The lawn is a disgrace.
I have a long and turbulent relationship with the grass, which I’m about to share with you. First, and to make your read more interesting, I need to provide you with the background picture and the story of our lawns. How they evolved into part of our home and life. How at one time our sole focus were our kids, home and garden. Our domestic landscape of which for a while we were extraordinarily proud.
Where do I begin?
It’s just 8 AM, and I’m sitting in the sun in my favourite of creative hideaways. I have a lot I want to achieve today and have very specific plans. These are my notes, which later may become an essay or short personal story.
While I’m in the UK, I spend as much time sitting here and creating as the weather will allow. I returned to the UK in March, and the weather was warm. It soon turned Mediterranean and pretty much stayed this way until mid-June, and for most of this period we hardly saw any rain at all.
The unusual spring drought stopped the grass from growing. It soon turned brown, and as wide bald patches appeared, we shared something in common. The only thing which grew were the weeds, lots of weeds. Nothing seems to stop the weeds. I don’t think even a nuclear explosion would stop the weeds from growing. They are dotted across the lawn like a life-giving oasis in a miniature and barren desert.
The good thing about the drought was it made the lawns easy to maintain, and they only needed an occasional visit from the mower. The weeds were sprayed and quickly withered and died, and our lawn became apoplectic and held motionless in time.
Then, and quite typical of an English summer, came the rain. It arrived with a vengeance; it caused flooding across the country and was exactly what the farmers had prayed. It rained every day consistently, and the concrete hard, dry ground softened and soon became sodden. The grass turned from golden brown to emerald green in a matter of days and headed sky-wards making up for lost time.
It grew so quickly; you could almost watch it growing, and it needed regular attention. I’ll return to the lawn shortly, I promise.
An essential part of this story is my father.
His name was Charles, and he was a truly wonderful and exceptionally kind man. Unfortunately, he died from dementia a few years ago, just past his ninety-first birthday. In the late stages of this horrible disease, I was forced to stay close to home for the times he needed assistance. However, staying close and never going out had negative consequences. I started to suffer from cabin fever, becoming bored with my surroundings and needing an escape. I needed to go out and recharge my creativity, and luckily my lovely wife and another lady provided me with this opportunity. Generally, every day or so they’d give me a few hours to do my thing.
The mobile office
If I had the time available, I would go to a local town cafe and indulge in a little people watching and take notes. However, this was time-consuming, far easier, as I already live in a small village next to the sea was to go to a beauty spot. Or, and even better, a local farm where I was free to read and make notes without disruption. This became a habit, and for a long time after my father’s death, these were the UK haunts where I chose to work.
Then came the virus
For a while, I was seriously worried because I’m on the large side, to say the least, and I have type II diabetes. The virus was very real risk, and it was amongst us, and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary health risks. Neither did the farmer whose farm I frequented. He quickly asked me not to return until after the virus was no longer a threat.
We could be waiting for quite a while.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and if you look carefully, you’ll probably find it, I almost tripped over mine.
New habits quickly formed as I rediscovered that I have everything I need right here, and compared to most people we as a family are very fortunate. Our home in the UK is right on the beach situated in a quiet and pretty rural village. If I go out, it’s only for walks on the beach, and if I wish to do so, I don’t have the need to speak with anyone. Staying at home soon became my new addiction, and in the winter, I’ll live on another beach in Asia, but that’s another story. I rapidly adjusted and soon regained my focus and realised what a fool I had been for so many years. I have three quite beautiful and creative places to sit, write, take notes and create until my heart’s content.
The first I’ve already mentioned and is my comfortable nest in the corner of my garden, where I love to work. However, when the weather is not so clement, I have a large conservatory which also is a great warm and bright place to work, even when it rains. Although here, as well as in the garden my laptop screen can be difficult to clearly see, and so I write with a pen. The only downside with the conservatory is I’m still looking at a rather scruffy lawn which is my present focus.
