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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8 thoughts on “The Rose Beetle”
Always loved that book. More for the crazy family than the animals and insects, but know what you mean about the rose beetle man. Such a fascinating life Gerald Durrell lived.
I agree about Gerald Durrell’s interesting life – though I’ve always felt rather sorry for poor Margo. The others had things they were interested in and wanted to do: writing, shooting and studying animals, but she had nothing. I think they were lucky to have been there in the 1930s, too. The cost of living was low and life was less regulated. I can’t imagine Gerry getting away with such haphazard schooling nowadays. And why didn’t Laurence and Leslie have jobs? They were both grown up?
It’s a much loved book from my youth too – and my children love it in turn as much as I do. Not a vestige of Nancy, Larry’s wife, in it though she was certainly in Corfu with them before a child was born and the marriage broke up. There is a type of male author for whom a partner comes a long way second to their genius. Hemingway comes to mind. Young Gerry was fond of Nancy and obviously chose not to involve her in his portrait of his ramshackle family.
Thank you for your comments, Pauline. I didn’t know about Nancy. I must say, I feel rather sorry for her, she can’t have had an easy time being Larry’s wife.
Did anyone identify your find?
Would love to know the Latin name,
Thank you for your comments, Steve. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post and my photo. I checked the insect when I got home and it’s a rose chafer, and its Latin moniker is cetonia aurata.
Thanks for that! Am reading My Family… for the first time. Utterly and undeniably charming, to say the least.
I’m delighted to have been able to introduce you to Gerald Durrell!
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