‘Do you want to borrow my hedge cutter?’ he said. A generous offer, you might think.
One of my customers lives on a nice quiet cul-de-sac, with a rear garden that unfortunately backs onto the main road. I’d been trimming a large Pyracantha and, unable to reach all of it, had picked up my loppers, step-up, and a green waste bag, and walked the short distance round the corner to get the rest of it from the other side of the fence. I’d just about finished when a white van bumped up the kerb and came to a stop right by me. The head of a young man poked out of the window and spoke the offending words. Maybe it was the Barry bad boy accent, but I didn’t catch what he’d said immediately. And when it registered, it took me a while to assimilate the offer. I didn’t need a hedge cutter, and if I had, I would have used mine, which was in my van. I simply replied, as politely as could be expected under the circumstances, ‘No thank you’.
Undeterred, he continued, ‘Or I could do it for you’, giving away the true nature of his offer. ‘Only, I do this for a living, see’ he added, condescendingly (that’s when someone talks down to you). I realised that he meant gardening, rather than poking his nose into things he didn’t understand (though I suspect that if such a career path existed, he would be rather better suited to it).
I replied, ‘So do I’, with a note of irony that was probably wasted on him. If the steel toe-capped Docs, cargo trousers, wide-brimmed hat and Aussie workman’s shades hadn’t given it away, then surely the Felco secateurs I was holding by their signature bright red handles, would have. But then, I suspect this guy was the kind of power tool monkey who, if I’d used the name Felco would have assumed I was talking about the cash & carry on the Barry Road.
Missing this obvious cue to make his apologies and disappear with his metaphorical tail between his legs, he continued to insult my professional integrity still further, wittering some sort of unintelligible reservations about my ability to complete the job in hand with the apparently limited tools at my disposal. I replied by informing him that the adjacent hedge he was looking at, a twenty foot high beech hedge that was spilling out recklessly over the pavement, was actually in the neighbouring garden, and so nothing to do with me. Finally he got the message, and drove away, and I watched his van disappear into the distance. It had bits of undergrowth hanging out between the closed rear doors, suggesting a full load of hacked-back hedge trimmings inside, no doubt destined to be fly tipped somewhere.
‘Do you want to borrow my hedge cutter’ indeed!