3 FEBRUARY 1956, Page 7

I HAVE ALWAYS considered the felling of a tree (not

that I have any great taste for the pathetic fallacy) to be a rather melancholy business, so I am not without sympathy for The Men of the Trees in the row they have been making about the thinning of the planes in the Mall. But judged by other standards our arboricides are pretty small beer. If there were any Uomini degli Alberi in Italy there would probably be a civil war in progress now. The strong-arm mayor of Naples. Signor Achille Lauro, decided recently to modernise the Piazza Municipio, one of the largest and finest squares in Italy and famous for the hundred-odd holm-oaks that spread a welcome shade in the heat of high summer. In his own news- paper he announced a sort of informal referendum to deter- mine public opinion on the plan. But he must have lost patience very quickly, for only forty-eight hours after the announcement his men set out with axe and saw under Cover of darkness to demolish the well-loved trees. By the time the Superintendent of National Monuments had mobilised the bureaucratic hierarchy and induced the responsible Minister to dispatch a telegram ordering the suspension of the felling, the deed had been done and the last of the trees planted by Bomba was down. But he may live to regret his coup, for not many Neapolitans are likely to consider multicoloured fountains and flowering shrubs an adequate substitute, and things may go against him and his party at the administrative elections. He may find that he has cut down more than trees.

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