Gardening is not my thing. And when I say ‘not my thing’ I mean not my thing in the sense that large wooden stakes driven through the heart are not Dracula’s thing. Or Christmas is not your average turkey’s thing. That sort of ‘not my thing’.
On either side, my neighbours cultivate beautiful patches, manicured lawns and chocolate box flowerbeds. Hanging baskets positively drip with geraniums. Pansies tesselate along their borders. A riot of colour and perfume assaulting the senses.
Separating these horticultural nirvanas is my humble dwelling, a rotten tooth between two pearly whites. Weeds claw their way through the paving of the driveway, gently gnawing away at the house’s foundations. In my neighbours gardens, nature is controlled, brought to order and made to serve. In my garden, nature is in control, gradually and in a thousand tiny ways taking back its own. My house is nature’s revenge for my neighbours. Here nature dictates. If my neighbours gardens are benign nature, mine is a more malignant. My garden is Turner to their Constable. Nature in its pomp rather than in retreat.
Leaving aside the not inconsiderable matter of being ostracised by the neighbours, and I’m keen to avoid that, there is the issue of fighting the weeds in my own way. I need practical and simple solutions to gardening issues.
Take the lawn for instance. I simply don’t have the strength to wrestle a lawnmower over the garden every weekend during the summer. Not that it would matter if I did. Even if I did have the strength, I certainly don’t have the interest. Let’s say that it takes say an hour to mow the lawn, tidy up and trim the edges (and at Parky pace that’s probably an underestimate). Obviously the lawn doesn’t need trimming during the winter but let’s say that’s still thirty-five weeks out of fifty-two. Let me speculate also that I will live for another fifteen years perhaps (I’m coming up to 60 now) and will continue to mow the lawn. By the end of my life, I will spend five hundred and twenty-five hours mowing the lawn. Assuming that one doesn’t mow the lawn in the dark, and who am I to say what you keen gardeners actually do in the privacy of your patches, that amounts to 44 days of lawn mowing. A month and a half.
Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t help feeling that when I get to the end of my life, I would probably quite like to have those forty-four days back.
The solution of course is simple. If you want the look of grass without the weekly faffing about with tools, artificial grass makes a lot of sense. I reached that conclusion a year ago. And for three days in August last year, a chirpy team of Latvians removed my lawn and replaced it with an artificial surface.
Does it look artificial? No, not in the least. Visitors have constantly been surprised at how persuasive it is. Gone are the days of Astroturf, which looked blue rather than green, more of a sports then recreational surface. No, modern artificial grass is realistic. But then why wouldn’t it be? Even my neighbours, grudgingly perhaps, conceded that it was a fine replacement for the lawn. And I have my forty-four days back.
Of course weeds are less amenable to this kind of solution. My local garden centre offers a number of solutions – mostly involving chemicals that will poison the weeds. Sometimes involving chemicals that will do this without also poisoning your own pets or the neighbours’ cats. But for the most part, these are slow acting, fiddly and unrewarding. I don’t want to poison the weeds and then, over several weeks, gloat over their misfortune. No I want a swift and decisive solution. I want the kind of solution that will make a weed think twice before poking itself out of my driveway. A short sharp shock.
And I think I have found it.
Once again, Amazon has come to the rescue. Nestling among the more reclusive pages of the gardening equipment section lie a handful of entries devoted to alternative ways of controlling weeds. To cut a long story short, these “alternative ways” are fundamentally flamethrowers.
Now that is more my kind of gardening. So inevitably I ordered one. That’s right, I ordered a flamethrower.
I order a lot of things from Amazon but I have to say I have not looked forward to the arrival of an Amazon package quite so much for a long time. It’s due on Tuesday and I am practically counting down the hours. Only five more sleeps.
But my excitement is tempered by an almost equal sense of foreboding among my children. They have each, in their own ways, pointed out to me that a man with Parkinson’s in control of flamethrower is not a brilliant combination. My eldest suggested I look through the fine print on the house insurance before picking up the flamethrower. Pah! They worry when I play with scissors.
But I ask you, seriously, what can possibly go wrong?