The guy who’s employed by the rich folks who live down the path two properties away from our house started leaf-blowing in the grounds of the top house 20 minutes ago. We abandoned our afternoon coffee in the garden, as we regularly have to, because of the intolerable noise. It’s not just him of course. The tree-lined avenues of Herne Bay are probably one of the noisiest places in Auckland: leaf-blowers, petrol-driven hedge trimmers, lawnmowers, weed-eaters, chain saws, water-blasters, concrete-cutters, and every conceivable noise associated with house renovation and house-building. The guy who’s employed by the rich folks who live down the path two properties away from our house has emerged from the grounds of the top house and begun to drive the leaves down the path towards the second house.
I could keep giving you reports on his progress, but I already know that he’ll finish leaf-blowing the houses on the path (and the path itself) at around 5 o’clock, two hours after he started. I know this because I bailed him up one evening and, with as much politeness as my frazzled nerves would allow, asked him how long leaf-blowing the grounds of the rich folks’ houses and the path that connects them would take. “About two hours,” he told me. It was around 6.15 on a beautiful summer evening on that occasion and I told him I thought it was pretty unreasonable to be making all this racket when most civilised people at that time would rather be listening to the birds than his leaf-blower. “Well, what do you want me to do?” he asked. “I’d like you to stop.” “OK,” he said. “I’ll come back and finish in the morning.” So I thought he was a pretty reasonable guy.
He’s blown the leaves about half way down the path by now. A second leaf-blower on the other side of the road, is calling out to his. One of the army of contract gardeners who service Herne Bay, has fired up his petrol-driven hedge-trimmer and is making a start on one of the many 10ft high hedges in the street. Herne Bay people value their privacy.
5pm, Thursday, 31 January is still an hour away. It’s possible that by then I may have committed murder or quite possibly mass-murder, a la Falling Down, because I know that there will not be a single moment between now and then that some sort of machine will not be operating within earshot of our home.
There is never any peace in Herne Bay, not for a moment. There’s too much money around here to give peace a chance – too many homes and gardens that just have to be built and extended and re-built and improved and improved and improved. To paraphrase the old Chinese saying: House finished, Herne Bay man (and Herne Bay man’s wife) die. If all of this sounds familiar to you, it’s because I’ve written about it twice before. On days like today when I’m on the verge of silently beating my neighbours and their staff to death with a leaf-rake (leaf-rakes make no noise), I get some comfort from reading what I wrote of this topic in the original ‘Leaf-Blower Hell’ four years ago. It’s just so wonderfully intemperate! Enjoy:
The Original ‘Leaf-Blower Hell’
A bullet to the brain is too humane a punishment for the vandal who invented the leaf-blower. He deserves to be hung, drawn, quartered, then reassembled so that the whole process can start again. And again and again and again. When he finally expires, his head should be impaled atop the Sky Tower, church bells rung joyously across the land and his bloody confession nailed to the door of every Mitre 10, every Placemakers, every Bunnings Warehouse, every garden centre and hardware store in Aotearoa. They have polluted the air with noise. They have disturbed the peace. They have profited from the sufferings of their fellow man.‘And woman!’ [Judy]
Now here’s the thing about leaf-blowers:
Of all the so-called ‘labour-saving’ devices, other perhaps than the chainsaw, the leaf-blower is the loudest, most annoying and most brain-frazzling. Of all the labour saving devices, other perhaps than the battery operated revolving ice-cream cone – yes, they do exist – the leaf-blower is the most unnecessary. Autumn leaves not merely make our paths and verges look more beautiful, they are genetically programmed to resist permanent transfer from one place to another. Of all the labour saving devices, other perhaps than the high voltage fly zapper, shaped like a tennis racket – yes again – the leaf-blower is the least efficient. The humble garden rake does the job better, faster and more cheaply.
Of all the labour saving devices, including the water blaster, the leaf-blower has become the must-have, can’t-do-without boys toy cum status symbol cum penis extension of the 21st century. Every bugger has one.
And that is the nub of the problem. You see, if everyone used their leaf-blower – and their weed-eater and their hedge-trimmer and their lawnmower and their chainsaw – at the same time on the same day each week, say Saturday afternoon between three and five, there might well be a danger of the earth moving a degree or two on its axis, but at least it would be quiet for the rest of the week. And either global warming would be halted or the weather would be nicer. When I suggested this at a party recently, a guy told me that one of the Scandinavian countries – Denmark or Finland or some such place – already has a law along these lines. So why not here? Because every time someone tries to do something beneficial to the environment or likely to improve the quality of our lives.
The great unwashed start screaming ‘nanny state’ and demanding their Godzone given right to do whatever the f*** they like, whenever the f*** they like, wherever the f*** they like. Most of these cretins are men and most of them are more in love with their noisy power-driven ‘labour saving devices’ than they are with their wives or children. The leaf-blower is to the Kiwi bloke the equivalent of the gun to the good ol’ boy in the US of A. “You can take my leaf-blower from my cold, dead hands!’ We’ve got a few in our street. I’m convinced they’ve got a roster to ensure that there’s always one leaf-blower in operation during daylight hours and occasionally after dark. And if they can’t be there themselves they’ve got an army of gardeners who wouldn’t recognise a rake if they stood on it and the handle flew up and hit them in the face. (Cherish the thought!). I’ve got to stop now. A neighbour’s alarm has just gone off, Telecom are using a concrete cutter to dig a post hole across the road, the Green Acres guy has started up his petrol-driven hedge-trimmer next door and Max is yelling because he wants to show me the live rat he just dragged through the cat door. You know the trouble with the ‘nanny state’? It never went far enough.