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.

Free wood!!!

32 thoughts on “The tree leans.

  1. Lisa says:

    Rule #1: No poofters!

    As an ex-English professor I suppose I should be quoting Chaucer instead of Monty Python, but really this seems to be the territory of the latter, or “terroir” to be all nancy boy about it. Poor you. And poor wall.

  2. Jezebel says:

    You hope you bagged yourself some free bricks too.

  3. Nancy Boy? Make yourself look more many by stuffing your mobile phone down [the FRONT of] your trousers.

    Oh, sorry. Girl’s phone. Girl’s phone!

  4. JonnyB says:

    It is good that you are the first commenter Lisa. As an ex-English professor you raise the tone of all the commenters. How I wish we had more upmarket people. I try to target the material, but to no avail.

    No offence, everybody else. But do try to aspire.

  5. “Nancy Boy”? “Nancy Boy”??? Hah! You should be so lucky, Jonny. You have a lot of work to do before you dare aspire to that august title. The term “Nancy Boy” implies a slim build and a certain delicacy in movement and character, neither of which, I’m afraid, apply to you.

    On the other hand, “Pudgy Gap-Clad Saddo Layabout With Muscles Like Knotted Spaghetti” is a bit of a mouthful. Shall we compromise on “Weeble Boy”?

  6. Pat says:

    How many brain cells have you and Short Tony ST between you? Was this not an occasion to muster the rest of the village layabouts? You’re both as bad as each other and truly deserve such idiots as neighbours. It’s the wives my heart bleeds for.

  7. brian says:

    Lisa. What nationality are you now?

  8. MB says:

    If we’re quoting Monty Python, is it too obvious to go with:

    “I never wanted to be a Barber anyway, I wanted to be a Lumberjack!”

  9. nuttycow says:

    Free wood! Hoorah!

  10. Jezebel says:

    You’re right. My English is terrible. I meant to say ‘I hope you bagged yourself some free bricks too.’

    I suddenly feel like I’m back at school.

  11. sablonneuse says:

    If I come and let a tree fall on Short Tony’s outbuilding would he offer me some free wood as well?

  12. spazmo says:

    So you changed your clothes, yanked some rope, and got some wood?

    Any self-respecting Nancy would tell you that’s completely the wrong order of doing things.

    However, you do get points for thinking about fine-arts photography whilst partaking in a manly endeavor.

  13. clarissa says:

    Is Short Tony your best friend?

  14. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    Why the obsession with Tony giving you some timber? Do you have trouble getting wood on your own?

    Mind you, it doesn’t grow on trees.

  15. NAGA - Shaken, Not Stirred says:


    Before it fell on Gym?

  16. Ziv Catbee says:

    Do you have snow over there At All? It sounds like you live in permanent summer! Tell us the secret!

  17. brian says:

    What’s snow?

  18. GingerBollox says:

    Damn, you turn away for two minutes and all the “Short Tony gives JB some good wood” jokes have gone. At least all the chopper gags are left.

  19. Gimli says:

    “…covered in…..and stuff where I have done DIY in them”.

    There must be a joke in there somewhere.

  20. Ziv Catbee says:

    Brian: Well, I always wondered how chopping wood in snow would be like without turning into a giant snow fight.

  21. Megan says:

    So I’m the only one disproportionately saddened that no one was injured in a non-fatal but humorous way? No, you all had to rush in with the wood jokes… showing you belong to the WWCD club (What Would Chaucer Do?)

  22. Richard says:

    Practise makes perfect, Jonny. Next time you’ll pull Short Tony’s wood the right way.

  23. tillylil says:

    Did the LTLP give you another of her ‘looks’ at your ineptitude?

    Still apple wood is great for wood turning so perhaps there will be a new village craft club starting soon!

  24. Lisa says:

    Er, um, I did say ex-English prof and the word “literature” was missing. I have no desire to raise tone or anything else, no siree, bob. I am merely here to be amused, and that I am heartily indeed.

    *Bobs head, backs out of door.*

  25. guyana gyal says:

    Did you manage to build that secret wardrobe-door to the secret room? You can now make it with the free wood.

  26. Jayne says:

    *looks at today’s Observer*

    Ooooh, you’re famous! Thank goodness you’re not Chris Evans or Johnny Vaughn though (you’re not are you?)

  27. JonnyB says:


    I’d have written something good this weekend if I’d have known, rather than help Len the Fish construct a chicken run, before racing off to get to the studio on time.

  28. Jayne says:

    Actually, I note that you’re not just famous – you’re POWERFUL. One of the 50 most powerful blogs in the world. Yes indeedy. No wonder you can now get a kebab delivered to your village!

  29. Pat says:

    And you get a mention in ‘Petite Anglaise.’ But then she is on your sidebar.

  30. ganching says:

    It gave me quite a turn when I was reading the Observer in bed last night and realised that you were one of the 50 most powerful bloggers in the world. although when you think about it you do have a lot in common with Arianna Huffington.

  31. JonnyB says:

    Pat – ah… yes… I haven’t written about that yet. It was very weird to read. Hope you enjoyed the book? I thought it was dynamite.

    Ganching – she is rubbish at bowls though.

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