Parallax On The 17:22 From Paddington

You know those days when one thing tips the whole day into chaos? I suppose it is inevitable really: a cross between Rabbie Burns(i) and the Butterfly flapping its pesky wings above the forests of Brazil.

I spend quite a lot of time driving. More time, even ,than I spend on trains. Last Friday was a marathon and I still feel a little wan. I began by driving from here (Northamptonshire) to Worcestershire where I needed to chivvy some electricians and organise some sturdy fellows who were planting some large trees and a hefty hedge. From there a reasonably short hop to Warwickshire to talk about more trees (and roses, fences, lakes, wildflowers,bulbs and hedges). From there to Suffolk for more chatting and arm waving before returning home in time for slumping.

All went well until about 8:30 in the morning when I found out that the tree chaps would not turn up until 10am. I went to buy a broom in Evesham to fill the time but after that my schedule was completely shot – before it had even begun. Hey-Ho. Apart from the client meetings (which were all very satisfactory, thank you very much for asking) the following interesting things happened…….


This is unfortunate for a blog that feeds off trivial happenings (ii). In this case an entire day when the most interesting thing was a short shower of rain and stopping for a pee at a large Tescos just off the A14.

So, it was fortunate then that I was due to do some light garden visiting this week so I do not have to invent something dubious about which to write. I was invited by the garden world’s equivalent of  teen sensation Olly Murs: Mr Christopher Young the ed of  The Garden to accompany him on a visit to Boughton House which, conveniently, lies equidistant between our houses. For those who do not know, it is a whopping great pile owned by the Dukes of Buccleuch since the sixteenth century (although, of course, they were not Dukes at that stage of proceedings: those of you who wish to research their genealogy may peel off at this stage and go here. The rest of you, follow me…)

The landscape at Boughton is all about trees and views and water: originally there were lots of parterres and paths and formal ponds but over the years they have vanished. There are long rides that disappear off towards distant churches and a remarkable system of canals. These are a series of perfect rectangular waterways dug in the Eighteenth Century in order to divert the river into something rectilinear and formal. They had become a bit choked over the years so in 2006 a programme of restoration was begun: silt was removed, weirs and sluices repaired and the banks lined with oak. They are extraordinarily lovely and slice through the landscape with the litheness and elegance of a bonefish (except,obviously, a bit slower).

At the same time the Mount was cleared of trees (except a fabulous Cedar that is where the herons nest) and resculpted. Many of you will be aware that the very clever Kim Wilkie has been doing stuff at Boughton, in particular an enormous hole called Orpheus. This is a peculiarly lovely piece of work  that in size and shape perfectly matches the mount: in negative. Orpheus descends, the mount rises.


Perfect, Impressive, Majestic and Splendid. It is the sort of thing that makes one sigh from the pleasure of it all. And I did..


As well as this arpeggio of austerity there is a further construction: just beside Orpheus is a stainless steel cubic framework and an illustration in stone and water of the Golden Section. The idea is to show the science of proportion and all that jazz. I think it is an unnecessary conceit that ruins the clarity of the earth works. It is like a magician who, after  performing a perfect illusion then proceeds to whip out a whiteboard and explain how very clever it all is. It removes the mystery of the landscape and should not be there. By all means show your workings, if you must, draw a map if you have to but do it somewhere else, not in the middle of one of the finest vistas in the country.


Apparently it is there in order to stimulate debate, if that is the case it has served its purpose. I contend that it should be elsewhere: that is my contribution to the debate. Go and see it to decide for yourselves, you will not be disappointed.

The picture is of some Iris reticulata behaving as if they were Meryl Streep at Lyme Regis in the French Lieutenant’s Woman

I am listening to Hey,That’s No way To say Goodbye by Leonard Cohen.

(i) But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!

(ii) One of my many Spammy friends has sent me an email offering to “shop online for a pen enlargement patch”. This was an offer I could not refuse and my humble Bic is now a whopping great Jumbo Indelible Marker.