Seán Moncrieff: ‘Don’t let my suave metrosexual exterior fool you’

Gardening is outdoor housework, with the same soul-destroying, pointless qualities

Like a small pot, I’m handy. Don’t let my suave metrosexual exterior fool you: over the years there have been few DIY jobs I haven’t managed. I’ve put in floors, tiled, built kitchens and shelves from scratch, wired in electrical fittings and lights. I once built a staircase. I enjoy it. In another life, I might have been a carpenter.

But that’s inside the house. Outside, I’m not so hot.

I loathe gardening.

This, it seems, is an awful admission. The all-powerful gardening lobby touts mucking about in raised beds as something with a moral worth. Gardeners are simply better people. They are minding the planet, forging a spiritual connection with Gaia. To say you don’t like gardening is like saying you don’t like nature or baby fawns or cute toddlers. It makes you a monster.


If that's the case, monster me up. Look, I don't mind nature. It's grand. I don't mind looking at it if I'm driving somewhere. But – to paraphrase Marge Simpson – nature is none of my business. I simply have no interest in working with it.  If it wasn't for the whole save-the-environment thing, I'd pave the garden over or buy a load of that plastic grass.

In the old house, Herself would have to nag me to mow the A4-sized back garden. Or she’d get all feministy and do it herself. But that was fine. It didn’t take that long. Now it’s the Phoenix Park by comparison. There’s a front and back garden. There’s trees and all manner of bushes I can’t identify. Mowing produces mountainous amounts of grass. We’ve had to get a second brown bin.

Am I alone in this? Probably. In my neighbourhood, all the other front gardens are pristine, the grass cut in those precise stripes you see in Croke Park. I see my neighbours mowing and snipping and strimming and they look content. They don’t look like people engaged in a long, gruelling war that they will never win.

Gandhi said it best: everything we do is futile, but we must do it anyway. That’s gardening. No matter how many times you prune that bush, it’ll still grow out again. You could drop dead and the bush will simply grow around you.

Take the drudgery outdoors

Some may argue that it’s about art and beautification, but gardening is an attempt to tidy something that doesn’t want to be tidied. Basically, gardening is outdoor housework, with the same soul-destroying, existentially pointless qualities. Yet somehow, the gardening lobby, with all its books and TV shows, competitions and exhibitions, has conned people into believing that once you take the drudgery outdoors, it’s romantic.

I suspect many people have seen through this propaganda. But they are too cowed to speak up, or more significantly, stop gardening. Try it: let your garden go wild. You can claim you’re “re-wilding” for the good of the planet. As soon as the grass starts dipping over the fence, your neighbour will complain. The vast majority of people passing by will assume you’ve developed a drink problem. And letting your garden go back to its “natural” state brings all sorts of other problems: you might as well erect a Vacancy sign for every rodent and bug on the island, who will swirl in their thousands outside your front door. Your children will have to wear hazmat suits when they run in and out of the house. The post will stop delivering. Friday night pizza will be no more. Even the local dogs will stop crapping in your front garden.

Middle-aged white male privilege is of no use to me here. I’m expected to do this sort of thing. I’ll be quietly judged if I don’t. Thankfully, Herself is ready to defy the Gardening Patriarchy and take on more of this outdoor housework. As long as I take on more of the indoor housework. I suppose it’ll keep me out of the rain.