Monday, December 22, 2014

Fallen Trees I Have Known

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of "Fallen Trees I have known"

Mercifully abridged.

Aspen and ash this week as it didn't seem very festive to be subjecting Christmas trees to the shock and awe of my big orange saw and a denouement by the medium of fire.

Next week the arboreal holy trinity of oak, beech and willow, don't miss it!

Coming soon - Fallen Trees I have known TV

A thirty minute feature on a tree that has fallen over, with accompanying sound track by Keith Helt who always gets a little down when the days draw in and plays that tune that accompanied the Hamlet ads back in the day, over and over ad nauseam,

You could be forgiven for thinking that I have gone a little chainsaw crazy, no that doesn't sound right and wasn't that phrase used in the promotional blurb for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

What I am clumsily trying to say is that I will be looking forward to a break from dealing with chuffin trees that have fallen over.

The aspen and the ash were of a substantial size and much of the wood has been retained. They lined a ride that accommodates three guns on a shoot day and now it is opened up a little, should provide a wider field of fire. The oak and the beech that I must attend to in the New Year are enormous trees, and will provide a couple of winters' wood. The oak is particularly sad loss, an irregularly shaped leviathan it had three huge boughs that I would walk under regularly to feed the pheasants and was the kind of tree that a royalist king would choose to hide out in.

The ground's a bit sticky and charging around with a chainsaw or feeding fires cuts the surface up a tad, and much of the wood is a muddy morass but spring will heal all, gaps will be replanted with ash oak and beech and the pheasant pen will rise from the ashes.

Crack willow has had a high old time of it, brim full of schadenfreude at the plight of its near neighbour's, its time will come, and will duly be attended to by my terrific tangerine wood cutting machine.

Much of the field maple that fell on our home on Valentine's day has been burnt and its ashes scattered on the vegetable garden, we have a few months of burning balsam poplar and aspen before returning to another field maple. We seem to have a become a little log obsessed in recent months and a colleague of the woods has a magic moisture meter which can be a little distracting as it is pushed into various pieces of timber about the place. Results have been tabulated, and graphs produced, that demonstrate that our excellent field maple has a moisture content of 22%, some crack willow pushes 40%, a Christmas tree that lay prone for ten months is mostly water, our kitchen table recorded 10% while my own leg is void of moisture, completely withered, and the next item on the list for lopping off.

Enough about logs,

As predicted, ditches and drains have been attended to in fear of a winter like the last one, some done well, others driven at with diggers. It's an important annual job, a forgotten art, and boy does it show.

Of an evening, when the spirit of Terpsichire has failed to pay us a visit, the lady who sleeps on the left and myself like to take in the odd cookery show. Don't go much on Jamie and half an hour of Delia telling all how to cook an egg was perhaps not the best value for my licence fee. Mary Berry is a given, Gino's series in Italy was inspiring, and the Hairy Bikers are pretty good, if an updated version of Two Fat ladies, which was also very watchable, and one of whom used to haunt this place on a regular basis, but Keith Floyd remains a favourite.

Currently we are held rapt by the final of Masterchef - the professionals, and this week's final saw the contestants flown out to San Sebastian to cook in one of the top rated restaurants in the world. San Sebastian has become a mecca for foodies. We visited around ten years ago while camping and fishing a nine hundred acre lake near Biarritz. It's a beautiful place with back to back beaches and a bunch of locals who fish hard off the bridge over the river when the tide is on the turn. I forget where we took lunch, but I do remember it being very good, and it was not the restaurant visited by the finalists which was half way up the hill and akin to cooking with Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. It was Sciencey stuff with much ambiguity over what was to be eaten and what was not. One dish featured a fork made from sugar, and at some point I am sure someone had tried to take a bite out of the table as there are appeared to be teeth marks in one corner. A peckish Madam swiftly raised the website and was on the cusp of booking a trip for the twenty course taster affair at Easter, before the price per head set her reaching for the delete key.

School is done for 2014 and as ever Madam returned laden with gifts from generous pupils. Thirty five years ago the bond between pupil and teacher was not so strong and nobody gave gifts, if they had they would have been eyed suspicously and held at arms length. With the climate of fear that pervaded in some classrooms thankfully long gone a friendlier relationship exists, and Madam will have spent much of the weeks preceding Christmas doing spelling tests with words like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Monty Bojangles Cocoa dusted truffles. Analysis of the hoard takes several hours and each gift is logged, and in the manner of marking, initial reactions noted,

Could do better,

Overwhelmed/underwhelmed,

See Me - Sauvignon Blanc is not red!

Child A and Child B have returned, having already conducted the opening skirmishes of Christmas food consumption. Child B's repast for a table of eight consisted of two nine pound turkeys, eight roast potatoes per head, three full size sausages each with a thick slice of back bacon wrapped around each one, a bucket of mulled wine and cider, many yule logs for pud, a selection of eight cheeses accompanied by a litre of port, before repairing to the tables and fleshpots of Cardiff for an evenings entertainment. High living for student, and we hold high hopes for the quality of Christmas gifts if these are the standard he is now setting himself. Child A and her pals did their perrennial £5 Iceland Christmas, we have no photos but imagine it was something like the adverts sans Kerry Katona.

With the two of them home again this year's Christmas message is don't touch the posh pork pie at the back of the fridge until the rest of the family have turned up, and if you read the label it says "extra large" and not "bite size" We have a hectic forty eight hours with family staying and visiting on both days, which is always fun, and then I'm going to chase some roach at the weekend by way of reflection, and contemplation particularly on Christmas's past and the madness that used to ensue in our house when we were growing up, a huge amount of fun with the principle protagonist my aged aunt, daft uncle and dad who would done the beards, hats and elf costumes for an afternoon of Christmas shenanigans that several of my mates would turn up to take in.

I also have a photo of the same aunt and uncle keeping wicket and standing at first slip as Child B set out on his cricket odyssey in the back garden, the combined age of the close in fielders nudged 165, which was quite remarkable considering there was only the one slip. Uncle Stan drew stumps a few years back but Aunty Joyce remains, but sadly no longer keeping wicket, dressing up as Father Christmas or dropping a burning Christmas pudding onto the carpet following a particlarly raucous welcome to the room. She's well into her nineties now, but flat out and full of morphine in a hospital in Yorkshire, which doesn't seem quite right for one of the best Father Christmases there can ever have been.


Thank you for all of the kind emails throughout 2014 and for reading this rubbish that I write,

Merry Christmas

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