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The Lonely Plant

November 27, 2012

It was the birth of my youngest daughter in April 1981 that gave me the idea for ‘The Lonely Plant’.  Making it up as I went along, I told the story to my six and seven year old girls as they snuggled beside me on the settee.  And how they giggled when Mr Murry told Esther and Esmeralda not to be cheeky to Mother!

I hammered out a draft on my old mechanical typewriter and there the story lay for three whole decades until October last year, when I wrote an improved version on my PC.  It was nice to connect with my younger self and hear again in memory those delighted giggles and cries.

Although unstated, ‘The Lonely Plant’ is set in the latter 19th century, so inevitably something of the old colonial mindset seeps through.  It’s really just a light fantasy, though, intended for reading aloud to young children as I told it to my girls in those long-ago days before the present digital age.

Hope you like it.




Have you ever seen a Lonely Plant?  I don’t mean some forlorn little weed drooping its leaves in self-pity, but a marvellous, magical Lonely Plant.  I’ll bet you haven’t.  Well, neither had Mrs Murry until she went to Africa.  This is how it happened…




Mrs Murry, Mr Murry and their beautiful twin daughters, Esther and Esmeralda, had left England behind for the steamy jungle township of Kungalaboo.  It was all very exciting with monkeys and lions and slithery snakes on their doorstep, and native drums throbbing in the night.  But most exciting of all, Mrs Murry was going to have a baby.

    Esther and Esmeralda could hardly believe it.  A baby brother or sister – how terrific!  They told all their classmates of course.  They couldn’t speak much Swahili yet but their teacher Miss Nwapa helped.  Always, after school, they rushed home to see if the baby had arrived.  And always they were disappointed!

    Then, one afternoon, Father was waiting for them outside school.  He was grinning broadly, his ginger moustache twitching. 

    “Girls, girls, guess what,” said he“You have a little sister – Baby Sue!  She was born on the stroke of two.”

    Miss Nwapa interpreted, and a great cheer went up.  Such rejoicing you’ve never seen!  Esther and Esmeralda clapped and danced and laughed with their friends.  It was fully ten minutes before Father could explain that Mother and Baby Sue would have to remain in hospital for several days yet.




After tea, Mr Murry took the twins visiting.  How peculiar it was to see Mother sitting up in this strange bed in this strange place, the only white lady on the ward.  How wonderful, to see their little sister for the very first time.  Esmeralda touched one tiny fist and the baby caught hold of her finger.  Then Esther, finding her voice at last, remarked that Baby Sue was almost as bald as Father!  And they all laughed.

    It was sad when they had to go.

    Mrs Murry suddenly felt very lonely.  The other young mothers on the ward were all native women, and she couldn’t speak their language.  One of the nurses spoke English but the poor girl was always so busy that Mrs Murry didn’t like to disturb her.

    Presently she fell asleep; but next day, after the doctor had been round, her lonely feeling returned.  The African mothers were jolly women, chattering away in their own tongue, often breaking into laughter; and one or two of them were kind enough to come over and sit with her.   But it was useless really: she couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand her.  She tended the baby, she read her book, and she spent a lot of time just lying there, watching the fan above going round and round and round…

    She was close to tears when suddenly, at her side, a little voice said, “Hi there!”

    Mrs Murry sat bolt upright.

    “Who is that?  Where are you?” she demanded, for there was no one to be seen.

    “Hi there,” came that piping voice again.  “I’m the Lonely Plant!”

    Mrs Murry was mystified.  There was a potted plant in the corner, rather a nice one with big rubbery leaves and curious bell-shaped flowers, bright orange.  It was from the largest of these orange flowers that the voice had seemed to come.  But that was impossible of course, quite impossible…

    “Is someone playing tricks on me?” asked Mrs Murry, shakily.

    “Certainly not I,” replied the plant.  “I want to be your friend.”  The orange petals opened and closed like lips.  “I’m here to cheer up people who are lonely.  That’s why I’m called the Lonely Plant.”

    “I don’t believe it!” exclaimed Mrs Murry.  “I just don’t believe it.  Plants…can’t…speak!”

    She was laughing now, and so was the Lonely Plant.  For quite two minutes the two of them spluttered and shook with helpless mirth; then a curious calm came upon them and they had a nice cosy chat.




That evening, at visiting time, Mr Murry returned with the twins.  He kissed the baby then his wife.  “How are you, darling?” he enquired.  “Not too bored and lonely, I hope?”

