Anyone with a garden that extends to more than a few feet of lawn or a couple of window boxes will be familiar with the trials and tribulations involved.
Between weeding, planting, pruning, trimming, mowing and winter cutbacks, gardening can be backbreaking. And after a summer like this one you have to wonder if it’s worth it (although the sight of two fox cubs playing swingball in our back garden this summer was priceless – and once I’ve worked out how to do it, I’ll upload the video).
For our first couple of years in this house we had a superb gardener – Graham was a family friend of my other half, Val. He was courteous, hard working, excellent company and loved the work. Sadly a serious back complaint put paid to Graham’s gardening career – and very nearly put paid to Graham himself.
Since then our garden has been nothing but woe. Culminating last month when the “gardeners” we used conducted a flagrant act of vandalism on our property, tried to pass it off as horticulture, then smirkingly reduced Val to tears by ridiculing her for being upset.
In the aftermath I tried to console Val by mentioning that I’d seen a small ad in both the window of our local corner shop and in a local directory serving our area. It was for a service called Jim’s Mowing, with a picture of a benign, bearded fellow smiling out of the card.
He looked like a kindly uncle or a gentle, behatted, allotment enthusiast. I guessed Jim was some well-intentioned old buffer, probably trying to make a few extra quid by tidying up local gardens while nurturing his latest crop of runner beans and root tubers.
“Try the local guy.” I implored Val. “He might not be great, but I’ll bet he actually turns up when he says he will. And there’s no way a man who looks like that will ever abuse a woman.”
Val duly phoned today – and when a woman with an Estuary English accent answered the call, she assumed it was Jim’s wife. The conversation went something like this.
Val. “Oh, hello there – can I speak to your husband please.”
Woman. “Er, excuse me? Can I help you.”
Val. “Hello. This is Jim’s Mowing, isn’t it.”
Woman. “It certainly is, can I just take a note of your location, please?”
Val. “Oh yes, no problem – I’m just round the corner. I got your number from the Buckstone shops.”
A slightly, longer confused silence.
Woman. “Right … can I just get a note of your whereabouts, please, to get the name of our nearest operative?”
Val. “Oh, won’t your husband be coming round himself then?”
Woman, after worried pause. “My … husband?”
Val. “Yes, well I was really hoping to speak to Jim pesonally. I have had a bit of bother with the previous lot, you see.”
Anyhow, I’ll spare you the tortured machinations of the rest of the conversation. Suffice to say the woman with the South Coast accent wasn’t Jim’s wife. She was a call centre operator in Kent.
Because it turns out that far from being the local gardener-come-handyman, Jim is actually a global franchise operation. Bigger even than McDonalds.
Jim’s Mowing, is in fact, the world’s biggest Lawn Mowing and Garden Maintenance Franchise. It was started in 1982 (in Melbourne, Australia) by Jim Penman – who was down to his last 30 bucks and needed a plan to pay the rent, when his only asset was a lawn mower.
Presumably he thought about flogging the noisy piece of garden machinery. But wisely, he instead opted to offer his services to local homeowners. The rest, as they say, is history. Now Jim ensures that all his franchisees – including those from the UK – travel to Melbourne for their training.
They include David Hughson, who is our local man. For the record, Melbourne is 10,500 miles away from Edinburgh. Which makes it an awful long way to go to find a local gardener.
I’ll keep you posted on how David shapes up – here’s hoping he learnt a thing or two about manners and courtesy (as well as gardening) when he headed to the other side of the world to join Jim’s Garden Army.