Tuesday 24 September 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'Cranky middle-aged man with leaf blower alert'

'There's nothing more productive than hoovering the fake grass'
'There's nothing more productive than hoovering the fake grass'
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I could see her face drop when I got out the leaf blower/hoover. You could almost say she looked in pain. "Would you not wait a bit? Give people a bit more of a lie in on a Bank Holiday?" It was half nine, was my attitude. They should be up by now. I'd been up since half six, which is my new waking time these days. I get woken every morning by the gum pain. I'm a martyr to the gums these days. So I was well into the day at this point and I felt the need to do something productive. I'd been lazy the day before due to a vague hangover and I always get this need to sort everything out the day after a hangover. I knew I was going to go under if I didn't occupy myself with something productive.

And there's nothing more productive than hoovering the fake grass. You know how satisfying indoor hoovering is, right? Take that outside to a carpet of fake grass and the satisfaction is at least doubled. But it's loud. Like rally-car loud. So I reluctantly agreed not to disturb the peace for a while. Instead, I would clean out the garage. The whole place needed a spring clean. We must be busy and we must get things in order and we must purge. She made her excuses and backed off, no doubt wondering how the boy she married became a cranky middle-aged man with a leaf blower set to suction. To be honest it crossed my mind too. How did I get here? Who am I? But I knew I needed to do something to keep the blues at bay, so a clear-out of the garage it was.

She didn't like this plan either. I can't blame her. Me cleaning out the garage is not a solo activity. I'll need to run things by her. Can I get rid of this and that? She might feel, with some justification, that it might be less stressful to clear out the garage herself.

But in fairness, by the end she's actually fairly impressed. I fill a carload of stuff and get it off the premises. Obviously, she had to ring the recycling place to make sure they are open. I need a secretary and a full support staff when I clean out the garage.

The leaf hoovering happens next, and then I start cleaning the bird s**t off the patio. I won't be satisfied until all traces of nature are gone from this garden. B*****d birds. The barbecue and the garden chairs are out as a result of the garage cleaning, so I decide to leave them out and start summer. It's an iffy enough day but what the hell. The kids see the barbecue and get excited then and decide we have to have a barbecue. So I scrub it down and try and figure out the gas bottle. The secretary needs to make some phone calls to see if the Maxol is open and has gas before I discover, actually, the bottle we have is not empty. Before I figure out the correct way to connect up the gas, I obviously get pretty angry about why these damn things won't just work. I nearly had her ringing Woodie's. But I suppose at least I don't blow up the neighbourhood.

She's worn out at this stage. And she knows what's coming next. I come indoors, pleased with my pristine garden, and decide it's time to spring clean the house. She begs me not to start now. It's best done when the kids aren't there. It won't take an hour to throw out stuff. She will do it during the week sometime when they're not there.

As it happens, I have other fish to fry. The birds have been back. B******s. Back to the patio, with the hose and the brush. I finally sit back and survey my work, my slightly artificial, slightly cartoon version of a garden with chairs and barbecue, like a Hockney version of suburbia. It feels good. Whatever was eating at me earlier is gone. And I promise myself that I will keep the garden nice like this for the summer. But I know I won't. And she, too, is secure in the knowledge that that's the end of my spate of home improvements for now. The cranky middle-aged stranger is gone.

I write it now and it is like I am writing about another person, and worse, another person I don't even like. But then, the real me wouldn't clean out the garage, so it's as well he dropped in.

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