We have a number of trees around our house. As well as being the lungs of the earth they provide food and shelter for a variety of living creatures but of course they have to be kept in check or they become overwhelming. A few years ago, in a moment of weakness, we responded to a flyer posted through our front door.
The trees had grown too tall to be easily managed by Barry, so we decided to have them cut. Barry duly contacted Mr S, who had posted his flyer some days before. I was out when Mr S called, but was pleased to hear that he would be returning the next day to start the work.
Came the day, came the man! Two men actually and one young lad. Mr S was short and round and his eyes worked independently of each other. Had I been there at the original meeting I would have advised looking for another operative. My initial concern that he would be climbing the trees was alleviated, though only briefly, when he indicated that The Lad would be doing the work. I say 'only briefly' because when I looked properly at The Lad, it was obvious he was Mr S's son, for his eyes had the same disconcerting tendency to gaze, chameleon-like, in different directions at the same time. Accompanying them was a short, tough-looking man who looked as though he might find pleasure in selling his own children. I've seen some hard faces in my time, but this one was as pickled hard as a conker. I grinned nervously at them, as is my wont in times of anxiety, and scuttled indoors to other pursuits.
I was upstairs when the noise began. The loudest, most brain-numbing chain saw in the history of chain saws produced a banshee wail that ripped through my head, inducing an instant headache. It was a very warm day and I had to choose between deafness and suffocation. I decided that breathing was superior to hearing and left the windows open. I looked out to see The Lad wearing trainers, without aid of harness, gauntlets, hard hat, goggles, standing among the tree tops, wildly wielding the screaming chain saw. Hurriedly, I phoned Barry, asking where we stood should The Lad have an accident. Laconically, he replied, 'Their problem.' Such a comfort to me, he is!
After a while, it became apparent that all was not well. Mr S and Hard Man were shouting at The Lad, who was lowering the saw on the end of its swinging cable. It seemed that no one was quite sure how to turn the thing off. Hard Man spent a considerable time on his mobile phone, threatening who knows what to whom . . . or maybe he was just organising the next job! Eventually, the saw was stopped, my headache disappeared and relative peace reigned . . . for a short while!
Perhaps the three of them had spent too long working with machines and were immune or even literally deafened to vocal nuances. Whatever, their conversation was conducted at a high decibel level so that I expected at any minute that they would come to blows, but no, they were just . . . talking!
A short while later, there was a ring at the door. I quietened the dogs, and opened the door to The Lad. I've lived in Berkshire for many years, but had never yet heard a delivery quite like his.
'Cooweeavedreecohdring?' he said.
I smiled politely and said, 'Sorry?'
'Cooweeavedreecohdring?' he repeated.
I grinned like a frightened chimpanzee and said, 'Ermm . . . ?' then, suddenly inspired, realised that he was asking for three cold drinks. Relieved that I had decoded the request, I sprinted into the kitchen, mixed a jugful of squash, threw in all the ice cubes I could find and took a tray out to the men, who were freely perspiring by now, as was I, though my sweat had more to do with nerves than anything else!
I kept them liberally supplied with drinks all day, and heaved a sigh of relief when they finally left, promising to return the next day to complete the job.
By three o'clock the following afternoon, I was beginning to think they weren't going to turn up. However, no money had changed hands, so I knew they must come back some time. In due course, I heard the saw and realised they had returned. I rushed out with drinks, averting my eyes from Mr S's impressive gut, over which, gentleman that he was, he quickly drew down his tee shirt. Hard Man was still looking fearsome, The Lad was still taking his life in his hands, and Mr Smith apologised for the lateness of their arrival.
'I forgot I had to go to court this morning,' he said. I felt the smile on my face transform into a grimace and hoped he hadn't noticed.
'Yes,' he went on, 'I thought I was going to get fined for cutting down this lady's tree. It had a preservation order on it, but she told me otherwise.'
Finally, the job was done, the trees were much shorter, most of the rubbish had been removed . . . just the odd branch here and there, and a few still trapped among the remaining limbs.
We had a lot more light in our house and it only took Barry and me a few hours to sort out the more obvious oversights.
The next day a lad came to the door. 'I see you've had your trees lopped, but they're a bit uneven. Would you like me to tidy them up for you?'
I declined, gracefully, I hope.
These days we hire professionals with generous insurance cover. The prevention of anxiety is worth the extra cost.