A few days ago we had our cypress tree cut down. Deciding to cut the tree down was not easy. Guido and I grew it from a seed about 18 years ago. It braved the elements on our balcony for a few years until it grew too tall and spindly to cope with the wind there and then we planted it in our garden, quite close to the house. It loved it there and swiftly sunk roots deep into the ground and pushed its tips ever upwards.

When I started writing “The Song of the Cypress”, I could look out of my office window and see its upmost tips waving merrily at me. By the time I finished the book I would open the window in the morning while the computer was booting up and reach out to shake hands, or maybe I should say shake branches, with my beautiful cypress. It helped to keep me focused and my descriptions of the cypress were always easy to write, as I could cast my eye outside the window and check the exact form of the cones or tug a branch to me and feel the rough fronds while breathing in the resinous aroma that hung in the air. In the spring wood-pigeons and goldfinches would nest in its sturdy branches and delight us when the fledglings took their first, tentative flights.

I was in love with my cypress and ignored the pessimistic voices of neighbours, who warned me that it would damage the foundations of the house or fall and crush a passerby, until last week when I finally realised that unfortunately they had a point. The tree had got so big that it was taller than the house, which is three stories high. There was no view from the office window any more, except the vigorous greenery and the rest of the plants and trees in the garden were all lopsided as they tried to find some light. So, we made the difficult decision to cut it down, before the birds started to build their nests again.

On our last morning together I opened the window and shook branches with the cypress, solemnly. Then I cut a small branch and carried it into the kitchen where I lit a candle and had a very daft, private ceremony of giving thanks, telling the tree how wonderful it had been and then having a great big cry. I did all that before my men woke up as they already wonder just how sane I am!

The workman arrived just before 15.30, with his crane-truck and chainsaw. 45 minutes later the only proof that my cypress had existed was the huge pile of greenery and logs on my lawn. It took us a day to clear the lawn and build a woodpile where the wood will dry out over the summer. As we worked the aromatic scent surrounded us and each time we burn a log next winter that same aroma will conjure up memories of this magnificent tree.

I have a far more traditional garden now. There is more air and space to landscape. The other plants are celebrating and sending out shoots in the direction of the unaccustomed light. Yet I miss the shadow at my window as I work. I hope the seeds I planted will grow and if they do I will nurse them on my balcony until they are strong enough to be transplanted but then I will  drive them to our  land a short distance from here and make sure I place them in a position where they can delve deep into the ground, spread their roots, reach for the stars and grow as tall and magnificent as they can.