Half Life – 38 – weeds
July 16th, 2021
It was not a difficult concept to grasp and, after a sensible conversation, it looked like there had been a meeting of minds fertilised by mutual understanding. The only sticky part of the discussion had been the price, which was significantly higher than it should have been for someone to just sort out the garden. However, having emphasised, and agreed, that the most important thing was the garden looking great, given neither I nor The Wife were able or had the time to do it, we went ahead. Enthusiastic nods followed and a few minutes later he got started.
Sadly, our new young gardener chose to follow a long tradition of those who claim to understand what you are saying, see exactly what you want, promise to provide it…only to promptly do whatever they were intending to do in the first place. Perhaps his cutting the lawn diagonally, for no discernible reason, should have set the initial alarm bells ringing. The areas of flowerbed, tiny in the garden, that remained un-weeded, despite specifically showing them to him, should have prompted me to call him back after he’d left that first afternoon. Giving him a few weeks to settle in did nothing to remedy the situation, it only increased the sense that whatever we asked for was not going to happen, and what he wanted to do would happen when he felt like doing it. Requests for him to mow the lawn (in a classic up and down fashion), tie back some plants, remove weeds, plant new herbs, and cut back enthusiastic bushes flowed in his direction. Days, then weeks, passed by and the the need for him to turn up and be in the garden, like the weeds and the grass, grew.
The challenge is not great. Most of the garden is grass and trees with a very small areas of flowerbed along two edges, with some at the front of the house. It was the only garden planning we did, as no one in the house is a good gardener or willing to put in the long hours needed to make a complicated one look beautiful. Mowing, a bit of chopping back, weeding, and putting things in pots is all there is to it. Even a lousy and inefficient gardener like me can get it done in three or four hours. All that’s needed is some time each week and the physical ability to do it.
It was watching The Wife having to mow the knee-high lawn and do all the weeding, after a long day’s work resolving the HR conundrums of the world, which tipped me over the edge. JJ the dog does the barking in the house, so there’s no reason for the rest of us to do it. Like a self-drive taxi or a prepare and cook it yourself restaurant; having a gardener and needing to garden yourself feels like someone is taking the piss. No doubt our young gardener knew how to garden. However, there was a basic requirement to be there when it needed attention, rather than do the bits he wanted to do, as and when he felt like fitting it in. We parted company. He no longer gardens for us, although I’m not sure he ever did.
Frustration induced anger at not being able to do things you used to is one of the deepest curses cancer throws at you. That frustration is increased, a hundred times, by having to watch someone else do it badly or, having promised to do it, not doing it at all. The simpler the activity, the greater the frustration. Several weeks after cutting short our young gardener’s contract my annoyance finally subsided, and the hunt for someone who can put in a couple of hours a week to keep the simple garden neat and tidy continues. Until then we will be teaching Older Boy how to use the lawnmower while trying to persuade Younger Boy that weeding is a fascinating hobby.
Inside the house, success has been greater, with my inability to make contributions to household tidiness resolved by the wonderful woman who turns up once a week. Her quirks are limited to a tendency to leave cleaning products in odd places. The polish making its home on my bedside table was understandable, but the sink cleaner in the oven was harder to understand. Similarly, the vacuum cleaner parts found chilling out on the bed could have been an oversight, but the window shine’s holiday on a shelf next to the photo frames, pretending to be an ornament, make no sense. It’s a small price to pay and I wish she did gardening as a side-line, I could live with the odd watering can snuggling into the rose bushes.
Summer will present its own dramas and frustrations, given barbequing will be beyond me as we plan yet more holiday fun at home. Older Boy has volunteered to take over, although fulfilling the promise to show him how to do it will involve levels of restraint and self-control equivalent to teaching him to drive. Handing over much-loved cooking utensils, accumulated over years of outdoor cooking, will symbolise yet another step forward as the new generation takes over from the old. Only a few weeks ago he asked for, and got, a lesson in shaving, showing a sensible desire not to walk around with teenage bumfluff on his top lip. My challenge looks like learning how to be better at sitting back and allowing him, and others, to do things for me - as long as they remember to turn up.