Monthly Archives: April 2014

The glories of Spring . . . and the not so good

baby robin2

Be happy, it’s Spring. Feel grateful and look for the positive. Life is to be lived.

Things I like about Spring

  1. Finding birds nests, such as the robin nest in this photo
  2. The arrival of the swallows from South Africa
  3. The process of seeds, to plants, to vegetables. It never seizes to amaze me.
  4. Sunny evenings in the garden with birdsong for company.
  5. Watching the butterflies and bees aimlessly traverse the garden.
  6. Eating lunches al fresco.
  7. The smell of blossom.
  8. Watching the honeybees return from the rapeseed on their super-highway.
  9. Finding a male toad whilst weeding.
  10. Taking extended walks and playing outdoor tennis.
  11. Clean dog paws.
  12. Clean eggs from chickens, i.e. not covered in mud.
  13. The cats stop using their litter trays.


Not so good . . .

  1. Finding remains of mice in the garden, courtesy of the cats.
  2. Never-ending weeding.
  3. Guilt relating to inability to motivate myself to doing outdoor DIY chores.
  4. Realising the cabbage white butterflies are going to devastate my brassica plants.
  5. Seeds that fail to germinate. My hope and expectation crushed.
  6. Sunny days that I am unable to enjoy because I am stuck indoors.
  7. Cats returning home with large bellies and smug faces.
  8. Cats meowing to go outside at 4 o’clock in the morning.


Even so, it’s still better than winter!











Lesson learned: Wear a bee suit when handling a swarm


My beehive is bursting at the seams! It has always been a very productive hive, and last year threw out several swarms. In order to limit it, rather than killing the queen bee cells, which is the usual method, we added a second brood box. The bees were very quick to take occupation, but it still wasn’t enough. Yesterday, they threw out their first swarm.

We noticed the bees early afternoon. After spending a few minutes mesmerised by the buzzing and excited fluttering, the numbers in the air diminished. They were settling on a low growing hedge a couple of metres from the hive. Last year the swarm landed high up a tall tree, making it inaccessible, so this was good news.

Since they can depart at any moment time is of the essence. Doug was quick to find a cardboard box and his smoker, and very slowly, the bees crept into the box. This is the first time he’s used this method, so it was a nerve-wracking and exciting experience. Everything seemed to be going to plan, until he hit an unanticipated problem.

The swarm was quite large, probably fifteen to twenty thousand bees, and as they gathered in the box they caused it to topple. Bees were everywhere, and needless to say, they were not too pleased by Doug’s intervention. A few stings later, and now wearing a bee suit, he was back on the job. The bees had settled down; some were still in the box, and the others were on the hedge. He placed those in the box into a newly prepared hive and closed the roof. The others were still on a branch, so he snipped it off and shook them off at the entrance. Since the queen was inside, they all trundled in. Job done.

Today, they are building comb in their new home, and they seem perfectly happy. Rapeseed flowers are in abundance, so far as they were concerned it was a good time to swarm. I do believe they know what they are doing. Good work girls!

Are we free-thinking or pre-programmed?

I’m currently starting the process of researching and planning my next novel. It is a process I always enjoy since it means I can allow my imagination free-flow and come up with an assortment of ideas before eliminating the wildest and wackiest. I’m particularly enjoying it this time as I haven’t written any new material for over six months and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms.

That’s not to say I haven’t been busy. Aside from all the Internet marketing that remains a necessity, I’ve edited three books, all of which are getting closer to publication. It can be a laborious task, but it is essential and there is no time for a lazy or lax attitude. Thankfully, it’s finally nearing its end.

So, on to my next mystery/thriller. All I’m willing to say right now is that it involves identical twins, and that’s where my research is taking me. I’m looking at personality traits, and whether they’re genetic or not. It’s a fascinating subject. Views of scientists differ greatly, although from what I’ve read so far, it appears that about 40% of our behaviour is genetically influenced, with some areas being more influenced than others, such as self-control, a person’s sense of purpose, social interaction, and happiness.

How does that make us feel? If we are programmed a certain way, is there any point in fighting nature? Are we a born loser or a born winner?

