A miniature tree with maximum complications

I had to smile at this account of the trials, tribulations and problems connected with getting a gift bonsai tree from China to England.

When the Queen was presented with ceremonial gifts during a visit to China in 1986, her officials were tasked with arranging their safe transit to Britain.

In the case of a 60-year-old bonsai tree, that was easier said than done.

. . .

The tree – later nicknamed ‘Jack’ – was a gift from the Governor of Guangdong and the plan was to put it on the Queen’s Flight to Hong Kong for the next leg of the trip.

For Frank Savage, a diplomat in Peking, that was where the problems began. In its ornate bamboo cage, the tree was too big to fit through the cabin door. The hold had no temperature control.

“I was not prepared to risk the health of our venerable tree in temperatures of -50C,” Mr Savage wrote.

Instead, it was arranged for the tree to travel in the first class freight van of the mid-morning train to Hong Kong, while Mr Savage and his wife had to make do with second class.

. . .

At the airport “the tree was greeted by two high officials from BA plus around twenty lesser mortals,” Mr Savage recalled.

“I was informed that BA would put a guard on the tree 16 hours a day in order to attend to its every need (I recommended a Cantonese as opposed to a Mandarin speaker so that the tree would not be unduly lonely).”

He was “somewhat horrified” to learn that for the remaining eight hours the tree was to be stored in a pen with two Alsatians as guard dogs, noting “this plan was dropped with some alacrity when I pointed out the obvious.”

There’s more at the link.  Whimsical, funny, and a reminder that even bureaucrats have a lighter side.  (I just wish the rest of us could see it more often – particularly at the DMV!)

The sting, of course, is in the tail.

After being released from quarantine, ‘Jack’ took up residence in the plant centre at Windsor Great Park, according to the documents.

Since learning of the story of the Queen’s bonsai, a park spokeswoman said staff are seeking to discover what happened to it.

Wouldn’t it be funny if, after all that, they’d lost it?



  1. I'll bet some dumbass planted it in the grounds, and it promptly grew into a normal tree when given unlimited water and soil.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *