The man who does all things iron told me a few weeks ago that he has discovered he is majorly allergic to olive trees, and in particular their flowers. Not olives as nibbles I hasten to say, nor olive oil, or I fear he would have to move to a non-Mediterranean country. Anyway, he said, “I have an olive tree by the steps of my house, right next to my bedroom window, and I wonder whether you want it”?
I could not believe my luck. Although it did not look so hot this year, for lack of pruning and general tender care, I remember it two years ago, and in particular the big fat lovely green olives it produced. Really big, and really fat. Surely he did not want to get rid of this tree? But he did, and in exchange requested a lime tree, which later became a flowering cherry for lack of any lime trees about.
Wasting no time, I called Jose the tractor man from the village who is simply amazing with a digger, and even better with a series of shorts and a carajillo or three at breakfast. I will be there at 10am tomorrow, he said, and put the phone down, which was just as well as I would not have been able to understand one more word of what he said in any event, so thick is his local dialect, partly because it simply is, and partly because he is frequently drunk.
Felix said, let’s see if he turns up, and I knew exactly where he was coming from and so decided not to hold my breath and waste my time as I have on so many occasions before. Instead I went down to the village at 11am for a breakfast of my own with a couple of ex-pats, and lo and behold, and no surprise, there was Jose in full swig, an empty beer glass and vat of red wine in front of him and a chupito or two to the wind. We had a largely incomprehensible conversation, but the gist of it I just about managed. “Shall we go now”, he said, ‘I am ready?’ “No”, I said, “I am going to have my breakfast now, just as you have had yours and kept me waiting”.
He seemed to respect this. An hour later I called him to say I had had my daily units too and we met in the iron man’s yard to measure up the tree. “You need to remove this, and this, and this, and also this limb”, he said, “for a tree with four main branches will be a lot of problems.I will return at 3 after you have pruned it”.
This worried me for as you must have gathered by now, Jose has a not undeserved reputation for failing to return at any hour due to his affiliation for the drink. In fact once he kept my builder Carlos waiting three days, despite reassuring him that he would turn up within 30 minutes each time he was phoned. However this time, he did re-appear, at 3 on the dot, with a pleasant smile and a not uncertain amount of professionalism. Felix and I pondered this sudden pleasant side of him later and decided that the recession had somewhat humbled him.
But back to the tree which had now been pruned to within a few feet of its life and certainly did not much resemble the tree of the day before. Jose performed an amazing ballet around it and with in no time at all had prised it tenderly free from the ground and the surrounding “Steptoe & Son” reminiscent junkyard. At this point the root ball was more or less intact.
He then strapped it somewhat clumsily to his tractor and it promptly fell head first onto the concrete yard, thus losing many of its few remaining branches and a bit of the root ball. No matter, Jose strapped it back in, more securely this time, and carted it bouncing and protesting up the mountain, shedding by degrees the clump of soil clinging to its traumatised roots.
By the time it arrived at Masia Lavanda, it was but a shadow of its former self. “That will never survive”, declared Juan, my eternally pessimistic handyman, but let’s cover it in chicken shit to give it a chance”.
So Jose dug a hole (and about 20 more for a figured I might as well get my money’s worth) and Juan carted soil and placed it around the crippled tree.
In the morning Felix decorated it with chicken shit and that was that. Despite the vicious pruning it had received, and the subsequent abuse, it dwarfed all the other trees around, and I wondered whether and how long they would grow into harmony with each other. I pray it lives. Certainly the iron man’s cheery tree has a much better chance. But I am going to be positive.