The Tightest Aspidistra in the World

I like my football on a Saturday;

Roast beef on Sundays, all right.

I go to Blackpool for my holidays,

Sit in the open sunlight.


This is my street, and I'm never gonna leave it;

And I'm always gonna to stay here,

If I live to be ninety-nine.

'Cause all the people I meet,

Seem to come from my street,

And I can't get away.


-The Kinks, Autumn Almanac (1967)

We like routine and familiarity. Well-trod paths, reassuring repetitions, the tried and the tested. Yet God sometimes gives us a shake and puts us in a new place.

Chapel friends gave me an ancient aspidistra. This is a classic British house plant, the essential feature of any Victorian parlour. The 1933 Oxford English Dictionary described it as the ultimate ‘symbol of dull middle-class respectability’. The specimen given to me was due a re-pot, and the balmy weather and empty diary made this month the perfect time to do it. Well, I tugged and I heaved. I lubricated with gallons of water. I dug, prodded and yanked, careful not to damage the plant itself. After 30-odd minutes of unrewarded effort, I balanced it between two wheelie bins so Madam Gravity might come to my aid. After another ten minutes of pouring water, prodding, shaking and the rest, out it slid.

I could have cracked the pot and saved myself a lot of trouble, but it was a pleasant terracotta one that I wanted to keep. 2-4 stalks were broken, but the plant is now two plants, with nice fresh compost and luxury accommodation close by my windows.

Plants have no consciousness or thought, nor a voice with which to express them. If the aspidistra had, it would have screamed and yelled, accusing me of destroying its home, literally turning its world upside down. Yet it was so pot-bound, the compost had all but disappeared. Its ability to absorb nutrients was minimal. The hassle and disruption of being split and re-potted has done the plant a world of good.

So the Lord sometimes shakes our little worlds, that He might replant and refresh, creating new growth and better nourishment. Moving church, finding a new job, coping with a condition: all changes and reorganisations are daunting and painful. Yet the Good Gardener knows what He is doing. Though He shakes and tugs, over-waters and loosens, the end result is always worth it.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11