Monday, 7 March 2011

Arboreal haircuts

'Poll' is an old noun (Dutch in origin I believe) meaning 'the top of the head'.  It then became a verb meaning 'to cut one's hair'.  Next, a new noun, 'pollard', came along to signify 'a person whose hair had been cut'; this came to be mostly applied to trees rather than people; and finally, 'pollard' has turned back into another verb, which acquired its present day meaning.  Funny stuff, language.

Anyway, the trees in my avenue, which are beeches, rather than elms as those of you who know my address might imagine, are being pollarded.  It's a noisy and seemingly brutal process: a hard-hatted team, using massive chainsaws, hydraulic platforms and a frankly terrifying giant shredder, are transforming each tree from this:

To this:

This is the third time I've seen this done in the twenty-plus years I've lived here.  The first time, the Avenue was up in arms - 'they're murdering our trees' - but within a few months new shoots were appearing, and by the autumn the trees were leafy and ready to get on with what they like to do in the autumn.  Within three years they were back to their lovely leafy vibrant selves.  I don't suppose they enjoyed their haircuts much at the time, though.

There's a metaphor for life in there.


  1. Maybe you should think of moving to Southern Beech Avenue.
    As for pollards do you recall this:

    Grytpype: Ahoy! Pull up a bollard!
    Neddy: Pardon?
    Grytpype: That thing there is a bollard.
    Neddy: Oh-ho-ho. Oh, is that what you tie ships to?
    Grytpype: Well said. Now, matey, what can I do for you?
    Neddy: I just read your offer in the paper about the Marie Celeste.
    Little Matalo! That was inserted in 1910, 44 years ago!
    Neddy: My paperman has a big round.
    Grytpype: Your paperman has a big round what?
    Neddy: Ahoy!
    Grytpype: Ahoy! Pull up a bollard. Little Bosun, what do you know about the Marie Celeste?
    Neddy: Your offering £5,000 reward for the mystery of it.
    Grytpype: Hmm. Do you come here often?

  2. Good memory there - or was it google who remembered ;)

  3. Oh you found me out Sue. I think I just typed goon & bollard & hey presto, alakazam it was there.
    I'm actually far too young to recall the script in detail. But I do occasionally think of "pull up a bollard" as appropriate to a particular situation.
    Tim, I suppose if they decide to uproot your avenue trees one day it would be a matter of pull up a pollard. Ho ho.

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