Tuesday, 1 March 2016

up in the air


Jim arrived with a great bag of climbing gear on the back of his bike. "I thought I'd do that willow," he said. "And you could take some pictures."

Jim has an informal arrangement with the local canal people; he takes out trees that represent a potential problem or danger to the canal and towpath, and their users. It saves them admin and bother - the canal volunteers can't move without a risk assessment and piles of hi-vis safety gear - and he gets firewood. I sometimes help, too, because I like doing that sort of thing. The willow was a pro bono job because the timber is pretty useless for burning, and not much use for anything else, unless you want to make a cricket bat.

"I said five years ago I'm getting too old for going up trees" said Jim. He's three years younger than me, but I didn't mention that. My younger self would have thought it surprising that people pushing towards 60 years old should be scrambling around in trees. But then my younger self was ageist.

He clambered into the harness and leg spikes, and we went to the willow tree whose bough was overhanging the towpath. Space's boat was underneath it. "He's a late riser, is Space" said Jim, knocking on the boat's roof.

Space emerged, blinking in the noontime light. "I'm moving in a few hours," he said. "You can do it then."

"Sorry, Space, got to do it now" said Jim. "We won't even touch your boat."

"If you do I shall be very annoyed," said Space, retreating into the dark fug of his boat.

Jim scrambled up through the ivy, dislodging a squirrel's drey that showered twigs down on him and looking more like the Green Man with every move. Having attached a rope high on the trunk, he swung down onto the limb that was sticking out over the canal, and as he lopped off sections of it, I swung them down to the ground. Space and his boat remained unsullied.

And then we had a glass of whisky and I drew Jim's picture.