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The Assignment 20 September 2010

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Prose.
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It was the reading that did it. He wanted to write anyway. He knew that, and he knew that he could. But it took the reading to spur him on, and in a different direction. “Write 750 words describing your back yard as if seeing it for the first time.” That was the challenge the author set his fictional character in the setting so removed from his own, and yet made strangely familiar through long-reading and listening.
It started the thought process. The ‘perhaps I could start there’ moment, and after a night’s sleep the opportunity presented itself.
“There is a lot of similarity between gardens and pets”, he wrote. “Not that you might think of them that way at first. Or maybe the better comparison is with gardens and dogs – it’d be a bit of a stretch to compare a garden with something like a goldfish for example, although one of those tiny circular lawns with an ornamental feature placed in the centre might lead you to suggest the owner was more like a goldfish with a similar attention span…” No, don’t go there.
Back to gardens and dogs then. There’s obviously something about size; size and character. “There are big, ebullient gardens, all trees and bushes, luxuriant blooms and spring blossoms. Full of vibrant colours, energy and life – like an enormous Great Dane, always ready to knock you to the ground with a greeting and a slobber in the face.”
This was easy he thought, as the words simply flowed. “There are the trim perfectly maintained lawns and borders of the small garden, accompanied by a soundtrack of riotous colours, Yorkshire Terrier-like gardens, with something always in the corner of the eye, barking for attention.” (Would that be dog-rose, perhaps?)
Well-maintained. That lead him on. “Then there are the manicured, larger spaces, well-balanced in form and proportion – pedigree poodles of gardens, permanently ready for show and display.” (The thought, “Caution: Show Gardens in Transit – the bumper sticker of a bonsai gardener, wandered through his mind).
“But there’s the mongrel garden too, the mutt of the most average sort. That mixture of elements; a little this, a hint of that, a dash of the other, all rolled together behind the house. ‘Nothing special, but it’s ours.’”
He sat back and thought a while. There’s something missing. Size. Colour. Volume. Trim-ness. Mixture. What was it?
He turned his head, gazed out at his own expanse of garden. It was green (well, obviously) and full of life, the hedges needing a serious trim, the lawn sporting three months’ growth (testament to the two dead lawnmowers, including the one that gave up the ghost the last time he had nearly finished the task). There were children’s toys strewn hither and thither, their home-made bivouac of lopped branches going brown with age, and the swings in dire need of a coat of creosote, or whatever they’d been calling it for the last 20 years. The beans were nearly over, the raspberries rambled and the onion-patch sprouted a full crop, of weeds.
It was a homely, rather unkempt space, full of life and signs of life. Loved and needing love, like a shaggy, mature Old English Sheepdog in need of a good run and a serious investment in grooming and trimming.
A smile crossed his lips as he set to work, pen to page. A good way to spend time on a day off.

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