Mrs W of Nether Lamport accosted me at the far corner of the public gardens, as I came out of the hot house. She was accompanied by her friend Miss M of Thrupp and a bevy of children, but came straight over, took me by the elbow and proposed that this year, 2016, was to be a most remarkable year was it not.
Leicester City were due to win the Premier League at football and Donald Trump the premiership of the United States, surely those circumstances marked out a year most propitious in which to celebrate the work of Capability Brown, who like them was nothing if not an outsider. She continued in the same vein to opine that no insider, such as a member of a committee, could hope to have understood or predicted the success of Leicester City or Donald Trump. Committees, she said, are filled with people who represent the interests and agendas of their organisations rather than those for which the committee was established. They are of their nature unable to pursue the truth, they are of their nature dedicated to the political compromise.
Then there’s Jeremy Corbin she said, the biggest outsider of the lot, and look at him, when Donald Trump gets elected to the White House, he will be the last bastion of good sense in the western world. He will be our Churchill and I hope he’s ready for the job.
Then she remembered that Jeremy Corbin had actually been elected to lead the Labour Party in 2015, so perhaps it was bigger than an annual thing, perhaps it was a new phase in the evolution of the human race. All the more chance for an outsider like Capability Brown then, and she winked at me and nodded her head, and if winks could make a sound, then I would have said it was a loud wink.
It seemed to me that Mrs W was a little over-excited and I appreciated the intervention of her companion Miss M, who gathered her little flock together at this point and led them away with the promise of crumpets and jelly.
I took another turn in the gardens, and considered what I had heard. Why was it that Brown was taken up as he was – could it be, paradoxically, that society then was more open, because it was less trammelled by the bureaucratic equal opportunities legislation that has since been designed to assist outsiders such as Brown?
His relationships with committees could be, I regret to say, less than cordial. Consider only his treatment of William Robinson, Clerk-Itinerant to the Board of Works: ‘you will be so good as to inform the Gentlemen of the Board of Works, that Pique I pity, that Ideal Power I laugh at, that the Insolence of Office I despise, & that real Power I will ever disarm by doing my Duty.’ – Well-struck! well-struck indeed! indeed powerfully struck! – but unlikely to commend him to the committee.