Thursday, 26 February 2009

Some musings on the vice of botany

Other people's obsessions are always a little mystifying are they not? I understand some people find gardening a relaxing diversion. I have never been tempted by its dubious pleasures. Some, like my young friend Mr Kirkham are even actually employed in this area. Extraordinary.

My old friend Algernon Bentley-Harrison was utterly obsessed by plants. His story is told in the latest of Mr Priestley's books, Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth, published by Bloomsbury this autumn and available from all reputable book mongers.

Algernon travelled the world in search of new plants - as if we did not have enough of the things already. He would disappear for months on end and then return weighed down with specimens. I show a photograph I took on a visit to his house. I was there only a month before the unfortunate incident some of you may recall from the rather sensational coverage in the newspapers.

A rich man, Algernon was happy to spend his entire fortune on this endeavour, constructing a huge glasshouse at his home in which to nurture his precious collection. But of course, this obsession - like so many obsessions - was his ultimate undoing. Take my advice and keep well clear of the vice of botany.

Plants can on occasion bite back.

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