Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Cutting back

They’re supposed to be cutting down trees today at the bottom of our garden. Well, technically that bit’s not our garden. Our house and the others in the row were originally “tied” to one of the local mills, as were a lot of houses around here. They were built by the mill owners to provide accommodation for the workers. Ours was probably for one of the overseers as it’s quite roomy. Our previous house, smaller, was also a “tied” cottage, almost certainly for a less important worker. One of the older residents of that little community told us that her mother remembered when the cottages were lived in by the workers. The mill owners would do inspections; if the house was messy, the net curtains unwashed and the doorsteps not properly maintained with “step-stone” or “donkey stone”, then the tenant risked a fine or even being thrown out. And they complain about the nanny state nowadays! 

 (Donkey stone was a yellowish stone that was rubbed on the step to give a decorative finish. Here is a link to some information about it and here is a picture of a plaque commemorating the last place to produce it.)

Anyway, back to the gardens. Most if these “tied” houses had a common garden area behind them where washing could be hung out to dry and so on. Ours also has a piece of land to the side of the house. When we bought our house, some 25 or more years ago, we opted to have a part of the garden marked on the deeds as officially ours, rather than having shared ownership with the house next door. In that way, if we chose to build a garage at the side of the house we wouldn’t need to worry about permission from the neighbours. This didn’t stop us regarding the whole garden area as “ours”. We agreed not to put a fence up so that we and the neighbours could benefit from keep having a good sized open area. From the start the children played in the whole garden, building dens out of boxes and packing cases on the day we moved in. Yes, back then it was warm and dry enough in early April for the children to do such things! 

Because of that decision there is an invisible line down the middle of the back garden. And so when someone from the industrial complex (originally the mill) beyond our garden came to complain that trees were knocking his wall down, we were able to say that it was not our responsibility and we sent him to the landlord of the house next door. We did, however, express our reluctance to see the trees go. The tenants next door agree; those trees quite effectively hide the industrial complex, especially when they are in full leaf. It will all look a bit more bleak without them. Our oldest grandchild will probably refuse to visit for some time when the trees come down. She doesn’t like change and was horrified when I painted the front door, formerly black and white, a fine shade of royal blue. And when we had “Joel’s tree” (a Christmas tree that our son and I planted in the garden and which grew and grew and grew until it was taking over everything) cut down she wouldn’t speak to us for ages. 

The trees at the bottom of the garden, however, have not as yet been attacked. Its 2.30 pm and no woodcutters have arrived. We were informed that were coming today and if they don’t come soon there really won’t be time to get to work before the end of the day. Perhaps they don’t like the weather. It has been wild and woolly, as they say. (Quite who says that, I’m not sure!) Wind and rain has been assaulting us since quite early in the morning. My umbrella may never be the same again after a visit to the market in Uppermill where it was blown inside out at least five times! (Yesterday it snowed in the late afternoon and briefly the place looked like a Christmas card but today we are back to normal.) 

So I can only assume that tree surgeons, aka woodcutters, don’t work in wet and windy weather! Watch this space!

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