Unaccustomed warmth has returned to South Cambridgeshire these last few days – and with the hours of daylight finally exceeding those of darkness, even an old curmudgeon is forced to admit that Spring has arrived (while its dogs now chew contentedly on winter’s traces after a long chase).
Evidence of the new season abounds – and regular readers will be pleased to know that the cycle shorts are back (and still remain lycra-free). My magnolia stellata is in bloom – though curiously, its flowers are white rather than the beige colour that paint manufacturers seem to market under the name. In fact, I am very fond of the magnolia – but have never seen one with beige flowers.
Butterflies, on the whole seem to be rather more sensibly named – blues are blue, whites are white. I raise the butterfly as the Brimstones are fluttering around once again (well, the lads are – apparently the gals are rather paler and can be mistaken for a white and so may be in with a chance for a part in Midsomer) after their long hibernation. Brimstone is, of course, another name for the element sulphur many of whose allotropic forms are yellow. The only other chemical element with its own butterfly would seem to be the copper – and the butterfly is somewhat copper coloured. The nobility are widely represented with Dukes, Emperors, Queens and Monarchs galore, the navy get a look in (in the military sense, rather than the shade of blue) and even punctuation gets a mention (though only the comma, so far). It would be quite nice to discover a new butterfly so that I could name it after one of the other elements or punctuation marks – the Apostrophe would be such a lovely name for a new member of the Papilionoidea.
The most intriguing of our lepidopteran visitors is the Camberwell Beauty – rather a smart number which is only an infrequent migrant from Scandinavia (though, thinking back to the Vikings – you can never be too careful, today fluttering around South London, tomorrow pillaging monasteries). I’ve been to Camberwell – well, to be perfectly honest I’ve been through it many times on the bus but never disembarked – and beauty is not a word I would tend to attach to it (except in an extremely heavy-handed attempt at irony). It does have a green – though, in other respects it very little resembles its fictional near namesake, Camberwick Green – but apparently, it was not here but in Coldharbour Lane (so it was nearly named the more alliterative Brixton Beauty) that a couple of Beauties were seen in August 1748, and where its discoverer named it (he also named it the Grand Surprise, which suggests that my somewhat disparaging views on Camberwell were shared as early as the 18th century).
The Grand Surprise is reportedly a strong flier and seems to exist on both sides of the Atlantic – which suggests it’s a very strong flier indeed or a hitch-hiker – possibly with the aforementioned Vikings, though they weren’t mentioned in the Vinland Sagas…