Wounded pride of mowerless man
MY NAME is Martin Freeman and I am mowerless.
I feel better for having said that. It's good to let it out.
A month has passed since I had a functioning mower. My frustrations have grown as high as my grass.
I have felt emasculated.
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As a whole, gardening is gender-neutral. Women can do flowers, and so can men. I'm OK with that.
But mowing? A man's job, especially tackling a big lawn.
There's a motor involved. I'm no petrol head. I couldn't care less about the difference between a super Porsche and a bog-standard Peugeot. But I'll talk the torque on a driven mower.
Maybe I enjoy getting the better of the grass because there are no white lines, no traffic lights, no other mowers to give way to. No rules at all, just to have the grass shorter when I finish than when I started.
My mower is a beast, too big and bolshy for anybody else in my household to handle.
I might not be Mr Universe but I am master of my own little world.
No-one can stop me – crunch.
There went the blade, pranged on a metal hoop left on the lawn almost invisible among the daisies, dandelions and clover (a groomed lawn is not the point).
I could never have a perfect lawn because it is used as a football pitch by my 11-year-old who I must have told A HUNDRED TIMES THAT THOSE HOOPS HE IS SUPPOSED TO USE TO KEEP HIS GOAL FROM MOVING MUST NOT BE LEFT LYING ABOUT IN THE GRASS.
If only I could. I was beside myself. Big mowers, especially obscure old makes bought secondhand, have expensive parts, which are difficult to source.
By the time I'd tracked one down, the grass was past my ankles. With up to another eight days to wait for the blade to be delivered, and plenty more May rain on the way, my knees would be hidden by the time I was ready to mow again.
In the meantime I would have to borrow another man's mower to keep the lawn from looking like an organic wheat field in August.
Oh, the humiliation.
Head bowed, I trundled the borrowed machine on to my grass, filled it with fuel, pulled the starter – and not so much as a cough was heard.
I returned the mower to its owner, fearing I'd broken the thing.
My friendly neighbour told me not to fret and effected a swift (and, to my mind, staggeringly complicated) repair.
He then recommended that as the grass was so long, I should open the back of the mower and allow the cuttings to fly out so the machine would not clog. "You'd better wear some old clothes because you'll get plastered with the stuff," he warned.
How right he was. When I finished I was green from chest to toe, clothing and all exposed skin stained by the watery juice from the grass.
But at least the lawn was tamed.
When I returned the mower and thanked my neighbour he said: "No problem. Any time."
A thought occurred: when was the last time he and I were mowing at the same time? I don't think I've ever heard two mowers going at once anywhere within earshot – that range covers 20 or so houses.
In reality, I don't need my own mower. Nor do any other the 20 men. We could all share one machine.
But we won't.
Boys and their toys, eh? And their pointless costly, wasteful pride.
IN POLITICS, first impressions are usually correct. Margaret Thatcher? Bonkers and bossy.
Michael Foot? Nice bloke but unelectable.
Things have moved on a bit since the 1980s but even then style counted.
Maggie had to take on the strange persona of glammed-up nanny to get the Tory party on side, appealing to and reassuring the frightened, public-school-dormitory, little boy inside every Conservative MP.
She was helped by a big-time advertising agency, one of a number, which was really get stuck into getting parties elected.
Saatchi & Saatchi would have been proud of the Argentine Olympic ad that is screening on TV in the South American country and around the world on any number of websites.
Proud, that is, 30 years ago. It's a splendid bit of 1980s-era telly advertising creativity – lots of style but not a lot of substance.
When I first saw the secretly filmed promo of Fernando Zylberberg, an Argentine hockey player, training in the Falklands, I laughed.
The tag line, "To compete on English soil, we train on Argentinian soil" added a cheeky air to the stunt.
When the outrage poured in, I wondered if I had missed the point. Perhaps this is no laughing matter: more than 900 people died in the 1982 war and the continuing claim by Argentina concerns the lives of 3,100 or so islanders.
This is a sensitive time, the 30th anniversary of the conflict, and tensions are a higher than normal.
But, no. That ad is a joke. The Globe Tavern, Penguin news, a red phone box and a windswept beach – the (UK-owned) ad agency (whose global chief exec used to work for Saatchi & Saatchi) managed to make the Falklands look even more British than they do in the flesh.
Plus it's rather better to be laughing than getting angry – or fighting.