Friday 13 October 2017

#280 Finding an awesome tree to climb in London

My last memory of having scaled a spruce was back at uni. In the third year, I drunkly found my way to Van Mildert College, opposite which stood a sizeable specimen. I do remember reaching quite a decent height, whereupon I seriously considered trying to sleep there but mercifully thought better of it and clambered down again. It was not the first thing in Durham I'd climbed pissed but being not the focus of this blog, perhaps those tales are best left for another time.

This afternoon, when I set out to go climbing, I was not pissed although I was fiendishly tired. Not far off, I reckoned, the point of illness. It had been several days since I'd enjoyed an uninterrupted slumber and my dear housemates had seen fit to use the kitchen until 1am the night prior, as was not uncommon. Their presence had left me agitated. The hours passed and I could not doze off. Eventually, at around 4am, it just sort of happened.

It was with some hesitancy that I pulled on my tracksuit and cycling gloves to go in search of the right sort of tree. Exhausted as I was, climbing a tree seemed quite possibly one of the stupidest ways to spend the afternoon. On the other hand, I'd never fallen out of one before and wasn't convinced that age or tiredness would cause such an occurrence today. I staggered towards the park.

"Staggered" might sound dramatic. Let me tell you again, I was exhausted. I nearly tripped over the fecking kerb. There were trees on the green near the river but the park was quieter. The last thing I wanted was every dog walker and jogger having a gander at a thirty three year old pretending he was ten again. All for the sake of the latest coaching exercise. It had not specifically stated that I had to climb a tree, that would have been daft. I was meant to do something different though and it was the first thought that came to mind. Then it stuck there.

Millwall Park had several potential candidates. I waited until some walkers passed and then jump-grabbed a branch. I swung my legs towards the trunk, which contained a gap. Into the gap, I planted my feet, swinging my body towards the centre. I then stood there, with branches looming up around me. I was only four feet from the ground. I looked around for a foothold but there was nothing. After standing there for a minute or so, I took hold of one of the branches and hopped down again. Just like yesterday's challenge, the first attempt felt rather bland.

I walked around the park. What I needed was the right sort of tree. One with plenty of branches. I remembered the tree from Van Mildert. That was exactly it, I needed a fir tree. Or a pine. In fact it didn't matter which, I had no idea what the difference was. Something coniferous. Conifers had to have lots of branches because they had spines instead of leaves, so they had to compensate in terms of photosynthesis surface area relative to the size of the tree. Now where could I find one?

Greenwich. I didn't want to go to Greenwich. I'd been there last week and it was a half-hour trudge AND there might not even be any fir trees. I couldn't go home though. Like yesterday, I'd done something but I hadn't really done anything. So to Greenwich I went.

Fir trees, fir trees, fir trees. Ugh. I was never going to-nyohmygad...

There it was. The perfect tree. Standing on the edge of a carpet of lush green grass, her ample branches spilling down onto floor, like she was laughing at her own fortitude.

Standing under Hilda was a most special experience. For one thing, the low-hanging portion of her right side created a den-like feeling. The soil beneath her was soft and cushiony. The trunk had no footholds of its own but the first thick branch lay just above my head. I gave it a tug. It hardly budged, so I jumped up and wrapped my arms around it. Then feet. I swung sideways and pulled up towards it, enough to press a wrist down on the branch from above, shift more leg weight over the top and a moment later, I was sitting on it. Not bad for a morning's work.

I tried to imagine a way up, towards the trunk but it wouldn't have been possible without risking a tumble. I was seven feet off the ground, which was soft but chancing it didn't seem worthwhile. "Oh look, there's a man in the tree" said a walker, twenty yards away. "Where?" said her friend, peering around. I was looking right at them. "Oh there he is" she said, spotting me. They carried on up the hill.

I felt happy sitting there in my tree. It really was a good'un. The finest in all the northernmost part of the park. I sat there for a few moments before lowering myself to the ground and walking home. I'd given up trying to work out how these wacky exercises were supposed to help my career. They seemed so obviously unrelated that it would have been pointless to enquire further. Whatever strange kind of coaching this was though, it seemed to be going ok so far.


Running on empty said...

You British are hilarious, how Hugh Grant: "Oh look, there's a man in the tree".
I love the story.

Running on empty said...

I do want to read about what else you climbed at Uni.

Jimmy Kimmel liquer.

Profound Familiarity said...

I wouldn't have guessed that would be the funny part. I can see how though.

Profound Familiarity said...

Yeah, that's not a bad clip :)

Running on empty said...

He's so funny. I'm not itching to go to those Scottish golf clubs though!

Mind you, I don't want to climb a tree either. The spiders in Aus are something to be reckoned with!

Running on empty said...

I was the way you wrote the story. Keep it up!

Running on empty said...

Should say "it"

Profound Familiarity said...

I can forgive Hugh his out-of-touch commentary on the sorts of places the majority of the public will never set foot in, just because it is somewhat entertaining.