Once upon a time in a big, open-plan office, where important things were talked about and written, a very nice man (let us call him Ernest) planted an avocado stone in a little pot. For many weeks he watched it, and watered it and whispered to it, but nothing appeared above the surface of the good John Innes Number 1 Potting Compost that he had bought for it.
One day, taking pity on him, a friend had a good idea. He melted a green candle, and dipped a cocktail stick into the liquid wax, layer upon layer, until the stick looked just like a shiny green shoot. One Monday morning he came in early and took out the avocado stone (which had gone all manky) and pushed the stick up through the hole in the bottom of the pot until it just broke the surface. Being a discreet and kindly colleague, he asked all the other hard-working people in the big, open-plan office not to mention what he had done, so that Ernest's happiness would be unalloyed.
When Ernest arrived he noticed the little shoot breaking the surface, and his joy was a delight to behold, as he spread the glad news amongst his work mates. Each day he watched and watered and spoke softly to his little pot and once a week, each Monday morning, his friend came in early and pushed it up a little bit from below, using a straightened paper clip (probably, because of course I could not know that).
It puzzled Ernest at first that his avocado shoot grew slowly in the week and quickly at weekends, but soon he realised that perhaps it did not like the heating and air-conditioning, which was switched off at those times. And his colleagues agreed; 'Who does like the air-conditioning?' they said. 'It makes us feel ill, so why not your little avocado?'
For many weeks this horticultural idyll continued, until one Monday morning, when his friend tried to push up the little shoot, it started to wobble. There was not enough stick left in the soil to hold it steady. His friend wondered what to do, and in the end he pushed the little shoot back in again a bit.
In the days that followed, Ernest confided his concerns that all was not well with his avocado plant, because it had stopped growing; indeed, it almost seemed to be getting smaller. And his colleagues, who were also kindly folk, were much moved.
At last, Ernest had an idea. He went out into the town that was nearby and bought some more compost of the very best kind, and a bottle of liquid fertiliser, and a larger and more expensive pot with a glaze of many colours, and a copy of the Guardian newspaper. And in his lunch hour he spread the newspaper across his desk, and began to re-pot his avocado plant.
And when he found that his little avocado was a cocktail stick dipped in candle wax, he was sore aggrieved. And his colleagues in the big, open-plan office were greatly affected, even to tears, and his friend remembered that he had a very important meeting to go to and left in great haste to talk and write about important things.