Right at the moment I am writing this, something some would say unAustralian, or unmanly is happening at my house or more particularly in my yard………another man is mowing my lawn. How did it come to this? You ask, Is your lawn mower broken? or Why are letting another man near your pride and joy? certain persons might ask. Well I will explain…
Firstly it is not my pride and joy, but don’t get me wrong, my wife and I are quite proud of our house and yard, but there is no joy in lawns, well at least maintaining them. It is a lovely house with a nice sized, moderately landscaped yard and when there is enough rain the grass is green and lush . We have some great gardens one of which we have just planted, it contains some herbs; basil, rosemary, thyme etc. and some nice foliage. Yes I am a musician.. no I don’t do drugs let alone grow them. Anyway on a a nice cool afternoon I don’t mind getting out there and pottering in the garden with the kids, getting the hands dirty that sort of thing. But I absolutely hate …yes I know thats a strong word but yes I hate mowing the lawn, whipper snipping, and any other related activities.
There is nothing Australian about liking to cut the grass. The lawn concept is such a colonial hangover, it was all European settlers with their dreams of making the new ‘wide brown land’ like their manicured English gardens. I’m not talking the convicts either, I’m talking about the stocking clad gentries who flitted out here after all the hard work was done. The worst part about it was that it probably wasn’t even them who cut it back in England. Some servant lackey who’s job it was to manipulate the push mower around garden paths and private cricket fields in the English summer when what’s the temperature, a nice cool 18’C, while the puncy Lord’s monied friends looked on out through the window and remarked how ‘spiffing’ the lawn was. Six months on a ship and what can’t they wait to do… manicure up a nice new patch to croquet on. They arrived in a place with massive gum trees,bush, prickles, mosquitos and low and behold 200 years later we are now suburban slaves to their vision of some half baked English garden in the square block out the back. While in the Aussie summer its 35’C when you need to cut it and it grows centimetres by the minute in the always pouring torrential storms and harsh UV.
I’ve lived in about 12 houses in 14 years mostly rentals that were chosen for the house rather than anything to do with the yard. I’ve spent years tackling these sometimes mountainous scapes with all manner of types of turf, long weeds, holes and other obstacles. You all know the story, you arrive home one afternoon and think … gee the grass is getting a bit long. That night and the next three days it pisses down torrential Australian summer style, you can’t mow(though i remember a few times finishing off the lawn in the near dark with the torch,while it was raining) and then life happens and its a week later or worse two weeks before you even get a chance and its chest high. The mower is screaming at you to put it out of its misery as it makes the sound of a horse giving birth when you run it over and over the thick high blades of death. Our little dog is violently barking at you like its the first time he’s seen a lawn mower, foliage is giving you rashes and insects are even stinging you.
Sometimes(or a lot of the time in my case) the grass is so long that you have to take the catcher off and tie the flap up, the grass cuttings, sticks, rocks and all manner of crap is scarring your calves, the dog and any other innocent bystanders stupid enough to stand by and watch you do ballet, Briggs & Stratton or Masport style with the mower in the back yard. Then comes the whipper snipping..which makes me think … Where does that term come from – whipper snipping … It sounds like a vet off to a circumcision conference about a particular breed of dog.
I reckon I’m pretty good with a whipper snipper, I can usually do pretty decent edging that kind of thing, but I can never get the cord right so it automatically dispenses when you need more. Does anybody else have this problem? I load it right, use the correct gauge of cord yet every 2 mins after a particularly brutal bit of fence or driveway I have to stop, turn the thing upside down, pull the damn cord out and start again. Consequently it sometimes takes a bloody long time to ‘edge’ and I wind up up with bits of fluoro yellow cord offcuts in my clothes and all over the yard. Yep, I’m totally in love with whipper snipping.
There was one small blip of hope in the terrible world of yard maintenance a couple of years back. I decided to not wear my earplugs and wear my in-ear monitors(in canal earphones) that I use on stage. You can now buy them anywhere I’ve since discovered, but connected to an ipod they enabled me to block out the lovely engine noise of the mower and lose myself in beautiful music. Except that I didn’t like to listen to beautiful music while mowing the lawn, I liked angry music. This was convenient, as having two children under four I was less inclined to play this music in the house, but it was perfect for lawn mowing. Rage Against The Machine’s first album is a classic lawn mowing playlist. Teenagers who are ordered by their parents to do the yard take note, this album will get you through it. N.W.A. is even better, in fact any kind of real gangsta rap for this whiteboy would-be gangsta mowing grass pusher does the trick. I also enjoyed The Ramones, Rollins Band (‘your number is one!, one!’) does anyone know that track..On a side note I saw them a few years ago Henry was all pumped up microphone in fist, shirt off….just like he’d come in from doing the mowing.
On more than a few occasions I would have to call in the professionals. Strong willed men and women, with tanned forearms, wide brimmed hats, big olive green boots(with those cute little flappy things to stop grass getting in your boot), walking advertisements for Hard Yakka and the like. They would arrive in utes packed with all manner of mowing paraphenalia and in the time it takes me to fuel up the pushalong and load the snipper they would have finished and be driving off into the distance, grass clippings flying off their rigs there faces caked with the grime of a hard day’s work. Oh how I admired some of these mowing men and women. Sometimes they would come in teams, a convoy armed to the teeth to battle the ever encroaching green monster. Crushing it in awe inspiring power.
But good ones are difficult to find, some fly-by-nights you would only see once, their letterbox drop or free paper advertised phone numbers would ring out leaving me staring out the window at the grass in terror. These fallen ones of yard maintenance broken by the will of nature on fastidious lawn owners and moving on to some kind of easier self employment.
We have found a good mower man though, his name is Tom and guess what he’s English, he arrives regularly, does an excellent job and always seems quite at peace with himself. Maybe its simply because he is used to it, or there’s some quasi colonial English guilt there, I’m not really sure. I should ask him what he listens to when he works, I know I could make a great playlist for him, maybe start with A Child and his Lawnmower by the Dead Kennedy’s from 1987s Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. He’s out there now, pushing away and he seems to be pretty good with the ‘whipper snipper’. So thank you Tom for giving me the convenience to sit inside and do something else. Maybe after listening to a bit of Ice T we might go outside when the kids get home and sit on the ‘pride and joy’ our nicely mowed lawn.