The unseasonally wild wind rattled the windows of the Legless Arms as Tropical and Er Neill regaled me with tales of a triffid-like orchid, taller than the Empire State, with a flower spike bigger than the wildest Mr Whippy "99-with-flake-and-raspberry-sauce" dreams of the last kid that got picked for the footy team....
I drew closer to the fire for reassurance, even if there hasn't been coal in the grate for years.
An astonishing plant, the like of which had never been seen by man nor beast afore they told me....these are men who have laughed in the face of Lady's Slipper Orchid after all, and sprinted away rather than examine the heat ravaged helleborines of the Middle East, so their words were not to be taken lightly.
Then the free sausages appeared on the bar and I forgot all about the "Were-Orchid".
However, the next day I remembered the boys' cautionary tale of the monster orchid from Mars ( they don't call it the "Legless Arms" for nothing you know) and resolved to go to the site on the eastern edge of Southport to check the beast out.
Sure enough there was the most beautiful plant, towering nearly two foot high, with leopardskin leaves and a stunning flower spike (sorry folks, precise locations for these things, tend to see them mysteriously disappear, and apparently trepassing on private land is neither big nor clever).
"If it's new to science, I want it named after me, "Tropicalus Giganticus", were words that were still ringing in my ears as I examined the orchid.
Wasn't sure what it was, so there was only one thing to do....refer to the expertise of Phil Smith.
"This orchid is a familiar plant to me - the hybrid marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza x grandis (Common Spotted x Southern Marsh-orchid).
"It is by far the commonest of the hybrid marsh-orchids we see locally, though, as you observe, this a spectacular creature showing marked hybrid vigour (hence the name)", came the response from Phil.
" Last year I saw some good ones on the west side of Southport Marine Lake between "the bulge" and the lake edge. They also occur on Birkdale Green Beach and in some of the slacks and there used to be a huge population along the western edge of Crosby Marina."
So, sadly no immortality in the annals of science for Tropical Thomason yet, (unless you count that unfortunate incident in Latvia all those years ago), but a great plant nonetheless.
A fine Bee Orchid on the site too, always good to see, even if plenty are flowering on the coast at the moment.
And another thoroughly confusing marsh orchid hybrid there to boot, with rich purple flowers - NorthernxSouthern Marsh???
I can feel another e-mail to Dr Smith coming on....
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...