1 December, 2015

Eric once lived in an old Elm tree that stood over the Green Man Roundabout, on the outskirts of East London. That was during the days of the M11 link road protests, when intrepid dissidents, such as Eric, tried to stop East End communities, which had withstood the Blitz, from being ripped apart by the Tory Government and their road building friends. The Elm that Eric lived in had stood on that spot for 230 years. In its lifetime, it had seen the invention of the lightbulb, railway, and the internal combustion engine. All of that was much to its regret.

Eric rarely left his tree, but he had done so when he went on the Poll Tax demonstration, as he hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to venture into Central London and turn over a few cars. Later that evening, he partied at a very loud rave on the curbside of a line of terraced houses that were being squatted to try and save them from being demolished by the road builders. Afterwards, Eric returned home having not slept for 24 hours, so when he looked up at the crown of his tree, he hoped that his tired eyes were deceiving him. It was mid-summer, but many of the upper branches had browned. Unfortunately, it was not so; Eric’s eyes were telling the truth. He knew then that it was not the road that would kill this tree, but the malaise that had spread like wildfire throughout England - Dutch Elm disease.

Eric finally left his arboreal home when the bulldozers sealed the tree’s fate a few months later. He did not put up much of a fight because the tree itself had already succumbed to the fungus ripping through its heart. But by then, Eric had developed a love affair with the beautiful Elms that once dominated the English countryside. So he resolved to go to one of the few places in England that had withstood the onslaught of Dutch Elm disease - Brighton.

Eric moved into the hollowed out trunk of a tree in Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Gardens. A tree planted in the year that the US gained independence from the plague of the British Empire and which is thought to be one of the oldest English Elms left standing in this world. Once upon a time, we all used to live in and around the trees and share our homes with the birds, the bees, and all the other animals. But we have long since forgotten that. The local council had forgotten too, so they tried to evict Eric from his tree. That was until the onslaught of media interest and left-leaning lobby groups persuaded them otherwise, so they eventually left Eric alone. 

To this day, you will find Eric living in that tree. Should you pass by, be sure to buy him a cup of tea and thank him for preserving humanity’s link to the natural world.

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Eric by Steve Huckle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://glowkeeper.github.io/assets/stories/Eric/.