Sometimes, the depth of my own stupidity confounds and amazes me and it’s little compensation that on this occasion, Jack is equally guilty of being thick … or is it just astoundingly naïve?
Those who know me will be aware that I have long yearned for the pruning of the thirty foot avocado tree that dominates our garden shedding seeds that reach ankle depth every spring and creating a state of perpetual autumn and shade.
At the end of November 2010, a storm brought down a branch onto the roof of the house. The damage was negligible, just some broken roof tiles, but the warning was enough to convince me that it was time to take the threat of the tree seriously. So when, just before Christmas, a couple of guys who were cutting back trees on the golf course asked us if we would like them to tackle the avocado tree, we naturally jumped at the chance. I explained that we have a hungry wood burning stove and a rapidly diminishing wood supply and the guys said they would cut the wood into logs for me as part of the job.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when the presupuesto (estimate) for doing the job finally arrived. We felt it was a very fair price for the work involved and agreed that work could begin last Monday morning. Jack and I cleared all the breakables from the garden on Sunday, set the alarm clock for pre-light and waited for our team of arboriculturalists to arrive. Monday was a no-show, as was Tuesday and we feared that the endemic Tenerife work ethic of ‘I can’t be arsed’ had reared it’s ugly head to scupper us.
But on Wednesday, at the crack of 9am, our two valiant wood cutters arrived, armed to the teeth with ladders and chainsaws and began to peruse the job in hand. By 1.30pm, not a single branch had been cut and two more workers had arrived to join the discussions. By the time the chainsaw gang clocked off at around 6pm, we could already discern sunlight where there had been none before and a small pile of cuttings had begun to appear at the bottom of the garden where we’d cleared space for them.
The next morning the gang of what was now five workers arrived bright and early and the chainsaws began in earnest. Jack and I fought back the urge to stand and gawp as branches began to rain down just feet from the house. Instead we got on with our work. We were due to go south that afternoon to stay the night at the Hotel Jardín Tropical and complete a review for Tenerife Magazine. At the point we left, a good fifty percent of the tree had been cut, the garden was completely buried in cut branches and there were two piles of logs on the go, one at the back of the garden and another at the side.
We returned the following afternoon to find that the tree had been cut to the agreed height. Sunlight flooded the garden and the branches and debris had largely been removed leaving a whole mess of sawdust and leaves across the garden. Now returned to our original workforce of two, they laughed and chatted about the fact that we could now put a swimming pool on the lawn and a barbecue on the raised patio and that the house would now be considerably warmer in winter.
On the lawn – and this is the part where our inexplicable stupidity comes to the fore – were the same two piles of logs that had been there when we left.
The drastically pruned tree
We were tired and had just a two hour turnaround in which to catch up with some work before we were due to go back out to meet friends in Puerto. We could hear the clean up operation in full swing and stayed out of the way, until I noticed wheelbarrows full of logs being pushed down the garden path. On enquiring where they were going we got a long and desperate explanation about the job being bigger and more dangerous than at first anticipated and that extra workers had had to be drafted in, with promises of payment in wood being made.
We could see what an amazing job they’d done and that they had in fact used five people to do it so we agreed that they could take the pile of logs at the side as long as they gave us some more of them first. Amidst much huffing and puffing, they agreed and reluctantly sent some logs flying onto our pile at the back of the garden. Finally, the job was done and we were due to leave so we paid them in cash, along with a little bonus and a dozen bottles of beer for a job well done.
It wasn’t until we spoke to our neighbour on our way out and she told us that a lorry stacked high with logs had left from our garden the night before, that we realised what had happened.
Arriving back after dark on Friday, we had to wait for daylight before we could examine the garden properly. When we did, we found that our pile consisted mainly of cuts of wood that would struggle to keep a barbecue alive over a summer, hidden beneath a few slightly bigger, kindling sized branch cuts, and the dozen or so decent sized logs that we had insisted they put back. The whole of the rest of the 100 year old, thirty foot avocado tree had vanished without trace leaving us with a garden full of sun, and no wood.
Our wood pile - less than 10% of the tree's yield
It’s hard to know which emotion takes centre stage – anger, resentment, stupidity, naivety or just plain astonishment that we could let someone steal a giant avocado tree from the garden and we gave them a bonus and beer as they’d made such a clean job of it.