Wednesday, June 06, 2018

"I grew very fond of these scorpions."

George Durrell, who became a noted British naturalist, spent five years exploring nature while his family lived on the Greek island of Corfu.  I can relate to his fascination with the insects and reptiles and birds and flowers that made up natural encyclopedias.  Here's a typical piece of his writing on the natural world he explored as a kid.
"The inhabitants of the wall wreee a mixed lot, and they were divided into day and night workers, the hunters and the hunted.  At night the hunters were the toads that lived among the brambles, and the geckos, pale, translucent with bulging eyes, that lived in the cracks higher up the wall.  Their prey was the population of stupid, absent-minded crane-flies that zoomed and barged their way among the leaves;  moths of all sizes and shapes, moths striped, tessellated, checked, spotted and blotched, that fluttered in soft clouds along the withered pluster;  the beetles, rotund and neatly clad as business men, hurrying with portly efficiency about their night's work.  When the last glow-worm had dragged his forty emerald lantern to bed over the hills of moss, and the sun rose, the wall was taken over by the next set of inhabitants.  Here it was more difficult to differentiate between the prey and the predators, for everything seemed to feed indiscriminately off everything else.  Thus the hunting wasps searched out caterpillars and spiders;  the spiders hunted for flies;  the dragon-flies, big, brittle and hunting-ping, fed off the spiders and the flies;  and the swift, light and multicolored wall lizards fed off everything"
The next paragraph gets into his favorite wall dwellers - the little black scorpions.   And the next one begins,
"I grew very fond of these scorpions."
There was still a fairly large swamp within a quarter mile of my house when I was growing up (it's a public golf course now) and I spent hours exploring the hills and ponds rich with life as a kid.  But unlike Durrell, I didn't have a doctor of zoology to accompany once a week in my explorations.  

I mentioned this book earlier when I was intrigued by the title - My Family and Other Animals. Some of you wrote to say it was made into a BBC mini-series, which I haven't seen.  Just enjoying my way through the book.

His family included his older brother, the well known writer of the Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell, his sister, mother, and another brother.  Having your little brother write about you from the eyes of a 10 year old is rarely flattering, and Larry doesn't come across too well.

When I tried to pinpoint the dates they were on Corfu, I checked Lawrence's brith year - 1912, and since he was 23 when they went to Corfu, it was 1935 to 1939.  But when I did that, I also learned that Lawrence brought his wife to Corfu, but she does not exist in the book.  I think he'd divorced her by the time the book was published.  Lawrence also wrote a book about this period, but it cuts out even more of the family.  Both parents and the children were born in India as part of the Raj and when Lawrence eventually wanted to return to Britain, he learned that they did not consider him a British citizen.

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