There’s a scene way back in the early seasons of The Simpsons where Homer decides to be a good Dad. As you might expect it doesn’t really work out and at one point Bart says: “Dad, I preferred your half-assed under-parenting to your half-assed over-parenting.” With Dr Sternlove away I’m getting a look that says exactly this an awful lot, especially in the mornings when I call upon the freshly rested Sputnik. It feels a little small when she, when they give me that look. As Homer said in reply to Bart, “But I’m using my whole ass.”
Nonetheless it is my practice, as Rustichello waiting in Venice, to compensate for the Dr Sternlove shaped gap by diverting my resources to the purpose of parenting, and because this doesn’t always work out like I’d hoped, I then divert those resources to busywork. Laundry, dishwasher, the bills, the dry cleaning, making lists, shelving books, sweeping floors, emptying bins, finding storage solutions, appliance rationalisation, filing, paperwork, recycling and, eventually, gardening. Gardening I always leave to last, not because I don’t like it (I do, a bit) but because if it is going to be any good then I should wait until just before Dr Sternlove returns so it looks really ace.
I have made the mistake in the past of starting with the gardening, doing it right off the bat, first sunny day available. But then the days turn into weeks and the half finished returns to un-started, the not started begins to look like Sulawesi and the unmowed bits have lost patrols firing flares after dark. And upon Dr Sternlove’s return I get a little speech and disapproving grin that says, “did the gardening? I bet.” So not being one to repeat my mistakes I now leave the gardening to last.
This time, however, I have made a consistent effort in the garden. Do something out there each day I tell myself when I’ve come home from work and want nothing more than a hot bath and cigar: “come on, growing things! You’ll love it”, I exhort myself like Lleyton Hewitt. And I do, kinda. I like the labour, the physicality of doing it, the use of muscle. But once that’s done I glaze over at the actual plants, they don’t really grab me. I know people love them but I like rocks, I like dirt.
And so I get out there and do some gardening: weed this, sheep shit that, lucerne here, compost there. Jeez, you can go and go and go. And still looks roughly the same as last week and the week before that. I wander around watering the pots and the vegie patch, looking over my handiwork and nodding like a gardener: self approving what I’ve think I’ve done and hoping that Dr Sternlove will really notice this or that, and will get a kick out of what I’ve done. But actually even I’d be hard pressed to show you what I’ve done over the past three weeks, it all looks like it did. This afternoon all I could think was: “but I used my whole arse.”