THERE are some things, some activities, which I am forced to admit are not advisable as one grows older. I sold my Suzuki GSX-750 some years ago when the sensible pills I had been began to work. This was shortly after I clocked 156 miles per hour (not, I hasten to add, on the public highway). To record this speed means looking down, away from the road, for long enough to read the speedometer, and you can go a remarkably long distance at that velocity. During this mega-second I can well remember thinking, ‘why am I doing this?’ So I slowed down to a positively pedestrian 90. Ree helped by advertising my prized leathers for sale on eBay. And my boots. So I sold the bike with a health warning she fabricated. ‘Not suitable for anyone entering any kind of mid-life crisis’, it read. 

So I fell back, topically, on tennis for my thrills. Just do it, says Emma. I can recommend it. But the drawback is there are precious few courts in Eskdalemuir. Or, indeed, in the forests of North Wales, or among the native pinewoods of Scotland. But hold on. Andy Murray did it. Just do it. When it comes to dangerous or difficult pastimes, this must be the mantra. Just do it.

Just do what, though? The obvious forest-based candidates are tree-climbing competitions (again, inevitably, a minority sport). But how about axe throwing? No, not seriously. Or – Eureka! – chainsaw competitions? I still have my somewhat veteran chainsaw which, because I only use it sporadically to tidy up windblow or Dutch elm disease in and around the orchard, has so far escaped the eBay threat. I fully recognise the inevitable dangers of the machine, but there again I knew my GX-750 was dangerous but that didn’t stop me riding it. But here again, the sensible pills are beginning to kick in. 

What is a man of my age doing working alone in an orchard, away from anyone, cutting dead elms or apple trees? And, face it, with entirely inadequate safety clothing? I won’t let my 30-year-old and athletic son anywhere near the chainsaw. 

For myself, I have the gloves and the helmet and the ear defenders but that’s about it. I one again have a decision to make. Do I splurge on PPE? Or do I flog the saw and get skilled help to do jobs I used to eat for breakfast?

It’s not as though re-equipping myself is difficult, especially given the amazing range of gear advertised elsewhere in this magazine. A nice lady tells me, in a video, that whatever we use a chainsaw for, she has a pair of trousers to fit. But with such a range of choice, how do I get the right ones? I could go wrong. God knows there are precedents. Most famously, the dog Gromit, who, you will remember, got the wrong trousers – with dangerous consequences.

No, wait a moment, there’s something wrong here. Gromit referred to his handbook Electronics for Dogs and came up with the answer. It was Wallace who suffered from the wrong trousers. There is, however, no evidence that Wallace and Gromit ever owned a motorcycle or a chainsaw. But if they ever do, the nice lady in the video will have no difficulty in finding the right item of PPE to keep them safe.
What can I do, then, which combines a thrill with some skill, and is more suitable for a man of my age? 

It’s a pity that insulting the Forestry Commission isn’t more exciting, but who wants to participate in a forest corrida where the imaginary bull has no horns, or if it has, has no inclination to use them? 

What do you have to say to a body which has a long, impressive record of achievement but is now apparently so apathetic or redundant that it can’t even raise its voice on any objective, or even respond to an increasing volume of criticism? There are issues festering, like standards of work in clearfell coupes in Scotland. And what is the Commission doing elsewhere in the UK about driving forward the much-heralded increase in afforestation? All we get south of the Border are little charity-driven schemes which aim to plant a few hundred native oaks. Pathetic.

Just what do we have to say to stir up a response from our putative leaders? Here. I’ve built a platform for you. Say something. Anything. Just do it!

It’s a crying shame to see our state forest service brought down so low. This diary and a number of correspondents sharing the same history can look back to its glory days when it pioneered new species and managed its woods, and indeed set new standards in its own woods and into the private sector. The war against climate change is undoubtedly a battle on a far, far wider scale than the Great War of 1914–18, which brought about the setting up of the Commish. Let’s re-erect it. Set it back to work. With new wide-ranging powers over land use. Just do it, Boris. Just do it.