Since the invention of the lawnmower, psychologists have puzzled over one of the great mysteries of the human condition: why do men come back into the house after cutting the grass so insufferably self-satisfied? The triumphant conquest of the unruly forces of suburban nature, the instant gratification of a task whose effects are immediately obvious, the gloating over a neighbour's inferior sward – all these have been advanced as reasons for that smug look as a man enters the kitchen, wipes a mythical bead of sweat from his brow, and declares himself fit only to relax for the rest of the day.
But last week, from the University of Queensland, came at last the definitive answer: It's all to do with the smell of new-mown grass. Far from being fired up by a sense of their own achievements, the men who went to mow are simply high on grass, or, more specifically, the chemicals released when it's cut. These, the enterprising boffins discovered, make anyone inhaling them feel happy and relaxed. And so, anxious that the benefits of what they call "SerenaScent" are available to the non-mowing community, they have launched the "eau de mow" elixir. It will shortly be available from all good stockists at a very reasonable £4 a bottle.
You might wonder why we are giving a puff to this uplifting and competitively priced fragrance. The answer is lawns – the source of these beguiling smells, but also national obsessions as damaging to the environment as they are boring to look at. Of course, it wasn't always like this. There was a time when all it required to maintain your greensward was a flock of sheep, obliging animals who mowed with their front ends and fertilised with their rears. But lawn obsessives couldn't leave well alone. Along came mechanical mowers, fertilisers, scarifiers, chemical weed treatments, top dressings, leaf blowers, anti-mole potions, worm-cast eradicators, and other mysterious equipments of the suburban grass grower. And water. Not fallen from the sky, but sprayed straight, voluminously and wastefully from the tap via hoses and automatic sprinkler systems. The resultant grass may have been green, but the process wasn't.
Some of us, through a mixture of idleness and accident, discovered another way. Thirty years ago, I bought a house, and, out the back, was a small area of grass. It was, when our children were young, a small playground: soft enough to be fallen on without mishap, and sufficiently strewn with daisies and other merry intruders not to be a cause of pride or fuss. And when the playmates grew and moved on to larger fields, it reverted to something that not only separated the flower beds, but also provided a place where refugees from the more aggressively tended flower beds could find a home: daisies, dandelions, the bright baby-blue flowers of speedwell, plantains, trefoils, and unexpected visitors from heaven knows where. This year, it was the faintly pink flowers of lady's smock; other laid-back lawners have found sudden eruptions of bee orchids. And, of course, nothing is cut until it has set seed. The result, especially now when apples plop on to the grass at regular intervals, is not a lawn, but a small bit of old-time pasture, chaotic in its colours and quartered by insects pleasantly surprised at the extent of the neglect.
And this, I think, is where "eau de mow" comes in. It could be a kind of methadone for mowing addicts, a substitute substance for those who would otherwise want to turn suburban grass into antiseptic baize.
I wonder if we could make it available on the NHS?Reuse content