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  • I bought a scythe in England to take to France. I acquired it in Sam Turner’s of Northallerton, emporium extraordinaire and purveyor of all things agricultural. Il vaut le detour, especially for the sandwiches in the coffee shop. I also bought my chainsaw there, and my billhook. I like a bit of weaponry.

    I went to the desk, staffed by helpful Yorkshiremen with that special helpful-but-perplexed look which Yorkshiremen often wear when approached by a female person, and asked if they had a scythe. They tutted a bit and said they might have one but they were pretty expensive, I should brace myself. It has a special lightweight aluminium handle they explained. Then they looked it up on the system and said yes, they had one left, it was only £30, I was in luck, perhaps it was reduced… not much call for scythes these days.
    As I walked out of the shop with it over my shoulder, people shied away, murmuring things about death.

    I brought it over to France in my very tiny car (a Toyota IQ.) There was nearly an incident at customs (on the English side of the channel) when I was waved in to the shed of doom to have my car inspected, officially. “Do you have any forbidden sharp objects?” the official enquired, idly. “Er, yes, I have a scythe. Look it’s sort of wedged in… blade over the front seat, handle here in the rear. I’m hardly going to be able to get it out from under all that stuff” (all that stuff being essential provisions such as Marmite and rather a lot of clothes and shoes, among other things) “and run amok on the ship, now, am I?” He waved me hastily through in order to roar with laughter when I was out of sight, I suspect.

    Little did I realise that scythes are available in all good French gardening outlets. More than £30, closer to £50, but most encouraging to see that they’re still deployed here on a regular basis. I got mine to work on the meadow which was what my garden had become in my absence. It took a few days to get my muscles used to it, and I also refined my techniques a fair bit as I went along. It’s essential to get a good swing, I found. And working uphill is inadvisable. Now I flatter myself I’m a bit of a whizz with a scythe. I think all sorts of thoughts as I slash through the verdure. “Alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras” being the principal one (Brahms’ requiem, you know. All flesh is grass). It’s also good therapy if you have issues with anyone or anything. Very very good therapy. And much much cheaper than a gym. £30 for a lifetime membership.
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