Why I Love Trees.

March 22, 2013

Miserden 001

Over the next few Weeks I shall add a New Category of Blog
‘Tales from a Modern Dinosaur’ these are some of my many memories from my childhood in a small village high in the Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire.

While preparing this Blog I was looking for the best choice of Tags and chose ‘Health’ and ‘Safety’ as the most appropriate because the main subject matter of this tale is the continued health and safety of my butt as a child.

A few weeks ago I read a Blog about an angel who in the form of a favourite aunt protected the writer from the wrath of an angry parent after some misdemeanour or another and it reminded me of my own youthful brushes with parental rules, and the consequences of breaking them.

However in my case the timely intervention was not a favourite family member, or anybody else for that matter but a tree! A big, tree, a magnificent mature Sycamore tree to be precise and it was perfectly placed at the bottom of our garden and close to a wall the significance of which will become clear in a moment.
You must understand that as a child I was not the loveable being I am today but one who was once described as being a child that only a mother could love, and on more than a few occasions I tested even that theory to breaking point. This story highlights one such occasion.

Fifty odd years ago if you were a boy and you lived in the countryside climbing trees was something you did. The fact that you could quickly propel yourself to a dizzying height where the only conclusion of a fall would have been instant death, or at the least being buried up to you waist head first, depending on how wet the English summer had been that year never crossed our minds.

Now of course courtesy of ubiquitous ‘Elf and Safety Rules and regulations you are not allowed to climb trees without a 3 month training course, a safety harness with a rope tied to it and the other end held by a responsible and suitable qualified adult, a safety net and an ambulance on standby having signed a disclaimer exonerating the owner of the tree and everybody else within a five mile exclusion zone from any liability.

But I digress. Back in those far off heady days we had a much more cavalier approach to life, being hit on the head by the odd child falling out a tree was considered more or less normal. As an adult you just check the child over for any injury and if there was none, you administered either a swift kick to the rear end or a clip around the ear-hole of the offender, justice was served and everybody went upon their merry way.

It was to stave off the afore mention clips round the Merlin ear-hole that I became adept at; A) running at a fair clip and B) getting up my favourite tree in less time than my mother could reach the base of it.

To this end I devised a slight modification and climbing aid, as I said earlier the tree was very close to a wall and this wall was about halfway to the first major branch. So with the aid of a hefty six inch nail and a piece of my mother’s washing line I could jump, grab the rope and swing myself out of harm’s way and stay safe until peace, darkness or hunger brought me down.

As a safety plan this usually worked, my mother having much more important things to do than camp out at the bottom of a tree and hoping for a lightning strike as the only other thing from Hell freezing over that would get me out of that tree until she was well out of sight.

However, on one very special occasion, I have no recollection of what crime I had been found guilty of, I usually confessed anyway, it saved a lot of time and unnecessary shouting as I recall. But this time the tree was not going to be high enough even although I had made the transition from ground to safe height in record time.

In the garden we had a lean-to shed with a tin roof and on top of the roof was a long ladder. Not one of those wimpy aluminium things of today, No Sir, this one was of a solid wooden construction and extremely heavy. My mother was not a large woman, yes she was larger than me, at that time but that was just on the normal scale of human development, but she summoned all her strength, and with the aid of a few choice words she got that ladder off the roof and was dragging it down the path towards the tree.
With hindsight, this was a fairly time consuming exercise and I could have descended and made my escape a dozen times over but like a rabbit caught in the headlights I was transfixed. Either that or panic had set in, either or, anyway I watched in horror as my mother got closer and with a lot of effort managed to get the ladder over the wall into the field and up against the tree and start to climb.
Only at this point did self preservation finally kicked in, I slithered down the rope back onto the wall and turned to take stock of the situation. My mother was now on the branch where I had been. Now, any sensible child would just make good their escape but not me; No, like a pillock I jump down into the field and remove the ladder.

