Magazine article Management Today

MT People ... the Sharp End - Chainsaw Massacre

Magazine article Management Today

MT People ... the Sharp End - Chainsaw Massacre

Article excerpt

Dave Waller is lucky to escape unharmed from a day out with a tree surgeon.

Time to sheathe my green fingers in latex gloves and drag the defibrillator to the woods: I'm spending the day as a tree surgeon 'Scalpel ... tweezers ... chainsaw!' Can't let those saplings wilt. Not on my shift.

I arrive in Long Ashton, a sleepy Bristol village, on the morning of the General Election, expecting drama among the treetops. Arborist Christian Ellis has lined up a big job clearing trees from around high-voltage electricity cables. Trouble is, it means shutting off the power from the nearby community centre which, it turns out, is a polling station. The centre's caretaker never opened the letter.

So 32-year-old Chris has to cobble together an alternative schedule of works. First a house call to two troubled trees in someone's garden. My job is to help Chris's mate Josh, 19, lug severed branches up the drive to chuck in the back of the truck.

Chris is proud of his new Iveco Daily. He paid pounds 5,000 for it after his old wagon was nicked a week ago. I watch as he reverses it into a wall. The damage is slight. 'I'm such a numpty,' he says. I'm glad I'm hearing that from a surgeon who works with trees, not one who's about to give me a colonoscopy.

He sets to on the first ailing arboreal specimen. Long-haired, rollie in mouth, he makes short work of hacking it to pieces. If this is surgery, it's less George Clooney in ER, more Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In a flurry of sawdust, noise and flying branches, it's swiftly reduced to a stump. Which he then poisons, just to make sure.

I'd expected pruning and repair not grim death, but there's little that can be done for seriously sick trees. Chris tells me the word 'surgery' actually means 'to work by hand'. No sense of life-saving medical interventions, then. 'Chop the bastard down,' he jokes.

But some jobs do prick his conscience. 'When I started I'd refuse to take a lovely old oak down just because it was dropping stuff onto someone's car,' he says. 'Then I'd come past and see another tree surgeon had done it. You really have no choice.'

The next job is more how I'd imagined it, hacking back ivy from a tree trunk with a specialist saw. …

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