A blossoming apple tree
And among its delicately scented flowers, the fattest bumblebees I'd ever seen, buzzing industriously away, just off camera.
Now if only we don't get a savage frost, we can look forward to another good harvest and I'll have to steel myself to tackle that most sacred of American culinary arts, the apple pie.
But there's trouble in paradise. The Demon Lawnmowers are back and up to their tricks. We live out in the sticks, up an idyllic country lane but we might as well be in the middle of an industrial estate. Many of the local householders, in that mysterious American way I can never fathom, surround themselves with huge expanses of grass and nothing else. Few trees, hardly any flowers. Just grass. They don't use it for golf or polo, or cricket, or any other useful purpose. What pleasure they derive from it appears to comes from sitting for hours on a small tractor called a riding mower, with noise-cancelling headphones over their ears (they should be so lucky) rumbling and roaring up and down, up and down, sometimes, I swear, going over each blade of grass at least three times, till I want to invest in a flame thrower and let 'em have it.
In all other respects kind, friendly and civilised people, when they straddle their riding mowers, my American friends undergo a terrifying transformation. And they always sense when I'm going to emerge to do a bit of gardening or take a well-earned coffee-break. It's always then that they start up. First one, then the next, then the next. The ones under the hill are especially ear-splitting, as the hill throws off an echo and makes for an amplifier worthy of Glastonbury.
And they play mind games, making me think they're receding into the distance, then turning round and thundering back with a vengeance. And it's only going to get worse.
Some parts of the world have rules, for example not making a noise on Sunday afternoons, at least. Not so in the Land of the Free. I could persuade them that a push mower like ours is not only quieter but healthier (I notice that many people sitting on riding mowers look as though they could do with some exercise) but it would fall on deaf ears. Riding mowers, along with pickup trucks, are important status symbols around here.
I'm trying to think how to fight back. Set up loudspeakers playing Frosty the Snowman or the Laughing Policeman or some other terminally irritating song at full blast? Even better, set up loudspeakers playing the Laughing Policeman at full blast in the middle of the night?* Now there's an idea. But first, maybe I'll give the flame thrower a go.
*Don't laugh too soon, I've seen at least one person actually mowing at night - on a rider-mower with headlamps.
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