Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Gardening Services

Summer's finally arrived.  The Jesus Centre boundary privet hedge has taken over possession of half the footpath, like an oversized passenger sharing your coach seat.  I mention it at our weekly site management meeting, only to be greeted with the gloom that our hedge-trimmer's gone missing from the cellar.

Back at home, we have the same phenomenon along the front of our garden.  Much of Broomhall is a conservation zone.  The graceful stone properties are set about with dark-leaved foliage: laurel, rhododendron, holly, privet and an occasional yew.  In the house family distribution of grounds maintenance responsibilities, trees and hedges have customarily been my lot.  So, I've worked hard at getting the front boundary and drive privet hedges down to a manageable condition.  I can organise the job, clip it and sweep up in two hours flat.

I have a Stihl 2-stroke petrol-powered trimmer, inherited from the close-down of our Preston community house.  It clanks and rattles, is horrendously noisy, and puffs out vile exhaust fumes.  Last year we got it serviced and had a new cutting blade fitted after I clipped a scaffold pole at the Manor, Leeds.  The irony was that I'd originally planned for us to mount a Jesus Army flag on it, symbolic of Royal Standard.  But I digress.  I say 'I have a trimmer' advisedly.  I never loan it out: it's 'one slip sudden death' to tender shrubs. 

After several days ruefully passed, I knew no opportunity to get on with the job would come my way: I'd have to create one.  The weather forecast for Wednesday said, 'Rain later, settling in'.  I had to grab my chance.

Straight after the Jesus Centre daily Brotherhood, I made Mary - on Helpdesk - a cup of tea, and hurried home.  Harriet spotted me loading up the wheelbarrow.  Silas, three, and the youngest, still at home during the day, 'wants to know if he can help you'.  He's a lovely lad, and soon presented himself - as is his custom - with his welly boots on the wrong feet.  He was wrestling to fit on a pair of ear muffs from Daddy's workshop.  Silas's speciality is sweeping up, and he was at it even before we got to the end of the drive.

The three elegant mature lime trees along our front boundary were glistening with honeydew.  I had to negotiate my way through this year's new growth around the trunks.  The sticky secretion got all over my tracksuit bottoms and sweater.  At the end of the job my clothes had the texture I can only remember being the same as when you got seaside candyfloss on your arm by accident.  Piers told me aphids excrete the stuff through two tube-like cornicles.  Charming.  It got all over the hedge trimmer too, to the point where bits of leaf clogged up the air intake and the engine choked up and threatened to conk out a couple of times.

We soon had the hedge trimmed down.  Silas was in his element, not only sweeping up but also loading the wheelbarrow with clippings.  Now, at the bottom of our drive is a cable television network box, painted dark green to suit the conservationists no doubt.  It's the gathering point for the smokers, who also have a tin can for their butts.  We cleared out all their empty fag packets, too.  Walking back to the Centre, I stuck a yellow post-it note on the box, "Lovingly maintained by Greatheart and Silas. Please keep tidy".  The rain came two hours later.

Yesterday's site team meeting brought more gloom about the Jesus Centre hedge.  A couple of volunteers had had a go with a small electric trimmer, but had got rained off.  And they'd never returned.  I have to say it wasn't a case of half a job is better than no job.  So as soon as I'd knocked out the action notes, I was back home at lunchtime loading up the wheelbarrow again.  Silas looked hopeful.  I promised him he could come as soon as Mummy was happy he'd finished eating.  This time he had his wellys on the right feet. 

The hedge looked like a sheep before shearing, swaying in the light breeze and warm sun.  I was secretly glad to have another chance to cut it again.  When the renovation work was being done, the whole Centre boundary had been Heras fenced off.  Some sections of the hedge had got damaged.  But now it had largely grown back, there was chance to trim it all to a decent line.  The first time I seriously attacked the hedge, after over a year of neglect, two neighbours appeared and asked if would 'do theirs, too'.  I explained I just had the Saturday morning to spare and had to be back home for lunch.  Thereafter, I've tried to leave the task to the Centre team.

I blended in the levels to where our volunteers had done their bit, and overall the finished job looked improved.  Silas got bored.  There was too much cutting and not enough sweeping.  But he diligently refitted his ear muffs every time I started up the trimmer for a further section.  He'll go far that lad, with that level of helpfulness and diligent attention at age three. 

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