Tuesday, March 07, 2006

(9) Three butterflies; three wanton killings

On September 6th 1985 Steve Sadik and I spotted a butterfly at rest on the hall floor.
“My soul,” commented Steve poignantly.
Dino Constantinou joined us and held his shoe above the insect, pretending that he would crush it.
Neither of us found this very funny and said so. He took his foot away and we all moved outside.
Later we discovered to our dismay that a young workman had wantonly squashed the butterfly.

When we charged him with this he said “It wasn’t a butterfly; it was a moth.”

Ten hours later I was watching the first episode of a new BBC 1 serial, Murder Of a Moderate Man.
At one moment a person in the background of a scene was reading a book. For some reason the idea came to me that this was Papillon (‘Butterfly’ in French) by Henri Charrier, which is the account of imprisonment and escape from Devil’s Island.

During the credits at the end I noticed that a woman involved in the production had the surname Papillon.

Some hours later I was watching a film on TV called All Quiet On The Western Front, made in 1932.
I had glimpsed scenes from this classic account of the First World War before, but had never seen it in its entirety.
One memorable scene I recalled was at the end where the young German Soldier Paul is shot by an English sniper. I clearly remembered his taut, outstretched hand going limp.

But it was only that night when I saw the whole film that I realised that the reason why he had stretched out of his defensive trench, thereby granting the sniper the chance to kill him, was to cup in his hand... a butterfly.

No comments: