I decided to mow the lawn. Something that I haven’t even contemplated in 14 odd-years, mainly because the familial home’s own particular cosmetic mix of moss and grass fails to live up to my high Capability Brown informed aesthetic ideal. Also, it’s the aged P’s job. It triggers my hay fever, leaving me with streaming eyes and a sense of Mann’s inability to overcome even the most tame of nature. I am nothing if not a Byronic Romantic. I like being outside, just don’t ask me to interact with it. So maybe more a Moronic Romantic.
But never one to let the grass (moss) grow under my feet, I decided, having little else to do, to tackle the tundra that was the backyard. Now I don’t want to over sell this particular plot of little (shrinking) England. The family gardener, also full-time punk superstar from the 80s onwards, gave up actually doing any gardening in about 1995; the conflicts of inciting revolution in the aging post-punk fan-boys and fighting the encroachment of greenery in a South London suburb probably colliding in some hellish Liberal-Capitalist miasma. The garden is pretty much a win for anyone who just wants a lawn and doesn’t give a shit about herbaceous borders. Said patch of grass (moss) is shockingly undulating for something that’s barely half an acre; family legend claims that a bomb, destined for Croydon airport, was offloaded too early, creating craters where once manicured croquet lawns roamed free.*
When explaining to a friend that I was about to mow the lawn, she asked me whether I knew how. I explained, that yes, like many things in life I understood the theory and, like many things in life, couldn’t conceive that the practice would present a challenge. Said friend then asked me if it was safe for me to mow the lawn, all the time eyeing up the copious gin consumption, plus my usual accoutrements of plasters and bandages. Yes, I assured her. Why not? After all, I play the odd netball match**. I was confident I could avoid having a fit or running over my own feet. Probably. Also the elder sibling was in residence, physically if not mentally. Well, said my friend, at least it will get out some of this week’s aggression. I looked at her blankly. I hadn’t previously considered this as a therapeutic opportunity.
So this morning, I dragged out the beast of the lawn mower. It’s supposedly designed for the middle classes, being light and storable, and orange. This seems to be vital in all outdoor power tools. Said mower also, as I was to discover, is designed for grass that is a) no more than four rhombic foot and mown regularly, b) is at least 30% grass, and c) flat. Conclusively, the Mann family lawn is none of these things.
I started out my taking down some present and former prime ministers. That took about three foot. I was halfway through the Labour shadow cabinet when it was clear that all was not entirely well. Not only had I wrapped myself in 10 meters of orange cord, but the mower was already full. 30 minutes later I had extracted myself from most of the electricity cable and emptied the mower. It took two hours, five further excavations of the inside of the mower and a near death experience involving all the power cord and the shoe lace of my Converse, before the job was completed. Only one intervention from the aged sibling necessary. I also discovered the ability to sweat, which maybe means for the first time I understand the sweat economy. If I honest, if this morning’s exertions are anything to go by, most economies are better off without me. I’ll stick with a career in Marketing. During the mowing session however, I’d managed to take down most of the UK’s political figures, a couple of former managers and a cluster-fuck of largely male acquaintances. It was an emotional killing fields. The lawn strewn with fallen enemies and a solid third of the grass cuttings.
There is nothing fly about my mow. There is barely much mow to speak of. Also slightly suspicious I might have broken it. At least, I am assuming that smoke and a noise like Tinkerbell caught in the blades is not ‘ok’. But as a result, I am sitting outside with a Bombay and Tonic, being taunted by dandelions, who refused to be cropped. But at least it’s flat enough to bare the nomenclature of ,lawn’. I didn’t die in the process, and there’s something immensely satisfying about metaphorically taking down the entire leadership of a country in the space of a couple of hours.
*On a side note, my family attempted to play croquet over a number of years, usually half, if not two thirds, cut at numerous gatherings. The resulting earnest nature of mallet-based combat totally decimating that days sense of irony.
** Please not the odd is descriptive of playing style rather than frequency.