Wednesday 29 March 2017

Kevin Myers: Little angel died, I believe, in an ecstasy of achievement

It is a hard heart that looks upon the elder and does not warm to its natural bounties. Its summer flowers yield a cordial that is fragrant and full of natural goodness. The munificence of the elder then takes another full season to produce the elderberries, which make a fine wine for elderly teetotal Protestant ladies to get lawfully tiddly on.

Six years ago the electricity board men came to check the elder in the Nagurskis' back garden in Derry. They were not interested in the kindly blossoms that stimulate a body's auto-immune system or the Presbyterian-friendly berries, but whether or not the elder tree was in any danger of growing into the electricity cable passing overhead.

Now anyone who has ever reached for the elder's remoter blossoms knows how inhospitable its higher branches are. The bole and bough of the elder tree show no kindness to those who come to cut it; and he who prunes the elder branches does so with care, using long-handled saws, and cherry-picker hoists that rely on hydraulics to keep a tree-surgeon aloft.

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