Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how can I stop my husband from chopping down all our trees?

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

Q. My husband — currently unemployed — has started ‘sourcing’ logs from our own smallholding. Chopping down perfectly good trees, sawing logs, drying them … to say nothing of trying to get a fire going without proper kindling or firelighters, is now taking him up to three hours per day. I realise that this is displacement activity but I would rather he was doing something using his brain. When I tell him I am going to order seasoned logs from the local sawmills (at £90 per cubic metre) he says it would be emasculating for him if I did this, as he is gaining self-esteem by providing for his family.
— Name and address withheld

A. It might be subtler if, having explained the situation to a sympathetic local landowner, you asked if you might get the sawmill to deliver a seasoned load to a site on his land. The landowner might then approach your husband saying he has more logs than he can possibly use and requesting that he help him out by using as many as he can throughout the winter. In this way your husband could collect a wheelbarrow-load at a time, still gain the frisson of pleasure from getting something he perceives to be ‘free’, and still provide himself with a displacement activity — though not one which takes quite so many hours per day.


Q. I never know what the etiquette is when I am walking along a pavement and find a group of maybe three people walking towards me. Often such gangs seem barely aware of anyone else. It’s as though they own the street. Is it up to me to step into the gutter or squash myself up against the wall to let them past? Or should I say ‘Excuse me?’ until they mind their manners and make way?
— J.W., London SE1

A. Children at proper schools are taught never to walk more than two abreast in the local town. If a phalanx moving towards you is showing no instinctive signs of regrouping, then assume they don’t know any better. You can sidestep unpleasantness by looking downwards as you walk. Oncomers will become aware that you may not have seen them and will reform to pre-empt collisions.

Q. I have a better solution to the one you offered to the children whose parent and step-parent leave their seats in club class to visit them at the back of the plane to ask if they are all right. Rather than answer ‘Yes, why do you ask?’ it would be far better to gasp appreciatively: ‘Why? Are you offering to swap?’
— A.C., London W8

A. Thank you for this suggestion. It would certainly curb the bogus hand-wringing, though for children it verges too close to cheekiness. It could be useful, however, when one adult in a party has been upgraded and keeps coming to the back of the plane to ‘commiserate’. This would put them on the spot.

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Show comments
  • Albert Wonders

    How about allowing the beautiful trees to live happily ? Including the birds , squirrels , chipmunks , and other living beings associated with the trees ? Including the beautiful experiences you can have with them , like seeing the sunlight filter down through the leaves ?

    • Ed  

      He owns the trees. They’re his to do with as he wishes, including enjoy, or burn.

      • Gerhardt Kippets

        That is true but it misses the point:- his wife would simply prefer that he do something more productive with his time; she doesn’t appear to be worried about the trees (or the woodland creatures).

        • Ed  

          I wasn’t talking about the article; I was responding to the point in the comment.

          • Gerhardt Kippets

            Apologies!

        • Pacificweather

          She could make mad passionate love to him three times a day and then he would not have the strength to cut logs and she would not be worrying about what her husband is doing. The simple solutions are the best. Ask any rabbit.

          • Gerhardt Kippets

            I like your thinking 🙂

          • fun-time freddie

            Most men aren’t that inspiring. Mad passionate: you must be joking.

          • Pacificweather

            He’s a lumberjack. They are exceptional.

      • Pacificweather

        Only until she divorces him and then he’ll find out that they are hers.

        • Ed  

          Oh yeah. Hadn’t thought of that. He’d better hurry up and get them all down, then.

  • Pacificweather

    When approached by a group of children hogging the pavement take out your mobile phone and stare at it before looking down at it. The children will take this as perfectly natural behaviour and step aside. It also works in Hong Kong.

  • Charles Hatvani

    Don’t forget to plant a tree (or three) for each that he chops down!

  • fun-time freddie

    To the lady with the manically sawing husband: Set him a new problem. Get him to re-plant a large part of the garden, whether it needs it or not. Tell him that the great questions of human life were answered — or raised, anyway — by the Greeks, and get him learning Attic Greek (that’ll keep him quiet, for a long time). Tell him you like romantic music and they don’t play the songs the same way any more — and buy him a piano. That’s what *I* would do.

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