Monday, 17 December 2012

Palm Tree felling day

At half past eight, while I was at my desk writing, I heard sounds of voices and equipment being carried up the back steps into the church grounds. Then at nine, the first penetrating buzz of a chainsaw being applied to one of several diseased palm trees in the garden, needing to be taken down safely before they become a danger to the public.

'The axe is laid to the roots of the tree' said John the Baptist in the Gospel for Gaudete Sunday. Well, not here. Four metre high palm trees in a confined space must be taken down from the top, slice by slice, half a metre thick, weighing around a hundred kilos apiece. Each has to be manhandled away from the site. Fortunately, they can be rolled down the steps and out of the bottom gate. As each piece bumps down the steps, at the end of the terrace I feel as well as hear the vibration. When the crown of the tree comes safely to rest, I can see it's hollowed out to half its diameter, burrowed down half a metre by the insects which have taken its life. 

I hear the three guys chatting while they work, it's rich tones of Sicilian dialect I hear, although I hardly understand a word since it's not as clearly pronounced as Italian. There are four trees to do. It'll be a hard day's work for them.

The first trees they tackled stood beside the path leading to the apartment at the west end of the church, moving on by midday to two on the south side terrace. When I walked through to watch them working on the terrace, there was a faint sweet smell in the air, like hay in a stable, not as pungent as wood sawdust. Palms are, I believe, a giant kind of grass, so it's understandable. As well as Salvatore, keeping a keen eye on the work, a couple of men had come in off the street to watch the three at work.

In between taking photographs I prepared a pasta sauce for lunch. The chainsaw sound stopped, I went out to see how far they'd got. The three were seated around the garden table outside the church door enjoying sandwiches and a beer. Buon appetito I said, and they raised sandwiches in salute.

While I was out shopping for food, the guys had cleared away foliage and tree trunk sections and left for the day, with just one two and a half metre section of trunk to take down. Then it will be all safe and ready for the US Navy social outreach team to turn up on Saturday for their garden tidy up. Quite an unusual sort of day. So glad the weather was decent. Daytime temperatures have gone up to 14-15 degrees.

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