I pondered this problem for over a week.
My first thinking centred on finding a new man. Jackie next door said she'd ask around for me - and she came up with a list of local chappies I could contact. There was in fact a recommended man who was charging a friend exactly the same as Andrew had charged me. I took a note of his name and number.
By then, however, I had started to consider doing all the work myself. I'd had doubts about my physical capability, and my ongoing enthusiasm for getting on with the various tasks week after week. But I needed the exercise, and even moderate success would keep me keen.
Besides, I wanted to connect to my garden. I wanted to make it 'my' space, a place where, every week, I could put in a few hours of steady personal effort. I needed to feel that any success was 'my' success, and not someone else's. Paying somebody to do the work for me had somehow turned me into a mere onlooker. I'd been a stranger in my own garden. I needed to know it far more intimately. I wanted to make plans for it, and carry them through with my own hands.
I wasn't skillful, and in fact I'd been dismissed for years as ignorant in the garden - a hacker, a plant destroyer. My efforts had been denigrated to such an extent that I'd pretty well written myself off. That was mainly why I'd been very happy to let others get on with the work.
But that was then. This was now. I had by degrees discovered that almost anybody can do very well at something if they take up with the proper motivation and the right frame of mind. Given a careful approach, unhindered by criticism, and assisted by all the excellent powered devices one could buy nowadays, I told myself that it shouldn't be too hard to produce an acceptable result. I was bound to improve.
I could break up the work into manageable sections, so that nothing was too much of a slog. I certainly had the leisure. I would have to organise myself so that the lawns and shrubs, and whatever else needed attention, always looked well-tended and well-trimmed. But I was notoriously good at self-organisation. I could work out a programme in my sleep.
What about the cost of setting myself up with decent powered machines? Well, not paying Andrew for his services gave me money to buy all those shiny new devices. I could spend £245, the amount I'd have paid him altogether during 2017.
I did already have a wide range of good gardening tools, and I'd bought a brand-new wheelbarrow last year.
Inside the garage was a Flymo hover mower that had belonged to Dad. Presumably it hadn't been used for at least ten years, and it was pretty dusty; but nevertheless it looked as if it might be in working order. There was also one of those devices that blew leaves into a pile, or sucked them up, equally dusty. If mower and leaf blower were in working order after just a wipe-off, then that would be some expense saved. So perhaps all I needed to buy was a strimmer to cut the grass at the edges of my lawns, and a hedge cutter. Plus a reel of cable. It was tempting to go for cordless equipment, but it was too heavy for my meagre muscle-power. I paced out the diagonal length of my larger lawn, right up to the rear hedge. 25 metres of cable needed, if connected to a socket in my conservatory. 30 metres to allow plenty of slack.
After some research on the Internet, I went to the local B&Q store and picked up the three items in this picture:
Strimmer, £48; hedge cutter, £52; and no less than 45 metres of cable, £32. Total: £132.
So, hopefully, I would be able to save £245 less £132 = £113 on my mowing and hedge-cutting costs this year, and £245 each year thereafter.
I settled on 45 metres of cable because of (a) convenience: I suspected you can't have too much length; and (b) safety: I didn't want to be joining up shorter lengths of cable when the ground might be damp.
So, all I need now is some dry weather! It looks as if this afternoon will be dry after a damp start this morning. Right. I may have a go then.