Friday, 20 May 2016
I’m not a gardener. It typically requires all my self-motivational powers to hoist me out of my
armchair to mow the back lawn once a month. But a recent house move, male pomp, and a desire to impress our new neighbours, spawned some frenetic green-fingered activity that almost resulted in my hospitalisation.
The front garden comprises a sloping rockery down one side, and a gravel area in the centre with flower beds around the edges. A two-day combined onslaught by me and Mrs Jones successfully removed all the weeds. Job complete, I was anticipating a few weeks of rest until I noticed my lady gazing at the pebbly expanse with an expression that could only mean that she was forming a cunning plan.
‘We need some decorative slate for this middle section,’ she said. ‘It’s looking a bit shabby.’
I held back my sighs. There was no point arguing – her mind was made up – so off we went to the local garden centre.
‘This blue stuff would look nice,’ she said while pointing to a mound of hefty bags stacked outside the main entrance. ‘How many would we need?’
‘Four?’ I ventured, mindful that they were £4.99 ($8) each.
‘OK, eight then; but let’s remember whose fault it is when we have loads left over.’
When we’d paid the lady cashier, she insisted that one of her boys load them into the back of my car. I thanked her for her kindness, while inwardly affronted that she thought that my 57-year-old frame was not up to the task.
The same afternoon I set to work, while Mrs Jones attended to indoor domestic chores. Yes, they were heavy, but I managed to unload each of the eight bags of ‘blue slate decorative aggregate’ and dispense the contents onto the gravelly stretch of my front garden.
Thirty minutes later, my sweaty brow and dusty eyebrows appeared at the open front-room window, prompting Mrs Jones to turn off her noisy vacuum cleaner.
‘We’re going to need a few more bags,’ I said.
She immediately gave me the ‘I told you so’ look. ‘How many?’
‘Thirty-five more should do it.’
This time I ordered online, and the following afternoon the garden-centre van reversed onto my drive. A muscular, gypsy-looking 30-something with a shock of black hair, wearing a flimsy white t-shirt that struggled to contain his rippled torso, opened the rear doors of his vehicle.
‘I’ll need to unload these bags next to where you’re going to spread them; they’re heavy.’
‘No, stack them over here, next to the garage,’ I replied, pointing at a spot about 20 metres away from my front garden.
‘Are you sure?’ he asked, looking me up and down as if assessing my body mass index.
‘Yes, here will be fine,’ I said, smugly.
The hulk proceeded to flip each of the bags from the van onto his shoulder and stacked them on my driveway as directed, completing the whole venture in less than five minutes.
Immediately he’d left, I set to work. How difficult could it be? I’d earlier managed to spread eight of the things, so another 35 shouldn’t be too difficult. The warm, sunny afternoon had brought a few neighbours out into their gardens. I sensed they had clocked my conversation with the delivery man. I had an audience. The challenge was on.
The first few bags caused little difficulty. I flipped each onto my thigh before raising it to chest height (like a professional weight-lifter) and strutting across to my garden for spreading. Indeed, I imagined I was in ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ competition showing those hairy Neanderthals (who, in my imagination, comprised the other contestants) how it was done. I could swear that the lady next door was almost swooning at my raw athleticism.
By the time I reached double figures, I could feel the burn of lactic acid accumulating in my arms and legs. The bags were no longer reaching chest height, instead dangling around my legs as I dragged them while clinging to two corners of the plastic packaging.
When I reached the twenties, I was panting like a Viagra-fuelled dog. One lift triggered an audible fart, and I prayed that the neighbours were out of earshot, or that the sound of my gaseous emission had been muffled by all my gasping and wheezing. I felt dizzy, and suspected that I was now swaying as I heaved each load to the garden. My vision blurred as salty perspiration stung my eyes.
I think it was around bag number 31 that I wet myself, the energy behind my upward thrust, while barely sufficient to move the blue slate, was enough to contract my bladder. Thankfully my navy-blue tracksuit bottoms concealed the damp patch emerging around my groin.
Despite these adversities, I somehow managed to complete the job. As I staggered back indoors, feeling confused and disorientated, my clothing stained with sweat, piss and spittle, Mrs Jones was stood gazing out of the front-room window.
‘Ah, that looks much better,’ she said.
‘It wasn’t that difficult,’ I muttered, while hurrying to the bathroom to clean myself up before she turned round. ‘They weren’t that heavy.’