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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.

From this....

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.

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Some people fantasize about winning the lottery, others about rescuing Johnny Depp from imminent life-threatening danger and then he’s so incredibly grateful to them that he suddenly realises he’s fallen hopelessly in love with them and…ahem, sorry, where was I? Oh yes. But not me.

I fantasize about a tree.

I’ve just spent the past hour and five minutes raking enough leaves from the lawn to fill an extra large sized garden refuse bag, mowing, clipping and then raking again. I put the sprinkler on, came inside to get some water and check email and when I returned, the lawn was already splattered with leaves from the bloody great avocado tree that dominates my life.

We’re living in perpetual autumn with ‘the beast’, it’s fallen leaves filling bag after bag which then have to be hauled down to the car park and the wheelie bins. The only time it stops shedding leaves is in spring when it blossoms and then sheds tons and tons of seeds.

So while I sit with my well earned beer and let my thoughts wander to daytime fantasies, it’s watching two thirds of  ‘the beast’  fall gloriously to the ground that brings a wry smile to my face. I know it’ll grow back again, quickly and stronger than before, but for 5 or 6 glorious months I’ll be able to concentrate on rescuing Johnny again and save myself a whole lot of sweat and garden bags.

And the really great thing about my fantasy? It wouldn’t take a lot to fulfil it.

So, can anyone lend me a thirty metre ladder, hard hat and a safety harness?

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As a visitor to Tenerife, you’re likely to discern only minor differences between your January and your June holiday. In January the backless dress you’ve been saving for your last Saturday night when the tan would be optimum may have to stay in the suitcase, or you may decide to wear it anyway and go for that ‘I may be frozen but hey, check out the tan’ look, but other than that, the long sunshine hours and the flowering bougainvillea will be pretty much constant.

jasmine cascades over the terrace wallBut in the garden, spring arrives with an assault on the nostrils when the jasmine and wild freesias come into flower filling the air with their transient scent which drifts through the windows and causes me to almost hyperventilate in my attempts to greedily drink it all in while it lasts.
As well as being perfumed, the air has notched its temperature up a few degrees heralding the abandonment of socks and the return of sandals. For feet which have been cosseted for the past 2 months that can only mean one thing; some sun and a varnish make-over.
So when yesterday dawned glorious with a monotone sapphire sky and temperatures in the high 20s, I headed to that litmus test of spring’s arrival – Puerto’s main beach of Playa Jardín.

As I suspected, on arrival at the beach, the tell tale signs were evident. The rows of sunbeds which decorate the rear of the beach are normally almost fully occupied by the dark brown, oversized bellies and non-too-pert, naked breasts of the retired British and German ‘swallows’ who over winter in Tenerife and for whom tanning is a way of life. Yesterday, hardly any of the sunbeds were occupied, the swallows having flown north for Easter and the summer.

Instead, one or two Spanish mainlanders were sitting below their brightly coloured umbrellas on the water’s edge where they wouldn’t have far to walk if the urge for a dip came upon them. Most of the middle ground was occupied by young, good looking Canarios for whom the warmer air had tempted them to cast their clouts and allow the sun to turn their perfect bodies a shade more golden. It’ll be another month and another five degrees or so before their parents venture onto the sand; for them, the prospect of a day on the beach in winter is about as tempting as a January dip at Scarborough.

The spring tides, which last week had been gathering pace filling the ocean with white caps and smashing against the harbour wall, had taken the day off and were gently lapping the shore as if they were the Med. The lifeguard changed the flag from yellow to red but nobody took any notice, including the waves, and after a while the lifeguard lay down on the sand with his head propped on one arm, ready to spring into…well, a snooze.
As the sun rose higher the sand became hotter prompting the inevitable spate of the phenomenon known as ‘Daniel Craig to Lee Evans in the space of sea to towel’ to occur up and down the beach.

I lay back listening to the strains of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ coming from an ice cream van in the distance which had at first evoked a sense of nostalgia and a mild curiosity as to what exactly the line “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni” meant, but had begun to feel like the onset of insanity as it played over and over and over again.

In the land of eternal spring, how do you know when the seasons change? It’s in the sights, sounds and smells.

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For the past 6 weeks I’ve been locked in combat with the over sized avocado tree that dominates the garden.

Every morning, I step onto the terrace filled with joy for another beautiful day and my feet cushion on the carpet of seeds from the avocado tree which overnight, have covered every surface. I sigh, look up at tree, take the sweeping brush and painstakingly set to work removing the sticky little blighters from table, chairs, steps and terrace and bagging them up.
By lunchtime, it looks as if the sweeping brush and I have never formally been introduced and I have to repeat the sweep of the area before I can sit down to eat. Over lunch, coasters act as ‘tapas’ for the water glasses and every salad has turned into an avocado salad by the time I’ve finished eating it. So far, “15–love” to the tree.The victorious avocado tree lords it over the terrace
Then last week we had a blustery day and the volume of seeds quadrupled in the space of a morning. Refusing to provide amusement for the tree by sweeping into the wind as seeds rained down on me, I let them fall to their heart’s content until they were virtually ankle deep. “That’ll take the last of them out” I mused.
“30–love” to the tree.

When the breeze died down I spent an hour teasing seeds from every corner of the terrace while they fell and lodged into my hair and trickled down the neck of my T-shirt. When I went inside, a trail of them followed me through the house and when I tried to sweep them out, the ones that had previously refused to leave the head of the brush suddenly decided to make a bid for freedom and joined their colleagues in a ten yard dash around the living room.
“45-love” to the tree.

Last night the day’s drizzle turned to a deluge. This morning the bird baths are overflowing. The pot with the end of last year’s chillie crop is almost floating in its tray. The terrace at the front is pale and patchy, long lines of sand deposited from the calima rain have dried along the border of each tile and filled every crevice in the ceramic. On the horizon, Mount Teide has acquired a fresh thick coating of brilliant white snow and its peak stands out against the iridescent blue of this morning’s sky like a brand new creation.
At the back of the house a million avocado seeds lie in drifts where the deluge has deposited them like seaweed after the tide; along the steps, under the table, around the jasmine pots and the watering can. They lie in soggy heaps that will be impossible to move until they’ve dried out which might be a full day, or longer if it rains again. Looking up at the tree, I can see fresh flowers forming that will soon turn to seed.
“Game, set and match” to the avocado tree.

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