Sunday, 24 February 2019

Butterflies, Dead White Males and Brexiteers

This early spring / warm spring / warm spell has been a joy. For several days now, the early afternoon sun has warmed things up to such an extent that I've even been reduced to shirtsleeves. And it has brought the early butterflies out: in the three days around mid-month I saw a Red Admiral, a first Brimstone, a Peacock and a Tortoiseshell, all without straying from my usual haunts. There have been many Brimstones since – and today, walking on Ashtead common, I happened on a Comma, basking in the unseasonal sunshine. That's five species – and it's still February! Most years I see nothing, even a Brimstone, until March. If this is that 'climate change' the schoolkids are warning us about, it certainly has its upside... But it could equally well be the deceptive prelude to a bitter late winter, with the country shivering in the grip of the Beast from the East again. I'm making no forecasts.

On Desert Island Discs this morning, I was amused to hear the very likeable historian Margaret Macmillan talking about the difficulties she faced in getting her book about the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 published. One respected university press told her that no one would be interested in a book about 'dead white males sitting around a table talking'. Eventually a publisher took it, and since then Peacemakers (US title Paris 1919) has sold around half a million copies.

Earlier, I was less amused to hear Yasmin Alibhai-Brown describing those who want to actually leave the EU – which, as is now clear, can only be done via 'No Deal' – as 'Brexit Jihadis'. What a truly delightful turn of phrase.


  1. Any mention of Woodrow Wilson induces a lower of the pulse and the eyelids. (And I say this knowing what importance he had to American history.) Yet however little one may care for them, Lloyd George and Clemenceau are hard to look away from.

    Apart from that, people are still killing one another over the decisions made at Versailles--formerly in Yugoslavia, now conspicuously in Syria, at a lower level yet in Iraq.

  2. Well quite – not exactly a lasting peace. But then peace is a very difficult and fragile construct, certainly not humanity's default condition.

  3. And this morning I saw a Brimstone being chased from garden to garden by a decidedly belligerent Tortoiseshell...