Yesterday, having attended to a variety of domestic matters, I set off to stay with my father at the coast for the weekend.
Having finally – and reluctantly, yet with a Godzilla-sized post-act sense of relief – sacked his octogenarian gardener ten months ago on account of decrepitude, my father then faced a dilemma regarding the mowing of his substantial acreage of garden lawn.
This issue was resolved by a pledge from his three sons that, between them, we would take turns to do the necessary.
For at least the last three years, we siblings had been promoting the despatch of the gardener, on the grounds that he had been earning the best part of £200 per month for doing little more than riding the sit-upon motor mower – he had certainly, to all intents and purposes, given up tending to the garden in any other sense.
Inevitably, however, we soon found that the task of mowing the lawns was not quite the effortless matter of black-and-white simplicity we had imagined.
Petrol tanks need re-filling with annoying frequency. We encountered the conundrum beloved of folklore that, if a sophisticated machine exists at all, it will have an infinite capacity to go wrong. Half-hidden obstacles – e.g. twigs and branches, tennis balls, cartons, stones and rocks, never mind occasional snakes and other small animals – can be struck without warning and/or, if spotted, require stopping the mower to remove them which then, of course, results in an automatic ‘cutting out’ of the engine for safety reasons.
Worst of all, and whether this is just a characteristic of the particular brand new motor-mower my father acquired last year I know not, every so often – i.e. when it becomes full – you have to empty the grass-cuttings box in the far corner of the garden reserved for this purpose, which is about 200 yards from anywhere. As a result, having embarked, fired-up and full of enthusiasm, mowing as if your life depended upon it … after completing every length and a half of the main lawn, you then have to set off in Lewis Hamilton mode in the direction of the tennis court in order to empty the grass so far collected. Even if, by some miracle, this is accomplished without complications arising from finding grass stuck up the shute preventing the mower beginning its blade-rotating ritual again, it is a time-consuming and disruptive pastime.
Having said all that – beginning shortly after 3.00pm – yesterday I spent a highly-theraputic two-and-a-half hours mowing the main lawn after arriving at my father’s house.
In this high-tech modern world, where we are conditioned to speed, pressure, stress and constant outside interruptions, there is something wonderfully relaxing about ‘getting in touch with your roots’ (in this case, literally, given the size of the garden) and toiling away at an agricultural pursuit in the warmth of an English countryside. Time passed seamlessly as I communed with a fondly-imagined, turn of the 20th Century, Thomas Hardy (Wessex) setting.
All I wanted last evening, as I waited for the 6.00pm BBC television news to begin broadcasting – bathing in the glow of physical work knowingly done well – was a warm beer and a Cornish pasty.