I like gardening, or I think I do anyway. I should like gardening. We rent a house in the middle of the Dutch countryside with much of that countryside residing within our property’s border. The rental agreement doesn’t say who is responsible for maintaining said countryside, but my landlord stated early on that he would cut the grass at the front and back. At least I think that’s what he stated. He speaks in the manner of someone carrying a fistful of thumbtacks in his mouth so he might have stated something else. I caught “maaien” which means “to mow” so I figured he would cut the grass. He did this regularly for the first couple of years but has slacked off recently. He also used to take care of keeping the patio clear, but hasn’t done that for ages. Perhaps what he actually said was that he would tend the garden for a period of time before allowing it to return to its natural jungle-like state. I don’t speak thumbtack so don’t really know.
After watching the patio slowly transforming into a lush pasture for the past three years, I decided something had to be done. I don’t mind having wildlife in the garden but you know things are bad when the goats in the neighbouring plot start trying to squeeze through a two inch gap in your fence to get to the grass growing in an area where there should really only be paving stones. I decided I would rescue these paving stones from the grass which was gradually engulfing them. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the patio doesn’t look that big from the back window. However, like so many things, appearances can be deceptive. Also I really like gardening (I think).
I don’t know what kinds of chemicals they use on the farm behind our house but I suspect they might be steroids. The reason I say this is because the grass growing on our patio isn’t normal grass. This grass has muscles. This grass goes to the gym every night and sweats and toils under heavy weights. This grass wears army boots and camouflage pants and a vest with “Under Construction” written on it. It grunts and groans under Olympic bars loaded with impossibly big plates of steel. The grass in our garden has biceps.
So I started in one corner and, using a wicked-looking hook thing, pulled and tugged and heaved along the narrow gap between paving stones. I shifted positions, attacking from different angles. I knelt, I squatted, I sat on my backside. I tried grasping the grass between my thumb and index finger. I tried intimidating it by glaring at it and threateing it with a flamethrower.
I don’t know how long it took, but the grass eventually weakened its grip and let go. I dug and scraped and strained. I felt a blister forming through my gloves on the soft fold of skin between my thumb and pointing finger. The muscles in my arms, back and shoulders began to ache. Sweat formed on my neck and trickled down my back. But I refused to give in and, with a vanquished clump of grass in my hand, I stood triumphantly to admire my handiwork. My wife brought me a cool glass of orange juice. I drank, grateful for the cold relief for my parched throat as I surveyed the efforts of my labour. “That’s one paving stone done,” I said. “Only a hundred more to go.”
I compare most things to writing these days, mostly because most of my blogging involves writing about writing. So for those of you at the back not paying attention: pulling muscular grass out of a patio is a lot like writing a novel. And it’s almost exactly like writing the novel I’m wrestling with at the moment. I said I finished the patio in one day, but that’s not completely accurate. I finished 90% one weekend and the rest the following week. It was hard to get motivated because the patio was mostly clean and looked pretty good and we had somewhere to sit. But it wasn’t really finished and, to my surprise, once I got started the last 10% went pretty quickly. I’m currently at the 90% mark in my novel and can’t wait to see it done and dusted. I know how the story is going to end. I just have to pull out the remaining muscular grass so I can get to it. Plus there’s a strong possibility I may reward myself with a cheesecake**.