Jaci Stephen: 'Strimmers are one of the downsides to the outdoor lifestyle here'

Way Out West

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Apparently, they call it Mow, Blow and Go; but to me, the US Strimming Championships taking place outside my front door can be the only explanation for why the sound of revving machinery woke me before 8am Monday morning. And Sunday. And Saturday.

In fact, had I had sent out an invitation to every strimmer enthusiast within a 300 mile radius, they could not have turned up in greater force than they have done in their own front gardens since I moved in last week.

It's not so much a feeling of living in a flight path, as having relocated onto the runway itself.

When I moved here, I was excited to be living in the famous postcode, Beverly Hills 90210. My apartment was a smart but small, one-bedroom affair in a portered block that served me well enough for the first six months.

Well, ish. A woman on the balcony opposite sat for at least 10 hours every day, shouting into her telephone. I became more familiar with the antics of her family than I am with those of my own.

At weekends, residents disappeared to the coast, but left their dogs behind, wailing and crying all day and night.

Then, some new people moved in above me and immediately began chopping up bodies for the freezer (or showing horror movies while acting out the movies' plots – whichever is the noisier).

I am very, very sensitive to noise. In the UK, I became convinced that there was a theatrical group of scaffolders who followed me wherever I moved, setting up their stuff and beginning their singing/shouting/ Radio 1 performance the moment I unpacked my last box.

Finally having shaken them off by coming to the US, I discover that the entire human race is in cahoots with said scaffolders, and they are just coming up with new and more interesting ways to annoy me.

Hence the strimmers. You don't get many strimmers in South Wales. In Cardiff, we have well over 200 days of rain a year, so strimming is never really top of anyone's agenda. On vaguely warm days that could, were you of a strimming mentality, spur you to don your dungarees and start up your motor, you are usually so excited by glimpsing sunlight that you rush to the pub, all thoughts of strimming set aside for another year.

I bought a gas barbecue two years ago, and it still sits in my shed untouched. There have been numerous half hours of sun within that time, during which I could have cooked a dozen sausages; but, alas, never the two hours it would take me to get the contraption out of the shed, try to light the gas, and then track down a neighbour – who would doubtless be at someone else's barbecue – to do it for me.

When I first arrived in LA, I could see the attraction of the outdoor life. I love not having to take an umbrella with me when I go out to dinner (heck: I like not having to take one down to the washing line). I enjoy going to bed with all the windows open, rather than struggling to find another duvet when I am freezing in bed at 4am. I like not having to charge the car battery every time I set out for my local Tesco in January.

But there are stresses to the outdoor Californian lifestyle that nobody tells you about, and the strimmers are just the start of it.

When the strimmers rev down at the end of the day, the crickets start up. Now, the trouble with crickets, is that they have only one topic of conversation; and, to boot, only one topic of conversation set at the same monotonous level. Think of Morse Code with just two frequencies.

Then there are the dog walkers. Everyone in my new area, 90212 (which is the Beverly Hills Golden Triangle, though it does not feature in the TV series), has a dog that is a cross between a Bichon Frisé and a poodle. And they do not stop barking. I suspect they are the cousins of the dogs at my old apartment block. Their owners stop on the street to talk – for up to an hour at a time. The dogs bark more loudly because they want their walk. The owners speak more loudly to get above the dogs. Sometimes, I pray for a strimmer to come along and drown out the lot of them.

I'm going back to the UK this week and am praying for rain. Anything, just to keep people indoors and away from anything that might bark, rev, or spew sausage fat within a half mile radius of my house.

I bet those theatrical scaffolders are tuning up their spanners even as I write.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog LANotSoConfidential in full, go to Lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

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