I rest against the garden wall, looking with anxiety at the mass of the trunk. It is amazing how a tiny little apple tree can suddenly appear so solid. I scratch my head and walk thoughtfully away from it into the front garden, clutching the rope in my hand.
As far as I can work it out, things can go one of two ways. Left to its own devices, the tree will fall backwards on to the outbuilding. Whereas if I pull on the rope with all my might, the tree will fall directly towards me into the safe expanse of Short Tony’s front garden. With luck, I will be able to leap out of the way.
“Are you ready?” asks Short Tony.
“What exact definition of the word ‘ready’ do you…” I begin, but my words are drowned out by the chainsaw. He starts cutting a wedge shape into the trunk. This, I reason, should help the tree fall towards me and not backwards towards the building.
I take the strain on the rope.
I don’t know why it is. I am reasonably tall, and I have not had a shave, and I am wearing old clothes that are covered in paint and stuff from where I have done DIY in them, and I am taking the strain on a rope that is tied to a tree that is being felled by a man with a chainsaw. You would think that I would look a bit more rugged. As it is, I can’t help thinking that if a passing photography student captures the scene in order to display a large black-and-white print in a pseudy photography gallery, he may well be tempted to caption it: ‘Nancy Boy Holding A Rope (2008)’.
I do not seem to be able to get a proper grip. My feet are not spaced correctly. The tree appears to be quite heavy. I strain hard. This is not good. The front lawn is all around me – all I need to do is to stop the tree falling backwards. I can feel its weight. Stop it going backwards! Stop it going backwards!
“Almost there,” warns Short Tony.
The chainsaw slices through. I give a huge pull on the rope. The tree falls almost perfectly sideways, taking the top off the wall and coming to rest in a cloud of twigs and masonry across the driveway.
There is a short silence.
“A lot of that cement was loose anyway,” Short Tony offers, tactfully.
“Ummmmm,” I reply in embarrassment.
“Anyway, do you want any more free wood?” he asks.