Hugh Johnson

Here's the other half of why I adore Hugh Johnson: I wrote him a letter and he actually replied.

Yes. He is a Sir and, as I only found out when looking for his publisher's address, a renowned wine expert (considered the world's best-selling wine writer, says his Wikipedia entry) - and he replied to a letter sent by a stranger.

I wrote that his encyclopedia was a source of unending pleasure. ‘‘You endow trees with character and class and the personal pleasure you derive from thinking about them, looking at them, and telling of them is evident and enervating.’’

On a postcard of the Old Elm Tree, on the previous page, he wrote that my letter came with ‘‘brilliant timing’’ as he is in the midst of a total revision of the book and he thanked me for referring him to the magistral gem of Keith and Meg Coates-Palgrave (Trees of Southern Africa). Then, the kindest words I've ever received (from a stranger): ‘‘Your card gave me such pleasure - worth writing for your reaction alone.’’

Dear Mr Johnson, thank you.