So minor misdemeanour has now escalated to serious crime, let the negotiations commence. Mothers opening gambit was a series of threats that ranged from putting a serious dent in my pocket money, curtailment of my freedom and terminated with the potential ending of any attempt by me to reach my next birthday.
Things were not going well, at least from my point of view, my only negotiating chip was the ladder and that obviously was not strong enough.
Help appeared on the horizon from a strange source, from our vantage point, mother up tree and me on the wall below we had a clear view of the centre of the village and coming down the road was my father. Normally it would be safe to assume that two parents working in partnership would be more than enough fire power to outwit one offspring. However on this occasion it was my mother that cracked first.

Look there’s Dad coming, I said. With an edge of panic in her voice she pleaded don’t you dare tell him I’m up here.

Kids are like animals, they can smell fear…. I pounced… I sensed that I could still escape with my rear end intact so serious negotiations began anew.

The agreement was if I put the ladder back, helped her down out of the tree and breathed not a word to my dad there would be no hitting of bits of my tiny anatomy and then the whole incident would be forgotten, if not forgiven, and I would live past supper time.

Truth to tell I learnt several valuable lessons that day the main one being that Mum’s are sneaky.

As soon as she was safely back on terra firma and I was within striking range my backside stopped a good one. What happened to our deal I wailed ? But I had omitted the original infringement in my negotiations as far as she was concerned the deal only covered the latest crime of getting her stuck up the tree.
In soccer terms that’s one goal each, but I claimed outright victory later that day when I did tell my father and on his next visit to the village pub the whole village knew… It was weeks before my mother ventured out in daylight. Probably the same length of time as my grounding and before I could sit down in comfort again !


6 Responses to “Why I Love Trees.”

  1. Val Mills Says:

    Oh Merlin, I laughed the whole way through this 🙂 the memories of tree climbing ……. my climbs were usually motivated by capturing emperor gum moth caterpillars to take to school.

    • merlinfraser Says:

      Thanks Val, please watch this space because there is another one on it’s way. I am taking up your challenge and writing about my past adventures, “Memories of a Modern Dinosaur” and it will include many of the characters I have met along the way. We need to get other to join us.


      • Val Mills Says:

        Sounds like fun. I’ve been finding quite a few here on WP by searching for life stories and childhood memories. BTW it is currently 11.50 a.m. on a brilliant autumn morning here in NZ.

      • merlinfraser Says:

        Val, Only saw your message this morning, it may have been nearly lunch time for you but for me it was getting near Cococa time…and although over here it is officially Spring time a lot of the country is covered in snow carried on a biting Easterly wind. What we Scots refer to as a ‘Lazy Wind.’ A wind that would rather go through you than go around you !

  2. chris. Says:

    So sorry merlin that i have to confess i have only now got round to reading your hillarious tale ,sounds much like my own childhood as the local tomboy that i was,but loved and infact would still love to climb trees,well actually dont tell anyone but i did do just that a short time ago as i just couldnt resist,felt great ,not only to be able to but realise i hadnt lost any of my skills at working out the best route to the highest branch suitable to sit on and watch the world go by,Guess ya just cant take the tomboy out of some females,anyway i would like to thank you for sharing your wonderful experience,as sitting here full of cold trying not to cough and wake the neighbours at the bottom of the road,feeling just a little sorry for myself ,a good chuckle is much appreciated,even if it does also make me cough.O and it is very much in keeping with the theme of the thread as far as im concerned,well done.

    • merlinfraser Says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thank you for your kind comments, sorry to hear you are suffering a cold but pleased that I could lighten your day. Now that you have found my Blogs you will work will work you way through them. You will find all sorts there, the odd Rant, a few serious ones, but mainly a humourous look at my life and some of the characters I have met along the way.
      One final comment on the tree in the story, my mother recently past away, she wasn’t a particularly religious woman and my brother and I were wondering where to scatter her ashes. We thought long and hard as to where she had been most happy in her long life and decided it was in that small village in the Cotswolds. She now rests in the shade of that tree of happy memories.

      If you enjoyed this one can I suggest you head for https://merlinfraser.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/my-friends-the-trees-2/ Don’t forget to take cough mixture first. !

      Take care

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