I don’t know if you’re the same, but every time I’m sacked, made redundant or constructively dismissed, I pick up a pen (and usually a piece of paper to make sense of the pen) before I walk into my final meeting.
I’d like to say it’s my idea.
But I’d be lying.
The first time I saw it was in Nottingham, in 1994, when one of the most talented art directors (and creative directors) I’ve ever worked with, received a phone call from the Managing Director at the end of his first day back from paternity leave.
Paul picked up a pen, went downstairs, and was canned. (But allowed to keep his company car for two weeks. See? Advertising’s not all bad.)
So when I picked up a cheque book before leaving the house this morning, to go and “look at” a tractor, I must have known, deep down, what was coming.
I was pretty determined not to buy it.
Even though the guy selling it was a few hundred metres (yards) away from our land.
“Not a coincidence,” I said. (There’s no way that qualified.) We’d dismissed the idea of a tractor, anyway. We were going to buy a horse. In the Spring. The grass would just be cut and the fallen trees removed… somehow.
I turned left, and left again. Then along the road, following directions given over the phone. I turned right. And realised I’d been there before. A couple of weeks ago. The guy selling the tractor is the direct neighbour of a new friend of ours.
“Not a coincidence,” I insisted. (Though this came pretty close.)
The guy looks a lot like a friend of ours from Brighton. (There’s no way that’s a coincidence.)
I followed him a couple of hundred yards (metres) down the road. There’s the tractor.
It’s blue. (If you’ve been reading, you’ll know, before the horse idea, we were looking for a red tractor. Antique, like this one. Cute, like this one. But red.)
It uses red diesel. (Doesn’t count.)
It’s English. (Pah.)
These guys both know the previous owner of our land. (Such commonplace coincidences leave me untouched.)
I ask if there’s a grass-cutting device that fits it. And I’m shown one, along with a price tag of 500 euros. (They’re 1,000 euros new.)
I drive the tractor. A slightly terrifying experience. (Easy when you’re going along, but did you remember how to make it stop? It’s not like a car. Ask anyone.)
I borrow a pen (times have changed – I’m not in advertising now) and use my cheque book to buy tractor and cutting device.
They are delivered, as one, this evening. And there are beautiful (BEAUTIFUL, I tell you – after so many months of waiting) swathes cut through the field. Long grass chewed up and spat out, already decomposing the way nature didn’t exactly intend, but is OK to go along with.
We have a tractor.
We are very, very happy.
We have drunk Champagne (Champagne so excited – like us – half of it ended up on the floor of the kitchen).
We are looking forward to a day, this week, when écovallée will look the way we have in mind.
We have done this, which should keep sceptics everywhere happy, without any unarguable coincidences.
Except this one.
The original budget for tractor to cut grass was £1,300.
We paid €1,800 euros for tractor with tondeuse (cutter).
At today’s exchange rate (it’s bad – but the Americans have it worse), it’s the same thing. Give or take the cost of the Champagne now evaporating off the kitchen floor.