Me and the builder (who described himself a 'landscaper') were standing on a freshly-laid, crazy paved pathway that ran approximately halfway along one side of the garden. At an arbitrary point it joined with an older path which dated to the early 20th century and was badly cracked. Adjacent to us, where the new path turned a corner, was a small parallelogram of grass that was several shades darker than the surrounding lawn.
A last minute change in the layout of the paving had left this unusually precise, acutely-angled rectangle of bare earth. As a gesture of goodwill the builder (who described himself to my wife as the equal of Cicero in his powers of oratory and lovemaking) had scattered some grass seed on it. That afternoon a trio of his assistants had arrived at our home. In between drinking mugs of tea and eating all of the dark chocolate digestive biscuits that we felt obliged to put out for them, they performed a number of rain dances.
The rain arrived the following morning and lingered for the remainder of the week. My wife and I both watched in horror from the kitchen window as wrong-coloured grass began to sprout in weedy clumps from the bare ground, as if to openly mock our long-cherished vision of a garden lawn that was a uniform shade of green.
I summoned the builder (who in a recent article in the local free paper had claimed co-authorship of the Bob Dylan song – Mr Tambourine Man) back to our home to explain himself.
“The grass is always greener...” he mused when he was confronted with the end result of his half-arsed attempt at gardening.
It has become common practice among builders to nudge any mistakes that are made during construction out of the physical world, where they would be held accountable, and into the nebulous realm of the metaphysical, which lies beyond the influence of mortal men and their laws. However, I was wise to this trick:
“Look, don't try to weasel out of this by conferring the status of proverb or metaphor on what is blatantly a patch of the wrong kind of grass, cast upon the bare sod by your own calloused hands and that of your indolent nephew, Colin, who was doing work experience with you. I demand that you pay me the sum of 18 pounds so that I can hire a professional with the requisite skills to rectify your most grievous error.”
Aware that I was no fool and that no amount of clever semantics or entreaties to Platonic forms would convince me that the parallelogram of grass was an either an allegory or an omen, the builder (whose childhood companion was a toy tiger stuffed with Elton John's hair) pondered my words carefully and then chose a different tack:
“When elephants fight, it is the grass who suffers.”
I stared down at my ruined lawn and then back at the builder.
“Do you happen to have a pair of elephants?”