Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Le Dernier Mot - articles by Samantha David


DERNIER MOT - Tree Hugging 

      I loved my plane tree.  It towered above the house providing shade for the terrace, the garden, the riverbank, and the road into Moisson.  Two hundred years old, it was hardy enough to withstand the hottest summer without losing its leaves.  In the wind the whole tree rustled and whispered; in the rain, it seemed to sing and dance.  Even snow was no more than glamorous jewellery for my tree.

      Tragically though, our neighbours didn't feel the same way.  To them it was merely a giant threat to their television aerial.  They complained that the leaves shut out the sun in the summer, blocked their guttering in the autumn and that even in the winter, the poor thing restricted their view.  In short, they thoroughly disliked my tree and wanted it chopped down.

      Quel outrage!  At the mere hint of an axe, my tree-hugger tendencies exploded like a teenager's hormones.  (I've always secretly wanted to live in a tree house and sleep in a feather and moss nest.) 

      "I'll fling myself in front of the bulldozers!" I declared.

      "They'll mistake you for a fallen branch, Mum!"

      "Not if I wear my pink jumper!"

      "I hardly think a bulldozer will be required," said the SP.  "Behave yourself!  Sooner or later it will have to be cut back, so I've arranged for it to be pollarded.  Get those big branches lopped off."

      There was no moving him.  "I'm not paying to have someone else's roof repaired just because you're in love with a biological specimen," he said firmly.

      A team of guys arrived in the early morning mist and stood about comparing their chainsaws while I fluttered around the tree.

      "You won't kill it, will you?  You won't hurt my rose bush?  You won't walk all over my raspberries?"

      There's nothing less effective than a female in the face of a posse of men, particularly when armed with chainsaws and ropes. 

      "Ha ha, bouges-toi, ma fille!" ordered the biggest one.

      "Okay!  Let's chop!" said another.  "Get the ropes!"

      There was obviously no stopping them.  Unable to watch, I went off with Bella to raid the chocolate stash.

      It took three days of fearsome sawing and hacking.  The phone lines got knocked down, the stones from the bridge got broken, the raspberries disappeared under a series of heavy boots, the tree shuddered under the impact of blades, and then it was over.

      The road, the garden and the terrace were covered in sawdust as thick and white as snow.  The branches were neatly cut and stacked into the form of a woodpile, and the tree hardly existed any more.

      There was just the trunk.

      "We cut it to the bone!" announced my neighbour with belly-rubbing satisfaction.  "Now that's cleaned up, I won't have to sweep leaves away from my front door next year!"

      Indeed?  I've been out there at midnight anointing my darling with Rescue Remedy and pouring fertilizer on his roots.  I tell you, by next year my tree will be back in business, busily growing back to the way it was before.  Okay, it'll be more tame lollipop than wild jungle vegetation, but it'll be back.

      And next autumn the chestnuts, the beeches, the oaks and the countless abandoned fruit trees which cover the hills all around Moisson will be positively hurling their leaves down in front of my neighbour's door.  He'll have more leaves on his doorstep than he's ever seen in his life!

      I know because my poor tree told me so last night when I gave him a good night hug.   






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