Manicured lawns green and even, hedges straight and crisp, driveways black and smooth, cars new and shiny, paintwork bright and gleaming, shops a’plenty, trees with blossom, why do I hate it so? Why does it represent a place of desolation of the human spirit to me? And what on earth made me move here in the first place?
I live daily with the noises that produce those manicured lawns and straight hedges and smooth pathways and shiny cars. I hear the many hives of a strange new service industry buzzing outside my window. No errant blade of grass to be left, no peel of paint, no blip of mess, no overgrowth of gardens or rampantness of nature.
I see the results of all this human labour and I wonder why anyone bothers. How often can you improve things? How much can your house be shinier and newer and cleaner and neater than your neighbour’s? How many Lamborghinis Porsches Bugattis do you need to show your neighbours who you are and what you are? What are you again? How smooth has your driveway your onsite parking area your pavement got to be to let your neighbours know you’re not something from the bottom of their garden?
I live in a town hell-bent on improvement. Property here is a clear indication of which rung of the ladder you’re on. So are the cars in the driveways. When you make a few bob you don’t say a word you just get the building contractors, garden designers, path layers in, again and again and again and park two three four limousines on your driveway, silver silver silver silver. There must be no peace. Peace equals inertia in the eyes of those hell-bent on improving.
Leafy avenues must shed their leaves but their natural carpets lie for a short time removed quickly and relentlessly with great big noisy leaf-sucking hoovers ploughing backwards and forwards across the Stray, not leaving the tiniest of islands for wildflowers and wildlife. I wonder if the seasons get as confused as I do. Where is winter’s slush and spring’s havoc? Or summer’s dust and autumn’s must? All swept away and polished off every surface with spray and shine.
Is that verdant even green really attractive to the human eye? What is grass for? Grass is the world’s most successful plant but it’s beaten into submission here, cut down and down until the brown soil shows through. Where are your curves, nature? Where is the cheeky weed or the fallen log? Where do you go to find the beauty of the surprise? Where is random’s refuge? Where is entropy’s hiding-place?
Perhaps everyone who lives or wants to live in this town, where I dread the sound of the strimmer, models their ideal ‘look’ on plastic grass and dolls houses. If only things didn’t grow and change. If only the weather didn’t mark the windows. Though not a pigeon lover, I appreciate how they do at least leave messages from randomness on the window panes, terraces and garden paths for everyone to see.
I walk along the lawns and under the trees so coiffured and finished that I feel as if I should pay more attention to my appearance. My hair needs a bit of strimming, my face could do with resurfacing, my clothes need re-shaping and I could do with remodelling generally. Call in the improvers. Pay money for more nonsense. Make me smooth and bland and safe and plastic.
The dogs have fancy collars here and are called ‘Hugo’ and ‘Poppet’. They gambol and frolic on the wide green open spaces and I wonder if there’s any good sniffs around for them to enjoy. Or are the very trees sprayed with ‘Eau de Acceptable’ and not other dogs’ bottoms? The supermarkets have a touch of the Truman Show about them. You know when you go to Ikea and you get the feeling that lots of people are caught up in making a day of it?
Supermarket shopping here seems like that. I don’t believe the women haven’t had their hair striped and their clothes pressed to glide round Waitrose with their trolleys full of exotic but safe foods that their neighbours would approve of. Boxes with photographs of wonderfully successful food, some day soon maybe that’s all we’ll have to do to live here. Glide about neatly with pictures of food on display in our trolleys. I can’t help thinking of the Stepford Wives. Or is all as perfect as it seems?
Well my house is up for sale and I’m playing the upkeep game along with all the rest – shiniest windows and brightest surfaces. Outside my window the strimmers, the lawnmowers, the hedge cutters waken from their night’s rest. The paint strippers are turned on and the hot-tar machine plies its trade. Keep up with the Jones’s or die!
I’d rather live and breathe somewhere a bit untidier and looser round its edges. Here the flowerbeds of identical flowers in serried ranks march towards the centre of town and gather round the war memorial, squadrons of yellow pom-poms. Every shop seduces your eyeballs with its painfully tidy boutique-ish chi-chi-ness. If the tidy-town inspector calls, we’re ready.
If the heart-and-soul agent is around, don’t bother with us. We bought the wipe-clean low-maintenance version of that a long time ago. It sets a stone to my heart. Maybe I need to consult a specialist to have my eyes tested, an ophthalmic optician who can provide me with magic spectacles through which I see this town more benignly. Then again, moving somewhere a bit untidier and looser round its edges may be the only escape.