a french garden


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The Jewel of Nineveh

The Jewel of Nineveh

This is not the first time I have recommended a book but it is the first time I have recommended a book that is not about bees.

Intrigued?  Well, I hope you will be intrigued by the plot!  However, I must come clean and admit that it an unashamed pitch for my son’s first novel.

I did not read it before it was published as it was “not my type of book” and I did not want to be discouraging.  However, the story woke up the little girl in me who had loved the Rider Haggard adventures and shown me how I could still get lost in another time and another place.

The-Thief-Freebie-hires

 

If you are still not convinced you can read the prologue for free as it has been published as a free e-book short story “The Thief”.  There are multiple versions available for any device depending whether you use Kindle Reader (MOBI), Kobo or Nook (EPUB).

But to get the full flavour of the adventures get The Jewel of Nineveh from Amazon.

You can find all the links at his author’s web page http:/diavoshbassiti.com

 

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The pompier called

Yesterday a sapeur pompier rang the door bell and I hurried out to open the garden gate as he stood outside in the sunshine.  He saw my bemused look and waved a copy of the calendar he was carrying.  The penny dropped and I invited him in explaining that I was having a hard time realising that Christmas was approaching, he joked  that they had decided to come round in the spring this year!

Just before Christmas every year the pompier comes with his calendar and you make a donation and receive the calendar.  It is all in a good cause for their benevolent fund.  Out of our local group of about thirty but there is only one full-time professional, the rest are part-time volunteers.  In France they are more than just fire fighters and are often the first at the scene to deal with any accidents.

This means that we will be receiving another calendar soon from our factrice or post lady who provides a brilliant, personalised service but this time the thank you will go straight to her.

It has reminded me that Christmas is fast approaching and I still have not made my recommendation of Dave Goulson’s superb book “A Buzz in the Meadow”.  He is very readable author and he will tell you more about bumble bees and other insects that you really didn’t realise you wanted to know about – until you read his book.

Goulson Buzz

For me the best bit was to find out more about his house in France and the surrounding thirteen hectares of land he hopes to make into a wildlife preserve.  He writes candidly about his unorthodox renovation of the house and the species rich environment he has uncovered.  The saddest story was when he decided to share his passion for butterflies with the locals by advertising a guided walk.  No-one turned up except one English lady and her daughter who lived near by.  I have to sympathise with him as I meet very few local people who are interested in what the British call, in general terms, “Nature”.  Some have worked all their lives in the open and never have noticed bees or dragonflies and shy away from snakes and lizards.  Enjoying nature seems to mean walking outside and enjoying the scenery but not being aware of life – plant or animal, with the exception of some large furry animals.

Goulson writes that his goal in writing this book is to make you go out and get down on your hands and knees and look.  He feels that if we learn to value what we have we will make an effort to preserve it.

Queen bumble bee

I’m sure he would enjoy watching the queen bumble bees visiting my Salvia.

Bumble bee with pollen

I’m sure he would be interested to see a worker bumble bee with pollen-laden legs on the Salvia in this picture taken on the 26th. November 2014.

bumble bee robbing nectar

The pollen laden legs mean that somewhere there is a bumble bee nest that is still active and raising young.  However, next week the temperatures are set to drop and it looks as if winter will begin in December.


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Reading matters

A sting in the tale

Arriving in the U.K a few weeks ago I was given a present by my sister.  She had been listening absent-mindedly to BBC Radio 4, while driving, when the words “bees” and “Charente” made her tune in to the programme.  She managed to absorb that they were discussing a book “A Sting in the Tale” by Dave Goulson and took the chance that I might find it interesting.

I did!

Usually I read my books very methodically reading any introductions etc. to begin with; however, I noticed a chapter “Chez Les Bourdons” so I couldn’t resist finding out what it was about immediately.  A bourdon is a bumble bee in French so I thought it might be devoted to the identification and natural history of French bumble bees.

It was not.

It was about his experiences in buying a small farm in the Charente.  This realised a dream to have land he could manage for nature and of course for bumble bees.  I felt an immediate empathy for him as we had bought our house and garden in the Charente-Maritime at about the same time.  I turned to the beginning of the book and started to read from the beginning with even more enthusiasm.

His style is very readable and personal.  If you ever wondered what Biology professors are like when they are little boys, now is your chance to find out.  He lightly traces his own life through his academic career with lots of anecdotes which never come to light reading the formalised style of a research paper.  He is hoping to create natural meadow land on his land in France and is experimenting to compare the different techniques of returning the farm land to flower rich meadow.  His ownership of the land secures this long term project from the vagaries of budget cuts and direction changes in funding bodies.

I was also fascinated to learn how bumble bees had been introduced to New Zealand in the late nineteen century to help the pollination of red clover being grown for fodder.  They were, of course, not the only animals and plants the settlers imported to “improve” their new home.  However, the short-haired bumble bee has now disappeared from the U.K.  Reading about the efforts being made to reintroduce the short-haired bumble bee to the U.K. brought home the problems man has created in his efforts to “improve” nature.

Even seemingly harmless bumble bees can upset established ecological systems as Goulson has seen for himself on his visits to Tasmania.  Australia has no native bumble bees but buff-tailed bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) which are excellent pollinators for tomato plants appeared in Tasmania in 1992.  Of course, the importation of non-native bees is forbidden in Australia and New Zealand but the first bumble bees were observed in Tasmania in 1992 which strangely coincides with the commercial production of bumble bees for pollination, particularly for tomatoes.

He explains in his book how the seemingly harmless introduction on a new species of bumble bee has effected visible changes in the ecology of Tasmania in a short period and speculates on possible future changes.

The book is full of personal stories and you can catch a backstage glimpse of the creation of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, the charity he set up for bumble bees in 2006.  One of projects of the Trust was to re-introduce the short haired bumble bee to the UK.  Once again the book offers you a very person peep into the beginnings of this fascinating project.

Goulson endeared me by admitting that one of the reasons he started to study bumble bees was that they were “rather loveable”.  I think whether you are a bumble bee person or just interested in nature and life you will find this book a fascinating read.