My third and most productive recluse is my small purpose-built man den in the roof of our home. This is both bright and gives me spectacular views into the countryside in one direction, and across the beach and out to sea in the other. Until a few years ago, this was my sole domain, and I kept it as neat and tidy as a shrine. Then, one day, my wife, AKA the Dragon Lady, decided I was probably having too much fun by myself, or could be getting up to mischief of which she may not approve. So, she decided to cohabit and claim half of my den as hers as well as my laptop. She now had the opportunity to nag and torment me in private, and in a way that is totally unique to her. I love her really, what I love far less is the rubbish tip which is her side of the office and best described by saying it looks like a tornado just passed by.
Cabin fever is no longer a problem, but if it was, I would solve it by taking a walk along the beach.
There’s always someone worse off than you
Our children, usually referred to as our pets are both high-level athlete martial artists. For them, lock-down has been particularly hard and cruel. Until quite recently, they were used to travelling the world without restriction and leading an elite and privileged lifestyle. Suddenly, they’re going nowhere, and neither for a while did they have anywhere to train.
The simple solution
Let’s take over dad’s studio!
What a great idea!
I agree it was; I just wish they’d asked us first. The ‘studio’ is basically a large garage type construction behind the house and in the garden. Over the years it’s become filled with junk and items which the Dragon Lady feels she no longer needs, although she doesn’t want to give them away either, so here they just age. The transformation to the gym was amazing and extremely expensive. The result is a purpose-built gym any serious athlete would be proud of and allows our pets to train where others couldn’t. Unfortunately, my desk, books, easels and drawing equipment, etc., were quickly relocated to the conservatory.
“It looks a mess!” complained my wife, who wants to relocate it again. I agree it does, but it has nowhere to go. Junk is now in every room of the house, most of which the Dragon Lady refuses to permanently rehouse at the charity shop or tip. However, when she looks away, it’s slowly piece by piece disappearing.
It’s nice to have both the pets home again. Well, it was for a while, anyway. We both wish we were twenty-two again, and then we also would know everything. We’re trying to make the most of it. Soon, the gym didn’t have enough space, and so, on warm and dry days, the lawn becomes their training area. The Dragon Lady and I proudly sit and admire their level of confidence, psychic and fitness as they completed hours of torturous circuits. I quickly become exhausted from just watching the sheer effort they put in.
Now I’m sure you’re already ahead of me?
Why not ask our children to mow the lawn for us? Great idea, it didn’t work. Now, I think I should tell you that both my wife and I are difficult. We verbally bicker and argue all day long. She does anyway. If there is nothing over which to argue, she’ll soon invent something or remember an incident from ten years ago she can still use to beat me with. However, compared to the pets, we are true saints. When it comes to arguing and being difficult, if there was a category for it, they would win Olympic gold medals every time.
I find it difficult to understand; they don’t mind going shopping for us. However, ask them to mow the lawn, and we get a variety of responses, from selective hearing to highly creative excuses. The Dragon Lady and I are truly impressed by the range of excuses and justifications they put forward to avoid mowing the lawn. Generally, they spend twice as much time arguing and making excuses as it would take to mow the lawn and complete the task.
Children make a family complete
We moved into our house twenty years ago when my daughter was just two. We went to work, turning our house into a home and our garden into something special, and my daughter was there to help every step of the way. We returned from the Philippines on a cold February day and started work immediately. We created the garden from scratch and decided upon raised beds, a waterfall and decking, lots of decking. I remember well, cold and damp sleet falling around me as I built and rendered the walls.
We worked as a team, and the dragon lady and my daughter mainly occupied each other. My wife also acted as my labourer, motivator and site foreman. Best of all, she kept me warm and refreshed, with the constant delivery of piping hot mugs of tea.
As winter turned to spring, and spring to summer, my wife was always there. She loved pottering in the garden more than I did, and while I did the construction, she was in charge of maintenance. Trees and bushes were planted all around the garden, which she quickly trimmed into topiary. Then, they started to mature.
There was always so much to do, but right from the first year the garden looked wonderful, and everyone commented upon it. Then, the dragon lady became pregnant with our son. She was still just as busy as ever and didn’t let a small thing like a huge belly stop her from getting things done. Every night we went to bed exhausted and slept well, so well that we rarely heard the pets creeping in between us. However, they were always there and ready for action in the morning.
This was the way our life was, a busy and close family, and it was wonderful. We were always doing things with the children and took them out regularly, but they always found their way home again.
