‘Sounds like a good job, what d’you reckon?’ “You know you’re next, always comes in 3’s” ‘Yeah but the Fire Brigade’ “Keith and Peter were bloody lucky they were only cut.” Peter might have been lucky Keith definitely wasn’t. Peter cut through his knee, Keith cut diagonally across his face. Peter’s scar was hidden Keith’s scar was visible to everyone, it was the mental scar that was hidden. For a chainsaw to cut wood its teeth have to be sharp, filed at the correct angle the depth gauges at the correct height. Get one thing wrong and the smallest twig can make the saw ‘kick’. If you are lucky it will happen when you are on the ground. You have good control of the saw when standing on a firm stable base. If the saw ‘kicks’ you can either throw the saw or move your body away from danger. Tied in half way up a 90 foot dead elm tree and trying to control a saw with the engine capacity of a small motorbike and a 42 inch cutting bar isn’t very stable. Sharp chainsaws don’t cut neatly through a tree surgeons skin, muscle and bone the way a skilled human surgeon would they rip, they shred and destroy it. A sharp chainsaw is merciless. I wrote down the phone number and listened as Ian Botham carried on, merciless, smacking the Aussies all over Headingley. Bob Willis was getting his bowling arm warmed up.
Roger picked me up from home, my home in Kingsbury, at about 1:40. As usual Capital Radio was blaring away so I heard him arrive before he could disturb the neighbours. “Ready”. I didn’t usually come down a tree until it was dismantled fully and safe to be straight felled, especially the big dead Elms. Loose bark, rotten branches and kiln dry white wood wasn’t always the easiest to get up in the first place, coming down for a half hour dinner break then climbing back up again seemed, to me, pretty pointless. 2 little beetles, scolytus scolytus and scolytus multistriatus, were decimating the English country side. How could such small beetles cause so much death and destruction to once huge majestic trees? Centuries of history dismantled, felled and burned. Wood that had once been used for building homes, furniture, ships, coffins destroyed. Rooks, once so common, used the straight twigs and branches for their nests, as protection for their young, what now? How would they survive? Could they change their natural instincts, adapt the nest building lessons taught to them by their parents. Adapt or change?
“Partner off with someone of similar build to yourself. Lift them over your shoulders like so, WATCH, then as fast as you can carry them up to that line up there and back to me. OK 1st pair GO”. Not a request but an order. “Right, that is what is called a Fireman’s carry or lift.” Alongside a building in Lambeth, on a miserable late September day I was told I would soon receive a letter inviting me to attend further tests and a medical. Just because I could carry someone on my shoulders a certain distance and back didn’t mean anything apparently.
Monday 25th January 1982.