    “Oh no,” said Mrs Murry, smiling.  “I’m not in the least lonely now, thanks to my funny green friend here.  Let me introduce you to the Lonely Plant.”

    Father shook a leaf as if shaking hands.  “Pleased to meet you,” he said jokingly.

    The plant did not reply.

    “But he’s such a chatterbox usually,” explained Mother.

    “Now you are being silly,” said Esther.  “Talking plants indeed!”

    Esmeralda giggled.

    Father said, “All right, you too.  Don’t be cheeky now.”

    Once the visitors had gone, Mrs Murry turned to the Lonely Plant.  She was rather cross.  “You were awfully rude,” she said.  “Not speaking like that.  I’m sure they think I’m potty now.”

    The orange petals opened sweetly.  “Yes, m’dear.  But aren’t you forgetting something?  My job is to amuse those who are lonely, no one else.  With your family gathered round, you shouldn’t wish to speak to me.”

    “Oh,” said Mrs Murry, feeling quite told off.  “What an amazing plant you are…”




Presently came the day that Mrs Murry had been longing for.  “Yes,” said the doctor.  “You’ll need plenty of rest for a while, but you’re well enough now to take your baby home.”

    Only one thing made her sad, and you can guess what that was.  Mrs Murry was sad because she’d have to leave the Lonely Plant behind.

    “My dear friend,” said she.  “I don’t know what I would have done without you.  Couldn’t I… Couldn’t I possibly take you home with me?”

    The Lonely Plant replied gently, “You know that would be wrong, don’t you?”

    Mrs Murry dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.  “I – I suppose so,” she sniffed.  “I suppose there’ll be other lonely patients who need cheering up.  But I shall miss you so.”

    The Lonely Plant then made a suggestion.  “Well, if you wish, you could take a little cutting.  Others have done so when leaving.  They’ve taken cuttings from me and had their own special little Lonely Plants at home.”

    “What a lovely idea,” said Mrs Murry, swallowing hard.

    And so it was that she came to take a cutting home in her bag.




Mrs Murry did not want for attention in the days that followed.  The jungle drums had spread the news of Baby Sue’s arrival far and wide, and wellwishers were constantly arriving, bearing gifts.  Loveliest of all was a snugly blanket made by the children of Miss Nwapa’s class at Kungalaboo School.  There was much baby talk, and it didn’t matter in the least that half of it was in Swahili!

    Then came a morning when no one called.  The excitement had fizzled out.  Father was at work, Esther and Esmeralda were at school and Baby Sue was fast asleep beneath her snugly blanket.  Once again Mrs Murry experienced that lonely feeling.

    It was at that moment it happened, something so startling that Mrs Murry dropped her knitting.

    A little voice shrilled at her from the window, a familiar, dear little voice.  It came from the potted plant with the bright orange flowers, and this is what it said:

    “Hi there!  I’m a Lonely Plant, and I shall be your friend!”





Copyright © Paul Beech 2012

  1. Angela permalink

    Lovely story 🙂

  2. Thanks, Angela. I love writing for children and there’s nothing quite so rewarding as their laughter when a story comes off. Paul xx

  3. Aww, how heartwarming – a lovely story to keep you company on a lonely day! I love how the plant stays true to its character and brings hope when despair creeps in.

    • Thanks, Luke, and welcome to my blog. I was round at yours just now and pleased to find you’re a children’s writer too. Nice site, pictorially stunning and well named – ‘Dream Shed’ reminds me of Dahl.

      Look forward to hearing from you again.


  4. It still makes me laugh Daddy, even at 38 xx

    • Thanks darling, it was fun making up stories for you, and I shall never forget those happy times.

      With love from Dad xxx

  5. Maureen Weldon permalink

    What a delightful, feel-good story.



  6. Maureen, I’m so pleased you like this. It’s been awhile since my last children’s story but I’d like to write another one soon.

    Thank you,


  7. That was wonderful and a home grown story too. I saw you daughter’s comment. Being cynical I balked a bit at the prospect of taking a cutting, how would that work? But it turned out fine in the end. That was really sweet and enjoyed its colourful settings, not stale or boring and another mile widened as kids read of people and places too. Lovely.

    • Thanks, Anita. So glad you like this story. I wrote the second (present) draft thirty years after the first, so returning to it was like collaborating with my younger self, a rather strange experience – but fun!

      I see from your excellent blog, ‘As It Comes’, that you write not only for adults but for children too. Lovely, isn’t it, to read work aloud to kids and see their rapt attention, with gasps and giggles along the way.

      My very best from North Wales,


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