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Sunday, 20 July 2014


I arrived - Sunday afternoon - to find the bees on Plot 14 seeming to be swarming - buzzing loudly in a cloud above my enclosure, clustered on hive and netting, settling in small groups on surrounding leaves. I watched fascinated, knowing this is not a time when bees are especially likely to to be concerned with defending themselves or their space. I phoned Gill, the hives carer and apiarist. I left her a message about what was going on. She phoned back.
"I'll come and have a look"
I gave her the new combination lock number; our site having again been visited by a thief in the night, as Danny told me, chatting to plot holders about what she thought had happened sometime between midnight and 6.00 on Sunday morning.
Gill comes to inspect the hive

It turns out, the bees on my plot aren't swarming as I feared; rather a new colony is taking over the old. The whirling swirling cloud of bees I'd taken for swarming is an invasion.
Scouts from another colony have found the hive. They led their bees to it. The are taking over a new home. The intensity of the buzzing marked the outskirts of a battle in and around the hive.
Skirmishes on the Balm Scented Poplar

"The existing queen has probably been killed" said Gill "or she may have just died"
So a new queen is being enthroned.
"The new bees aren't sure of their whereabouts. Not sure how to get in and out of the hive"
We watch them wandering as they learn the local topography.
"The new bees have been eating the old colony's honey" said Gill
So no honey for us for the moment.
Gill added some sugar to the hive to help sustain the new colony - one she thinks more vigorous than the one it's replaced.
Gill checks what's going on in the hive as people beyond enjoy a day in Handsworth Park

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Yesterday morning we attended to a long standing responsibility.  Lin drove us down the wet M5, packed with end of term traffic, onto the Ross Spur...
South on the M5
.... then 20 miles south west past Ross-on-Wye, to the Kerne Bridge turn, and so on the road beside the river to Lydbrook - a journey that ran through twenty three years, ever since we bought Rock Cottage as our dacha in the Forest of Dean the year our son was born.
Oscar walks up Bell Hill to the cottage he knows
There came a time when the children grew up, the hill up to the cottage was harder for Lin's parents; we came in 2006, to live for months of the year in Ano Korakiana in beloved Greece. Rock Cottage was left to its own devices. The forest has a way of encroaching on any of its border habitations with its trees, shrubs, brambles, nettles, moss and damp. Some of this penetrates the lime mortared walls. Our cottage that was easy to make warm in winter, always pleasant any time of the year, its lawn a sun trap hidden from view of the houses across the narrow steep sides of the Lydbrook Valley, through which runs the Lyd, a scruffy stream much culverted that runs down to the Wye at the food of the village...
The Loud Brook this Saturday afternoon

A summer morning ~ down Lydbrook valley to Courtfield from Rock Cottage
Lin and Richard at Rock Cottage 1983
Our sitting room there
Rock Cottage, Lydbrook, in 1995
At the start of the year Dave Kenworthy of Evolution Trees made a clean sweep of the trees that had started to surround and enclose the cottage and its small lawn, clearing especially a line of ash growing into the power line serving the house, undermining the bank of the footpath up Bell Hill. We'd asked our friend Martin to take a look at the place; make an assessment; suggest some plan for recovering from the mess the cottage has been left as a result of botched repairs by a builder who's let us down, promising work that hasn't been done; wasting our money - mores fools we - and finally disconnecting all the plumbing with a view to 'improvements' having already installed a set of new windows at complete variance to Lin's thrice repeated email and face-to-face specification.
We met Martin and Sandra, and their son Adam, in the car park by Lydbrook Social Club, drove to the Courtfield Arms just above the river Wye where Sandra, before I could stop her, bought our pub lunch, and Martin our drinks - for me a pint of good bitter, just the right temperature.
Dear Martin and Sandra and Adam. It was lovely seeing you all in Lydbrook. Thanks so much, Sandra, for the lunch. Thanks Adam, for your offer of help clearing inside and outside Rock Cottage. I have your mobile. Send me your email? I guess we’re looking to the weekend 2-3 August for this, but let’s make the arrangements after your concert.  We’ve been getting pessimistic about Rock Cottage after being let down by our last builder.   Following our get-together in Lydbrook some of the weight of the project ahead is lifted off our minds. Love, Simon and Linda 
Hi both. Glad to hear you're feeling a little better about the task ahead...I must confess I was shocked to see the condition of the Cottage. I always visualise it as it was in May '92 when I did that veranda roof - and I used my motorbike, we lived in Gloucester. It was a glorious summer that year, Sandra would come over in the afternoons (after work) and sunbathe in the back garden. The ride there in the cool mornings, and the ride back with my jacket tied around my waist because it was so hot - ahhh!, happy days indeed. We'll have to see if we can recapture some of that. Martin X 
Dear Martin...I could see the weight lifted off my mind by just putting the place in a skip and auctioning it (:)), and then I thought about things like ‘not giving up’ and my family’s love for the place and - as you observe - all the pleasure we’ve got from it. It’s a different time and I’m not looking to recover what’s past, but I’d like to hope there’s life in the old property yet.  We had the misfortune to have a run-in with a builder who we trusted and who let us down in mid-work. Let’s make his mess good and see where we go from there. Let’s see what can be made good for the next generation and our older selves. Love to you all.  Simon 

June 2014
**** ****
Yalova in Messinia, Tsampika and Agia Agathi in Rhodes, the most beautiful beaches in Halkidiki, Agios Prokopios in Naxos, Galissas in Syros and the beach in Irakleia in the Cyclades. The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) is inspecting popular Greek beaches in order to sell them as private property. Two coastal areas have already been sold. More such sales are being completed. The Greek Finance Ministry's Coastal Development bill submitted to parliament last year - frozen this May for 'more consultation - turns my stomach. The proposed law lifts all restrictions on the maximum area designated for constructions on beaches for business purposes; of bars, erection of umbrellas and sun beds, you name it, and abolishes free access to Greek beaches by the public.

I know it's 'signature' politics; "too easy", but opposing the measure to sell of Greek beaches via comment and signatures on an Avaaz petition is better than just wringing our hands...
Under her signature, Lin commented: As a Greek property owner who spends about 5 months a year on the beautiful island of Corfu, I am horrified at the proposed sell-off of Greece's beaches to private companies.
Do the Greek government not realise that the public beaches are the main wealth of the country? Leave them alone and they will continue to bring money into the Greek economy every year, attracting the tourist trade that is Greece's main source of foreign income.
Sell off the beaches and that's that. End of. If tourists cannot visit the beaches they wish to go to, Greece will lose a large proportion of her tourist trade. If this bill is passed, the income from the beaches will be one-off payments from the private companies. One payment and no more in future years.
Why do you, the Greek government, want to shoot yourselves in the foot with this misguided idea? Do you want to destroy the tourist industry? Do you want to reduce Greek citizens to pre-tourism poverty? Are you really short-sighted enough to go ahead with this preposterous idea?
The beaches do not belong to the Greek Government. They are not yours to sell. They belong to the Greek people!!!
I can only think that corruption continues to be rife in Greek government. Someone must have been offered a very big incentive to propose this disgraceful bill!
Under my signature: Παραλίες για την πώληση!! Πωλείται! Η πορνεία από τις παραλίες. Το πούλημα της πανωραίας. If you can push drugs and traffic children, prostituing beaches is easy! The promoters of this bill are pimping - beloved Greece - "Ελλάς! So alluring she can make us a lot of money if we put her up for sale" - they whore their own beautiful daughters, sisters and mothers. Shame on this proposal.

Stop the sell-out of Greek    beaches to private companies

Stop the sell-out of Greek beaches to private companies

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Simon Baddeley