An Irishman’s Diary on the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man


How do you notice that spring has sprung? Do you perhaps see that lovely stretch in the evening, that string of new, wondrous light that draws Ireland’s beautiful countryside out from winter, puts green fields, beaches and climbable hills in front of your eyes and says: “What more could you ask for?”

Perhaps the arrival of our annual African visitor – the swallow – allows you to admit finally that we are some way to leaving winter darkness behind? (The swallows have arrived at the lough, only a few, but more will, please God, come.)

Perhaps you have begun to notice an increase in joggers and cyclists, the round and the fat, in lycra who wish to shed the pounds piled on over Easter? I am certainly to be counted amongst them but, fear not, never, never will you see a picture of me in tight-fitting sports gear.

All are very good indicators that spring has arrived. When you see people out and about, you know that we must be having something resembling good weather. Still, there is another, even more noticeable indicator that spring is here. It is the emergence of the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man.

This frail, pasty little creature is hardly seen between October and April in Ireland. Some wildlife experts have opined that the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man is, in fact, not native to Ireland. There are some who suggest that – just like the swallow – the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man is migratory. Why else would he disappear out of sight for such a long time and pay so little attention to his garden?

Others disagree on this point. They say that, in fact, the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man is native to Ireland but that he is a lazy galoot who spends the winter months hiding in the sitting room, drinking beer, watching football and eating 12-packs of Tayto and that is why he is never to be seen in a garden until spring. (These “experts” tend to be married to the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man.)

Whatever the truth of the matter, it cannot be disputed that once spring arrives, the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man emerges – be it from foreign climes or from his TV room – and heads to his garage-cave or shed-cave and brings out his lawnmower.

Ah, the lawnmower, the poor, forgotten, unloved lawnmower. I pulled mine out of the garage recently – like every other Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man – and it fell apart in front of my eyes. It was kaput, wrecked, tatty bread, no more. It was buried unceremoniously at the local council recycle facility, with no fuss and only a little sadness; the sadness being caused, in truth, not because of years of stalwart service but rather by the fact that I would have to buy another one. The thing about being a Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man is that you need an actual lawnmower to be one of the species.

So, I went and bought another lawnmower and, in typical male fashion, got the biggest lawnmower I could afford. Oh yeah, baby! No way was I going for one of those namby-pamby electric lawnmowers that make a horrible little whine, the lawnmower equivalent of a poodle. Oh no! I got one with a motor and a throttle – a Rottweiler of a machine.

I got one that was going make some noise, wake-up the neighbours, let the other Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Men in the area know that the King of the Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Men was back in town and ready to kick some green grass butt.

Hear my lawnmower and listen to me roar! Honestly, if I could do anything to make it louder, I would.

I do not mess about in the garden. I am there to do a job and do it right. The garden is to be beaten into submission every week. The grass is to be punished for having the temerity to grow at all. The lawn is to be scalped to within an inch of its life. The grass must learn who is master and who is not. Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man is master! I am Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Man. Therefore, I am master!

The neighbouring Lesser Spotted Lawnmower Men feel the same.

We were all out at the same time. We looked up and down at each other, checked out the lawnmowers, nodded and got to work. It was like a scene out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western – and I was Clint Eastwood. No! In fact, I was a bare-chested Putin on his horse, letting the world know who was boss! (Well, I would have been bare-chested had it been warmer.)

Grass, dandelion and buttercup were cut down under the mower. Nothing escaped.

I am not saying it was a competition – but I finished first.