Mowing the lawn – and the “giggle” gene…

Mowing the lawn – and the “giggle” gene…

Mowed the lawn this morning. So, nothing new there…I have been mowing lawns for at least 50 years (Good Grief! What an aging thought!?) but I have only been mowing a Brazilian lawn for a much shorter time and it was the Brazilian-ness of the experience which struck me strongly today. It is not a particularly large lawn, so I only have quite a small rotary mower. The place I started the mowing was close to a bush, so I pushed the mower under the bush a little way to get the straggly long grasses there and noticed one of the oranges was nearly ripe – yes, it is an orange bush!

A little while later a large overhanging leaf was in my way, so I was having to manoeuvre to avoid it. Why was it hanging over the grass?… It was hanging over the grass because it was being pushed downwards by the ripening coconuts above it!

Then I was mowing under a large tree and there were lots of large fruit kernels rattling around the innards of the mower, making a racket. But it was not a tree that had fruit with large kernels, it was a cashew tree and they have soft squashy fruit with cashew nuts attached to the top of the fruit and the cashew fruit are not ready yet, the tree is still flowering. (By the way the nuts do also rattle around in the mower… but not today!)

The large kernels were on the floor because we almost certainly have large fruit bats sitting in our tree eating their fruit, scrumped from another tree in someone else’s garden and spitting out the kernels. Not that I have seen them yet, for they have their fruity picnics in the middle of the night.

So, all things considered, the mowing experience as an expat is somewhat different from what I have been used to. And that set my mind to thinking I would write one of my “open letters to my friends and family…” about mowing and that took me back many years remembering that, although I sometimes did the mowing at home it was generally a job my father would perhaps do in the summer, except he would get the mower out in order to do the mowing and there would probably be some tinkering with the mower required before the mowing would get done (or, maybe, NOT get done because the tinkering ended up with the mower NOT working!)

One Sunday, when I was in my late teens (yes, ages ago!) the mowing did not get done in the morning because my father was having a fit of the hysterical giggles over an article in the Observer, our Sunday paper of preference at the time. The article was by a regular humourist on the paper, Paul Jennings, ( and captured to a “T” the Sunday mowing behaviour and issues of my father, along with many of England’s Sunday lawn mowers (the people, that is, not the machines) and lawn mowers in general (the machines, not the people!!)

At first we wondered what he was chuckling about, then we wondered what he was laughing about, then we wondered why he was crying with laughter. We tried to ask and he would gasp and start a word, then collapse into fits of giggles again and just point at the paper, tears streaming down his face. This didn’t happen so much – so it was a stand-out moment but it clearly indicated the presence of a “giggle-gene” in the Melton family.

We were familiar with the “giggle-gene” anyway because my mother had one, clearly nearer the surface than that of my father, more often than not set off in conjunction with mother’s brother, my Uncle Joe, whose “giggle-gene” was perhaps the strongest version in that generation. Sadly I cannot speak of former generations, being the youngest in our generation and born to the youngest and second youngest of my parents’ generation – so I never really knew the previous generation, much to my regret as a genealogist! – but it is quite a strong gene anyway, so likely to have been present in previous generations. I suspect, however, that my mother’s family were gigglers to a greater extent than my father’s.

The reason I mention it is that I am so aware of it from my own personal point of view.

Both my brothers ‘lose it’ occasionally but I am the one for whom it is nearly as much a curse as a blessing! So, I have clearly inherited the gene from both sides of the family in its strongest form. I know that people who have not seen it happen before, worry about me when I start. But the problem is I cannot explain what is “wrong” because that sets me off worse than if I am left to have hysterics to myself!

Some of my nieces have been known to start giggling as I “lose it” without having any idea of what it was that set me off, so I guess they have inherited it at some level of strength, though I am not sure I have ever noticed my nephew do the same so perhaps his gene is a little muted and he needs to know what it is that’s funny before he giggles!? (Feedback appreciated on this point, please!?)

The thing is; it may be something that was not classically funny that starts the process. It is usually an unexpected juxtaposition of things, often with a random thought in my mind adding an element of the ridiculous to a modestly humourous situation that starts an ‘episode’ and, if I try to explain why I am laughing/crying it is sometimes quite difficult to point out the funniness to someone else! Quite often it is just difficult even to speak!

Also, I can sometimes “compose” myself and stop giggling but the composed state does not always settle in straight away. I remember one occasion – at Andi’s wedding in Italy – when I was helpless for the best part of 15 minutes or so.  It was a warm evening the evening before the wedding and most of those present for the wedding were sitting together having a drink when something set me off (don’t ask what it was, I cannot remember!) Anyway it caused some amusement in the party – and some consternation amongst those who had not met me before, it has to be said!

After a couple of minutes of helplessness I walked across the road, to be relatively quiet by myself in order to ‘get it together’ and managed to stop. But as soon as I walked back to the wedding party and someone caught my eye, off I would go again, back to my state of helplessness! And no-one knew what I was laughing at for at least 20 minutes….but everyone seemed to enjoy watching me! I must have walked back and forth across the road at least ten times!

So, mowing the lawn has a link with giggling for me and always will. But after today, mowing is also logged in my mind as a more exotic pastime as an expatriate than hitherto because of the fruit trees in our garden here in Brazil. Just thought you would enjoy knowing that!

Sadly I cannot post this on my Blog immediately today, Saturday 29th September 2012, because we do not have an internet link!  But I can now post it on Monday, 1st October… so I will – Enjoy! And have a giggle if you like! I did, writing it, just a small one!


About Keith Melton - Green Lib Dem

Retired English liberal environmentalist living in Nottinghamshire; spent six years in Brazil. Author of Historical Novel - Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. Active member of the Green Liberal Democrats - (pressure group in Liberal Democrats) - was Founding Chair of GLD in 1988
This entry was posted in Brazil General, Environment & Sustainable Development, Genealogy, Humour, Life..., Memory, Wildlife and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mowing the lawn – and the “giggle” gene…

  1. joan3999 says:

    I have witnessed this giggling on several occasions and have often ended up giggling myself at Keith’s giggling if you see what I mean!

  2. Pat Chapman says:

    Hello Keith! I remember the giggling that went on between my Dad and your Mum very well. What a pair! I also remember when Dad and cousin Derek got together, they could be set off by any little thing. They clearly had exactly the same sense of humour.

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