How do you solve a problem like Apis Mellifera?

Block up the hole to stop the bees getting back in.


The buzz was audible, just on the edge of hearing but getting louder and starting to impinge on the conscious. Bees from a local beekeeper’s hive were swarming on the green just outside the house. 

Difficult to see at first, I was reminded of a nonsense rhyme of my Dad’s: 

A B C D Bs? 

M N O Bs! 

S A R. C M? 

The kids groaned as I trotted it out for the umpteenth time. Funny how little things like that stick in the memory. 

Back to the bees. My Beekeeper friend’s colony had clustered in a huge clump of the lime tree across the road. The kids were standing watching them, oblivious to the bees buzzing around. 

In fact, when swarming bees tend not to be aggressive. They’re concentrating on finding somewhere to live. While the main swarm was attached to the tree branch the queen bee sent scouts out to find a suitable location in which to set up home. This turned out to be a hole  in the pointing of the stonework of my neighbour’s thatched cottage. 

The bees swarmed all over our garden for about an hour before finally finding their way into the hole. Honey bees are living a precarious life at the moment. Destroying the colony really wasn’t an option. The beekeeper came and set up an empty hive close the hole. He filled it with food in the hope that the bees would find it more attractive than the hole in the wall. 

When I got home from work the following evening the hive had gone and the hole in the wall had been blocked with newspaper. A few bees were buzzing around the hole forlornly looking for a way in. To be successful, the beekeeper would have needed to get the queen into his hive. I think he thought he had but I can now report that he hasn’t. 

The colony is now well established in the cottage wall. To avoid damage to his property from quantities of dripping honey and large honey combs my neighbour will have to call out, at his own expense, a local authority pest control service to have the bees removed. That will probably mean the destruction of the colony. 

If the beekeeper had been a bit quicker off the mark, he could have got them off the lime tree by dropping the bees into a box and taking them to his hive for re-homing. There are around 20,000 bees in  a swarming colony, that’s a lot of bees to lose. 

And we can’t afford to lose the honey bees. There’s a quote – falsely attributed to Albert Einstein – that says: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination…no more men!” 

A potential environmental crisis is developing for reasons that science is yet unable to fully explain, but at least we can avoid carless beekeeping and try to hang on to what we’ve got.

Pierce Brosnan drank in my local

It seems that our corner of the world is about feature on the telly.  Channel 4’s Time Team is coming to dig up part of the school field and an area behind the church to investigate Roman Britain.

We’re no strangers here to the glamour of the silver screen – large and small. Locations around the area have been used in movies like The Dirty Dozen – The Next Mission, Goldeneye and Nine to name just three out of the dozens of films that have been shot here.

TV shows like Secret Army, The Bill and London’s Burning have used the location and bands including Haircut 100 and Queen have filmed videos here.

Pierce Brosnan even stopped in my local pub for a pint of Guinness during a break in filming.

The village will face some disruption, with catering facilities, outside broadcast units and camera tracks cluttering up the place. Not to mention the crew.  Tony Robinson and his colleagues will attract onlookers and the casually interested.  The book is open on who in the village will try to get themselves on the telly.

I will go and have gawp myself and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Time Team unearth.

Moshi Monsters

Moshi Monsters, the online social networking game for kids.

Over the past few weeks the kids have become obsessed with Moshi Monsters.

Players can adopt their own pet monsters and watch them grow by taking part in daily challenges. Solving the puzzles lets them earn Rox, an online currency. They can then buy things for their monsters and customise the room the monster lives in. As they progress they level up. Players can also keep in touch with their frieinds using social networking features such as essage boards and Monster blogs.

It’s safe and Mind Candy, the company behind the website, takes its responsibilites for online safety seriously. But it doesn’t hurt to review what the kids are looking at and who they’re interacting with from time to time. C claims friends from around the world as far apart as Australia and Canada, people he can’t possibly know. I guess it’s penpals for the 21st Century.

Moshi isn’t new. It’s been around now for almost three years. But it’s new to me because it has just crossed C’s radar. He easily becomes obsessed by the latest craze. Match Attax, the latest football gear and Chelsea FC all feature heavily in our lives at the moment.

My three are nine, six and two. C is always up before 06:00 and logs in almost as soon a his eyes are open. Now he’s got the girls into it to. All three of them can be found clustered around the monitor like a modern version of a 1940’s family around a Bakerlite wireless waiting for news from the front.

