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House & Pet Sitting - A Champagne Lifestyle and Losing a Fight with a Mower!

When house sitting, dog sitting or cat sitting, you can tell a lot about an area by how people name their pets. Our Surrey homeowners' dog called 'Bollie' had sadly passed on but they wanted us to look after their fluffy grey cat called Moet and were taking the new puppy, 'Piper', with them. As you might expect, Moet 'sparkled' while Piper was a 'corking' little dog who rarely 'whined'. Sorry about that...

Across the border from where we live in Hertfordshire, I gather Essex pet owners are more likely to call their pets, 'Chardonnay' or 'Rosay'... or, maybe I'm mixed up, is it the children they call 'Chardonnay'??? I'm pretty sure where I was born in Yorkshire, you're more likely to find the pet called 'Boddies' than 'Bollie'.

The house and garden were extraordinary and beautifully located overlooking the Pewsey Downs. Ed, the homeowner, was charm personified, a lovely friendly man and, as I was about to find out... silver tongued. Whilst showing me round his man-cave, my eyes lit upon a brand new shiny sit-on lawn mower. What self-respecting male wouldn't salivate at the prospect of bombing round 3 to 4 acres on a sit-on lawnmower which had gears. Yes, gears! I swallowed quickly, as it doesn't do to drool when trying to look cool and, as casually as possible, drew attention to the sit-on mower. 'Oh you don't want to be bothering with that, it's not worth the trouble' says Ed and points to a petrol mower tucked in the corner. 'You can cut it in an hour with this but don't worry about cutting the lawn, it'll keep until we get home in three weeks'. I reckon Ed secretly knew there was no way I could leave his lovely lawn uncut for 3 weeks at the height of the growing season and, of course, I ended up cutting it twice.

To be fair the petrol mower was a good one and also had gears which proved vital as the lawn had a huge slope from top to bottom. I started at the bottom to mow an uphill strip to give myself a nice straight line to work to but the lawn is so steep that I still had to push the thing despite the help of the gears and maximum throttle. Having eventually struggled and shoved my way to the top, I looked back to admire my handiwork and, in fairness, it was not bad, so I whipped the mower round to do the downhill strip. Much easier I thought. Now, this was a mistake, as I'd failed to alter the gears previously set to help me up the hill. As soon as I engaged the throttle, the mower reacted like a bucking bronco, surged forward and charged off down the hill with me hanging on for grim death. Trust me, it's a fair way down the hill and I ran it all, picking up speed as I went. A petrol driven mower in top gear on full throttle can get a move on but it is surprising how much momentum a chunky 18 stone fat fellow heading downhill can add to proceedings. With the bottom fence looming large and a trip to the hospital beckoning, my brain finally engaged and I realised I could release the safety handle which instantly stops the mower. Phew! Needless to say, I hadn't considered what happens when a mower stops instantly in front of a fast moving chubby chap but I did give it due consideration as I passed between and over the handles, landing heavily on the mower which was astonishingly hot considering it had only cut two strips. Somewhat scraped and bruised, I picked myself up and dusted myself off while listening carefully. Surprisingly, I couldn't hear any screams of laughter from adjoining gardens, and quietly thanked the Lord Lynn hadn't seen me, as she'd have definitely needed the asistance of TENA lady if she had.

Looking up the lawn, I could see my headlong charge to disaster had singularly failed to match my first straight line and feeling the need to catch my breath and recover my equilibrium, I limped in to tell Lynn my tale of woe and garner a little sympathy. That was a mistake! All the jobs she had earmarked for the afternoon went out of the window and she spent the remainder of the day perched in a predatory fashion on the edge of the patio area, video camera poised, willing disaster upon me, hoping to catch a repeat performance. Generally, she would happily publicly humiliate me for free, so a possible £250 from 'You've Been Framed' was irresistible to her. I'm delighted to say she was disappointed. Oh, and even taking off the time added on for injuries, it took well more than1 hour...

However, Moet the cat was stunning and loved a fuss, spending most evenings perched on my shoulder like a parrot, occasionally reaching over to groom my balding pate with her sandpaper tongue. Despite my mowing misadventure, we had a wonderful time and we've been asked back to look after Moet and Piper at the end of October, though I wonder if they deliberately planned this holiday outside the grass growing season???

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