I’m guessing it’s not the world’s greatest stop-the-press sort of a secret that I love to watch butterflies. In as much as we’ve planned our garden (i.e. not very much at all) it’s designed to attract them, with buddleia, honeysuckle, roses, lavender and sweet peas all overgrowing each other for attention. It all smells wonderful on a sun-baked summer’s evening, and the butterflies and bumble bees follow their noses.
We see cabbage whites, tortoiseshells and red admirals, and every now and then some of those tiny little blue ones whose name I can’t remember. Pretty, beautiful even, but not extraordinary. Do you think that’s how you would feel if you lived somewhere tropical where butterflies the size of your hand are the norm, or where the local greenery requires those gorgeous lime green, orange and velvet black ones for camouflage? Would we go to special ‘cold houses’ to see a bumble bee buzz over a deep blue honeysuckle?
We took Kitty and Elma on one of H’s recent holiday days when we ended up in Stratford in the pouring rain waiting for the car to be serviced. It’s always been a lovely place to visit, but we also get to see the changes in the girls given stark relief by a trip to a familiar place.
It’s funny how trips to certain places show up the growth and changes in your children. I don’t mean the truly mundane and everyday like the supermarket, although every time I lift the children into the trolley I can see how much Elma has grown, and how ready she is to be in a proper sitting up seat alongside her sister, so much as the differences you see when you go somewhere every month or so. A park where Kitty needed help to climb to the slide, but now does it herself, or a wall that she couldn’t see over last time.
The last time we went to see the butterflies Elma was still in her pram, tanked up with milk and warmly snuggled up in her snowsuit. She wasn’t terribly interested in the outside world except for her little hanging turtle and her Mummy’s face just beyond it, and if memory serves me rightly she fell asleep for most of the time we spent there. Now, a few months on she was all giggles, tracking the butterflies around the enclosure, pulling herself forward on her buggy bar to see more, and utterly blasé about them dive bombing her very orange buggy.
Kitty had been as enchanted as her Mummy; the first time we ever went, just before her second birthday, she tootled around in her little butterfly backpack reins, pulling at Grandad’s sleeve for a lift up to see more. Over the winter she’d stand and stare and dream, and she spent weeks chattering at Grandpa on the phone to tell him how the butterfly had landed on her head, then Mummy’s tummy, and then my finger, usually accompanied by a theatrical re-enactment.
Perhaps it was because there were so many more at this time of year than in the Spring or perhaps it was the dive bombing of big fluttery wings, but this time she wasn’t so bothered by the butterflies, to the extent of being very unimpressed when they flew too close for her liking. Poor butterflies; used to people cooing over their stunning good looks, they must have been rather surprised when a two year old whirlwind flipped around from hiding in Daddy’s shoulder to growl “wrraaa!”. But while butterflies were preferred at arms’ length, the fish were the lucky recipients of her wholehearted affection.
By the looks of a couple of the carp in that lily pond she’s not the only little girl who likes feeding them either. Happily our combined loose change collection produced a couple of 20ps and she trotted back and forth from the food dispenser to the little bridge, flinging each little pellet individually in the vague direction of the fish of her choosing.
(I love the little sticky out tongue)
And they returned her diligence; little orange and silver slivers flashed across the pond, nosing each other out of the way to get to the treats before scattering across the prow of an enormous blotchy white giant who emerged open mouthed from the deep, scooped up every floating morsel in sight, and sank silently in a trail of bubbles.
I’m sure by the next time we visit they’ll both have changed again, perhaps Kitty will be all about the quail, and Elma the fish. Or perhaps they’ll both be mad about the fish. However, fun as fish food is (and by fun I mean “stinky as all out”), their Mummy will always be for the butterflies.