The morning I first walked down the street that was to become mine, and visited the flat I was to buy, was a sunny one. Surprisingly sunny, in fact, for early April. I can remember what I was wearing that particular day three years ago, and even which way I walked down the street. And I remember being struck by all the trees - old trees, some as tall as the three-storied houses themselves - that lined the pavements. I met the estate agent by the biggest tree of them all, and she led me up what were to become the steps to my front door.
Each day since I moved in, descending those steps I have looked onto the wide trunk of the biggest tree of the street. I have swerved round it countless times as I headed out into the city, dragged my wheeled-suitcase over its uneven roots en route to airports, cursed the way those same roots have been pushing up the paving slabs. Just a few days ago I watch downstairs' cat almost get stuck up it chasing a vociferously protesting magpie. On Sunday, with the news of the approaching St' Jude's day storm, the Accidental Father had looked at my tree and wondered how shallow its roots were, and whether it might come down in a strong wind. Not wanting to alarm me however, he had kept this thought to himself.
And early on Monday morning as the 'storm' whipped down my road I looked out onto the tree and the road beyond. A few leaves were being rolled along the ground but not much else seemed to be feeling the effects of the oncoming hazard. "Pah,", I snorted, "So much for a storm!". Five minutes later I checked again. Next door's recycling bin was still standing firm on the doorstep, motorbikes parked across the street remained upright, the countless estate agents' boards were all still affixed to their wooden masts. But, oh, where was the tree?
Oh, there it was.
Despite the tree falling almost silently, within seconds my neighbours were appearing on the pavements. Clad in pyjamas and dressing gowns, they chatted and pointed and snapped photos of our horticultural casualty on their iPads. (One such snap even made it onto the BBC's news coverage of the storm, complete with a be-dressing-gowned neighbour in the foreground.)
The poor family a couple of doors down seemed to be marooned in their home, as the once proudly leafy crown of the tree blocked their doorstep. After about half an hour, a police van arrived, a couple of officers inspected our new street decoration, and then hopped back in their van and drove away.
But sometime during Monday, someone came and tidied things up a bit. And when I arrived home, my tree was just a trunk and some logs. Some logs that the (now fully-dressed) neighbours were picking over and taking home to burn or stick in their gardens or carve into sculptures or whatever. Downstairs' cat was clambering over the trunk, exploring with interest his new climbing frame. And I wondered if he knew this fallen, leafless corpse was the same proud tree he'd scaled in pursuit of that magpie, just days before.