Monday 26 October 2009

Le rouge et le blanc

14st 13lb, 9.0 units. Writing about woodmen putting crosses on trees yesterday reminded me of the classic Northumbrian tale of the Mad Major. Like all townies transplanted to the countryside (very much including the present writer), the Mad Major wanted the landscape surrounding his house managed on the following simple principles: No Change. At All. Ever.

So he was naturally much put out when the local squire commissioned some forestry harvesting operations, and positively incandescent when the woodmen came and painted big crosses on the trees forming an attractive avenue on the approach to his house.

Not being properly versed in the ways of the countryside, he did not realize that the white crosses they had used were designed to protect the trees, being a sign that they were NOT to be cut down. So he sneaked out overnight and painted over them in red, which in his mental world stood for “stop” and “leave alone”. Not appreciating that, in the world of forestry it stands for precisely the opposite.

The only worrying thing about this story, as I come to recount it, is that I am no longer entirely sure that I have got the significance of le rouge et le blanc the right way round. I hope I can remember the correct answer before the agents of tree destruction next make their way to my neck of the ex-woods.

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