SOMETHING quite remarkable happened during the Easter holidays, something which filled me with surprise, excitement and hope. My teenage son cut the grass.

Forgive me for getting carried away to the point of dizziness, but this was the first time he'd broken into a sweat in his 14-year-old life.

Don't get me wrong, he works hard at school, but in terms of physical effort, it was a memorable first. (Last year's brief dalliance with a paper round doesn't count because I did most of that for him.)

This is the boy who hardly slept at all until he was four, and now stays in bed until lunchtime. This is the boy who believes that exercise means pressing the buttons on his PlayStation.

There I was, looking out at the overgrown lawn, contemplating the first cut of the year, and dreading the fact that I'd be out there for hours every weekend until next winter. And then I heard something which may stay with me forever: "I'll cut the grass for you if you like, Dad."

It was after lunchtime and he'd just emerged from the murky, sinister depths of his bedroom.

"What did you say?" I asked in disbelief.

"I'll cut the grass - it must be getting hard for you at your age," he replied.

It was my 43rd birthday last week and the sit-on mower I'd asked for hadn't materialised. He's right, the grass has been getting hard for me, so I ignored the ageist remark and gave his miraculous offer serious consider- ation.

He was certainly strong enough for the job. Like the grass, he's shot up at an alarming rate. One minute, he was small enough to be carried around on my shoulders, the next, he was as tall as me, in size 12 shoes - that's two sizes bigger than mine - and boxer shorts which frequently get mixed up with my own.

I thought I might as well let him have a go, even though I was convinced he'd give up after ten minutes. How wrong I was. He stuck at it, manfully, for hours, wiping genuine perspiration from his brow as he worked his way up and down the garden.

"I'll do it every week for you if you like, Dad," he said when I took a drink out to him.

My knees went weak with shock and I had to sit down.

"Are you feeling OK?" I asked.

"Fine. I think a tenner should cover it."

The question of money was inevitable. In the end, we agreed on £10 this time because the grass was so overgrown and £7.50 a week for the rest of the summer. A case of the first cut is the dearest. Just when it all seemed too good to be true, and with only the outer fringes of the garden left to cut, the lawnmower gave up the ghost.

No matter how much WD40 we sprayed on the various bits - the extent of my technical expertise - it kept dying within seconds of spluttering to life.

It is now undergoing emergency treatment at the repair shop and, since we haven't heard anything for over a week, I fear the diagnosis isn't good.

Having finally got my teenage son working, all I have to do now is get the lawnmower doing the same.


AT Constable Burton's cosy Village Hall, the ladies of the Lower Wensleydale Group of the Women's Institute were discussing the Produce Competition to be held at Harmby Village Hall, near Leyburn, on May 11.

Group chairperson Julie Clarke dutifully informed members that she would be performing a cookery demonstration.

"And as a bit of fun, ladies, I want you to bring along your most useless kitchen gadget," she said, before adding: "And I don't mean your husbands."

GROUP secretary Carol Pounder remembered the time her daughter Melanie, then aged six, was staying at her grandad's farm near Constable Burton.

Grandad, who'd gone thin on top, was combing Melanie's long hair in the kitchen and said: "Don't you wish you had hair like me? It's easier to comb."

"I don't like your hair, Grandad," replied Melanie. "It's got a hole in the middle."

CAROL'S son Andrew was eight or so when his mum sorted out a packed lunch for a school trip.

"I've put some ham sandwiches in, a sausage roll, a Penguin and there's a serviette as well," she said.

"Well, if I don't like the serviette, I won't eat it," replied Andrew.

AND Kathleen Fuller recalled the time a group of children visited a farm.

At the end of the day, a little boy was asked what was his favourite thing on the farm.

"Oh, that great big pig with all those little ones trying to blow it up," he replied without a moment's hesitation.

Published: 21/04/2005