THIS last week, I have mostly being cheating death. Not once, but twice.
Not a very exciting kind of death that makes the news if it happens. When I lived in Londonshire, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I used to read The Times. Not because I’m posh or enjoyed wrestling with newspaper pages the size of bedsheets, but because I loved reading the weird and wonderful wee News In Brief snippets down the side of the pages, and the obituaries.
It was here that I learned of the man who died after falling off the wooden bicycle he had made (obituary), and how his grieving widow had spoken out after unkind and, she said, untrue allegations circulated that the bicycle had woodworm (News In Brief).
And not the oddball type of death meted out in movies, the vampire ‘death by stereo’ from The Lost Boys or Vizzini’s poisoning in The Princess Bride.
My brush with death was far more pedestrian, literally, as I was walking about in the garden at the time. The gales of last week which reached their peak early morning, hit Shoogly Towers hard. A bench upturned, a rose arch fell and the bird table blew over.
I know, I know, it’s hardly comparable to the damage done by the Great Storm of 1987. To set the scene, we have a lot of trees. Although we are only in about an acre, I had to count the trees for the estate agent’s particulars, and stopped at 250 decent-sized ones. That’s medium to very large, specimen trees, and not counting large shrubs and bushes. We have all sizes from hawthorn to Scots pine, and everything in between – larch, birch, beech, oak, Douglas fir, yew, and ash... lots of trees.
As the storm still gusted, I took the Young Master and Young Mistress out to the school bus and then came back up the drive to have a word with Gamford about the twigs strewn across the road by our swaying trees, put on my wellies and stepped back outside to see that a fairly large rowan tree had decided to lie down across the drive.
‘Oh, cripes’, I exclaimed, or words similar to that. It had, however, had the good grace to fall short of the workshop and the whirlygig, and miss a holly bush and a rather nice conifer, but had it happened a few minutes earlier it might have redesigned me.
As part of the clean-up, I then went into the chook run to find all the chooks miserably sheltering behind the coops, not daring to venture out for fear of being blown into next week, and their water drinkers full of leaves and debris.
Not long after this I noticed another tree had gone, part of a beech tree which was struck by lightning a few years back and had to have its damaged top removed. If it had fallen forwards and to the left, it would have flattened both the chook shed and the turkey shed, and flattened some of the occupants sheltering there. If it had fallen ever so slightly backwards, it would have flattened the fence for about 30 feet or so. Perhaps more worryingly (for me), had it fallen straight forwards, I would have been squashed, like Victor Mature under the temple pillars.
But, like the rowan, it fell most conveniently, right along the fence line, its one large branch arching over the fence and stretching out over the field behind, barely pressing on the wire. Phew.
And, even better, as any smallholder with a chainsaw knows, fallen trees are just logs-in-waiting.