone from an upright specimen burgeoning with tasty health to a crippled OAP with stem issues, and as I flapped and fumbled for the kitchen tap, I was as much distressed by this new horticultural development as I was by my own reaction.

The truth is, I have black-fingers.  Everything vegetable I touch usually withers and dies.  But I find myself unable to stop trying, and every morning pause by my window boxes, (which aren’t actually kept on my window owing to council regulations) to see if any seedlings have poked their head above the dirt line.  A strange sentimentality overwhelms me at the sight of any shoot of any kind, and now I find myself on the internet increasingly looking for recipes that use basil, dill and coriander in any serious quantities, before realising that I haven’t got the time to cook any of these delicate dishes and just throwing the above ingredients on top of a pizza instead.  Not only do I now own coffee mats (a matching set of three from Matalan, purchased in the last 24-hours of my NUS discount) but I worry if they get too dirty, and keep a wide and unlikely collection of cleaning products under my sink, next to the tray cunningly positioned to catch the drip.

Bourgeois house-keeping has become a minor addiction.  Not, I should add, that my house doesn’t deteriorate into a slum during the stressful times of fit-up week and get-outs, or that I will ever, ever be caught folding my socks, but a strange protective sentimentality has somehow got me in its grip, inducing the most implausible emotional reactions to a new stain on the oven, or a wilting plant in my window.

If my 14-year-old self could see me now, how disappointed she would be…