Bee wars

Some strange behaviour seen in our street this morning.  Our front gardens are at about elbow height when you are on the pavement, which lends itself to nature observation while walking to the post box.

There’s a slightly tatty house up the road, with an uncut bit of grass out front which is full of primroses, violets, and grape hyacinth (known a little uglies in our house) it looks lovely and we have concerns that when the house is done up the garden will get paved over like its neighbours. So anyway: A noticed a bumble bee making free with a rather small violet, and making a bit of a meal of it. There were a few honey bees about, and two of them zoomed over and watched the bumble like those little drone camera things you see in spy movies. Then they took it in turn to land on the bumble’s back, until one of them literally pulled it off the violet. The bumble was unimpressed and went straight back to the violet, so they did it again, then as the bumble clambered back once more to its interrupted feast one of the honeybees went off in a huff while the other went back to its spy surveillance.  Very odd.

Bee2 copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Bee2 copyright Cherry Potts 2011

So what? Well – there is a demo on Friday to try to persuade the government not to block the EU’s aim to ban a pesticide which is destroying the bee population at an alarming rate. No bees means no fruit and veg getting fertilised; potentially in the extreme, no plants which eventually means no oxygen. We need to keep an eye on our bees and help them survive.

Information from 38 Degrees:

Bulgaria had been lining up alongside the UK to block a ban on these pesticides. But yesterday, after beekeepers from across the nation marched through the capital, Bulgaria’s minister for agriculture, Ivan Stankov, changed his mind. Bulgaria will now vote for a ban.
We need Owen Paterson, our own environment minister, to follow suit.
So, this Friday 38 Degrees is teaming up with a whole host of other organisations to march on parliament and stage our very own March of the Beekeepers.
38 Degrees members will be meeting at:
10:30am this Friday 26th April
The statue of Churchill in Parliament Square, London.
You don’t have to be a beekeeper! You can come dressed as one, or as a bee or just come as yourself: bring fruit, flowers, friends and big smiles.
We’re joining forces with Avaaz, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, and the Soil Association to show the environment minister how important the protection of our bees is to us.

Living with Carnivores

Evidence of cat activity

The Cats have excelled themselves.  Not content with hibernating away from the cold weather, (normal positions on a cold night, J against one leg, E against the other, each with head pillowed on a shin, me pinned and wakeful) they’ve been out hunting overnight. The garden is crisscrossed with catly footprints.

Generally speaking, Jules is the hunter; when he first moved in he used to bring things in to teach Elton and Dusty the rudiments of the art.  First dead, then maimed, then live and kicking, prey of various kinds were offered up as training aids as he considered their skills increased.  D and E were nicely brought up before they came to slum it with us, and didn’t know one end of a mouse from the other unless it had catnip in it.  Dusty proved a keen whipper-in and cornerer, but wouldn’t deal with the actual killing; Julian lost interest quickly once the creature was actually dead and never ate them, surprising considering he’d lived rough for a while; Elton watched bewildered, but would generally consume part of the prey item once Julian had dispatched it. (Though I did see him once pounce on a mouse that julian had forgotten about that was trying to sneak home to its nest.  Elton, on the sofa facing the wall, mouse in middle of living room: Elton executing 180° turn in mid-air and landing with precision, with mouse under his paw. I don’t know who was more surprised; me, the mouse or Elton.)

Now all of this I can put up with, though live rats stuck behind radiators leave something to be desired.  I am resigned to Julian bringing us a christmas robin, to half eaten corpses on tha hall floor… but today…

…today there is a dead mouse in the toilet.

A: “Do you think it drowned?  Jumped in to escape?”

Visions of the cats perched on the toilet seat, trying to scoop the mouse out, mouse paddling frantically.  I haven’t inspected closely but it’s missing an ear, which suggests Elton’s involvement, so probably includes inept dropping of prey.  I rather hope it didn’t drown.

Me: “We’d have heard splashing wouldn’t we?”

A:”There was a lot of crashing and banging in the middle of the night – I thought it was you.”

Fortunately we are a two-loo household.  A drew the short straw and donned rubber gloves to deal with the corpse.

Julian is fast asleep in his basket on top of the tumble-drier in the kitchen, and Elton is sulking about not getting a third breakfast.

That’s what happens when you live with carnivores.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Essex extremes

Rainham Marsh copyright Cherry Potts 2011

I do like a mix and match day.  So we started with a couple of kilometres of walking round Rainham Marshes bird reserve.  Not many birds to see, but there’s not much to beat a marsh in the sun; a beautiful morning, a stolen September summer Sunday, wandering about in shirtsleeves with the end of the month in sight.

Rainham Marsh was in danger of being developed for years before the RSPB finally secured it, and they are being very conscious of stepping lightly now they’ve got it – the visitor centre makes use of natural light, ground heating, harvested rainwater… the tradition of grazing is kept up with a mixed herd of beef cattle relaxing in the scrubby grass, and dragonflies flitting hither and yon.  The walkways keep you above the reeds so there is some hope of seeing something – I have been places where all you can see are head high reeds – no doubt wonderful for the birds, but

Rainham Kingfisher copyright Cherry Potts 2011

I’d want at least a bittern under those circumstances!

I don’t mind the lack of birds when I can see the scenery, and they provide you with the odd sculpture to make up for it, and there are old military posts and firing ranges to distract from the lack of rustling and chirping.

Apparently the kestrels use the giant wooden numbers on the range as hunting posts, but not today.

We walked back along the river path, trying to work out where we were on the southern bank last week, but I think we were a lot nearer the mouth of the river than last week, although we could identify Shooters Hill in the distance.

Rainham range copyright Cherry Potts 2011

We got rather lost trying to find our next stop, the Royal Opera House Production Centre, where they were having a sale of costumes.  It could hardly be more different, although the building is again ecologically minded with a Sedum roof.

ROH Rococo copyright Cherry Potts 2011

We have a great time window shopping, trying on full length white Astrakhan coats, eighteenth century frock coats and monstrous cloaks.

There were queues from four in the morning yesterday, but it is quieter today with a very comfortable, good-humoured crowd, much laughter and enthusiasm, complete strangers taking pictures of each other and offering opinions on the fit of the Cinderella dress or the Hussar’s uniform.

There is something for everyone, and then some:

Transformations worthy of Cinderella copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Rococo, Barbarian or Grand Guignol, people were pulling dresses and armour on over their jeans with a fine disregard for modesty.  And some of the transformations are worthy of Cinderella.

Sadly, nothing fits me – that’s the problem with costumes, they have all been made to measure for particular people, and it wasn’t me!

The quality of the costumes was astonishing, I had expected it to be a bit gimcrack and just good enough to be seen from the gallery, but the stitching was mostly exquisite and not too worn and sweaty either.

Exquisite stitching copyright Cherry Potts 2011

I was surprised at how heavy most of the costumes were, I can’t imagine how they stand it singing under lights in such thick heavy (but gorgeous) clothes.

If I could have found something that fitted I would almost certainly have bought it, regardless of whether I would ever wear it, just for the pleasure of looking and touching.

ROH Grand Guignol copyright Cherry Potts 2011

ROH Barbarians copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Copyright Cherry Potts 2011