Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thar' she blows

Barely had the First Dog watch started before up went a cry for All Hands. Fore royal mast broken clean at the cap, a mess of riggin' and raffle flogging against tops'l, the whole parcel threatenin' to go o'er board and wind rising. Staggering out on deck there was half a gale blowin' likely, and plenty to secure. Ropes hove round the spar, canvas secured, reef taken in and she rides easy again. But wind's still risin'...

Which is an elaborately nautical way to describe a little emergency tree surgery this afternoon. The tail end of Hurricane Gordon is starting to make itself felt here just at the moment. What you might call a briskish breeze, 'cept it's warm and I remember going into central London on the morning after the '87 storm and after that most winds seem light. Anyway, there's a small stand of seed-grown, whippy Eucalyptus trees at the northwest corner of the workshop, and they were flogging about so much I was hearing them banging away at the roof. I don't give them much thought as a rule, right up until my mum came in and said she'd been walking past, heard a cracking noise and looked up to see the top of one breaking.


It really was a case of all hands, ropes, loppers, bowsaw, ladder, the works. Blasted thing was hanging by a good thickness of bark and wood fibres but threatening that, if it did break, it'd go over the wall in the property of some less-than-understanding neighbours. It's not helped that the topography means our ground level is between 5 and 10 feet above theirs, so if it fell it'd be a good drop. Meanwhile the wind's getting up more and more - in fact we abandoned any thoughts of ladders and chopping it off and opted for damage limitation instead. I reached up as high as possible and hauled the broken bit down into our property and stood there with the other Eucalyptus trees slapping me in the face with their leaves for an eternity while the old man clapped a line to it... er, I mean tied a rope round it. Good start. But it was being hauled down on its neighbours and doing them more harm than good. So the rope had to be taken round to the other side and the broken limb coaxed round and out from amongst its fellows. Went easier than we deserved really and once it was restrained with a turn or two around the stoutest of its brethren then all real panic was done.

Except there was an awful lot of foliage caught up in the thinner of the remaining trees and it was being blown about something chronic. And the wind's still rising... In effect it was like a mast carrying too much sail and a reef was called for - hence my flight of fancy at the beginning of this entry. Now a long-reach lopper is one of those things that anyone with trees ought to have, and luckily we do. And it's not like they have heavy wooden poles like they used to; it's all lightweight aluminium and stuff. Which is fine on a calm day... Oh, we managed to reduce the top hamper all right, but only by waiting for lulls between the gusts and developing an airy disregard for having a face full of Eucalyptus leaves slapping us in the face every now and again. Fun.

So now they're all roped together, for mutual support, according to the old man. Me, I look at it and think if the big one goes it'll just take the rest with it... Fingers crossed the workshop doesn't have some extra ventilation in the morning, that's all. The red arrow is pointing to the break, fwiw.

So that was my exciting woodworking for today. In the fullness of time there'll be all the excitement of making sure I'm out when the thing has to be taken down and then trying to decide if any of it's worth the effort of keeping for turning. It's that skinny in the trunk I fear the answer is probably not.

Now, time to Splice the Mainbrace methinks. Anyone got a mainbrace?


  1. Ah, the storm of 87, I remember it well - at least the after-effects, because I slept right through it. Well, I'd been working very long hours and was tired. When I got up and went down to the High Street, it looked like a bomb had hit.

    Take care, Alf - hope it doesn't get much worse.

    Paul Chapman

  2. I slept right through '87 too - but the other one - 1990? I was at boarding school in Sussex, on the top floor of a house that tended to creak alarmingly in a flat calm. That one I knew all about...

    But this one, well I feel robbed. We seem to have had the worst in the early evening. Although I am on the sheltered side of the house, so I might just have missed the drama. Still, first big blow of the autumn is always a worry, isn't it? 'Specially after a dry summer - you never know what's going to go.

  3. At least you had the sense to be in a building in '87. I was on a yacht on the Norfolk Broads. A tree fell across the dyke so we were trapped outside a pub with no lecky to pump the beer. Landlord was excellant & generous with his sarnies and bottled beers 'till the chainsaws arrived - late afternoon fortuneately!

    Mainbrace? Is that the 10" sweep with walnut handles?


  4. Ouch! Hope Frampton Towers is still standing??
    Concerned of Dorset

  5. Sounds like you've all been having fun!

    BTW where's the quote from?


  6. Frampton Towers stands undefeated - the damp string is less firm, hence the silence.

    Quote? Quote?! That's prose wot I wrote* No legal proceedings vis-a-vis copyright needed, lawyer-boy. ;~P

    *I have a feeling this may be wasted on you, being too young to be fully conversant with Eric & Ernie.

  7. Do I detect a strong Patrick O' Brien influence?


  8. Ack, no. PB is almost my least favourite. C S Forester takes top billing for his story-telling; Richard Woodman 'cos the career progression of Drinkwater is so much more likely than Hornblower's; O'Brien languishes at the bottom with the impossibly arrogant Ramage of Dudley Pope. Used to quite like Alexander Kent's Bolitho up until it started getting too close to the date he'd fixed for Bolitho's demise and the story started to











    Yep, I was once as obsessive about historical nautical fiction as I am about woodworking. Scary, ain't it?

  9. Yep, I was once as obsessive about historical nautical fiction as I am about woodworking. Scary, ain't it?

    Hmm. Obsessive personality. Who do I know like that?



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