If you want to fight fire with fire, cut your grass!

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Now winter is most certainly with us, I’m rather pleased that for once I have organised myself and all the presents I am required to buy have been bought, wrapped up and sit under the tree. There is nothing left for me to do or worry about, all the boxes on my ‘To do before Christmas’ list have been ticked and my luck has been favourable. Nothing bad to report, no mishaps, misunderstandings or mistakes. I’m not used to that to be honest so to maintain my focus and keep things grim, I’d like to take you back to the summer. I didn’t really enjoy the summer. The family packed their bags and spent time on the coast with the grand-parents, leaving me bored and restless. The car got towed by the police, I received two speeding tickets and one large parking fine popped up in the post. But to cap it all… To ruin things some more, the neighbours children took full advantage of their parents leaving them home alone whilst they nipped off for a summer break, by having themselves Friday night parties with all their mates.

Now I know those in their late teens think they’re adults. I remember being their age and felt sure I was more adult than I actually was. But they have the sensibilities of an old boot and, whilst they think they are cool, they are just inconsiderate, generally stupid and painfully juvenile. So I was not surprised they had a few parties planned, I was surprised by their taste in music though. Like they’ve only been exposed to trance rhythms from the Ibiza scene from the mid 90’s. No accounting for taste. My problem was, however, they had it far too loud and played if for far too long. By 3.30am I had finally had enough and called security to ask them to go round and get them to turn it off or at the very least, turn it down. My walls were shaking, plaster was falling from the roof and my bed was slowly hopping towards the patio thanks to the thumping base and deep tones favoured by the William Orbit’s of the world, you get the picture. I don’t mind the odd party I just think parties shouldn’t start at 3pm, be louder than a Metallica concert and go on non-stop all night.

Security never did anything. Not surprising really. A Spanish security guard at 3.30am is probably too busy updating his Facebook page telling everyone what sandwich he’s just eaten, sleeping or watching imported porn on his portable DVD player to want to do any kind of security guard type of work.

Never mind. Saturday. Late afternoon, finally feeling less groggy from no sleep, I figure I should get a little more active. We’d just sacked our gardener. Here’s a handy tip, never employ Polish workers, or more specifically, never employ the Polish worker who worked for me, or, as it turned out, didn’t do any work for me. After breaking the lawnmower, breaking my spade and adjusting the sprinkler system so it watered the swimming pool, we let him go. I managed to fix the lawnmower, sort out the sprinklers and replace the spade. Not having a gardener meant the job of maintaining the garden fell to me. Which if I am honest is a job I quite enjoy doing, It somehow takes my mind off other things, forces me to walk a fair old distance and is rather satisfying when you look at the end result. The end result for me often being a wobbly series of lines with a few ‘missed’ clumps of grass every now and again.

So out came the lawnmower and I merrily began cutting my little patch of the world. I was surprised when security turned up some 20 minutes into things. Even more surprised to hear I wasn’t allowed to mow the lawn in the afternoon on a Saturday. “Why ever not” I asked, “Well it disturbs the peace on a weekend’” he replied. “Now hold on little fella” I remarked. “My neighbours can have a rave in their garden all night keeping everyone else awake, but I can’t cut my grass at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon because Juan Carlos and his family feel like a little nap after lunch!”

I ask if anyone has actually complained. “No” he says. Amazingly it turns out that this was his own little initiative. Driving about on his rounds, he came past our garden, heard the lawnmower and decided to take action on behalf of those who might complain or who may be disturbed by the noise. Where were you last bloody night then when someone, me being that someone, did complain about the noise! Before he left he also told me I could not have a garden fire. Why he told me that I do not know. But he told me.

During the week I spent much of my time plotting revenge. I did other things but will own up to spending far too long devising suitable retribution. The following weekend Pepe the party animal and his Neanderthal knuckle dragging mates swung back into action. Ibiza trance music again. William bloody Orbit again. Anyways. 3am, my bed has made its way to the other side of the room, the paintings have fallen from the wall and the plaster left on the ceiling has hip hopped its way to the floor. However, after a week of careful planning, phase 1 of my plan is in play and I’ve been sleeping like a baby thanks to the purchase of some rather special headphones, the ones airline pilots use. Noise cancelling things they are and cancel noise they most certainly do, Armageddon wouldn’t even have roused me. On the dot at 3.30am I wake up. By 4.15am I am in the garden listening… Silence. The neighbours have given up for the night, the cool dawn approaches with just the sound of nature wiping the sleepy dust from its eyes and there’s a wonderful mistiness to the air. It’s lovely.

My other useful purchase made the day I picked up the headphones was a seriously large, seriously bright torch along with the sackful of batteries required for it to do its job. Turning it on, balancing it on a wall by the pool, it illuminates the garden and it’s time to put phase 2 into action. Two quick pulls on the starter cord and the lawnmower kicks into life. These easy start mowers are such a joy aren’t they. Thank you Briggs and Stratton. Thank you also for a wonderfully engineered two stroke engine easily modified into a howling banshee by simply removing the two screws holding the exhaust pipe and baffles on. The noise as the exhaust gases exited directly from the cylinder head with spits of flames, was quite honestly, ear-splittingly loud. I began to cut the grass with the audio equivalent of a squadron of war-time bomber planes all gunning down the runway for a formation take-off. It was a good job I was wearing my headphones.

