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Richard Glover: A wallow in a hallowed hollow

So far so good. But every time I do some excavation, Man seems to completely lose his will to live. He walks out the back, sees what I’ve done and breaks into the sort of keening that I associate with a funeral in ancient Rome. It’s all Woe, Woe and thrice Woe.

“Oh Clancy”, he says, as if I’ve just torn a hole in the Mona Lisa, “what have you done? How will I get that grass to regrow?”

He then goes inside to dob on me to Lady, which is frankly unAustralian. I stay outside. I can see him, waving around his hands, but can’t hear what he’s saying, which may not be the world’s worst deprivation.

Next, he’s back, huffing and puffing, like a fish just pulled from the sea. He marches around the garden and I can tell he’s planning something. Sometimes, watching Man, you can virtually hear the gears in his brain, whirring around, trying to find purchase.

Finally he spots the outside table with its metal chairs and he grabs two of them and walks towards my wallow-hollow. He then places the chairs on top of my excavations.

Why would someone want to do that? Not only is the ground uneven, leaving the chairs listing at strange angles, but I can no longer use my wallow-hollow. An area of great utility has been ruined. It’s like building a swimming pool and then putting bars over it.

“What are you doing, mate?” I think to myself. “You are just creating more work for me.”

At this point Man and Lady leave for the afternoon, which is just as well as I can work uninterrupted, creating a fresh wallow-hollow from scratch. This time I choose a spot right outside the back door. Maybe it’s a better spot anyway; more conveniently located. In the end, I’ll be thanking Man for forcing me to relocate.

I dig solidly for the best part of the afternoon. I’m like a worker in a Western Australian mining camp. I should be wearing hi-vis.

I get digging, sending dirt flying into the air and onto the path. It’s hard work but I give it my all. Perhaps he’ll approve if this hallow-wallow is on a grander scale. Maybe the old one was too small- scale for his taste.

I dig solidly for the best part of the afternoon. I’m like a worker in a Western Australian mining camp. I should be wearing hi-vis.

Just as I’m finished, I hear the car returning. I position myself in the new wallow-hollow so they might appreciate how well it works and how elegant I look stretched out in the freshly dug soil.

Man is first to spot me. As soon as he opens the door, we’re back to the full Roman funeral. There’s a performative aspect to the whole thing as if he wants the whole neighbourhood to share in the horror he is experiencing.

“You’ve dug right outside the door. I’ll have to step over it, just to get out. This is the worst place you could have chosen. It’s wrecked the whole garden.”

I look up at him with the sweetest, most agreeable look I can manage, as if to say: “If the excavations are not extensive enough, I can have another go.”

At this point, his shoulders sag, as if in defeat. “OK, Clancy,” he says, “you win.”

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He lifts the metal chairs off the first wallow and places them on top of my new wallow.

He bends down to talk to me. He says: “How about you let the grass grow back on this bit right outside the back door, and I’ll agree not to interfere ever again with your original wallow-hollow.”

Obviously: fine. I’m not an unreasonable housemate. But did I have to go through a whole afternoon of heavy-duty excavations, just to get back to the status quo?

And what about the rest of the garden? Down here in the city, the inhabitants have no sense of making use of the land. If it were me, I’d have a chook shed up the back – I could manage production – and two sheep to keep down the grass.

Instead of which there are just three flower beds – useful as bone storage areas, but not for much else.

It’s all a mystery to me, and no doubt to you as well.

Until next time,

Love Clancy

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