The fallen wych elm on our allotment is attracting attention.
It’s close to the fence at one end, so passing male dogs can pee on it.
Male men would probably like to do the same. But convention dictates that they can only eye it and ask questions.
What happened to your tree?’ asks one.
His female companion, who has walked on ahead, turns and sighs.
‘It’s fallen down,’ I say, enjoying rewarding a dumb question with a dumb answer.
The man brightens, as if I’ve said something interesting. He is wearing a cloth hat that begs for corks. He continues to hover.
‘It blew down, actually,’ I offer.
The woman frowns. She is probably wrestling with her impatience. ‘Why does he always have to TALK to people? Has he forgotten it’s Sunday and Tesco’s shuts at four?’
But the man goes on gazing at the fallen tree. It exerts a hold on him. The woman stands rooted where she stopped. To move back would be to condone his dawdling; to move on would be rude. Besides, her rationalisations will be kicking in now. ’I suppose it’s his walk too. And his day off. He’s got some right to do what he likes.’
I have to admit I’m on her side. If there were sides, that is. So I offer no further information. It might be grist to his mill and they might never get their pork chops and spuds. Also, I’m busting to get on with erecting my pea and bean tower. But I stand there smiling, because what kind of surly cuss can’t stop for a word with a well meaning passer-by?
The three of us stand on, held in place by invisible force fields.
Then she glances at her watch and gives a little sigh. It’s a move I admire. She has made herself clear without stooping to harangue him in public.
The man nods, resigned, and steps back from the fence.
‘A good bushman,’ he says. ‘That’s what you need. He’d have that cut up into logs in no time.’
And they are gone.
For a few seconds, I miss them. Then thoughts of the peas and beans of the future fill my consciousness, and I am back where I belong: in the security of my vegetable fantasy world.
Of course, in the real world I still need a bushman. But one must make the best of things, and things in my case are an 88-year old Dad with a heart problem and gout, and a partner who is permanently exhausted, especially when I mention the allotment.
When Dad told the Council about the fallen tree, I hoped they might send a bushman, who might whittle the trunk into wooden animals, or a flute that he would play a tune on, before spiriting the rest away. But they didn’t. Someone came and cut a few twigs off, then wrote to say the tree had been ‘made safe’.
Hmph. Dreams 0, reality 1.
The only consolation is to spend money. In a matter of minutes I rack up £100 in seeds and trees on line, feeling justified because it’s not as selfish as buying clothes and shoes.
When the trees, two pear (Humbug and Louise Bonne of Jersey) and one apple (Charles Ross), arrive through the post, I’m shocked by the unbearable lightness of the box.
I’ve planted things that looked like sticks before, and had to dig them up again a year later. They were supposed to be raspberry canes, but sprouted neither leaves nor roots, let alone raspberries. But they didn’t cost as much as these trees.
I plant the trees anyway. They look unbelievably flimsy compared to the solid, immovable bulk that is the wych elm. It’s hard to believe they’re the same species.
But they do look alive. Which is sometimes more than I can say for my two beloved bushed men.