What with the early onset of summer and the recent bucketing down of the wet stuff, I could no longer ignore the cries from the garden, so yesterday with secateurs in hand I attacked the sad spindly branches of the shrubs which I expected to be thick and lush and all joined together by now.
I am NOT A GARDENER! There is nothing at all that I like about gardening, except maybe sitting in quiet contemplation while I water the ground. I loathe getting dirt under my fingernails and I hate carrying all the shit out to the bin and chucking it away. I hate sweating and getting bitten by bugs and the smell of fertilizer, but needs must and all that so out I went, hat on, aerogard slathered and gloves and equipment to hand.
My father was also not a gardener, but he did love the pruning season. He always went a little mental with the shears and the secateurs. No overgrown garden was too much of a challenge for him. He’d go at it like a hungry bloke at the all you can eat trough at Sizzlers, and in just minutes the follage would be flattened and lying all about the place. All too often there would be nothing left except a small bare stalk. But that’s where his gardening finished. I used to think that maybe I was one of 3 kids just so the parentals could avoid doing all the jobs they didn’t enjoy. It was the kids' job to clean up the debris.
Dad used to do the mowing, and never ‘catch’ the grass. That was the kids’ job too. Dad would hand the rake to my brother like it was some sort of boys’ only initiation tool and my sister and I would gather all the clippings and carry it into the grass pile, where we would build caves and race tracks and little towns, all the while revelling in the wonderful smell of just cut grass. Even today that smell takes me straight to my backyard in suburban Brisbane. Ahhh, lovely.
The grass seeds and dust got up my nose about as much as not being allowed to have a go at the rake. Dad had a real demarcation about what was a boy’s job and what was a girls’ job. Boys used the tools, and did anything that would typically involve working up a stinking sweat, while the girls carried out activities which would allow a soft glow and not damage too much those just painted nails. I used to bite my nails down to the elbow so I wasn’t worried about all that girlie stuff and he and I could often be seen in mid Mexican stand-off.
Yes my lovely Dad was sexist. He had a very firm idea about who did what, and I spent a great deal of my teens and twenties and thirties proving to him and the world that I could do anything that I set my mind to, I painted houses, fixed roofs, paved deck areas, mowed lawns and yes I even gardened. I used power tools up the wazoo and I loved it. And I wore frills and soaked forever in foamy baths and shaved my legs and gossiped and cried like a baby when the mood required it.
Yes he was sexist, but never a misogynist! Through the recent ‘Gillard moment’ we seem to have replaced sexism with misogyny, and I wonder how that happened. There was absolutely nothing about women that my father hated, and I reckon he would have argued that his expectations of women had all to do with respect and nothing to do with hatred.
Now in my fifties I am happy that I have a little list of ‘my jobs’ and Steve has a little list of ‘his jobs’. And these jobs are often though not always split down into traditional sex roles, except that I kill the spiders and he vacuums the floors and cooks the roast dinners. Sometimes it is necessary for us to fill in for each other and of course that is possible cos we are not invalids or idiots, but generally I find it reassuring to know that Steve will collect the dog shit and I bet he is pleased to know that he will not be required to use the washing machine.
Anyway, he hates gardening more than I do, so yesterday I was let loose on the bushes. As the memory of Dad’s massacres is never far away, I started slowly, but that only meant that I had to go back and have a second and then a third go. I was finished only when there was no more room in the bin! Yep the bushes are now about the same height, well maybe a little shorter, than when I planted them 18 months ago. I obviously have not fallen too far from my tree. Ho hum!! I did dose them liberally with fertilizer and then spend a lovely half hour hosing it all in.
I hope they forgive me and start sprouting again very soon.