by Graham Potter
As I stood under the pleasant shade of a great old pine one early Sunday afternoon in the late autumn sunshine just last year, I was wholly overwhelmed by the beauty and peace of the scene gloriously spread out around me. I had been tramping eagerly through the woods and clearings since early morning in search of something suitable for use in the creation of my next bonsai masterpiece (?).
As you will doubtless be aware, many miles need to be put under foot before a tree of sufficient merit presents itself. So, foot sore and weary I sought refuge and privacy from the unseasonably warm sunshine in order to answer what may politely be termed a call of nature, or more commonly, a “leak”.
One of the advantages of being a bloke, as I am, is that taking a leak outside the confines of a modern W.C is actually quite easily and conveniently accomplished. On the occasion in question I successfully concluded my business and whilst zipping up I casually glanced down at the ground. The sight that greeted my eyes filled me with absolute horror. My size ten steel toe cap boots were absolutely covered in...............................
Wasps, little black and yellow flying insects, they are the ones that STING, worse still, they were starting to rally their forces for a full blown airstrike.
In about a nanosecond it occurred to me that my big and heavily shod feet were both firmly planted in a pile of forest floor detritus that doubled as home to my new acquaintances, and, to add insult to injury I had carelessly proceeded to urinate all over the escaping blighters who were not happy, not one little bit. My sense of self preservation and will to live is very strong and my dislike of physical pain is great. Without any further consideration or thought I stamped my feet and took flight. I know I don’t look like it but I really can move when the mood takes me, the mood took me.
I am not one that is easily overcome by panic. Having gained several yards over my attackers in an inconceivably small amount of time I had a quick look around and saw the airstrike had been called off and the squadrons, mission accomplished were returning to base. I breathed a sigh of relief before noticing I had been accompanied on my world record sprint by ground forces that had made their way up the outside of my German army issue moleskins and into my capacious coat. Oh S~*T.
I whipped of my coat and shirt in an instant and, using the latter started to flail the little buggers into retreat. This plan of action was working well until I felt a pain in my back like a red hot needle sliding slowly into me. Youch! A couple of very determined little critters were jabbing their stings into my boots with a vengance, like their lives depended on it, angry or what? They were furious! Oh how I love steel toe cap boots with cleated soles, there were wasp jibblets everywhere.
A thorough examination of my lythe, half naked person and clothing confirmed I was in an insect free zone, so I pulled myself together and went on my way, peace was restored and apart from a very sore back all was right with the world. I had a narrow escape, had this happened in summer when wasps are at their most active I may have fared much worse.
Just to make matters worse I had to return home empty handed, that prize specimen never did present itself despite my best efforts. The things we do for bonsai!
I have walked literally hundreds of miles in search of “ yamadori “. I am to be found stomping around in the more remote regions of the country in sub zero temperatures or, as recently happened, in stark and very hot sunshine in the middle of a mini heat wave.
With temperatures in the high eighties I was to be found on an exceptionally barren and exposed piece of heath-land. With the heather up to my knees I walked for five or six hours, occasionally kneeling down to inspect the trunk of an old gnarled pine. Eventually I started to “lose it” and only just managed to stagger back to my car before I keeled over in a sweaty heap.
On another occasion I had managed to coerce an enormous yew tree from its resting place of at least a century. That in itself is no mean feat as you will appreciate but, having bagged and wrapped the roots I had to walk over a mile. The root ball weighed in excess of 200 pounds, that’s over fourteen stone. I have since recovered and the tree is doing very well too.It’s a good job I work out regularly, my bonsai would suffer otherwise.
I may well be a little fanatical about this bonsai business but I am not alone. If you have caught yourself doing something a bit over the top in your endeavour to reach bonsai nirvana email it too me and let’s all have a laugh, at your expense.