Bloomsbury is a beautiful part of London. It is characterised by small Georgian squares, quiet streets, and an abundance of greenery. For 50 weeks of the year it is a calm and peaceful oasis in an otherwise hectic and crowded city; for the other two weeks, it is hell on earth.
The culprit: the mighty plane trees, which spread and glower over every pedestrian footpath.
Plane trees are one of the most common trees to be found in central London. They reach huge proportions in size, and are easy to spot by their characteristic dappled trunks where the bark has peeled away, exposing new wood beneath. This ability to shed its bark is what makes the plane such a successful city-dweller: along with its bark it sheds pollutants, which results in healthier new growth.
For the most part of the year, the plane is a benevolent giant but, briefly, in spring, it becomes a vengeful monster. During this period, the plane sheds small, fine fibres, which collect in large, brown masses on the verges of the pavements and at the edges of the roads throughout Bloomsbury. These fine fibres also find their way into eyes, nostrils and mouth, and are almost impossible to shift. They cause coughing and choking; watering eyes; and running noses. For sufferers, it is hard to describe the misery, which the humble plane tree is capable of inflicting.
For these two weeks of the year, I will find a different route to walk to work.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree walks to work with even less enthusiasm than usual.