An excerpt from my blog about the highs and lows of sharing an allotment with my Dad…

I am away for a night. When I leave, there are two trees on the allotment. When I come back, there are one and a half. It’s no surprise.

Allotment tree

One and a half trees

Last week, in every gap in conversation (and even when there wasn’t one) Dad said, ‘That ash has got to come down. Don’t you think?’

At home I get the full story.

Dad, after speaking to the Parish Councillor in charge of  allotments, felled the tree with a small handsaw, then cut it into short lengths unaided.

I glare at Mr MS. ‘I offered to help!’ he cries. ‘I was worried about his heart! But he pretended he couldn’t hear.’

It’s true that Dad’s hearing aid – bending his ears forwards with his cupped hands – doesn’t always work. And his work ethic is phenomenal. When I was single, he insisted on installing my new kitchen (not the distressed pine one I liked but the oak one he liked) in one weekend. He worked grim faced while Mum and I stood by anxiously, unable to help but unable to go and do anything else either. ‘Oh dear,’ my Mum said when they left. ‘And it was meant to be a NICE weekend.’

At the allotment a few days later, I’m shocked to see a cardboard sign on the second tree. DO NOT CUT DOWN THIS TREE! In smaller writing it says The Other Tree Shouldn’t Have Been Cut Down Either!

I’m both offended and  mortified. Those exclamation marks! Those capital letters! But the butchered tree does look awful. Dad has lopped it off at chest height, which makes it look more cut-down that if he’d taken it off at ground level. It looks like an unpardonable allotment crime.

I stare at the notice some more. Who has put it there? The writing’s neat; the  date speaks of officialdom. But it’s unsigned, and the anonymity is unsettling.

I walk home slowly, the gardening idyll souring with every step. I imagine a future of frosty looks, trashed cabbages, a dead rabbit hung from the (remaining) tree, allotment vigilantes armed with hoes standing over us until we pack up our B&Q bargain fork and trowel set and go.

‘Who wrote it?’ I beg Mr MS. ‘Who, who, who?’

‘I dunno,’ he says. ‘What’s for tea?’

The sign turns out to be from the Council: the next morning Dad gets a letter. It’s polite, focusing on the importance of conservation. He writes an equally civil letter back explaining that he is ‘very deaf’ and must have misheard the Councillor when he said the tree should stay.

I’m profoundly relieved.  I can go back to smiling and saying good morning to everyone at the allotments without fear of turned backs and dark mutterings.

And our plot looks better with just the one tree. We have shade, but we also have sun. When the other tree falls down of its own accord (honest guv) a few months later, I email the Council immediately to explain.

In the meantime as a joke, I consider moving their notice to the stump of the tree that has been cut down.

Dad warns against it. ‘We don’t want to get anyone’s backs up, do we?’ he says.