Tom retired from running a post office and country coffee shop about twenty years ago. Since then, life has been busy with wonderful activity, fuelled by his ever-inquisitive mind. He has built a mini observatory in his back garden, complete with revolving telescope. What remains of his garden is filled with all sorts of unusual plants, grown from seed, sourced from obscure, carefully researched catalogues. But when I met him, on a beautiful spring evening, it wasn't long before we were in his specially adapted greenhouse, watching butterflies.
Tom's greenhouse has special lighting and heating systems, fantastically concocted into what looked to me like an impossibly complicated (and highly dangerous) electrical circuit. The whole construction is packed with tropical plants from around the world, all grown from seed. These are plants with a purpose: Every one is a food plant for a butterfly. And these are no ordinary butterflies. Perhaps not dinner plate sized, but certainly side plate sized, they flap silently around the vegetation, seemingly unaware that their whole world is entirely a creation of Tom's ever youthful imagination.