A winter’s tale

It is more windy than cold today here, but talking to friends exposed to the momentary spell of cold weather in parts of the US reminded me of a story which happened years ago.

This was back in the days when I was training with Alan, a friend from Ireland who owned a tree care company in Basel. Back then it was just the two of us, which was great, certainly gave me the best foundation I could ever have wished for. But when you are working as such a small unit, you really get to know each others quirks. One of Alan’s was that he loved to chat with clients. And chat, and chat…

One day we worked in a elderly customer’s garden, pruned her plane trees, the birch and some other bits and pieces. It was cold and getting dark by the time we finished, I was glad when I had the van all packed up and was more than ready to pack it in and call it a day. Cold fingers, chilly wind blowing… Alan, meanwhile had been chatting with the customer for what felt like a geological age.

He then popped his head out of a window, to tell me we still needed to clear the gutters.


This sent me into an instant grump! So back down to the van, fiddle the ladder off the back, lug it back into the garden, set it up against the side of the house and get up there. It was only then that I realised that the leaves and gunk were frozen in the gutter. This was getting worse and worse! So I decided it was time for drastic measures if I was ever to get off work that day. I got some secateurs and hacked the ice away, diligently working my way along the roof and round the corner. As the layer of ice was quite thick this required quite a bit of effort… when I finished, I took down the ladder, loaded it back on the van, cleared the gunk up off the ground – and was (again) good to go.

I rounded the corner to bump into Alan, who looked less than happy. WTF? He then pointed out how you could see the dusk sky though the gutter, punctured along its whole length by many, many secateur-size holes. What can I say, my alibi was not exactly water-proof, as in The holes were there already, honest, guv. The proof was stacked quite heavily against me, to a degree that denying it did not really make sense.

This situation had a number of immediate and longer-term consequences:

  • The gutter had to be replaced,
  • I did not have to clear any more gutters for quite some time, and
  • Alan will never let me forget.

I do not like winter, roll on spring!