Thursday, 25 July 2013

A few of my favourite things...Lepidoptera, Pimm's and Observer's Books...

Life's slowed down somewhat this week. The end of the school year dragged its heels but finally arrived yesterday and at last there's more time to sit in the garden and smell the roses.

Or the Buddleia, to be more precise. We have a rather unruly bush that is attracting a bumper crop of butterflies this year.

One way or another I'm guessing the heatwave is responsible. The sunny conditions must surely favour the butterflies and it certainly means we've spent more time in the garden sitting under the parasol observing them. With a cup of tea or an end of term glass of wine or fake Pimm's (depending on the time of day). 

I've long been a fan of Aldi's Pimm's equivalent, Austin's. And this year was the first year I noticed Lidl stocking an own-brand Pimm's (or 'summer punch drink') called Jeeves. It didn't take long to persuade myself that it was my duty to the frugal blogging world to try it out, but at least I did wait until the end of term. By which time Lidl are only selling the ready diluted version. This is still very quaffable, especially at £2.99 per litre. (I suspect this works out to be more expensive than mixing your own, but maybe still less than using genuine Pimm's.)

Enough Pimm's drinking, let's get back to the butterflies. We realised that as well as the usual Cabbage Whites, Tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies, Peacocks and Red Admirals, there were two species we didn't recognise. At which point Husband instructed one of the children to go and fetch the Observer's Book of Butterflies from the landing.

We have a growing collection of Observer's Books, which I buy whenever I spot them in charity shops. They're kind of like the internet before the internet existed. Pocket-sized books that cover a range of topics from cacti to unmanned space flight, and coarse fishing to pottery and porcelain.

Some of our Observer's books.

For me, it's partly a nostalgic thing - I was given a few Observer's books as a child, and so were my parents and their siblings; Son has taken ownership of his Great Uncle's old Observer's Book of Trains. 

Originally published by Frederick Warne & Co (publishers of Beatrix Potter), the books were very popular with children in the 50s and 60s, and are still sought after today with mint editions of the first two Observer's books (Birds and Wildflowers) selling for hundreds of pounds. (There's even an Observer's Book of Observer's Books to aid the avid collector!) 

But what I like most is that the books stand the test of time. Although the illustrations in the early editions (grainy black and white photographs sometimes) are not great, the quality of the writing is always excellent and still relevant.

Enough Observer's Books, let's get back to the butterflies. We realised that although we have several of the Observer's natural history books (not mint editions unfortunately), we don't have any to do with insects or butterflies.

Fortunately, the Red Cross charity shop delivered the goods the very day after we noticed the butterfly vacuum in our collection!

And so we have been able to name the unidentified species in our garden; the Marbled White and the Comma. We think.

* The foreword to our newly acquired Observer's Book of Butterflies (written in 1937); still pertinent today. 

"It might well be asked whether yet another book on the British butterflies is necessary; whether indeed it would not be better to try and screen from inquisitive eyes and hide from grasping hands those butterflies that still remain to us.  That is not possible. The only course that lies open to us is that which leads through education to a proper appreciation of nature as a subject, not for wanton, thoughtless destruction, but for careful preservation and study, to be treasured for the joy it can bring to the seeing eye and the thoughtful mind.

In these days of quick and easy transport the countryside is no longer the sanctuary it was for nature, and unless we are careful, those who come after us may justly accuse us of betraying the trust we hold for them.

Such a book as this, therefore, complete in itself, accurate, reliable and convenient to use, is one of the best safeguards that can be provided, since it leaves no grounds for a plea of ignorance where our butterflies are concerned." 

Hear, hear!

Anyone else enjoying the butterflies, fake Pimm's or collecting Observer's books this summer?!


  1. The butterflies are just coming out in numbers here now in Derbyshire after a slow start. Commas are one of my favourites but I have never seena marbled white....I'm jealous!!
    Isn't buddleia wonderful ?!

    1. From what I read, Marbled Whites are confined to southern counties I'm afraid! Yes, loving buddleia!

  2. I've seen a Marbled White and a Comma in the last couple of days, which is unusual for here (and our buddleia isn't out yet being at the northern end of Oxfordshire- practically permafrost...) Masses of Ringlets, Meadow Browns and other unidentified brown butterflies in the fields, but no Red Admirals or Painted Ladies here yet.
    I've just seen an online photo of a Swallowtail on someone's buddleia- very jealous :)

    1. Isn't that strange - north Oxfordshire isn't so very far away from here and yet your buddleia is behind! Not so many brown butterflies in the garden. Wow I would love to see a Swallowtail!

  3. Wish I'd seen your post before I bought a bottle of pricey Pimms last week. I've been butterfly spotting a lot this week. Found a 'Gatekeeper' or loads actually on a dog walk last week and then Small Whites and Meadow Browns this morning.

    1. Please don't let the thought of cheaper imitation Pimms spoil your real Pimms drinking in any way!

  4. We call buddleia butterfly bush here. When my son was building a butterfly garden a couple of years ago, he read that in some areas of Europe you couldn't plant them anymore because they were an invasive species. They were springing up everywhere. Have you seen that?

    1. We call it butterfly bush here too. I do associate buddleia with patches of wasteland and the side of railway tracks, but I'm sure it's not prohibited to plant it. I'd love to know what other things your son planted to attract butterflies?

  5. I really like the foreward - I'm really surprised people were worried about the environment that long ago.