real old albion

An old man in a back garden the size of a pocket handkerchief starts up a petrol driven lawnmower not much younger than he is. First he bends over it stiffly and does something that produces large volumes of white smoke. The smoke rises up and drifts first across the surrounding gardens, then across the houses themselves, in a thick obscuring cloud. The amount of smoke, its thickness and its whiteness, its chemical edge, has a real power to astonish. The old man begins to tremble. He stares down at the lawnmower, walks around it once, looks around at the blind windows of the houses, then goes inside his own house. For ten minutes the lawnmower sits in the middle of the garden while its engine runs up and down the power curve in a slow, queasy cycle, continuing to emit white smoke and make the amount of noise you would associate with a hovering helicopter. Then the old man emerges from his house again. He dodges in and out of the smoke with a square of towel about ten inches on a side. He is dabbing at the engine. Nothing changes. The engine continues to run up and down its power curve and emit very thick white smoke. The old man dodges and dabs. There is a sense that if he had been doing this even ten years ago, it would have resembled to the viewer a kind of dance: bend down, round and round, dodge in and out angrily, dab from a distance, dab from close up. Now he is too stiff and too slow for it to seem like that. After perhaps another five minutes, he sneezes and his nose and eyes begin to run so copiously the snot and tears can be seen clearly, so he uses the bit of old towel wipe the strings of snot off his face. Then he coughs until he is sick on to the lawn, and bends over until that stops. Then he begins to mow the lawn with the smoking lawnmower, the blades of which churn up the wet grass and pull it out of the ground in tufts, leaving a poached and tormented surface. When the lawn is mowed the old man switches the lawnmower off and leaves it where it stands, at angle beneath the rotary clothes dryer. The smoke begins to thin and drift away. The old man goes back into his house, through the house, and out of the house through the front door, and down the road, in a single movement full of lightness, confidence and energy, a perfect trajectory of intention beginning at the back door and ending at the Brittania pub where he spends most of his day. Soon he and his friends are laughing about something he did when he was young.