Friday, 6 April 2012

Kevin's kaleidoscope from Spain

A few posts back, I featured Kevin Hill, the ace electrician who PAT-tested the moth trap for its excursion to London. Now I've heard from him again and he's sent these lovely butterfly photos.

He wasn't particularly interested in moths when he came to do the trap, but like everyone I've ever met, he was entranced by the beauty of these residents of a butterfly 'jungle' on Spain's Costa del Sol. I haven't had time to look them up although they are familiar from similar attractions in the UK, such as the excellent one at Bristol Zoo. I think the Monarch-like ones are a European version of America's grand butterfly, known as the Leopard; but I will check, or more learned readers may advise.

Kevin's pictures are timely because they add to my scepticism about a recent National Trust report which I covered for the Guardian, which claims that today's children have lost touch with nature, don't play out any more and so forth. The statistics seemed unconvincing to me, as such things often are when you examine them in detail.

A claim that x percent of the country believes/does something is often based on surprisingly small samples. Encountering a statistical interviewer at work can add to your scepticism. As children, we made a habit of getting free sweets from people testing samples on the street in Headingley, making repeat visits and giving fictional opinions and different marks out of ten about how yum they were.

Kevin's pictures trigger another cause for doubt. These surveys always refer to a happier past which I am sure is largely imaginary. I don't believe that my generation, still less my parents' and grandparents, took a more intense or knowledgeable interest in wildlife than today's. They certainly didn't have the chance to watch magnificent creatures like these butterflies within inches of, or indeed sometimes perched on, their noses.

By another coincidence, Penny is reading the novel The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins and just showed me this quote, from a regrettably pompous barrister:

"The village parents are complaining that the children seem to have lost the power of amusing themselves. On Saturday mornings they hang about whining for money to go to the cinema - at twelve o'clock on a fine morning."

That was in 1954.

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