Friday, 18 January 2013


Greetings to all!  This is an interim post - a mini-blog of spectacular worthlessness.

This afternoon, in a driving east wind with fine snow stinging our faces and a temperature of minus 2ºC nipping our fingers – despite Thinsulate gloves – the PG and I trudged for about a mile down to the fen, gave up and limped home. 

One surprising experience, while walking through the village, was to hear the 'teacher-teacher-teacher' song of a great tit.  They don't usually start tuning up, round here, until days are noticeably lengthening.  So to hear one in sub-zero weather an driving snow was hugely up-cheering.  But I couldn't help wondering whether the bird was singing in desperation, trying to forget that he was cold and hungry – a sort of 'not waving but drowning' situation.

The PG has made marmalade and we have a haggis penned up.  That equals total contentment, for January, provided one can skulk in the house and flirt with the wood stove all day.

I'm extremely worried - as we all should be – about bees. 

I listened to an item on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today recently about the government''s plans for addressing the crash in bee populations. It seems that the responsibility for honey bees, in Britain, has been handed over from  DEFRA –  the megaministry responsible for food, farming, fish, environment and what little is left of our wildlife – to, um, FERA, the Food and Environment Research Agency. 

But FERA - is a part of DEFRA, so it's hard to see what the transfer means.  If you want to be depressed, not just about the terrible situation bees and other pollinators are in, but about what DEFRA-FEERA seem to be doing about it, read the press release here.

FERRADEF's proposals are in the right direction, but pretty limited.  They'll increase efforts to manage the parasitic Varroa mite; they'll renew watchfulness for nasty new alien bee-pests and of course, there'll be more bossiness and interference or in their words, 'developing a welfare code for bee keepers.'

At the same time, they're going to reward good bee keepers by REDUCING the number of official  inspections of their premises.

Well done!

During the item, on Farming Today, not a single mention was made, of habitat loss.  We didn't hear anyone from DRAFE-EARF regretting the mindless destruction of wild flora by verge clipping, of the demise of other pollinators or of how land owners, local authorities, village busybodies, the CPRE and other well-meaning bodies appear blind to the desperate shortage of plants which carry nectar and pollen.

We are losing biodiversity all over the country, on roadsides, along railway tracks, in villages, in waste spaces – in all places where land is not specifically designated for a particular use. 

We all need to learn to love grotty corners, unused bits of space, scruffy hedges, self-generated woody zones, boggy spots, unkempt ponds and so on.Those are the places where bees and other pollinators can feed. That's where cuckoos can find caterpillars.  Grass snakes can lodge in such places, ragged robin can flower in the damp; herb Robert will bloom in the dry. When I was a boy, such places abounded and were teaming with life.  Since then, most of those little paradise spots have been tidied away.

I'm listening to my son having a video conference.

This day in 2006 I was interviewing Julia Clements, the flower arranger whose career was launched during World War Two and who, when invited to lecture in the USA, made herself a dress from old curtains.

This Week's Film was  Winter's Bone. Directed by Debra Granik who co-wrote with Anne Rosellini. it's a bleak story, set in the wilds of Missouri, in the Ozarks. A brutal tale and yet among the violence, a theme of goodness, kindness and loyalty.  The directing, photography, acting and screenplay were, I thought absolutely superb. 

Not such a miniblog, after all, but still spectacularly worthless.  More soon, meanwhile, thanks for reading!
Bye bye,


  1. I haven't much experience with honeybees, though I'm worried by the widespread use of neonicotinoids, which seem to impact on populations of both domestic and wild bees.Here in Kent ,Dr Nikki Gammans is doing sterling work with bumblebees:
    As part of our Higher Level stewardship agreement, we will be establishing , in common with an increasing number of farmers and landowners, a pollen and nectar native wild flower mix across the farm.

  2. Terrifyingly I heard a talk from a chap from the NFU this week saying that there was no scientific proof that neonicatinoids were responsible for bee deaths and it was all just environmentalists trying to persuade people away from chemicals using scare tactics. When the Guardian published their piece on Wednesday giving evidence tha these chemicals are doing direct harm, the NFU decided not to reply to my tweets.
    Derfa/Fera are hopeless, mainly as they are a government body, but also as they are hugely under resourced and unable to employ new people due to huge budget restraints so how exactly they will manage to manage bees too is beyond me! Fewer inspections must be a huge relief to them, but terrifies me.
    I think it is a terrifying situation and we must all take charge of doing anything we can for our bees.

  3. I'm at present in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where the government is also worried about bees...and instead of more talk, they are taking action to ban the offending pesticides.

  4. OK you win, now I'm depressed.

    So agree with you about tidiness. The countryside is terrifyingly smart. Did you hear farming today this am? Bigger machinery, more and more food. More efficiency. They talked a bit about needing MORE science, I always end up thinking two opposing things at once.