Tim Key: If you don’t want to bump into someone, hide behind a yucca


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The Independent Online

This afternoon I spotted a man I wanted to avoid and hid behind some foliage I was carrying. Now I'm home, and the foliage is looking resplendent in my flat. I've fed it and spoken to it, and now I'm going to write 700 words about it.

I had been shopping in Homebase with my young friend Finn. He was after some anti-slip material?! I couldn't work it out completely, but as far as I could tell he was having problems with his bed sliding around his room and he needed some kind of product, which he could stuff under the legs and keep it still. He explained it about four times to me in the car and in the end I said, "OK, yeah cool," so we could stop talking about it. I was getting a new yucca plant.

I examined the yuccas and selected one about as tall as my throat. Basically, I like having a yucca in my lounge. I live on my own and things like yuccas and telephones make the whole place a bit more vibrant. I know for a fact I watch too much telly, so it's great to have the option of a yucca. I can switch off the snooker and stand in front of my yucca instead, arms folded. Occasionally I'll speak to it or run my knuckles down its leg. Share a moment with it.

I picked up some Baby Bio, too, and reconvened with Finn at the till. He was slapping his rubber-tile thing with his open hand and saying "This is the baby" again and again. I flicked my yucca's leaves and winked. We had – to put it mildly – nailed Homebase. Then he got in his car and headed to his bed, and I staggered down the hill clutching my yucca to my chest and swearing like a janitor. It was then that I spotted the man.

I won't go into why I wanted to avoid the man. It was for professional reasons, let's say. For example, he is a casting director and I once stood in front of him with my top off trying to win the role of a Siberian spy. The point is, he was now approximately 30 feet away and I didn't need a stop-and-chat with him.

I immediately looked for a side street to duck into or a bus to leap on to. I willed there to be some kind of uncovered manhole I could slip through; cower in the sewers until he was gone. But there was nothing.

I certainly couldn't run because of the damn yucca. Then what?

I hoisted the damn yucca up another six inches, and concealed my face behind its verdant fronds.

Hiding behind a yucca in Haringey's Green Lanes is not position A. It is demeaning and stressful. The footsteps got closer and with them, of course, the casting director himself. I knew he was never going to mistake me for a yucca – its base was in mid-air, three feet of jeans right beneath it. The only thing to do was to pretend I was a man holding a yucca. But I also knew that I needed to be a different man holding a yucca; I had to create a new character for him, so he wouldn't know it was me. The last thing I wanted was for him to recognise my stance and peel back the leaves for a chat. So I started clicking my heels together. Make out I was that sort of guy. And I whistled. Very un-me. He got closer. I whistled louder. He was right next to me.

"Afternoon," I said, in a vaguely Welsh/Irish accent.

"Afternoon," he said. By that point I wasn't even sure it was him. I continued to whistle for another minute or so. Then I lowered the yucca, looked around, and headed home.

I'm staring at it now. It's gorgeous. I'm going to treat it like an absolute star. I'm going to water it and water it. If anything I'm going to over-water it. It saved my life on the street this afternoon. Now it's my turn. We've bonded, me and my yucca; and now, together, we're going to flourish.