It has been my great good fortune to spend a few days recently at liberty in Fenstanton, that tranquil village neatly bisected by the Felixstowe Road which serves here to link the Great North Road with the M11.
Captain Ken commented to me only the other day that though he can walk 30 miles across country without thinking much of it, after twenty minutes in a picture gallery his back aches, his arches have fallen, a terrible feeling of torpor overcomes him, his body cries out for a pot of tea and a simple bench to rest himself upon.
Spring brings out the cynic in men like Captain Ken – it is the sudden and unpredictable change in the look of things. Mr Honey on the other hand grows steadily less repressible. ‘Hark at the lark!’ he is wont to say, at every chirrup from a passing sparrow.
John Dalrymple: `The rapidity and noise of the rivers should be increased by artificial bulwarks and impediments .. and the falls of water should, by the interposition of rocks, or of new streams brought over them, be made to look more like cataracts than cascades…’
Captain Ken may be called by some a quibbler and by some laconic of utterance. Some find his usual costume of trousers gartered with cycle clips and brightly checked sweaters a sufficient deterrent to conversation in itself. Nonetheless he put a fine question to the company when last we foregathered four our monthly supper at the Tatler’s Waste-Bin. The fact is that besides fir (Abies spp.) and spruce (Picea spp.), Scots and Corsican pines were also called firs in the 18th century and there is not much that we can do about it.
It being advent, and the braziers at every lamp-post with hot Spanish chestnuts for sale, that fine gentleman and man of parts, Mr Honey, on our meeting at the Tatler’s Waste-Bin, offered me one from a small brown paper-bag he had stuffed in his waistcoat, and then declared that Sweet Chestnut was the most superb of trees, echoing Thomas Hale, ‘very much superior … in every Respect’.
Mrs L. of Ilkley asks what tree would best summon up for the quintennial celebration that is to come in 2216 the quirkiness and quintessential quickness of Capability Brown. I don’t want to promote a competition, but I would put in a vote for the simple and much abused sycamore.
I don’t pretend to be able to answer all the questions I get asked. But here are a couple more:
1 how many plans did Jonathan Spyers draw for the great magician, Capability Brown?