The Oak Tree
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the time you read this, the Oak tree will have gone. Save for an ivy- covered stump which, I
think, will look good as a ‘feature’ on a lawn which has yet to be laid, in a
garden which has yet to be created.
shall be sorry to lose it, but the tree chap, who came round at my request last
month, said it was diseased. Unsafe,
too, as dead branches could fall and injure someone. Knowing that dead branches had already
fallen, I needed no convincing. There
was also the possibility that the wind might carry spores of the disease into
can be done to restore life. So
tomorrow the lads will arrive with their hard hats and chainsaws, their ropes
and tackle, and their expertise. They’ll also bring the 'gallopa-gallopa' machine that chews up small
branches and spits out sawdust.
will be a day of noise and destruction. And the end of the day will bring about the end of the Oak.
give you those details to justify my decision to have this tree removed,
because, you see, the children planted it. Or, rather, returned with their mother and me from a walk in the woods
with a handful of acorns which they put into tiny pots of earth and tended with
all the care a small child will lavish on something he or she doesn’t really
understand, but believing Mummy and Daddy when they promise something special
will happen. Something almost magic, or miraculous.
had three 'miracles' from that dozen or so acorns – three threadlike shoots
emerging from the damp mulch that small fingers and thumbs had put into three
pots and pressed carefully home.
the three, one was clearly the sturdiest. And that one shoot, nine inches tall and no thicker than a knitting
needle, was eventually planted in the middle of the lawn and tied loosely with
string to a real knitting needle for support. Covered, for protection, with a large terracotta pot (later, an upturned
dustbin), it was tended with great care by three little folk who had no idea
what they had started.
the Oak grew. As did the children. As did we. We acquired new neighbours when it was about ten years old. A young couple with a girl of about four and
a baby boy. Those children took
pleasure in the Oak, and in the garden, which was unkempt but filled with hens
and rabbits and ducks. And, for a while, a Canada Goose called Tetley
– but that’s another story.
the tree flourished, the lawn gave up the ghost. The garden went wild, and nothing grew in
the shade of the Oak’s spreading branches. But, when those branches were bare as Winter turned to Spring, we had
magnificent crocuses and primroses and daffodils. The tallest, sturdiest daffodils you could
ever wish for. Wordsworthian in their
golden trumpeting splendour.
children grew up and left home to create families of their own. In time, grandchildren appeared to clamber
into the lower branches of the tree, as their parents had done.
I was never much of a
gardener, and confess I turned my back on it completely a dozen years ago. As a result the brambles and the ivy took
over and stinging nettles rose to head height. I had to buy a machete and cut a path, more
or less where the original path had been, so I could get to the shed at the
bottom of the garden.
However, all through this
year I have worked steadily to make up for that neglect. A programme of 'slash and burn' has
decimated the brambles, the nettles and most of the ivy. The garden is now almost ready for a proper
gardener to come in and transform it.
The chap next door says he
will miss the Oak tree, as will his wife, but, the fact that it is over half a
century old is a reminder that time passes more quickly than one realises. So is the fact that the babe in arms, who
arrived next door with his parents, has, this week, moved into a house along
the avenue, with his wife and their baby.
That little tot, or,
indeed, my own great grandchildren, will never get to climb the Oak tree, which
saddens me a little.
But what will be, will be.
“Che sera sera”, according
to the family motto of the First Earl of Bedford (1485-1555).
Or Doris Day, whichever
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