The death of Malcolm’s beech tree left a hole in his garden, but a pile of wood to be turned into logs.
Yesterday, a nice winter’s day in London, seemed as good a time as any.
There is something destructively creative, or creatively destructive about splitting logs.
First, it’s the age-old contest between human and nature: find the weak spot, exploit the natural cracks.
Then it’s the hard sweat and the instant gratification. Insert the wedge. Hammer like hell for an indefinite period. Wait for the creak and the the crack. Heave the segment onto the growing pile. Repeat.
There’s the moment of surprise. The wedge seems to be getting nowhere. Break off. A cup of tea or two later, return to the task to find the log has neatly split in your absence.
There’s the marvel of seeing into the colours and grain of the wood, intruding into the secret places where the fungus but no human eye has penetrated before.
And the opportunity for the mind to wander into parallel avenues of thought and recollection.
So, at one point Malcolm’s memory went back over fifty years, to the barn of the Reverend Donald Evans Brown, rector of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea. The sea-scouts were cutting wood, and splitting logs, for distribution at Christmas to the elderly of the parish.
Perhaps a score of youths, many barely into teenage years, armed with hatchets, axes, wedges, hammers, full cross-cut saws, shovels and rakes and implements of destruction.
All under the most nugatory of supervision.