Now I wouldn't want you to think there was a dark stain on my otherwise emerald green credentials, but I have to tell you that I am about to to pick a fight with something you might regard as a pure and innocent living thing. Maybe it's the persistent bad weather, the relentless precipitation. It's pushing all of us to the limit, and my personal bugbear, my own axe to grind, is with trees. Yes, there it is. Out in the open. Trees are getting to me.
There's a tree on my commute-route that blocks my path daily. I dare say that, when it was planted as a sapling perhaps eighty or more years ago, the locals must have thought, "Oh, that's nice." These days it's a towering monster of a London Plane tree, which, unsatisfied with simply spreading its canopy across the road, has decided to sprout leafy tendrils from its base. These seem to be a protest at the local authority periodically cutting its mature upper limbs off in an effort to minimise the threat it poses to the surrounding properties and passing cars. Several iterations of this cycle have resulted in what looks like a chunky trunky frame almost entirely covered in leaves.
This years "wettest April, May and June since records began" (the dear old BBC loves a "since records began" story) may well be further contributing to this tree's verdant leafiness. There's no doubt that the torrential downpours of late, punctuated with the (tragically infrequent) sunny spells we have occasionally enjoyed, have made the south of England a lusher, more densely vegetated place.
One of the consequences of this is the random assaults that trees and bushes everywhere delight in making. Since it's currently always raining, the trees are often hoarding what must be countless gallons of water. They stealthily conceal it in their leaves, waiting for an unsuspecting commuter to walk beneath thinking, "that's nice; the sun's come out," before dumping a torrent of drippiness on his head. It's the arboreal equivalent of the old bucket-on-top-of-the-door trick. But the trees have two or three other anti-personnel weapons.
Another such device is the leafy wet face-slap. You may have experienced this one yourself, perhaps when following another pedestrian. I'm wondering if certain trees and plants have formed strange pacts with selected human beings. When the world is as lush as it currently is, it is sometimes necessary to use an arm to temporarily bend a tree frond out of your way. But if you happen to be following someone who has made an arboreal deal with his local forest, you may find out too late. This tree-sprite in commuter form releases a twisted branch bent away from his own path, then it pings back and, SMACK! Right in the chops. You emerge from the undergrowth with a streaming wet visage and a diminishing temper. It's always especially nice when you've made a particular effort with your hair or attire.
If you add in the constant threat from the variety of spiders hammocked between the plants, and the fact that even one abandoned soggy leaf can be enough to have your feet slip from right under you, it's surprising that we don't have more of a love/hate relationship with these large and intimidating wild things.
Or perhaps it's just me. Maybe just a little sunshine. Just a bit. A few simple rays to warm me, brown my translucent skin, pull me back from the brink. Then I can learn to love the leaves, branches and stems once again. Until then, they're sending me barking mad. Barking. Bark. Aargh!