MAN’S WORLD: Never ever volunteer

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My wife looked unusually cheerful.

Especially for eight o’clock in the morning.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” she said. “Cold, crisp, sunny. The best that autumn has to offer.”

She smiled lovingly at me. “A perfect morning for you to go in the garden and pick up the dog poo.”

What? Twenty years of marriage and it’s come to this?

“I need a bacon sandwich.”

“All in good time, darling. Go and collect the poo. It should be nice and crisp this morning.”

Marriage. Begins with whispered words and wisps of silk. Before you know it you’re being pushed into the garden with your hand in a Tesco carrier bag.

My own fault though.

“Next year I’m going to help you in the garden. It’s a project we can do together.”

“Well for project number one you can buy a new lawnmower.”

Mistake you see. Married all this time and I still haven’t learnt. Volunteer to help the wife and three seconds later your wallet is under attack.

But she was right. We’d had the lawnmower longer than we’d had the children. And by now it was more rust than lawnmower.

I had a brief fantasy about joyriding round the garden on one of those sexy sit-on mowers. Until a brief search online offered an even better alternative.

Apparently you can get a robot to cut the grass. Yep, that was the answer. Sit back, tell the robot to get cracking, pour a beer and do some creative thinking.

This gardening lark was going to be easy.

“Have you picked up that poo yet?”

Nothing like the woman you love to bring you back to reality.

I wandered into the garden. Thirty seconds later I wandered back. Always a good idea to wear the shoes that let in water when the grass is soaking wet.

But the garden was beautiful. Slightly misty. Cobwebs all over the apple tree. And the lawn littered with mushrooms. Or toadstools. Sigh. If only I’d paid more attention when Hugh Fearnley-Whatsit had been foraging in the woods…

The raised beds would need weeding. Might as well book the appointment with the chiropractor now. And was that a bramble? That’d have to come out: didn’t want it attacking my beloved tomatoes.

Nope. None of your supermarket nonsense. They’d be tomatoes that actually tasted of something.

Drizzled lightly with olive oil. Fresh bread. A glass or two of red wine…

“Can you carry those sacks of grass cuttings to the front? Quickly. The binmen usually come about this time.”

Of course, my beloved. I always wanted to be a weight-lifter.

It was gradually dawning on me that there might be a black cloud hovering over my idyllic summer.

I saw gardening as sitting down, pointing my face at the sun and making sure I didn’t run out of food and wine.

My wife saw it as work. Lots of it. Painful work at that.

I wanted to sit on the patio.

She would want me to weed it.

And re-varnish the tables and chairs. There was a weekend I wouldn’t see again.

I wasn’t going to welcome the spring by breaking my earliest-date-to-sunbathe record.

I’d welcome it with a bad back. And blisters.

And by emptying my wallet at the garden centre.

Late summer wouldn’t mean lazily sampling my four varieties of tomatoes.

It would mean picking hundreds of apples that were only fit for the nearest horse.

Digging up whatever was past its harvest-by date.

Being ordered to carry massive bags of fertiliser…

The wind blew through the apple tree.

It seemed to whisper to me. It sounded suspiciously like “own goal…”