You will all, being well brought-up folks, have heard of Perseus.
Perseus: a hero with a name that, etymologists hint darkly, comes from times even older than those of Ancient Greece. The name means: destroyer. Sacker of cities.
Conceived by a father who took the form of a shower of gold, set adrift in a trunk shortly after birth and raised by a fisherman on a remote island, Perseus’s first act was to sever the head of snake-limbed Medusa, she who could turn one to stone at a glance. He invented the quoit and managed to kill someone accidentally with it. He met the love of his life when she had been kidnapped by a rather large and sinuous sea monster, and made short work of it before claiming her as his prize.
Nothing. Nothing could stand in his way, not even the city of Mycenae, which he is said to have founded.
But even Perseus would have quaked, maybe paled just a little, had he met with the creature of mythical proportions which lurked menacingly in the back garden of a three-story house somewhere in England’s home counties.
My modern-day Perseus, who lives in the aforementioned three-storey end-of-terrace next to a voracious forest, had been planning to slay the monster for some considerable time. He had booked a week off from his day job; he had spoken to a local skip company about a suitable casket to take the monstrous pile away in when it was, at last, after decades of terrorising the local neighbourhood, dead and gone.
It glowered scornfully as the preparations were made, with an arrogance borne of decades unchallenged by any available hero. I laugh in the face of your puny skip, it emanated.
The day came when Perseus did not have to get into the car and traverse the M25, sitting down at his office in Heathrow. Now he could turn his attention to the living miscreation in the corner of the garden, just next to the fence.
But where does one start?
The garden shed was built, oh, at least twenty years ago. And then, by successive men, it was shored up and strengthened and beautified and adored. It had man-tools: mole wrenches and vices and at least 300 different types of nails and screws. But since the Shrewsdays came to live in the house opposite, all this industry had mouldered. Turned in on itself. Rusted in splendid lonely isolation.
Perseus stood in front of the brute with a very long sledgehammer indeed. Astonishingly long. And I stood at the kitchen window, and I thought, my darling, where can you possibly begin?
He began with the roof.
His tactic was to make a hole in the roof and then make it bigger. So that its weight would come down gradually, and not crush his heroic Ancient Greek skull.
It paid off, but it was chilling. When I brought out a mug of tea it became clear that the felt roof was a thing of living tendrils, which reached in like Perseus’s old foe, the snake-headed witch, to grasp and destroy.
A thinking man, Perseus just kept hitting the roof. And bits of it came down: all the tendrils, a small beech tree, roots, turf, sodden felt. And soon, though he was chilled by the most unsettling nature of the limbs which reached down, he had conquered the roof.
The walls were a matter of muscle: brute, heroic force and lots of very loud banging. He was subduing the monster, a plank at a time. The vile adversary would not go quietly. It made itself so bulky that not one funeral casket but two were required, entailing a further cost of £160. And it dug its great claws into the earth, so that Perseus must use all his might and ingenuity to prize it from its crouching place.
Now, the monster is just a carcass. Most of it has been carted unceremoniously to the local tip; a small amount remains to be carried off, forever, to Hades and a shadowy afterlife.
And Perseus is victorious. Grubby, but victorious.
The forest does not know what to do with itself. For twenty years, the shed has held it up. It droops, disconsolately.
The monster is no more.