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.