30 minutes later the neighbour is at the fence, looking a little worse for wear, rubbing his eyes and waving his arms at me. I wave back. Morning neighbour. 10 minutes pass and he is still waving his arms but now he has some friends with him, also waving their arms. And I must say, they too looked like they really could have done with a few hours extra sleep. “What’s the matter?” I ask. “The noise, they say.” “What noise?” I shouted. “Your noise!” they say. I shut down the engine and wander over to the fence… “We are trying to sleep but the noise you are making is stopping us” one of them said. I lean on the fence post, casual like “Well, you see, you decided you didn’t give a shit about me trying to sleep, so I have decided I don’t give a shit about you trying to sleep. Looks like it’s going to be a lovely day…” I said, as I fired the engine back into life, gave it a few big squirts of throttle to get it barking angrily and did a wheel spin as I walked away. Okay. I lied about the wheel spin, I’ve never been able to wheel spin the lawnmower in any way, or wheelie it come to think of it, but I exited with the equivalent sort of style.

Some 3 hours later I’m finished. 7.30am. Obviously after mowing the lawn I had to get the strimmer out to do the edges, so it all took a bit longer than planned (and removing the exhaust on the strimmer was a lot more complicated than I imagined). They were lucky though, they were saved from the annoying tones of the chainsaw as it had a gummed up spark plug and I don’t keep a spare. It’ll be ready for their next party though. Now the thing that makes this all the sweeter for me was that during this whole noisy period, security never once came around. It would seem that gardening on a Saturday at 3pm in the afternoon is a big no no, but at 5am or so, not a problem. Thus, from now on, garden duties during the summer months, at least until the spotty little teenagers parents return, or stop their annoying little parties, or we find a halfway competent gardener, are to be performed at 4.30am.

I am also preparing the ground for a small bonfire I plan to start.

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it…

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I cannot help being late or ‘just in time’ for a flight. Maybe me not wearing a watch has something to do with it but now that I am supposed to be a responsible parent, wear sensible shoes and ask the barber for a ‘trim’ instead of a green mowhawk, I find myself being better prepared and often arrive at the airport with time on my hands. Add that to the fact that it is a fight for the seats and everyone now only takes carry-on luggage, finding space to stow your bag anywhere remotely near you means timing is everything.

My latest trip was going without incident. I’d checked in, passed the security checks and was stood in line at the gate with time a plenty. I get to the counter and the girl at the desk scans my ticket and asks me to put my bag in the size testing thing to make sure it was suitable to go as carry-on. All good, except she notices I have a small satchel as well. A satchel that I open up to show her has just a pad of paper and a couple of pens, stuff that I use whilst onboard to doodle and write. She explains that the one item rule is strictly enforced and I will have to check my hand-luggage into the hold. And pay a 50 euro fee as well.

I ask her that if I was able to fold up my satchel and put it into my carry-on case, would that be acceptable? “Yes that would be acceptable so long as it all still fits.” she replies, pointing to the size testing thing.

I do this, it still fits and she is now happy. But before I leave her, I ask if it will be okay, once I am aboard, to remove my satchel so that I may sit with it and use the pad and pens I have inside. Again, her answer is positive.

“So,” I said “Just to be clear on the way things are. I can take two bags to the airport. I can pass security with two bags, I can wander the departures lounge to my hearts content with two bags but, for the short walk from the gate to the aircraft, I am not allowed two bags. Yet when I get onto the plane, having two bags is now no longer a problem?”

“Thats the rules, gold star for you.” She says with a cheesy smile.

The next thing she said left me stunned. Now in my time I’ve come across stupid people. I’ve known a few idiots, dated a couple even and daftness doesn’t often slow me down. But this time the biscuit was taken, the bar of stupidness was raised way up there.

“We have a very busy aircraft this morning sir and we are expecting there to be very little room on-board for all the passenger hand-luggage so we are asking passengers if they would help us by putting their hand-luggage into the aircraft hold. There would be no charge for this and passengers agreeing to help us would be able to board first, after the speedy boarders and mums and prams.”

See, I’m right, the bar has gone into orbit here. “Sweetheart,” I said. Honestly, I really did, no joke, call her ‘sweetheart’ a word I don’t think I have ever used before, ever. But one that summed up my attitude towards her.

“Sweetheart, the whole point of me carrying ‘carry-on’ luggage, the clue being in the word ‘carry-on’, is because unsurprisingly I want to ‘carry’ it on with me. Not let some rodent in baggage handling sift through it, swipe all the good stuff and send it to the carousel with my shirts and underpants hanging out of the seam that broke when he went for the ‘see how far I can throw this bag’ record! I’ve packed this case to ensure I meet your strict weight and size restrictions, had to do it twice in fact, just to meet this airlines sufferable rules, did it with the OCD type zealousness my son displays with his bizarre insistence that each night his slippers must be left beside the bed facing due South 32mm to the right of the bed leg nearest the door. A zealousness that means even if I sneak into his bedroom during the night and set them a few degrees off, something I admit to doing with a certain regularity, when I go to get him up in the morning, they will have been realigned to the correct pole.”

I continued… “I have even put my satchel into the bag so I now have only the one piece of luggage to avoid having to pay the 50 euro cost you were about to hit me with. And I am now stood here, at the gate, having my ticket checked by you, on the very cusp of entering the plane, minutes, possibly just seconds away. Unless you are about to send me to the back of the line or the invisible man and his invisible family of 12 are stood in front of me, how can I possibly get to board the thing any quicker?”

She looked at me… I could see she was still processing what I’d just said. “So is that a No then?”

“Correct, that is indeed a No.”

I walked the 50 foot down the gangway to the plane with only one piece of luggage, boarded the plan, took out my satchel, sat down and decided if I win the lottery I will most definitely buy myself a private jet.