Today at the Public Tree Service I had to defend, before a higher court, a sycamore not wanted by its owner. It was a tree about which I had harboured doubts: was it truly worth defending, particularly when the judge was such a persnicket, causing the whole case to run over by weeks? Today we went to the look at the tree, after much talking about the tree. The neighbours came round to say how much they hated it, because they, or their friends, or some person they didn’t know, or all of the above, had slipped on the leaves, or seeds, or pigeon shit. But they brought their kid, a boy of about ten, and when he heard I was there to defend the tree he smiled at me. He liked the tree, he explained, he didn’t want it to be cut down at all. So I knew that I had made the right choice.
The persnicket insisted on viewing the tree from every window in the house. This only confirmed my decision: it was covered in moss and lichen, an ecosystem in its own right, standing unmolested for a hundred years. Meanwhile the house. Oh, the house. When I saw it I understood why the owner has campaigned so vigorously against the tree, this monstrous untamed thing in her garden. Never have I seen such a sterile house. All greys, spotlessly clean, much cared for by a housekeeper. It didn’t even look lived in. Everything, I mean everything, was packed away. Everything was clean and grey and white. If that is your idea of heaven, a tree is your idea of hell.
As for the persnicket, she must be objective. What a very strange notion, when one considers sterility versus lichen.