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What’s an invention?

What is an invention? If you come up with a new idea, does it matter that someone else had it first? I think just about everyone thinks it does – which is a shame as I had an idea last week of which I’m quite proud. Everyone I’ve mentioned it to though says something along the lines of “Oh, yes, we do that.”

I’m not a gardener. Well, technically I suppose I am a gardener in that I do have a garden and occasionally I go into it and do what Hemingway might have called “the thing with the lawnmower”. That’s my sort of gardening. Cutting the grass and trimming the hedge – and, of course, as revealed in posts passim, the strimmer. Destructive gardening. Negative gardening. Not for me the digging and seeding, the composting and potting out. If my sort of gardening ever makes it into the national curriculum it’ll probably be called “Dark Gardening” and the set text will be by Severus Snape.

My garden isn’t large (which is one of the reasons I like it) and over the years I’ve used various ruses to keep the maitenance down as far as possible. When my children were young we had a slide and swing set – or as I thought of it, a device for reducing lawnmowing by 15%. A generous playhouse took about another 10% and I had a shed – nominally to store the lawnmower but really it was far too large for that, though it was exactly the right size for it’s main purpose – which was covering another 10% of the garden.

The one thing over which I’ve never had any control is the hedge. I live at the top of a cul de sac and my garden – though not very large in area – is quite wide. If you put your right index finger along the knuckles of your left hand you get the idea – my garden is your right index, the other fingers are the gardens of my neighbours. Your left index knuckle has a thick privet hedge which is a bugger to cut. Your middle and ring knuckles have old laurel which is, because of its age, thick-stemmed and an absolute bugger to cut. Your little finger – I really like that neighbour. He has a fence.

For many years now, I’ve have stepped into the garden, wielded the clippers, raked the cuttings off the lawn and returned indoors for little refreshment; three fingers of hedge earns – well, you can probably work it out. And it worked well until we had the garden redesigned. Where I once had one patch of lawn, I now have two smaller patches and two patches of gravel. At the design stage this seemed a wonderful idea – less lawn equals less mowing. And so it does. But there’s a flaw. And it involves, as you’ve probably guessed, the hedge. Trimming it is the same job it ever was, but now half the clippings fall on gravel. And I can tell you from experience that hedge trimmings do not rake easily from gravel.

And so I came to hate hedge-trimming even more than I did. I never like hedge-trimming. And the nedge never liked being trimmed. It used to fight back – snagging the cable of the electric trimmers, or jamming the manual ones. Showering me withsecond-hand rain. Attacking me by spitting out 3 millions wasps. OK, it might not have been 3 million. It might only have been three. But in my defence they were moving rather fast and they do all look very much the same so I may well have counted some of them more than one. But last week I was in the decorating section of Homebase and it came to me in a flash that leaves are, essentially, the same as paint. And you can get rid of them in the same way. (No, not chemical stripper. Nor a blowtorch. Though I did think about it.) It occurred to me that the dustsheets decorators use to catch drips of paint could just as easily catch leaves, so I bought a large cloth-dustsheet (I thought the thin plastic ones would blow away). Last Thursday, I tried it out. It worked like a charm. Down goes the sheet, snip, snip, snip, roll up sheet, empty into the bin and repeat. Much less effort that picking privet out of gravel and even less effort that raking cuttings up from grass. I was delighted with my discovery and proudly brought it up the next day – only to find everyone in the world (as far as I can determine) knows this ruse. They generally don’t use dustsheets – they use old curtains or duvet covers cut open. But the priniple is the same.

Ah well. back to the day job.

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