Alexanders: re Graham's comment, I can really only say: don't count your chickens! In two or three years time you will probably be yanking the stuff up all over Ingatestone! And yes, I have noticed very few insects on it. I think, but may be wrong, that many alien plants in UK have very few insects on them because the natural insects do not accompany the plants in the transfer. For example: Sycamore trees support very few invertebrates, or fungi, in UK, though in their homelands they have lots. And conversely, Oaks have more livestock associated with them than any other tree in UK, and they also have loads of fungi associated with them. Bee Orchids, although native here, have a real home in the Mediterranean region. In UK no Bee Orchids are pollinated by insects, as the particular bees do not live here, or are very rare. So Bee Orchids in UK always self-pollinate, which is one reason why there are so many abnormalities of Bee Orchids in Britain. Further examples abound!
Elder and its poisons: I have never come across this! And the 'explanation' about a glycoside releasing cyanide in human metabolism sounds very unlikely. However, my husband, who is a biochemist, has searched his books and has confirmed that a number of plants, particularly their seeds, such as almonds, do contain substances that transform this way in the human body, when they are in contact with certain enzymes. His book does not mention Elder specifically, but it is apparently a fairly widespread phenomenon. In particular, if an almond tastes bitter, spit it out!
Night skies: What a lovely account of how to explore the heavens at home! Light pollution is a major problem where I live in Upminster, in Greater London. However, we have driven through the Judean desert at night and been totally bowled over by a magnificent sky. And when we go camping in Scotland, miles from anywhere, we can admire the night sky, if the rain stops and clouds clear. And we have a friend in Zimbabwe, who we have visited a few times, who used to live near a poor village with no lights and no nearby town, where getting out for a leak in the night was an exciting adventure for us! (Outdoor loo!) But the stars were all different in the southern hemisphere. I agree totally with the writer who describes the effect on us of making us feel very tiny and insignificant looking up into the immense star-studded firmament! It is very good for us to feel so small sometimes.