Something different for my blog this time.
I recently interviewed Jonathan Bradley about his book Papiliones that has just been published.
I asked Jonathan about getting young people interested in butterflies.
1. I understand you started writing poems aged 14, did you become interested in wildlife around the same time or earlier?
I think I was interested in wildlife at an early age, perhaps 4 or 5 years old. My mother used to feed the birds outside our kitchen window, and I remember being fascinated that they came so near to us, on the other side of the window. Later on we moved as a family to the South of France when I was about 9 years old. We saw creatures there that to me were exotic and unusual. There was a tortoise in our garden that I used to feed on lettuce leaves. One day it disappeared, and my mother thought that our gardener had eaten it. I was very shocked. When it rained enormous slugs and snails used to appear from underneath stones. I recall also seeing scorpions, colourful beetles and very long centipedes in our garden. At the seaside were hermit crabs, and sometime octopuses that frightened me a bit. All the same I loved seeing, and sometimes holding, the wild creatures we found there.
2. As a child who was your greatest inspiration?
Probably my parents, who were both nature-lovers and were especially interested in birds. My father once found an orphaned sparrow chick in our garden after we returned to England later in my youth, and he fed and nursed it for several weeks until it was bigger and stronger. He even gave it a name – Rupert. I was also enchanted by the TV and radio programmes of Johnny Morris, who must have inspired a love of the natural world in many young people at that time. My parents and some of my teachers at school also interested me in literature and science, and by the time I was about 10 years old I started writing my first book, which was never finished!
3. In your book, I like the way you have mixed factual information about the butterflies with your poems. Do you think mixing Natural History with art and poetry and other school subjects is a good way to inspire more young people to learn about the wildlife around them?
Yes, definitely. We human beings, and all that we do, are part of the natural world, and so every school subject is in some way connected with Natural History. At a simple level, if young people go out and observe wildlife, and then record, draw, paint, or write about wildlife it can arouse their interest and deepen their connection with other living things. As well as that, artists and writers over the centuries from ancient times have created beautiful depictions of the natural world that can themselves be inspirational.
4. Do you think that there is enough Natural History taught in schools?
I find this question difficult to answer because I have no recent direct experience. I suspect, though, that the answer is probably “no”, because Natural History may well be squeezed out of school learning time by the need to pass tests and exams in other subjects.
5. If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice what would it be?
I had a rather unusual teenage life, some of which was spent at a boarding school. If I had been offered advice by my older self as a time traveller I probably wouldn’t have listened to it! With hindsight I would have spent less time being anxious about being a bit different, I would have tried not to do quite so many different things simultaneously, and been more persistent in my writing and music-making. The internet didn’t exist in my teenage years so I wasn’t able to write a blog like your excellent one!
(Photos not from the book)
Papiliones by Jonathan Bradley is available from all good bookshops including online at Amazon, The Book Depository, Waterstones and others. ISBN: 9781911589211 RRP: £15.95.
Link to book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Papiliones-Choir-Poetry-Jonathan-Bradley/dp/1911589210/
Jonathan is also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PapilionesBook