After the hedge, the next major item on my gardening to-do list was the ailing eucalyptus in the front garden. Slightly taller than the house, and not quite 3m away from it, the top third or so had been killed off by hard frosts over the last few years. Even aside from the fact that it kept most of the light out of the front of the house and provided a handy perch (right outside the bedroom window) for very loud birds at ungodly hours of the morning, it pretty definitely needed to come down. This, however, was definitely a job for the professionals* we decided, and resigned ourselves to having to part with a substantial amount of money to have it removed.
Then, unexpectedly, a man knocked on the door and said he had had a cancellation round the corner, and, since he was in the area and at a loose end, would we like to employ him to take it down for us if he gave us a really good price and got rid of the resulting timber. Rather inconveniently he arrived at the front door at exactly the same time as P's friend D, his mum, and his two little sisters arrived at the back, but the price was good enough that it seemed worth going ahead in spite of having a house full of guests, so off he went to get his equipment.
|P and D gazing in wonderment at a man, halfway up a tree, chatting on the phone.|
His equipment, it turned out, consisted of a wobbly ladder, a bijou chainsaw-ette, a length of blue nylon rope, and a sullen, chain-smoking sidekick in sunglasses. It soon became apparent that this was very much the "Eddie Grundy" school of garden landscaping: no safety ropes, no eye protection, no chainsaw-proof trousers, not even any gloves (he pulled his jumper down over his hands when he needed to pull on the rope!).** With us all watching from an upstairs window, he propped the ladder against the tree and wobbling precariously at the top of it (pausing only to chat on his mobile from time to time), hacked lumps off the tree with the chainsaw while his friend tugged on the rope to make sure they landed more-or-less in the right place. Meanwhile, in the relative safety of R's bedroom, five small people oohed and aaahed and D's mum and I speculated on the likelihood of having to call an ambulance, or go searching for a severed limb or two, if the ladder slipped. I did briefly consider offering to hold the ladder for him, but then realised that if the ladder slipped it might well be me that lost a limb...
However, terrifying though it was to watch, the tree came down (as did another smaller one in the back garden) and no limbs were forfeited (though a bit of the ladder did drop off as it toppled over when the tree fell). And there's nothing like a man up a tree with a chainsaw to keep five under-4s entertained all morning.
* A tree-surgeon, not Bodie and Doyle.
** Though at least he didn't try to flog us a novelty concrete gnome.