Monday 24 August 2020


The image above is a painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema ('Alma-Tad of the Royal Acad' – about whom I've written before). Titled Ninety Four Degrees in the Shade, it shows a young Herbert Thompson – later to become a distinguished Egyptologist – out butterflying on a hot summer day in the 1870s: note the topee-like sun hat, the long-handled net and the butterfly book, optimistically open at (I think) the Camberwell Beauty. Those were the days, long gone, when people knew how to dress for a country jaunt.
  This has been a memorable and unusually intense butterfly season for me, much of it having taken place during 'lockdown', and many of its best moments being gifted me in unfamiliar and unexpected places. In the course of it, my butterfly obsession reached such a pitch that I decided I really must write a book about it all – especially as I'd suddenly (while butterfly watching on a favourite patch of downland) seen an 'angle' that would make it different from all the other butterfly books of recent years. It will be short and no doubt, like my previous effort, 'odd'. If nothing else, writing it will ease me through the butterflyless months ahead.
  And now I guess I'd better get on and write it – though there are surely a few more butterfly days left. The Chalkhill Blues are still flying (and in places where I've never seen them before), and the Adonis... And, who knows, a Brown Hairstreak?

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