The bungalow of our childhood had a big old metal garage at the top of the drive, that is it was a garage and it was made completely out of steel, steel frame, steel panels, steel doors, and then one day me, our Ned and our dad spent ages sawing through all the bolts that held it together and we dismantled it and piled it in a big heap further up the garden so that some men could come and erect a brand new concrete garage for him.
And the metal garage stayed in a big pile at the top of the garden for ever.
And the years rolled on by and our mother died and our father decided that a life spent boozing and singing in Benidorm sounded like a fine and dandy way to disgracefully eke out your last seven years of life and he locked the bungalow up and moved out there, leaving the keys with me and an instruction to “Look after the bungalow” which I took to mean call in and clean the place every three moths or so and hope that the neighbours never rang you to say that the burglar alarm was ringing – my father had a slightly different definition which went along the lines of call in and clean the place ever WEEK and make sure the heating stays on low through the winter so that nothing freezes, and most of all, collect the post from behind the door or you’ll never get the door open – once every three months was just fine.
And one day I laid a lawn on my own back garden, bought strips of turf and laid a lawn just like laying a carpet, but with worms in it, instant lawn, I laid my lawn over the top of the old lawn which looked knackered after a big dog had used it as a toilet for a few years.
I was stupid enough to mention this fact to my father when he rang me at 7pm on a Sunday night, 7pm on a Sunday night was always his time for telephoning me, it became a ritual, at 7pm precisely the phone would ring, I’d pick it up, I’d hear the long distance beeps that a phone box in Benidorm makes and in the background I’d hear him shouting to me “You know the number, ring me back”.
You see, he always used the same phone box and he’d made me write the number down one Sunday and then ring him back, after all, it cost him 100 pesetas for a few minutes if he had to pay whereas if I rang him back it cost him nothing and he could chat away for hours as long as I was picking up the bill.
I told him that I’d laid the lawn and he thought that maybe his garden could do with a new lawn too and I muttered something about it saving me the bother of having to get the lawn mower out on his lawn if we simply replaced it with new turf each time it got too long, he said “Pardon ?” and I said “Nothing”.
He told me to get our Ned together one weekend and lay a new lawn at his bungalow, adding the usual tagline, “Dont forget, this is your inheritance”, and also added that while we were at it could we hire a van and get rid of that bloody steel garage at the top of the garden once and for all ?
One week later we stood outside his bungalow waiting for the man with the turf wagon to appear around the corner and I cursed my stupid mouth for having mentioned new turf several times that day as we carried each and every single roll of grass from the front of the bungalow all the way around to the back when in fact we could be enjoying this sunny day instead of sweltering in it.
And of course there was the steel garage to get rid of, we hadn’t bothered hiring a van to take it away, each believing that the other might think up a plan first.
“I’ve got an idea” said Ned
“Theres a first time for everything” I replied
“Its about the steel garage” said Ned
“About hiring the van to take it away I suppose ?”
“No” said Ned, “We don’t have to take it away at all”
“Then how do we get rid of it?” I asked.
“We bury it under the new lawn” he replied
I stood and stared at him for a long time.
I had to agree, it was a bloody good plan, a bit stupid, but still.
“You see” he continued, “What does steel do when it gets wet ?”
“It goes rusty” I said
“Exactly” he replied, “It goes rusty and then fall to pieces until there’s only rust left”
“My god Ned” I replied, “thats genius”
You see I had wondered if, a few years down the line, our dad would go out into his garden one fine afternoon and decide to fork his lawn to aerate it a bit only to find huge slabs of steel just one inch below the surface, but Ned was right, by the time he did that then nature would have taken its course and there’d be no steel left, just rust.
So thats what we did, we laid the steel panels and the steel frame bits out on top of the old lawn and then just laid the new turf over the top of the steel panels and when we’d finished it looked simply wonderful.
“Better still” I said, “We can charge him for the van we never had to hire”
The turf grew all that summer and the next summer and then our Uncle Sid came around one day to cut the grass as he always did, our father not trusting me or Ned to do his gardening for him, I can’t imagine why at all.
And the next minute I got a phone call off my Uncle Sid, “Gary, can you come around to the bungalow” he said, “I need a new blade for the lawn mower”.
When I got there he was holding the previously mentioned lawn mower blade which instead of looking like an aircraft propeller blade now looked like a circus strongman had used it to demonstrate his extraordinary strength by bending it in half.
“Its bloody strange” said my Uncle Sid, “I was cutting the back lawn, there was a clunk, and then the mower stopped working”
“Hmmmmm” is all I said, fearing the next bit
“And the really weird bit is there’s a big piece of steel sticking up out of the lawn now”
We had to buy his silence, me and Ned, we had to bribe our Uncle Sid not to ever mention the big piece of steel that looked just like the side frame of a garage door which was now sticking up out of the lawn, and then when he’d gone we had to dig a hole underneath it and hit it with a sledgehammer for a long time until it bent back down into the earth and we could patch the lawn back up again…
… you didn’t think we’d dig the whole lawn up and remove the steel panels did you ?
No, they are still there.