Back in April we had a tree blow down. I suppose it’s arguable whether it was our tree that blew down or our next door neighbours, but either way it made sense for me to be the one who cut it up. This is the tree that blew down and we ‘stood up again.’
But now, at last, it’s all home and reduced to ‘kit form’. The branches I just reduced to nine inch lengths as I went along, so that they were ready to dry out and burn. By the time we got to last winter, I’d taken most of the branches and some of the trunk. But then the weather got silly. So nothing much happened.
Anyway this month I decided to tackle the rest of it. The trunk was actually two trunks which had ‘almost’ grown together. They came apart under their own weight, and the top one I cut into slices about nine inches to a foot thick. What surprised me was whilst the end slice had ‘dried out’, the other slices were still moist and pretty heavy. The tree had been cut off from its roots for over a year and the slices were still too wet to be split with an axe.
Anyway the slices can stand in an old barn and dry out nicely. I’ll not really need them this winter anyway.
The bottom trunk I had dragged out of the nettles and rubbish which accumulates around them when you’re working on them. I then sliced this. It was at this point that the weather got ridiculously warm and humid. Wearing chainsaw protective trousers etc I was overdressed anyway, and then there were cleggs/horseflies trying to eat me alive. It’s difficult to slap a horsefly that’s landed on your left arm when you’re using the right hand to control the chainsaw.
The problem with cutting slices from a trunk this thick was that it was thicker than the bar of my chainsaw was long. So I would go down one side of the trunk. Walk round to the other side and cut down that side. Now when you’re cutting thinner branches, no more than nine inches or so thick, it seems you can keep the cut reasonably straight. But when you get to the sort of thing I was cutting you discover that, actually (in my case) I must ‘pull’ the chainsaw to the right. Perhaps it’s because I’m left handed?
This means that when I go round the other side of the trunk to do the second cut, if both cuts pull to the right, they actually diverge and you’re left with uncut wood between them which you’ve got to slide the saw in and cut through.
But anyway, on the last morning I was faced with the lump that was left. I decided there was no way I could slice that, so instead I sort of ‘whittled it away’ with the chainsaw. Because the middle was hollow I would cut down along the line of the hollow. Almost like cutting a slice from a circular cake with the hollow being the centre of the cake. Once I’d done as much of that as I could, I cut the bits I was left with in half or thirds so they were light enough to pick up and carry to the quad trailer. This heap of overly large kettle wedges is now stacked in an artistically interesting and culturally significant heap in the yard where they can dry out. Then in a year or so I’ll have another go at getting them small enough to fit in the fire place.
Other than that, life proceeds. I’m now an ‘old hand’ at zoom meetings. The fact that I attend them on a desktop computer without a camera is essentially an advantage. (After all who bothers to put a camera on a desktop computer with rural broadband and a download speed of 3.5Mbps and an upload speed of a quarter of that?)
But one phenomena I’m coming across is ‘zoom meeting fatigue.’
A friend of mine has a job in the third sector in Cumbria. The normal pattern of her day would be that she might have a meeting, drive thirty, forty, ninety miles, have another one. The driving time was useful, it gave her time to mentally process one meeting and prepare for the next.
Now with zoom, there can be days with a meeting every hour on the hour. These meetings can be very intense. But she’s noticed that most of the people she deals with are government or local government people and at 5pm they switch off. She then has to spend her evening actually doing that part of her job which doesn’t involve meetings, and on Saturday, because the third (voluntary) sector is all about volunteers, she ‘meets’ with volunteers who were of course working during the week.
There is also a growing suspicion that a proportion of the meetings are being called by people who feel they have to ‘look busy’ if they are going stave off redundancy, or at least to come out of the lockdown with an enhanced CV and improved prospects of promotion within their department.
There is a growing suspicion among some of the people I know that zoom is ‘too easy to use.’ My experience has been that it was worked well enough because the meetings I’ve attended have been with people I’ve known and worked with for years. In point of fact, projecting a blank rectangle rather than a video of me has worked to my advantage. Rather than have to look ‘engaged’ or worry about my appearance, I can concentrate on the body language of other attendees. But because I know them, because we’ve ‘broken bread together’ then I can read them reasonably well.
I suspect that whilst zoom meetings will continue, ‘real meetings’ will also restart. Because it is in the real meeting that you get to know people, chat to them over a coffee, and work out how they tick.
There again, do you really want to know how some people tick?
In his own well chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.
As a reviewer commented, “Maljie is a pretty amazing woman, especially when you consider she has to deal with living in Port Naain, which is a medieval fantasy city. However, she is not one to let such things as expected gender roles hold her back – indeed no, those are merely there to be exploited!
We see Maljie and learn of her adventures through the eyes of Tallis Steelyard, a jobbing poet and himself an acute and wickedly perceptive inhabitant of Port Naain.
These stories are not so much a collection of anecdotes as a tour de force of hilarious and unlikely situations brought together in a single volume and showing the unstoppable rise and rise of the irrepressible Marjie.
If you want some feel-good reading to brighten your day, Jim Webster is your man and Maljie is, most certainly the right woman for the job!”