Arnold is no longer simply 'the wonderful Arnold' but 'the wonderful, eagle-eyed Arnold'. Amongst all the leafless trees around, he spotted an oak that was dead, dangerously dead. Of course, sod's law – la loi de l'emmerdement maximum' – dictated that this particular tree had grown on the bank of the Black Pond in the Woods, the roadside bank. The road is a departmental one with heavy, fast traffic at breakfast, lunch and dinner times.
The metre or so wide roadside bank of the Black Pond is mostly ditch with some poor clay either side and it drops steeply towards the water. It is not the most stable of banks. Oh, and there is sheep fencing in the middle, to keep the sheep in and mushroom thieves out.
The ditch is cleared twice yearly by the departement d'equipement's services. A tractor equipped with bucket for digging out the accumulated rubbish and armed with a brasher for cutting back scrub growth of all kinds, proceeds slowly along. It is shadowed by a largish truck with flashing lights announcing debroussaillage driven by a half asleep man in yellow visibility garments. It is the kind of combination one always meets just on a right hand bend....We remind ourselves we are deeply grateful for the work for, as far as we know, the Black Pond is mostly filled by rain from the road side ditches. (It might have a spring, we are not sure.)
Of course the dead tree is leaning slightly and, of course, it is our responsabilité civile to make sure it does not fall onto the road, or onto any cars using the road. So it has to be dealt with quite soon.
Fortunately Arnold had pointed out the dead tree to me just as the gardener who had dealt with the dead elm and the dying willow was back to deal with the stumps. So JP and I, with M. Bernard went to look at the problem from the woodside where the Black Pond has a wide bank with a number of trees, created when it was last dredged. The dead tree is about sixteen or so metres high. In order to bring it down safely a large number of its branches will first have to be cut off. This means some agile person, plus chain saw, will have to shin up the tree. Then a rope will have to be attached to the tree and to a heavy tractor on the ground to make sure the tree falls in the right direction - not on the road.
M. Bernard started talking about light weight carp fishing boats, to get to the tree, then making the tree fall across the Black Pond and then pulling it onto the larger woodside bank with his Chrysler camping car. Only that bank is about three metres higher than the surrounding land. My eyes closed and I began to think, no, no and no. The last person to take a boat into the Black Pond was Harry when the intake valve of the irrigation system had got blocked (tadpoles). There is no jetty to reach the water in the Black Pond, the depth of the mud is horrendous. No, no and no. We need a tree doctor, not a gardener. It needs to be done on the roadside, with flashing red triangles and impressive trucks to guide its fall. The cost will be quite another matter.