Gorgeous isn’t it, this lovely old willow tree in our neighbour’s back garden? It’s just coming into its full spring greenery and loveliness. When we bought this house ten years ago, we listened at the offsprings’ bath time to the deafening chatter of up to 100 parakeets congregating at dusk in this tree to peck at the willow for its tasty sap and chew the fat with their mates. Back in the days when green parakeets had not yet become almost the most commonly-seen bird species in our part of Suburban South London, it was a magnificent sight, a treeful of parrots.
Little did we know though what damage it would cause our house, built on a hill on London clay soil, after the hot summer of 2003 and subsequent years of low rainfall. Our house has cracks. Lots of them. It’s gradually, gently, inexorably falling down the hill. Subsidence used to be the most disastrous word ever for homeowners but apparently it’s so common now that buyers of houses in our sort of area are almost pleased when a house has been underpinned because at least the work has already been completed. We haven’t had any underpinning work done yet but it will be a lengthy, disruptive process. We’re currently waiting for structural engineers to start a year-long survey of how our house is moving relative to the ground. They will dig a huge hole in our garden and determine the culprit from the species of root growth that they find there. It’s very likely to be this lovely, deadly willow tree. Apparently, cracks in a house often point to what’s causing them. Our cracks point to the willow.
Until we’ve had the year-long survey done, we can’t make any alterations or even decorate, so my plans for a kitchen extension are on hold for a whole and our sitting room will have to continue to look shabby. And if the scientists find a trace of willow root in the hole, the poor, lovely willow tree will have to be taken down. Such a pity. But willow trees are not meant for suburban gardens.