Limiting his time on line has become standard practice. It’s half-term this week. I would much rather he was out kicking a ball around, playing cricket with this mates, exploring on his BMX or reading than sitting indoors staring at a computer screen all day. I have no objections to the kids being on line. Indeed, it’s essential that they are. But ‘all things in moderation.’

The comedy is divine

Bang goes the Knighthood from The Divine Comedy

 After last year’s eccentric, brilliant Duckworth Lewis Method collaboration with Thomas Walsh – the tracks Jiggery Pokery about Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’ dismissal of Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes Test at Old Trafford, Mason on the Boundary and The Night Watchman are sublime – Neil Hannon returns to the pavilion with his new Divine Comedy album Bang Goes the Knighthood.

The Duckworth Lewis Method is a sublime concept.

Hannon’s beautifully crafted songs take a canter though modern life. His themes catch the spirit of the age; the credit crunch (The Complete Banker), the establishment figure with a guilty secret (Bang Goes the Knighthood), studenty nostalgia (At the Indie Disco), yuppie aspiration (Assume the Perpendicular).
Other tracks explore the isolation and pain of the modern. The Lost Art of Conversation explores how the pace and pressure of the day-to-day is eroding our ability to use our imaginations to interact with one another. It takes time, patience to look into life more deeply. Slow down and absorb the world around you.He’s a clever chap is Mr Hannon. He even challenges us to have a go at his craft in Can You Stand Upon One Leg. With a knowing wink he asks us to try to write a witty song and hold a high note for as long as he can. As if what he has achieved with this album is as easy as that. If it were we’d all be doing it.

The Divinely clever Mr Neil Hannon

Who’s Gordon Banks?

Gordon Banks

Tuesday morning after the bank holiday weekend has dawned grey and cool for the time of year. It’s a bit of a struggle to get back up to speed after a weekend of gardening, footy tournaments, BBQs and beer – and some parenting on the side. 

Sitting at my desk in the office wading through the pile of emails that have clogged up my in-box over the past few days brings back the cares of the PR business and tracking down client work. Where was I up to when I downed tools last thing on Friday?

My mind is still in a fog and I’m missing the weekend already. It seems that life is what happens away from the desk. Comparing weekends with colleagues I found that we had done quite a bit more than I at first thought we had. 

C played in an under 9s football tournament on Saturday. The format was two leagues of eight teams – an A league and a B league. C’s coach put his team in the ‘A’ league. This proved a problem because the teams in that league were of a higher standard and our team would have fared better in the ‘B’ league. 

That said, they enjoyed the matches despite losing all but one of them. After two games C was asked to go in goal because the lad who was playing there was leaking goals and didn’t really know how to play in that position. C did his best and saved a number of shots. The result of that game was a 1-1 draw – the team’s best result of the morning. 

Jubilant, and with the plaudits and back slapping of his team mates and their attendant parents, C decided that from now on he would play in goal. He was now Gordon Banks, Petr Cech, David James and Iker Casillas all rolled into one. 

His enthusiasm wasn’t to last long though. The final game was against the top placed team in the league. Needless to say they ran C’s team ragged. He let in several goals. Often he was the last man facing two attackers as the rest of his team had been stranded too deep by a quicker and stronger team. 

C had the ball kicked out his hands as he scrambled on the ground to save one shot –the subsequent goal was disallowed. When the fifth goal went in he threw off his goalie gloves and began to sob in frustration bringing the game to a temporary halt. Consoled by his manager, the opposition coach and the ref he carried on for the final minute of the game. 

In the car on the way home he asked me not to tell his mum what had happened. I told him that as this was the first time he had played in goal in a competitive game he had done very well.

“You can’t expect to be Gordon Banks or Peter Bonetti after just one game,” I said.

“Who’s Gordon Banks?” came the reply.

After a bit of football history and some positive support he still wants to play in goal. Now my mission – should I chose to accept it – is to proceed to the nearest sports store and buy him a pair of goalie gloves, and he remains as enthusiastic as he was before his torment. 

It is important to have realistic ambitions and not to expect more than you can reasonably expect to achieve. C expects to be an expert at things at the first try, and is often disappointed to discover that he isn’t. However, dreams are important and it is essential that we support our children in those dreams while trying at the same time to keep them grounded in the real world. It’s a difficult balancing act. Just encourage them to keep trying.