telling tales

pyramidal orchid close up

Walking along by the canal the other day, I paused to take a photograph of what I initially thought was a bee.

This meant stepping off the path a little, and I waited to one side as a dog walker was coming along in the opposite direction. He could see that I was taking photos and told me to watch out for an orchid that was in bloom some twenty yards back along the way he’d come.

pellucid hoverfly

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d recognise a wild orchid if I saw one, but it wasn’t too hard to spot as it was a single bloom unlike any other – buttercups, daisies, thistles, mallows, elderflowers, cow parsley, brambles and bindweed – that I’d already found plenty of.

After looking online, I think I’ve managed to work out that the insect I stopped for was a pellucid hoverfly and the orchid is a pyramidal orchid.

pyramidal orchid

The question now arises: how do you pronounce “pyramidal”?

Although I’ve looked online and listened to various sound clips, there is enough difference of opinion to have me wondering if it’s pa-RAM-i-dl or pira-middle.

The latter sound pattern – pira-middle – has me thinking of my father. He really wasn’t the most imaginative person in the world, but when I was a little girl he would occasionally tell us long and involved tales of two ne’er-do-wells, Tommy Rot and Tara Diddle. I don’t remember much about what actually happened in the stories, but the names conjure images of long summer holidays and idle hours spent on the river bank or by the canal.

I’m not sure if all four of them appeared in the same stories, but there was another, similar, pair of wastrels with the less plausible names of Trouble and Mischief, who constantly got separated from each other.

The shaggy dog story, full of unlikely twists and turns, always resulted in a scene where the local bobby confronted one of the lads. Typically, on being asked to give an account of himself, Trouble would draw the story to a close with the inevitable punchline, “I’m looking for Mischief.”

I’ve posted this poem here a number of times in the past, but it does seem to be the most relevant.


Whispering secrets into an empty cocoa tin,
string, taut, measuring the distance between us;
I was squaw to your brave,
target for your cap-gunned cop and cowboy.

We caught butterflies on the buddleia –
peacocks, tortoiseshells, red admirals –
and netted minnows (I caught mostly weed)
down in the brown brook in the park.

Jumpers for wicket, you taught me
to hold the bat and strike out firm and strong.
Staunchly, I held back the tears:
the leather ball struck hard.

Tins and pistols rusted into silence long ago;
nets rotted, bamboo handles split.
The butterflies have flown away;
their colours paint my dreams.


moon daisies by the canal

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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