Finch’s house is up on the side of a valley, overlooking Pendle Hill (where the last witches in England were burnt, an incident that the inhabitants are weirdly, twee-ly proud of, featuring it as the logo of real estate agents and cafés and bread companies all over the valley).
There’s a big plot of land around this house, with lots of heather and daffodils and vegetable plots and bird feeders, and everything you might imagine in an English country home that is neither a Country House nor a farm.
For the last month, Finch has been hurling himself at the garden, cleaning out fish ponds, replenishing the fish stolen by herons, uprooted mangy heather and ordering new flats, cleaning out the vegetable beds, planting and hauling and hoeing and cutting.
Just before I arrived, he got it into his head to chop down a couple of Leyland Cypresses that were huge and grotty, too shady, preventing sun from hitting the vegetable garden much of the afternoon. Before picking me up at the airport, he created a little defense line out of old tiles and, watched anxiously by the woman who gardens for him, got out the chainsaw and chopped down an amazing amount of tree.
But then there was an amazing amount of vegetation. Some he turned into firewood for a neighbour, and some he, the gardener and I spent all day Monday dragging across the (vast) lawn, for a tremendous bonfire.
The fire went on for hours, leaving us with smoke-stung eyes and a fair bit of exhaustion. “It looks like the Somme out there,” said one of Finch’s staff, mildly.
The fire set off something primordial in Finch, and I did a lot of work in my office this week, watching out the window as my lover ran around with a chainsaw. We went out birding Friday morning and when we came back, before I’d finished drinking a cup of tea, he had more trees down.
The gardener is also the housekeeper, and she came on Saturday morning to clean. She was… subdued…. as she surveyed the lawn.
My sweetie is relentlessly cheerful, though. I think chopping down trees fulfills some sort of Primitive Purpose. Made easier on the body by the existence of good wine and ibuprofen.