It’s started again, as I said it would. The grass is growing, and we have rather a lot of it. It takes about three hours on our Stiga mower to do the garden lawns. When the olive grove, vineyard and truffière need doing, you can bank on spending a day puffing around on our little Japanese ex-rice paddy tractor with its “slasher” on the back. In spring, warming soil temperatures and plenty of soil moisture mean that you can watch the grass growing and not get bored.
Sitting on your lawn mower and cutting grass is like going to the gym and working out. Not because you get hot and sweaty and well-exercised, though you can get hot and sweaty when the temperature’s in the 30s (Celsius), but because you get some uninterrupted time when the brain can freewheel – getting hooked on thoughts or songs or phrases. When the words come, they sometimes stay long enough to get written down. It’s not like staring at a blank page, more like letting a blank page whirr around until things start to appear on it.
Irritatingly, if a song comes to mind in the first few minutes – after the critical decisions are taken; to mow down or across or diagonally – it can stick. A phrase or melody will bounce around between your ears and under your ear defenders until it becomes intensely annoying. And if it happens to be an Abba tune, or – much worse – something involving goatherds or whiskers on kittens and unsexy nuns – then if someone notices you singing along you lose any cool you may have carefully cultivated.
Last year’s solution to the music problem was to borrow my son’s portable CD player and sit on it, it not being belt-mountable. And as the average CD lasts less than hour, it meant stopping a few times for refreshments. Not efficient, but worthwhile. Using this method I have had mowing epiphanies with the Wondermints (better known as Brian Wilson’s backing band) and Pulp. You need something fairly loud: the hammering clatter of a small petrol engine is not helpful to delicate music, even under big black plastic ear muffs.
This year’s solution is an iPod. My birthday present. Currently holding a shade under 3,000 songs. It’s serving music to the kitchen radio at the moment via an iTrip mini FM transmitter (Caravan, if you must know), and it is marvellous. The only thing I need to find is an iPod case that is farm proof. Apple’s belt thingy doesn’t inspire much confidence, and the earphone buds tend to get dislodged when you put the ear defenders on. I’d like some hi-fi quality headphones built into farm quality ear defenders, and an iPod case that will protect my little white wonder from dust and dirt and being dropped on the gravel drive. The latter is an important consideration. Last year I manged to drop the family Sony P5 digital camera out of my pocket onto the drive and then reverse over it with the mower. It survived, and works – a miracle – but has a badly cracked LCD screen that would cost more to replace than buying a new camera. Ho hum.
I can hear the grass grow. The Move, wasn’t it?