“It was one of the most exhilarating things I have done in years”
In her weekly column, Maddie Grigg shares tales from her life in rural Dorset . . .
FOR years, I thought the song “One Man Went To Mow” was about a person going to a place called “Mo”. It’s only recently dawned on me that the man was going mowing, which is incredibly stupid of me, really, considering that the next line in the song is “Went to mow a meadow”.
But always, in Maddie’s world, “Mo-a-meadow” was “Mo’s” rather posh sibling village, so I didn’t make the connection.
Anyway, I’ve never mown a meadow in my life. After years of seeing my father mow meadows to make hay, and even watching him and my mother zoom around on the ride-on mower at the age of eighty-nine, it’s a joy that’s passed me by. Until now, that is.
“I think it’s about time I prised you away from that laptop,” Mr Grigg said to me one morning last week. “You need to get out in the open air. It’s good for you.”
How charming, I thought, coming from a man who hardly ever walks the dog. It’s always me that gets up at just before seven every day to take Arty out for her morning constitutional.
But then, I thought, he’s probably right. There’s only so much surfing of the net I can do with the keywords Jobs For Writers before becoming completely disheartened.
So we set off in the car with Arty safely installed in the back, then headed across the county border into Somerset.
I was there to help him with the gardening at his late mother’s old house, which the family is letting until they can find a buyer.
“OK,” I said. “What do you want me to do?”
It was an unseasonably hot day and I didn’t really fancy toiling in the fruit garden and getting sunburnt, although, as always, I had brought my hat.
“Well,” he said, smiling. “How do you fancy mowing the lawn?”
Not just any old lawn, mind. It was the orchard at the back of the house. And on a ride-on mower. I could hardly contain my excitement.
“Is it easy to drive?” I asked, suddenly fearful that I might muck the whole thing up completely. I had visions of shifting into reverse and going back – smash! – into the greenhouse.
“Easy? You’ll walk it,” Mr Grigg said.
“I don’t want to walk it. I want to ride on it.”
“You know perfectly well what I mean.”
After a short training session, I was on my own.
“I’m taking the fruit cage down,” he said. “You get on with it. But watch out for the dog.”
Just as I was about to set off, Arty bounded my way from the other side of a willow tree, chasing a rabbit.
It got as close to me as you are now to your magazine, took one look and sped off in the other direction.
The dog lost interest and promptly jumped into the water trough to cool down.
“I’ll see you later,” Mr Grigg said as I put the mower in gear and pootled off around the lawn.
As a child, I had watched my father going round in neat circles with his tractor and mower in the hay field. I remembered, too, how precise he had been on his own ride-on mower several decades later.
So, with that in mind, I proceeded to mow the lawn in the way I thought my father would have done. I started outside and worked in, and even managed to put it in reverse to cut the grass in corners I could hardly reach.
I can honestly say it was one of the most exhilarating things I have done in years. It beat the fairground rides at Butlins into a cocked hat.
At the end of it all, Mr Grigg said I’d done a great job. High praise indeed.
I’m now browsing the internet with the keywords Lawnmower Jobs to satisfy my new calling. n
Maddie thoroughly enjoyed her time on the ride-on mower!