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 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.

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