Bees are in the news here

There is the hint of spring in the UK now. Pockets of white snowdrops, green tipped daffodils, busy birds and budding trees all jostle for space on Instagram, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

Hurray. A hopeful time. Perhaps a chance for less gloom.

But … all is not well in the buzzing hedgrows.

You hear the bad news just as you’re bracing yourself for another day. It seems a group of pesticides – neonicotinoids (neonics for short) – more or less banned in the European Union, may be used by sugar beet farmers here to protect their crops from aphids. What? you think, as a nice person from the government assures you that farmers will have to complete an assault course of paperwork and crawl through thick gorse naked, even to be in with a chance of using this deadly chemical – deadly to aphids – so there is no need for you to worry. It will only be a tiny bit used, if used at all.

Hmmm, you think. What’s going on?

Well, luckily a scientist pops up next to explain. He does not sound happy when he tells you that neonics, these most efficacious of aphid eliminators, are like Novichok for bees. You pause and listen a little harder. Novichok? That, everyone knows surely, is the poison favoured by shadowy autocrats to terminate any of their opposition lingering around the cathedral cities of England. Not friendly. Not good at all. So why, you ponder, is the government about to allow this to be sprayed on home soil? Surely we’re green and friendly. It is one thing we’re doing right isn’t it? Well, it doesn’t sound like it. The unhappy scientist says just one teaspoon of neonics can kill over a billion bees.

A billion bees.

How are you supposed to get on with your day after that? However springy it is.

Here is a link to a piece outlining both sides of the argument.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

A stroll around The New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham

The New Ashgate Gallery, right on the edge of the car park we used, had its lights on, and was clearly open, so in we went. The gallery was packed, not with people, but with eye stopping art and colour.

We stepped through the entrance door to see this wall of Graham Dean’s work. When we looked more closely we could see the emotion contained within each apparently simple image. Even the paper added to the sensual complexity, particularly in the large central work, which was made up of several different sheets, with the head having a rough edged section of its own.

There were other pieces by the same artist, at various points around the little gallery. I found each fascinating, and the longer I looked the more I felt I could see.

The gallery also had works by other artists, including an exhibition by Virginia Ray. Her landscapes are very different, with a moodiness I loved.

Beside her art was a vivid display of ceramics, and crafts in different materials. We looked and admired, then walked away to circle around the little gallery, before returning to look and enjoy again.

If you happen to be in Farnham, Surrey, with a little spare time, the Graham Dean and Virginia Ray exhibitions are there until 4 March 2023.

In case you would like to learn more about Graham Dean, here is a link to a written interview on his website.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

A young jockey about his horses

Horse head by Kate Woodlock

I have always loved horses, and this morning, in amongst the gloomy news about strikes and interest rate rises, I heard a short interview with a young jockey, sixteen-year-old Billy Loughnane, son of an Irish racehorse trainer, now living in Worcestershire.

Over the past few weeks I have heard Billy’s name mentioned now and then in sports reports, so it caught my attention when I heard he was about to be interviewed. I knew he was the jockey achieving win after win in the flat-racing world.

The interviewer wanted to know what the young jockey thought was the reason for his success.

Billy was certain. His voice soft and confident, he said he’d always wanted to ride, and to race. He’d grown up around horses, and said they were almost like pets to him.

At this, the interviewer interrupted to point out that horses are not pets.

Without a pause Billy responded, his voice as steady as when he began. He agreed with the interviewer that horses were not pets, then he added: “They’re more like friends.”

That little phrase made my day.

I hope it’s been a good day with you.

Here is a link to another interview (2 mins) with Billy Loughnane

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Preparations for the imagined wedding continue

Simi: a Londoner, who happens to be staying at the resort while the wedding is on

Rudd: the young manager of the resort

Katania: the mother of the bride

Jen and Hansie: the soon-to-be-married couple

Setting: Zimbabwe

Rudd remembered the priest saying he was from Southwark Cathedral in London. Out for a couple of months. Father … or was it Reverend Norman? He looked at Katania. Surely a London priest would do?

“There is a visiting priest who might be able to help,” he said slowly.

Her fingers stopped their drumming.

“A priest? They are already married you know. This is more celebration than service.”

“Well, he’s over from London,” he paused, “… unless you want Simi?

“Simi?” Katania spun the name around her tongue. “Simi. The lady in those kaftans? I do not want her. A kaftan? Leading the service? Can you imagine the photographs? No. Not her. Who is this priest?”

“He’s called Norman. I’ve only met him once. Not for long. Looks a tidy sort of guy. Long sleeves. In his sixties. ”

“Long sleeves? What do you mean?”

“Well he’s different. City type.”

“Hmm. Just as long as he doesn’t ruin the day. This is a wedding. Like launching a brand. You understand? Part of Jen’s forever portfolio. Any chance you can find this priest?”

“Well, I could try …”

“That’s good. Let’s do that,” said Katania standing up.

“Do what?” asked Rudd getting to his feet.

“Find this priest.”


“Yes. Where is he?”

“Right now?”

“Yes. I want to meet him.”

Rudd realised he was doomed, or, as his grandmother used to say, about to be the egg in somebody else’s pancake.

“Well, I saw him at the tea factory about this time of day, two days ago. I suppose he could be there again.”

“Oh that’s very close. Let’s go.”

“I don’t …I didn’t mean …”


“Well … I just came to see the birdwalkers off. I’ve still got to …” He rubbed a hand across his unshaven chin, and then up through his hair.

“Oh. This won’t take long. You can sort yourself out later.”


“No buts Rudd. We’re paying for this remember.” Katania began to walk away. “I’ll fetch my sunglasses, and be out front in two minutes.”

 “Sure …” said Rudd slowly, as she willowed into the distance.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023