Homo strimmerus: Irish Times view on the angry buzz of summer

A zealous vigilante is imposing his vision of law and order on the natural world

Clearly, Tennyson had never had a neighbour with a strimmer. File photograph: iStock

Clearly, Tennyson had never had a neighbour with a strimmer. File photograph: iStock

 

In summer, Tennyson wrote, “every sound is sweet”, celebrating “the moan of doves in immemorial elms/And murmuring of innumerable bees”.

Clearly, the poet had never had a neighbour with a strimmer. In our suburbs and our increasingly suburbanised countryside, the music of summer is often overwhelmed by the angry buzz of this bizarre instrument of aural torture, as well as by an irritation of lawnmowers, and – most absurdly of all – by leaf-blowers scattering the cuttings into someone else’s space.

You may say you have a right to do what you like in the privacy of your own garden. But when the racket you are making grates on the ears of multiple neighbours, it becomes a public grievance.

Some strimmer-wielders do not limit themselves to their private territory. We have all seen neighbourhood roadside verges, carpeted with a fecund kaleidoscope of wild flowers and grasses one day, shaven bald and dry the next. A zealous vigilante, visored like a fake medieval knight, has imposed their vision of law and order on what’s left of our local natural world, far beyond what is necessary for safe visibility for road users.

Some will argue that this is all merely a matter of personal taste. One person’s cornucopia of nature is another’s nightmarish mess. But the argument is tipped by the losses excessive strimming inflict on ever-scarcer pollinators, and on natural corridors for wildlife.

In any case, there is mounting evidence that most citizens actually prefer some floral wildness on their doorstep to universal straight lines and smooth surfaces. To its credit, the Tidy Towns movement has mostly embraced the need for a little ‘untidiness’ in green spaces.

Many individuals now enjoy leaving uncut patches on their own lawns. Some local authorities are letting wildflowers flourish in parks, on roundabouts and in public spaces generally.

Homo strimmerus may be a hard pest to eradicate, but his decline – and yes, this species is almost exclusively male – is one extinction sensible environmentalists will welcome.

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