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Stan da Prato, Crimes behind the Compost Heap - Evening Talk 9th October

What can one say about Mr De Prato’s absorbing talk? As promised, sex, violence and skulduggery abounded. I for one have seen a view of a bird’s behind that cannot be unseen (though Heaven knows, I wish it could!)

Stan’s interest in nature, and plant-based lore ranges from the academically fascinating to the gleefully salacious. He shared with us the source of the brand Castrol (one of many times that evening I, and many others I suspect, mentally exclaimed, ‘I didn’t know that!’) along with countless other interesting snippets (who knew that Rubber trees were a form of Euphorbia? – though, as with so many things, it seems obvious once you know.) His wide-ranging exposition of medicinal plants (both genuinely and apocryphally useful) and of the history of our relationship with nature in general was impressive. I won’t even attempt to cover all the subjects he touched on, merely mentioning seagulls, marijuana, and gardyloo, to stir the memories of those present.

One interesting point he made in his relation of the adventures of such plant heroes as Robert Fortune and Henry Wickham: one culture’s plant hero is another culture’s wicked thief. Indeed, the element of crime and bad behaviour abound in the colourful history of plants. I for one was fascinated to hear of the role pollen can play in nabbing a perp (as we who are wise in the ways of Mr Plod would say…)

Humour was never far away in Stan’s talk, and it’s always fun to see a heap of manure and a Trumpish caterpillar in close proximity. All in all, and enjoyable evening that left the audience with a smile on their faces, and in my case, a desire to remain as ignorant as I can of the breeding habits of slugs. Euughh!


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