I´ve got one of those brushcutter things. Some people call them a ´strimmer´ but I think it is basically the same thing. It is a long pole, with some rapidly whirring nylon string (beneath a protective cover) which cuts grass and other vegetation in a spectacularly violent manner.
There is a little metal blade thing which can be swapped with the nylon string if you are facing especially stubborn gorse or something like that.
It is called a roçadora here in Portugal and they are very common.
Mine is petrol-powered, with a shot of two-stroke oil mixed in.
I´m not absolutely sure what the oil does, but I imagine it is somehow connected with lubricating an essential moving part.
I start it by pulling a sort of rope which turns the motor over.
This usually takes several attempts and involves a lot of sweating, muttered cursing and putting the machine down whilst pretending to adjust a sort of choke lever, with a thoughtful look on my face, just in case ´she who must be obeyed´ is watching.
I steadfastly cling to the notion that she still thinks that I might actually know what I´m doing when it comes to things mechanical.
Typically, the motor bursts into action and takes me by surprise. It also has a bulky battery which can be used to crank it up and start it.
There is a harness affair which has to be worn when using the contraption – the brushcutter actually clips on to it, due to the weight – and a helmet with a face guard and ear defenders.
There are plastic shin pads and gloves, too, such is the ferocity of the brutish machine when in full, throaty action.
Bits of twig and random stones and other debris fly hither and yon and bounce off any unprotected surface with a force that can produce a piercing yelp and bring salty tears to the eyes.
I am not sure whether I am in control of it or not, as I manfully grip the handles, press the little throttle and it roars off, ripping great chunks out of whatever poor plant gets in its way.
I try to establish a vaguely controlled swinging motion and traverse the field slowly.
Of course, there is no chance of hearing anything at all.
Not only is it kicking out zillions of decibels, but you have great big ear defenders on.
After a short while, you enter a sort of white-noise fugue state where all is strangely calm, even though it is so noisy. Sweat drips into your eyes, dust clings to the sweat and turns into a sticky paste.
Then the fuel runs out.
There is a surprisingly small tank, which needs filling ludicrously frequently.
Of course, I hardly ever remember to carry the petrol with me and have to trudge back to the shed.
Hours later, it seems, I finish the olive grove. In the silence which follows, the engine cools off, making little ´pinking´ sounds.
I stand and survey the cropped surface, gloved hands resting on hips.
I hope I look suitably agricultural and competent.
I need a cup of tea.
Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org