We were about to get busier!
One day my daughter appeared to be truly distraught with worry; she was about ten at the time. It was over an article stating that the church bells in the village might soon go silent and never be heard again. Although we are not either Christian or religious, this fact seriously bothered her, so we investigated further and discovered it was due to the lack of ringers. The result being the following week, we both found ourselves standing below a rope and being taught the art of campanology. Ringing a rotating bell weighing as much as an average family car is quite exhilarating, as well as extremely dangerous if you get it wrong. Until that point, we had no time commitments, although bell ringing practice now occupied two nights of our week and half an hour on Sunday morning if we were available. It was fun sharing an interest with my little girl, and years later we saw the same article again. This was their way of recruiting fresh local meat to pull the ropes.
That was just the beginning!
My daughter has always liked to wrestle and rough-and-tumble with her brother and me, so it’s hardly surprising that at about the same time, she became very interested in learning martial arts. For many years I did judo, but I avoided forcing my sport and passion upon her. Before looking at judo, I took her to see kickboxing, karate, taekwondo, all of which seemed to be of little interest. Then we visited the judo club I had located. Immediately her physiology changed, and it caught her attention, and she appeared to be taller with excitement.
“Can I try this please, dad?” She asked enthusiastically. Five minutes later, wearing a borrowed judo suit, she was in her element. Just like me before her, she loved judo, and shortly also would her brother would. However, she was something different and a cut above everyone else. She attended classes twice a week, and her brother wanted to also come along. Now we were out four nights every week, but the judo didn’t stop there. They were quickly introduced to contest where children of a similar age, experience and weight are matched in competition. To my children, this became more addictive than crack cocaine. Now, in addition to 4 nights a week, we were travelling around the country on a Saturday or Sunday, and very soon it would become both days.
The garden and lawns started to suffer.
Approximately three months after starting judo, my daughter was entered into the judo association national championships. She won it easily. When we arrived, the coach asked if we had brought my son’s judo suit. Being just five years old and smaller than his teddy bear, we hadn’t. So, one was sourced, and without fear, my son bravely into the arena with the best that could be found in the UK. I cried with emotion. He had four fights and won them all. That evening two extremely proud parents drove home with two extremely happy and exhausted national champions, and I cried some more.
Quite quickly, my daughter was invited to become a member of the England judo squad followed by promotion to team GB. My son would follow in her footsteps a few years later. It seemed that every weekend they were fighting somewhere in the UK, occasionally abroad, or I would have to drive groups of kids to distant airports. These were really busy times.
My daughter became part of the GB squad and was later followed by my son who in one year became the GB number one, travelled to a variety of foreign competitions. He was selected for the European Championships in Warsaw, youth Olympics in Azerbaijan, trained in Japan and then came back to the UK, won and became the Commonwealth Judo Champion.
No more a pedestrian!
A little over a year ago, my son became seventeen and got his driving license, and we got him a car. I taught him to drive, and quickly he was independent and couldn’t wait to go out by himself.
After thirteen years of commitment and being my kids’ taxi driver, my freedom had arrived. Overnight I became redundant and was forced to go cold turkey and without judo fixes. It seemed strange at first, but now I was free to do what I wanted to do, and retirement and a new hobby seemed like a good idea.
My car was almost dead.
It had 199,000 miles on the clock from driving around judo venues and contests. Problems were just around the corner, and so it was time for a replacement.
The dragon lady beat me to it!
My wife started her new project and university degree a few years before my retirement, and she deserved time for herself.
We went from building a home and raising a family to –being busy – exceptionally busy, and back to nothing. I suppose a growing family and building a life is like that.
So why don’t I mow the lawns?
You already know I like to stay focused, and although I’m retired, I’m busier now than I’ve ever been. I can’t imagine how I ever had time to make money or run the kids about, but I did.
Five or ten years ago, mowing the lawn was not a problem. But now, my knees and feet hurt and mowing the lawns is a painful process. I’m unfit and should do something about it. As the children won’t help and will probably soon disappear again, the solution seems to be simple.
Either we invest in a robotic lawnmower, or, we lay Astroturf!