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 hedgerows.
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.
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.”
This is a thank you to a young shop, that turned a dark corner bright, during the lock/unlock days of Covid. Sadly, without enough customers, the shop has had to close.
We shall miss it. Purely selfish, but we loved knowing it was there. On some days, the space it occupied with such welcome, felt so sunny, that we might have been on faraway shores.
Now there is a gap in our lives, and in that gap there is a feeling of guilt. We were happy, occasional customers, serving our needs, not thinking about what the shop might need to benefit as much as we did, from it being there. We were careless, and are now sorry to have lost a business with such heart.
My thanks to the little wine shop, for the light it brought in the dark days. I hope that in the future we’ll do better at supporting the physical businesses that add so much to our lives.