Who on earth is chopping down a tree this beautiful autumn morning? It must be a big one, to judge by the length of the demented racket of the saw. But there is no tree, and the random roaring corresponds to no pattern of felling and logging. The noise fills the neighbourhood, obliterating the peace of every garden, annulling anemones and making roses irrelevant. There is an oily smell with it, too.
Yes, it is a leaf blower: an infernal contraption designed to cost fifty times more than a rake without fulfilling its purpose. Every autumn the nuisance gets worse. We were woken at five in a French hotel the other morning when the council sent a man round to blow the leaves off the pavements into the path of the almost equally noisy street-scrubbing lorry that followed at six. Would a 200 per cent VAT rate put a stop to it? I doubt it.