Thursday, June 4, 2009

'A natural feckin phenomenon'

I didn’t exactly find a front page story – but I did manage to come up with a picture piece.
The seeds were sown on Sunday, when I went to check the vegetable garden. To my surprise (and quiet, creeping pride) it’s beginning to look good. Two types of lettuce, French beans, peas, broadbeans, cabbages, broccoli, radishes, turnips and carrots are now growing in Aunt Dee’s garden. The delicate scent of stock (Dómhnall’s mother gave me the plants) wafts towards the back door in the evening, and the broadbeans are decked with deep crimson flowers.
A couple of butterflies fluttered past and I thought ‘how nice.’
Another pair followed, then three or four more. I began to feel like I was in a Disney cartoon. Butterflies floated from the nettle patch in their dozens. They fluttered in the open back door.
I had a sudden vision of myself, frozen on the back step, decked in an impenetrable coat of butterflies.
They didn’t seem quite so charming anymore.
I retreated inside and consulted one of my (many many) library books.
The butterflies, according to the pictures, were Painted Ladies.

So I looked them up on the internet.
It turns out that due to record spring rainfall in the Atlas mountains, unparalleled numbers of painted lady butterflies hatched out this year. A combination of warm air currents and good weather lured huge flocks of them to the skies, all the way from Africa to the west coasts of England and Ireland.

It’s a natural phenomenon that may never again be witnessed in our lifetimes.
How incredible, I decided. And astonishing. This was going to be my story for the editor.
The editor, it turned out, was not quite so fascinated.
‘Butterflies?’ he spat at next morning’s news meeting.
‘Some people might find it interesting,’ I muttered nervously.
‘She’s right,’ Michael said mildly. ‘We’ve already had two emails into the letters page about it.’
‘Butterflies,’ the editor murmured. ‘Jesus. . . Right then. . . I suppose we may as well get Aidan out to take a few pictures of this natural feckin phenomenon. You-‘ He pointed at me –‘go with him. Then do up the story when you get back in and we’ll stick it somewhere inside.’
‘Right,’ I scurried out of the office, thanking god that a natural phenomenon had saved me from having to explain why I could not possibly pump the local garda for inside information.
‘For jesus sake,’ the photographer Aidan murmured as we pulled out of the carpark. ‘What ever happened to a decent feckin’ stabbing? Or a crash? Feckin’ butterflies . . . for feck’s sake.’

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