For example:

I am rarely happy – it’s just how I am.
I have had an affair – I have little self-control.
I am unemployed – I have a lack of sense of purpose and struggle with motivation.
I enjoy more than the average amount of alcohol – alcoholic tendencies are genetically linked.

Some families do have more divorces, more job instability, and more of an addictive nature than others. Is this why? From what I have read, it does appear that there could be a link. Studying identical twins is what has helped scientists reach some of these conclusions. Even those twins raised apart and having never met have more similarities than what would be expected from a random meeting of two strangers. Now that is bizarre. Perhaps we aren’t as free-thinking as we thought.


A strange obsession . . .


Hudson, Gina and Stilton have a strange obsession . . . or perhaps it is an identity crisis or a message passed on from Hudson and Gina’s sister, Bella.

Their problem (or maybe it’s just mine) started two years ago after Bella was diagnosed with terminal cancer, T-cell lymphoma to be precise. She did something none of the dogs had ever done before, not in any of their previous 8 years. She started to eat weeds!!!

At first I pulled her away, worried she was doing herself harm. But she was very persistent, forcing me to investigate. I soon learned she was eating mustard plants, and aside to have nutritional benefits such as vitamin A, C,K and folic acid, there’s evidence they’re anti-cancerous, mainly since they are full of anti-oxidants.

Hudson and Gina noticed her habit, and two years on there is no stopping them.

Here’s how a typical walk goes.

I unhook the leashes and stroll along the path by the river. After a few hundred metres, I turn around. The dogs are stationary and munching mustard plants. They haven’t moved an inch! I call and call, my voice growing hoarse and my blood pressure rising. They are so absorbed in the succulent flower heads and leaves that they don’t notice my screechy cries. After several minutes, I finally get their attention and they trot to my side.

I continue on, continuously passing them instructions to remain at my side, but after a few minutes, my mind wanders and I stop paying them any attention. The next thing I know they are several hundred metres back and eating mustard plants . . . again. Damn them!

What is it with my dogs and mustard? I think I’m going to have to find another walk. To make matters worse they have passed this habit onto Stilton, the youngster of the family, and despite his young age and exuberance, he is almost as bad.

It looks like it’s something I am going to have to live with forever. Better that than cancer.

Do the simple things in life make us happy?

Does it sound a little glib and clichéd to say it’s not money or acquisitions that make me happy, but being around the people I care about and doing the things I love?

Wouldn’t we all prefer to be on sailing exotic seas, drinking expensive wine and eating expensive foods, and upgrading our possessions to the latest model? Maybe so, although I believe if we had these things all of the time they would lose their value and stop providing us with the joy we expect.

I am a huge tennis fan, and have watched Wimbledon year upon year hoping for a British victory. Finally, last year, Andy Murray won. It was an amazing day, barely believable, and it will stay with me forever. However, was I more appreciative because of the 77 year wait? I believe I was. If good things come too often, we can become a little blasé. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy it if Roger Federer were British, I would, I’m just not sure I would appreciate his wins quite so much. When winning is expected, its ability to provide true joy is lost. We might feel happy and maybe even a little smug when our tennis star wins another tournament, but we won’t feel the elation we felt when Andy won Wimbledon.

Therefore, do we need to go through the pain of doing without to experience happiness? Do we need to yearn for something and should we have to fight to achieve it? Does that increase its worth? Maybe so, otherwise its value is lost.

This brings me back to my initial statement, which now seems a little contradictory.

It’s not money or acquisitions that make me happy, but being around the people I care about and doing the things I love.

It’s human nature to take for granted the things we see around us all the time, whether it’s a person or a possession. Likewise, it’s understandable that we would want something more than what we have, and strive, maybe unreasonably so, to get it. As the saying goes, the grass is often greener on the other side.

So what makes us happy? The way I see it we have two choices. We either learn to enjoy what we have, or we keep upgrading our desires. The first option may seem a little negative and unambitious; the second option may lead us to a lifetime of unhappiness, and we may pass something by that was of real value.

Life, at times, can be a bit of a trudge, which is why I think something midway is more appropriate. Be happy with what you have by reminding yourself of it on a regular basis, but don’t let it stop you from wanting that little something extra.

In essence, treat yourself. Just make sure it remains a treat.