bank holiday butterfly blues
After a rather grueling week up-country, it's back to Handsworth to try and put my house in order, both physically and metaphorically.
There's always that moment of trepidation after you have turned the key and pushed open the door past the pile of post.
Yay! I didn't leave the anchovy hotpot in the slow cooker for a week.
Yay! The washing machine isn't full of damp dog-smelling towels.
Boo! My Busy Lizzy has died.
It's been another funny summer in Olde England.
I've been trying to describe how things used to be to my eight-year-old.
"The sun would come out in the second week of June and stick around until the last week of August. We'd have a couple of thunderstorms to stop the lawns dying and the sky would be full of butterflies."
It seems intensely sad to me that we have now condemned ourselves to 12 months of non-weather, all because my mum didn't know when to say 'enough is enough' to the hairspray can.
My youngest has never seen proper snow. Imagine that.
He's seen hail in May and rivers burst their banks in June, but he's never sat on a sledge and gone pell-mell down a hill.
My sister-in-law has made it her new life mission to save the Cabbage White Butterfly and is growing brassicas especially for this purpose.
My dad had a special pair of caterpillar scissors he used to keep oiled in the shed. They'd come out at the merest sight of a parasite pupae and the poor beast would be cut in twain to prevent the decimation of our cabbages.
It's funny how you miss these things when they're no longer around.
My grandpa had a felt-covered board which was a riot of butterflies, fresh from the killing jar, pinned for eternity in frozen flight.
The only things I see with wings now are magpies and they're subject to the sort of inflation only found in Zimbabwe.
Nineteen for sorrow, 36 for joy, 111 are a wish, etc.
We have been forced to extend the famous rhyme. Any number over 150 now represent a new pair of shoes; over 200 and it's a minor surgical procedure for a family member.
I suspect the magpies have eaten the butterflies, but who will eat the magpies, apart from that bloke who lives in River Cottage?
Actually, that's not a bad idea.
I come from a long line of poachers and lampers.
Uncle Derek would often return of a morning with a burlap sack filled with foxes, badgers, rabbits, stoats, squirrels, field mice and ptarmigans pilfered from the estate of Lord Rockingham. Aunt Electra would clean them up and pop them into a big pot with turnips, nettles and split peas to make a stew.
After we'd had our fill, she'd take it round the neighbours' homes where it would be traded for a brace of cuckoo eggs, crab apples or dandelion wine.
It was a micro-economy that worked and nobody went hungry or sober.
The other side of my family lived down Bournemouth way and they lived on les fruits du mer, cockles, mussels, crabs and whelks.
They were great days indeed. Getting up at daybreak to catch the receding tide and harvesting nature's bounty in a tin bucket.
Nuclear seepage did for that particular jolly. The whelks started to glow in the dark and the cockles grew an extra winkle.
The final nail in the self-sufficient coffin came with the opening of hundreds of Co-Ops up and down the land.
Families no longer needed to hunt and scavenge. Everything was on the doorstep, with the added bonus of stamps which could be saved and swapped for a turkey at Christmas.
Seemingly overnight, our whole eating habits changed. Adverts on new-fangled ITV urged us to ditch our daily bread for a loaf called Nimble that boasted air as its main ingredient.
Vesta meals ousted rabbit as the nation's favourite Saturday night meal.
What was meant to liberate us actually enslaved us. Sure, mum now had much more free time as freeze-dried ingredients filled the larder, but the nutritional slippage spearheaded by Alphabetti Spaghetti and Birds Angel Delight rapidly became an avalanche of cack.
Now, with the average food bill having risen by 25 per cent, we are having to make informed gastro-choices again.
The poaching round here's not so good. The ducks on Handsworth Park pond are scabby and the squirrels are full of T.B. The good stuff's all to be found in Hereford and the Marches and we can't afford the petrol or burlap sacks to make this a viable proposition.
The poaching instinct dies hard though and my predatory genes now have me hanging around the cheap chiller of Asda, waiting for the kid with the spots and white coat to mark down the Spam Fritters by another few shillings.
It's a sorry state of affairs and one which is entirely of our own making. There really is no such thing as a free lunch any more.