Wright's Aerials
The Happy Moron  

I was high up in a tree, standing in a fork but also secure in a safety harness. It's always best to be above the branch that you are cutting through. Although I felt perfectly safe and I was doing everything by the book, I was aware of the potential danger. The thing is, when the chainsaw rips through a big branch the situation has an element of unpredictability. The wood you're cutting off can weigh as much as a car and no matter how careful you are it might not fall exactly as you plan. Likewise, the tree that you're standing on can react in unexpected ways to the sudden removal of the burden. So the instant when the branch starts to go is a moment to savour, if you like excitement. As you cut you know that you will soon reach this moment of no return, and once it has passed various urgent issues will arise during the next few fractions of a second. If the branch is falling badly a judicial second cut made very rapidly can alleviate the situation. On the other hand if the branch hits another one the end can seesaw up and knock you off your perch, so self-preservation is a priority. When the branch finally parts from the stump – half a second after it starts to go but about a year in perceived time – it's absolutely fascinating to see where it will land, and how it will get there, and what damage it will do on the way. At the same time the tree reacts to the shedding of burden and leaps up, so you must cling on. Any dead branches overhead will probably fall at this point, and they can be very large and heavy.

Now I'd like to backtrack to the moment when the branch starts to fall. Of course, the area has been cleared, but you can't help glancing down. The expression 'to my horror' is overused, but anyway, to my horror – to my extreme horror – I saw Charlie sitting on the grass looking up at me. Charlie is a 14-year-old cat. He is black and white. He was never very intelligent, but after he was run over six years ago he became even more stupid. Something happened to him in that accident that he never got over. They say cats don't have a sense of humour, but actually the other cats make fun of Charlie. The only thing is, he's the nicest cat we've ever had. If ever you're ill Charlie will come and curl up and watch daytime television with you. He's totally non-aggressive towards humans, which is a rare thing in a cat. I'm a dog person myself, but I have to say I do rather like Charlie. He's a bit of a hunter, and this seems quite out of character, but sometimes he brings a rabbit home bigger than himself and leaves it on the kitchen floor, in a very casual throw-away manner, as if to say "It's nothing."

The large and heavy sycamore branch, laden with leaves and sap, started it's descent towards Charlie. Far below me Charlie was a little black and white island in the grass, looking uncomprehendingly upwards. Of course, I shouted. "Charlie, geddoutofit!" He didn't move. He sat perfectly still. The branch hurtled down. Where I'd lopped it the diameter was about 350mm. There were a lot of smaller branches attached, and a mass of leaves and twigs. Suddenly the tree jerked back. I clung on. The chainsaw hung unattended from my wrist, the chain safely still. "Charlie!" I yelled so loud it hurt. I saw the green mass rush towards him, then he disappeared amongst the leaves. Up in the tree I felt the thud as the main branch hit the earth. I just stood there for a while, then I set off down the tree.

It's a horrible feeling when you know you're going to find something terrible. It's hard to go on. Instinct is to turn away. Entering a building where you know there's likely to be a solitary death is difficult. It was that sort of feeling. I peered amongst the leaves. Charlie sat on the grass, exactly as I'd last seen him, except that now he was in shade. He looked at me with only slight interest, because out in the garden it was unlikely that I'd be carrying a bottle of milk and a bowl. I actually felt faint at that moment. Charlie seemed unmoved. He blinked nonchalantly. Afterwards it occurred to me that I had a tale that I thought worth telling, but to Charlie it had been a pretty normal day.

See the happy moron
He doesn't give a damn
I wish I were a moron
My God perhaps I am!

Print this page © 2003-2012, Wrights Aerials Add to Favorites