“You learn a lot about conflict when you’re thirty foot up a tree, with a chainsaw,” Robin Walter reflects with a rueful smile.

Walter spent the early nineties in London’s leafy suburban gardens, working as a tree surgeon and gaining a rather unusual perspective on human nature. He would often have pulled the cord, unleashed the saw’s terrifying burr and be about to start pruning when a neighbour of the tree’s ‘owner’ would appear, followed by another and another. From his bird’s-eye vantage, he could see them – they usually couldn’t see each other over their garden walls – and they often ...


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