Neatness is next to deviliness

The Masters tournament in golf is held at Augusta National in Atlanta, Georgia every year. It is probably the most prestigious event in golf. 

But never mind the golf – check out the venue. For those who like neatness Augusta National is the Mecca.

Every blade of grass is lovingly manicured. Every vista is beautiful. Every hole is a gardener’s paradise. It’s perfect – just perfect.

Personally, I think there’s something psychologically not-quite-right about people who like Augusta National. What is happening there that man has decided that the world as it currently exists is inadequate and should be replaced with something man-made. It is a victory of man over nature. That’s why I find it repulsive.

This excessive neatness arises, I think, from class differences. The middle classes have always despised wildness and disorder. This was because it associated disorder with the lower classes. They were probably right.

 So even if you weren’t normally a neat person, you could adopt neatness on your way up. The front gardens of Dublin could probably be read like a book. A short study of the gardens would probably tell you (if you didn’t already know) the socio-economic class of the neighbourhood. As the area moves up, so the battle to roll back nature is begun in earnest.

Kerbing is laid. Tar and paving cover the soil. Grass retreats and flower beds and the like take over. Plant discrimination begins in earnest. Decking and conservatory eats into the back garden. Then the family will hop into the 4×4 and head off to the Wicklow Mountains to experience nature.

Golf clubs buy big-time into the neatness psychosis. Lads that spend the rest of the week in jeans have to root out a decent pair of trousers so that they can walk around a big field. No place for the riff-raff here.

This defining yourself by what you are not happens right across society. Scottish football fans, for example, would visit London every second year, back when the Home Internationals were still running, and wreck all before them: trains, bars and stadiums. Then the English fans got a reputation for hooliganism. Suddenly the Scottish fans became as sweet as pie. Nicest fans you could meet. Didn’t want to be confused for the English, you see.

Sometimes a re-education might help. David Bellamy has waged a life-long campaign to change the way people see bogland. Bogs and marshes in the past were where people of very little means ended up. They were bad economically so they ended up bad in the mind.

But bogs are beautiful because they are rampant with nature. But people still use ‘bog’ as a derogatory term, even those who have probably never seen a proper bog.

For all the environmentalism of the past twenty years, a huge number of people still wage war with nature to keep away the weeds, keep the paint on the house, fight back the undergrowth. Some of it is about maintenance – a lot of it is peer pressure.

So make a New Year’s resolution. Relax. Let the grass grow under your feet.