Thomas is creating a Belgian fence in the garden. It is not a real fence but a weaving of trees. Espalier, says Thomas to Yvette. Espalier. It’s an art. Yvette thinks of it as tree-weaving and always calls it that. The dull-green apple saplings which edge the garden at precise intervals are interlocked in an odd, unnatural pattern of Thomas’s making. Precision is everything, says Thomas. He takes his secateurs to the middle shoots, but guides the end-growth into upward diagonals which he forces to intersect. Yvette doesn’t know really. It’s been two years and all she can see is a structure that looks rather like the wire mesh of a tennis court – large bulbous lozenges – all around the garden. This isn’t something you can rush, says Thomas. Patience – patience is of the essence.
Yvette has heard this before. She wonders when he will be finished with it all. She watches him from the kitchen window. He is always in the garden – green wellies and wax-jacket, secateurs in hand. It takes three years to create a Belgian fence, apparently. Thomas won’t let the trees set fruit so there hasn’t even been an apple to show for all that effort, though the tessellation of blossoms in the spring is quite pretty. At least he isn’t in the house and under my feet, she laughs when she is with her friends. When he comes back inside of an evening he demands magnesium salt baths, Goanna Oil rubbed on his back, and a tumbler of whisky. She listens to him snore in his chair while she does the washing up.
Persistence, says Thomas to the others at the dinner party. And a good work ethic, that’s what gets the job done. Their friends ask Thomas if Yvette helps him with the tree-weaving – espalier, says Thomas. Espalier. It’s an art – or if he does it all by himself? Yvette drives them home from the dinner party. She helps Thomas up the stairs and into the bed, removes his shoes when he passes out, and leaves him to sleep in his clothes. The warp and weft of the Belgian fence looks like wrought iron in the dark garden. Yvette supposes it is fairly clever but she wouldn’t call it art exactly. She doesn’t use the secateurs as she moves along the fence, but pinches off the end-growth between her fingers. Not every shoot, just a few. Just enough.