Scottish Daily Mail

So THAT’S why we Brits are so ob­sessed with a tidy lawn


For the mil­lions who are proud to live on a sub­ur­ban street, there’s some­thing slovenly about an un­mown lawn. the sight of dan­de­lions and shaggy grass sets our in­ner Vic­tor Mel­drew tut­ting.

that’s bizarre, be­cause many of our other ur­ban rit­u­als have been for­got­ten. A scrubbed doorstep was once the sym­bol of a re­spectable house­hold, but no house­wife gets down on her hands and knees with a bucket of soapy wa­ter now.

Satur­day morn­ings used to be sa­cred to the car, which had to be vac­u­umed, washed and cham­mied till it gleamed. ev­ery boy learned the right way to do it from his dad — ask any chap over 50 how to wash a car, and he’ll give you a list of strict in­struc­tions about door han­dles and hub­caps.

But ask a man un­der 35, and he’ll look at you like you’re mad. In his world, cars are washed in car washes, and that’s that.

Lawns still mat­ter, though. the Mail’s green-fin­gered guru Monty Don ex­plained why, in The Se­cret History Of The Bri­tish Gar­den (BBC2): for more than 300 years, a patch of man­i­cured turf has been a sub­con­scious sig­nal of wealth.

Back in the 17th cen­tury, fops and aris­to­crats wanted wide lawns in front of their coun­try houses to let visi­tors know how rich they were. An army of un­der-gar­den­ers was re­quired to scythe the grass and then clip it to a vel­vet smooth­ness, ideal for bowls or cro­quet.

there were no hover-mow­ers, as Monty dis­cov­ered when he vis­ited a black­smith to learn how a tra­di­tional pair of shears was made. the tech­nique re­quired a ham­mer, a red­hot in­got of steel and a steady hand — or quick feet.

In an old-fash­ioned forge, it seems, there is no non­sense about elf ’n’safety. Monty’s pro­tec­tive cloth­ing con­sisted of an apron and a pair of old gar­den­ing shoes, and ev­ery time he dropped the glow­ing metal he had to jump back be­fore his toes were cau­terised.

the doc­u­men­tary, the first of four, was as idio­syn­cratic as its pre­sen­ter. Some­times this left us puz­zled: Monty is so en­thu­si­as­tic and so knowl­edgable that it was hard to keep up.

No sooner had he touched on why di­ets changed af­ter the Civil War when eng­land dis­cov­ered veg­eta­bles, or how aerial pho­to­graphs seized from the Luft­waffe re­vealed land­scape fea­tures that had been hid­den for cen­turies, than he gal­loped on to some other his­toric gar­den.

the trick for view­ers is to ac­cept that if we stud­ied for a life­time, we’d never ab­sorb half of what Monty knows. All we can do is ad­mire the lush acres of in­for­ma­tion and take a few clip­pings home.

Lawns are lovely, but to­day’s ul­tra­rich show-offs want some­thing more spec­tac­u­lar to flaunt their wealth. Mil­lion Pound Mega Yachts (C4) vis­ited Monte Carlo for the most ex­trav­a­gant sec­ond-hand sale in the world, to gawp at 250ft boats adorned with di­a­mond-stud­ded mar­ble decks glit­ter­ing in the sun­shine.

In this bil­lion­aire bub­ble, where guests dine off china in­laid with white gold and cobra skin, and the av­er­age yacht boasts 100 tele­vi­sions, com­mon sense and good taste sim­ply don’t ex­ist.

Used yacht sales­man ru­pert Nel­son, who prefers to call him­self a ‘bro­ker’, showed the cam­eras around Solandge, a six-deck mon­stros­ity on the mar­ket with a £130 mil­lion price-tag.

the main lounge was decked out in pur­ple vel­vet and brass, a colour scheme so lurid that glimpses of it could in­duce mi­graine. A 50ft chan­de­lier, con­structed from twirls of Vene­tian glass that looked like mouldy pasta, hung down in a hole cut through the decks.

ru­pert tried to be upbeat, but even he had to ad­mit the decor was ‘like a punch in the face’.

the own­ers were obliv­i­ous, of course. It wasn’t ex­actly a sur­prise to dis­cover what sort of peo­ple were at the sale: Lord (Alan) Sugar was mooching around Monaco har­bour, and howard ray­mond, son of the porn baron Paul, was there, too.

Scot Doug Bar­row­man, who made his pile in some­thing called ‘pri­vate eq­uity’, gave the cam­era­man a guided tour of his yacht turquoise, while boast­ing of his jet-skis and ‘hand­made silk car­pets’. All the money in the world can’t buy you class.

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