Friday, 10 October 2014

A Tale of two Claires

Titles are difficult - finding a title of a book and then writing the blurb that goes with it seem to be almost as difficult as writing the book in the first place but this title came to me and now you can see why.

The Claire in the top picture has been working at the book shop at Roman Gate in Exeter for as long as Marcia has been writing and so they have known each other for a very long time. In those early days the shop belonged to Dillons (a book store-cum-chain with an interesting history - next week, perhaps?) but it is now one of the Waterstone outlets.
The other Claire, who works in Exeter, is already known to some of you: she takes photographs of moths which she sends to me in the hope that I shall know what sort it happens to be and which I put up om this blog.
What I wrote last week about neonies was misleading although I didn't realise that at the time.

This matter of the use of insecticides is never as simple as it sounds and it could well be that the EU has this one wrong and the UK was right to vote against the ban on neonicotinoids. Th EU argument is that this insecticide damages the pollinating insects that we need – this decision was based on laboratory tests that exposed bees and other pollinators to far higher levels of neonies than they would experience in the field and at those levels it was, not unsurprisingly, lethal.
Marcia with our old friend Peter Kingsman - to whom Indian Summer is dedicated - having a moment in the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock.
The main need is for something that deals with insects such as the flea beetles that can and do destroy the very plants that produce the pollen on which the bees live – crops such as rape – and, crucially, flea beetles have become resistant to pyrethroids (the insecticide that was to be replaced by neonicotinoid) with the result that over half the crop here in the UK failed before coming into flower. This resulted in less food for the bees: many colonies have raised fewer progeny and are in serious danger of being unable to make it through the winter. Thus the ban on neonies has effectively halved the bee population in areas where they rely on farmers to provide them with their food. Isn't life complicated?

My Friday blog is not the place to explore this subject in detail but I thought I ought to put the record right. As I remarked above, this subject (like fracking and a few others) is never simple but there is one common denominator: the debates about them tend to create a lot more heat than light,

As a result, I have been thinking about pollination quite a lot since last week and especially about the way in which plants spend so much energy in producing flowers designed to attract insects. Nature, in this case, is truly profligate as the following photographs demostrate.

There seems to be a parallel here between nature putting huge energy into producing a display that has a fairly short life and writing. It takes Marcia about a year to write a book – and then there is the work carried out by her editors, the copy editor, the production team, distribution network and the booksellers. How long does it take to read one of her novels? Certainly less than a week. The argument gets rather muddled because there are, of course, many thousands of readers and many of those readers read each novel quite a few times.

It has taken about five years to finish Marcia's Willett's West County which is utterly ridiculous when you consider that we are talking about a very slim volume (just over a hundred pages) where about 25% is taken up with photographs. I just hope some of you will enjoy reading it when it comes out. All the files have been delivered to the printer and publication day will be 30 October. This last week has passed in a bit of a whirl as I was determined to finish everything before I went to bed last night. Very pleased to say that I managed to achieve that but everything else went by the board.

One of the casualties has been the garden. It would have been good to have finished “putting it to bed” for the winter while the weather stayed fine but that just didn't happen – the Indian Summer we have been enjoying broke with a vengeance shortly after Indian Summer was published. I blame Marcia.

Sadly I have no idea what this chap is called but there is something about that solid - even stolid - stance of these terriers that always appeals to me. "Come on world," they say, "I'm ready for you!"