Sensational Butterflies

“Always remember that the past was a lie, that memory had no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.”

The last few months have all been a bit topsy-turvy in Gemma land. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this Gabriel García Márquez quote and sulking. (By the way, how desolately beautiful is that sentence? One Hundred Years of Solitude is a wonderful book.) But like a butterfly emerging gratefully from an uncomfortable cocoon, I have brushed myself down, stood back up, and got a grip. This mental shakedown would have been much more tedious if it hadn’t been for my oldest and oddest friend, Niki. (More on the ‘odd’ later.) We’ve spent so much time together in our pyjamas of late that we’re becoming a bit like an old married (under-dressed) couple.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve been trying to spice things up in our relationship a little, by wearing proper clothes and and going on adventures. Second in our series of dates that will ruin our hair (although admittedly the humidity was not as drastic a hair-destroyer as the balloons) was a trip to the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterfly exhibition.

Niki & I in Sensational Butterflies

(Pause here to nod politely and agree that we make a great couple.)

Parked on the front lawn of the English landmark and tourist hotspot is a decidedly exotic adventure, in tent form. Stepping inside is to step out of English summer and into a tropical garden, bejewelled with butterflies. They hatch from their chrysalises and then float around, charming guests as they go.

Pale Owl and chrysalis at the Natural History Museum

They were everywhere.

Peeking at us from behind leaves…

Plain Tiger

… Perched on colourful snacks…


… And bewitching visitors when they spread their wings.

Niki and a Great Eggfly

Great Eggfly

We were like two kids in a sweetshop, running around and pointing out an increasingly gorgeous array of the least creepy crawly of the creepy crawlies.

Me and a Paper Kite

Tiger longwings, red lacewings, scarlet swallowtails, blue morphos, postmans, paper kites, and countless other fantastic (and fantastically named) creatures were everywhere you looked. I love the butterflies native to the UK, but these foreigners were just phenomenal.

Paper Kite

Scarlet Swallowtail


Great Mormon

As we wandered around the tropical tent, we kept seeing rebellious butterflies breaking the ‘no touching’ rule and landing on enchanted guests, and wondered somewhat dejectedly why no butterfly had found either of us an attractive looking perch. For some reason the stars seemed more likely to land on a child than an adult, and wide-eyed kids were were wandering around with handfuls of butterflies, gently carrying their treasures around to show the grown-ups.

Tiger Longwing

I was pretty jealous of these encounters, because I’m still love-drunk by my new camera’s macro skills. I was snapping away madly, addicted to the level of detail in each shot.

I think this is a Clipper

Red Lacewing

Even when focussing on one tiny thing and one much bigger less dainty thing (hi there) it does a great job.

Common Mormon and Gem

That tent was like snap-happy heaven. Great picture opportunities were just everywhere you turned. If you haven’t been already, then you should go. It’s only a fiver, and it’s so good for the soul. Stand in the heat, listen to the soundtrack of rainforest noises, and let yourself by hypnotised by the butterflies.

Common Mormon

Passion flower

Zebra Longwing

Great Mormon? Not sure

There’s nothing more soothing than nature. But sometimes documenting it can be nothing short of stressful. Still sulking at the butterfly-based rejection, Niki decided that the best way to entice a butterfly was to get 90% of the way to one and hope that her butterfly beau would go the other 10% of the distance. (Yup, just like in Hitch. That well known butterfly documentary.)




A few tentatively paused on her person, but not for long enough to write home about (or long enough for me to take a photo.) But perhaps butterflies prefer it when you play a little harder to get, because while I was snapping away a Great Eggfly landed on my sunglasses.

Great Eggfly on my sunglasses

He was old, tattered, and tired, and – like any weary weather-beaten traveller – was content to rest for a while.

Me and my Great Eggfly

It’s easy when you’re in a place like this to focus – with your mind and with your lens – on the bright and the beautiful; to gloss over the old and imperfect. And I think we’re probably all a bit guilty of doing this in our day to day lives, too. So I’m glad that a tiny, tatty butterfly picked me as a place to temporarily rest his hat, and reminded me in the process that true beauty doesn’t fade, even if stereotypical loveliness is an ephemeral truth in the end.


One response to “Sensational Butterflies

  1. Pingback: First Impressions & Animal Impressions at NHM | Some Little Gems

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