Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals was a favourite teenage book, and it introduced me to the rose beetle. Soon after he arrived in Corfu in 1935, Gerry met the rose beetle man, an itinerant pedlar wearing a floppy hat covered in feathers, and a patched, pocketed coat, bulging with knick-knacks for sale. Bamboo cages holding a variety of birds bounced on his back, and he held ‘a number of lengths of cotton, to each of which was tied an almond-size rose-beetle, glistening golden green in the sun, all of them flying round his hat.’
My much loved copy of ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell
There was something about the name rose beetle which captured my imagination, and I was delighted when Gerry’s mother bought the pedlar’s entire stock of rose beetles and set them free. They promptly took over the garden and villa and ‘fell like emeralds into our laps.’
I longed to see one for myself but I never did and gradually the wish faded.
The King’s Mosque Caravanserai, Berat, Albania
But last year I was in Albania, and there, beside an old, neglected caravanserai in Berat was a tattered hedge of white roses. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of emerald green. I went over, and this is what I saw.
The Rose Beetle
It’s strange how, suddenly, the world can be transformed. The rose was past its best but it didn’t matter. Suddenly, the years vanished and I was back in Corfu with the rose beetle man. It was a special moment.
Photos by Elizabeth Hawksley
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