In 1986 I drove and parked easily my Austin 1300 with sun roof and cassette player to Vicky Park at eight in the morning where the deer grazed and my family plucked shiny conkers from the ground. The red globes lay shiny in the unused but now oft desirable grate waiting to be players. One day I chucked them out into the garden.
The conkers sprouted. I thought I was clever planting one at each corner of my patch called a lawn which had variously been a wild flower meadow, a sunflower forest and a potato field. My neighbour used to mime over the fence for neither I spoke Gujerati nor she spoke English that she would have the small potatoes for her Aloo Kofta.
The trees grew and grew. We loved them. The neighbours began to huff. The words “house insurance” were uttered.
Over the non-partitioned and non-conserved Leyton Marshes I found an interesting shiny twig. I stuck it in the ever-sinking soil in my garden and within two years a tree grew magnificent. My sari-clad neighbour told me it was a cherry tree and avoided hanging her white sheets near its branches. The cherries fell. She picked them from her pavement. The cherries fell and I threw them to the pigeons.
After much moaning from long-term neighbours, those who had brought their houses whilst I lived here, I poisoned three horse chestnut trees leaving a sturdy one which was far from the next door neighbours and the chrysanthemum neighbours over the back who had lilac and holly trees mangled together. The cherry tree was huge and polished in its glory.
Blossoms and conkers, cherries and pigeons came and went.
As if they’d got together and conspired against beauty, nature and me, the neighbours moaned about roots and house insurance again. I investigated the cost of a giant cherry tree removal and let the horse-chestnut be for she was harming neither bricks nor mortals.
My neighbour had inherited an electric saw and was a very handy man, a ladder-man. I’d sked if he’d chop down the cherry tree. He and a mate did it and what fun that was. An artist wanted the divided trunks for fire etching or some fashionable art style current at the time and before M-H. In the end a young woman carted away the logs for firewood.
A third of the cherry-tree still remains covering dead roots and crowded over with huge fungi.
The horse-chestnut is a playground for pigeons, recently magpies, blackbirds, doves and homing pigeons, robins, squirrels, starlings and sparrows. I hope the disturbed nesters from the new Aldi site come and find refuge here.
When I leave this place, for surely I will, the newcomers will chop down the loved tree because concrete is king. This is what happens when patios replace grass; cats have to come onto my earth to poo and birds have to keep lookout.
Once a baby blackbird fell from the nest but we in this human block never knew. We never actually saw it.It squealed. Every stealth cat arrived. The mother -bird was squawking and squawking on the fence. Pitiful it was. Neighbours opened upstairs windows; back doors sounded as they opened. After an hour all was quiet. I never found a dead bird so no-one knows how the tragedy ended.