How green is that grass? [August 18]
If you want to know if the grass really is greener on the other side, why not spend a day in a stranger’s garden?
For a while now I’ve harboured an escape fantasy from my day job. Telling stories for a living can sometimes feel like hollering into a head wind. It’s hard to know whether anyone can hear you. Sometimes I’ve dreamt of buying a mowing franchise. I could prune trees and zig-zag through overgrown grass and at the end of the day the results would be right there in front of me – smooth lawns and happy customers. But would the reality match the fantasy? I decided to find out.
Recently I spent an afternoon working with a bloke we’ll call Jim. He tells stories for a living too, mostly on the television, but when there’s a lull in that work Jim tows his trailer around the suburbs and sorts out other people’s gardens. This particular day the job involved cutting back a dense hedge that had grown to twice Jim’s height.
Before we began work Jim handed me some radio headphones pre-tuned to an ABC talk station. He had a pair on too. As he wielded various screeching chainsaws and I dragged fallen branches into the trailer, we both listened to people telling stories on the radio.
When the elderly owner of the hedge popped out his front door to see how we were going, he and Jim and I swapped stories about garden-wrecking possums. When Jim and I paused for a drink, Jim told me stories about his wife and children and I told him stories about my latest travels in the campervan.
When we finished trimming the hedge we headed off to the tip. As we crawled through the peak-hour traffic Jim and I passed the time raving about the best TV shows we’d seen lately and the clever story-telling devices their writers had used.
We got to the tip just after closing time and there was a woman locking the gate. Jim jumped out of the ute and told her all about the high hedge and the terrible traffic and the family drama that would ensue if we couldn’t drop off the green waste. Jim’s story was so persuasive she unlocked the gate again and let us in.
Driving home that night I decided storytelling wasn’t such a bad way to earn a living after all.
(This column was published by Fairfax in August 2019)