Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

Credit: Jeremy Clarke

I couldn't find the house so I called the number again. Instead of the man I'd spoken to previously, this time a woman answered. 'I'm surprised you couldn't find the house with all your advanced technology,' she said. She sounded elderly. A mid-Devon accent -- an older version of it. 'I've yet to join the sat-nav generation, I'm afraid,' I said, apologetically. 'Sat-nav?' she said. 'You must think us very quaint. Stay there and I'll ask Maynard to come and fetch you in his car.'

So I pulled the car over and waited. Five minutes later, a beard driving a Nissan Micra came along, saw me, indicated, slowed down, showed me a palm and performed a U-turn. I started the car and followed him. The careful and helpful way that this man indicated well in advance of each turning, and the excellent condition and cleanliness of his ten-year-old Nissan Micra, and the Christian fish symbol on the back of the car told me in advance that the mower he was selling would be in excellent condition. Even the unobtrusive positioning of the fish was somehow reassuring.

He pulled up outside a tiny cube of pink brick and indicated briskly with an arm that I should park in front of him. I got out and found him already waiting with an outstretched hand. I grasped it and we exchanged comments about the captious weather. He was a spry, intense sort of a man. The beard reminded me of an Indian fakir's beard. It was groomed, even coiffed. The shaped moustache with its twirly ends was impressive in its own right. But the rest of him -- cardigan, collar and tie, diction -- was thoroughly British.

He led me around a conifer hedge and there on the postage stamp of the garden was the mower. You could have trimmed a lawn this size with a pair of nail scissors in quarter of an hour, so why he thought he needed a Briggs & Stratton 100 cc engine was anyone's guess.  The mower was in showroom condition. He'd even polished the red steel casing. He tilted the machine up on its back wheels and I put my cheek on the ground and peered up at the blades. 'Like new,' I said, getting up. 'I look after my things,' he said, shortly. He bent down and tickled the engine, then pulled the string. The engine fired easily first time. …

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