Friday, May 29, 2009

A little black collar

Yesterday, my daughter and I went shopping for dog collars. Tess and Hardy are at a point where they need to become used to wearing one. We both decided that hot pink with rhinestones would not do for Tess at all. She is a rhinestone sort of dog -- far too lean and elegant. The Frank Sinatra song -- The Lady is a Tramp comes to mind.
They did not have a passionate purple collar in the correct size so we went for a little black collar, after all it operates on the same principle as the Little Black Dress -- always fashionable.

Hardy has a royal blue collar.

Neither is overly fond of the collar at the moment but they do tolerate them. Just.

Last night, they escaped from the kitchen and went into the living room where Hardy proceeded to savage my husband's slipper -- becoming a fur ball fiend. Cute and innocent on the outside but hiding razor sharp fangs. Tess began to elegantly chew the oriental carpet.

The puppies were removed and given rawhide chews.

With my wip, I realised that I had taken a wrong turning and so cut...cut...cut and am now back at the start of chapter 2. Sigh. Still it will be a stronger book.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The V E T

Yesterday the puppies encountered the vet for the first time -- shots and microchipping, plus weighing and a general health check. Tess was car sick, the poor thing -- there and back. Luckily she travelled in a cat carrier as I had thought it might a possibility. Next time though, she can go in the back with the dog grill down.

Both were very good with the vet. Hardy even sat on command so he could be weighed. Tess decided to lie down. But some border collies will prefer to lie down and Tess seems to be one of them. Our vet is excellent and because the surgery just deals in small animals very dog oriented. The other surgery where we used to go was far more rural based and so pets were an add on as opposed to the sheep and cows.

Hardy squealed when he had the microchip put in the scruff of his neck. Tess, proving that women are made of stern stuff, simply stood stoically.
Microchipping is important. If either gets lost and is taken to a vet/rescue centre all they do is wave a wand over the animal and get the barcode. This unique number is in an international database, and they would then phone us so we could be reunited. Without a microchip, it can be nary near impossible to reunite. It cost £20 per animal. Cats as well as dogs can be done. It does not hurt them. And the peace of mind is priceless.

I have opted for the two rounds of injections at 8 and12 weeks. Rather than going for the 8, 10 and then 18 weeks one. It is more about if you want to start taking the puppies out. Given that we have a large garden etc, the whole socialisation thing is not as big an issue. The puppies can still visit friends' gardens where the dogs have been inoculated.

The puppies were glad to be back home after their journey and Tess rapidly recovered.

My youngest decided to play with them on the floor. He has been warned that they will think of him as a littermate. To which he replied -- good.

Children, in particular boys. I suspect there will be scraps under the table as well...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jumping at poppies

Yesterday afternoon I found out that my latest -- the Governess one -- has been accepted. This makes a dozen for HMB. Or half towards my 25 book pin. Harlequin Enterprises marks certain milestones. One of the great things at the AMBA meetings is seeing the other authors get their pins or indeed wearing them. No title yet or release date.
Just after I found out, there was a knock at the door, a man was trying to sell Woodland Trust membership. Because we do like nature, we took a leaflet. One of the main areas that they are attempting to restore and protect is the Irthing Gorge which is where my book begins. Apparently when you join, they plant a tree. I shall ask if it can be planted there. In any case, it became no contest as it is such a pretty place.

Tess was jumping at welsh poppies this morning, endlessly amused as the flowers sprang back. Taking joy in simple things is something to remember. Life is endlessly interesting when encountering it for the first time. I need to remember to take the time to jump at poppies. (And yes, I should keep my camera by me)

BUT the sin bin has had to come in use. Basically the best punishment for a dog who nips is to say no and then if the behaviour persists to quietly but firmly put the dog in a small room for about 30 seconds. Dogs want to be with you. It certainly had the desired affect on Tess who when she gets overexcited tends to forget that hands are not for biting. It also means that if they get over tired and quarrelsome as puppies can do, they can be separated for a few seconds and given space to calm down. The important thing is not to hit or strike -- a firm tone and a short deprivation. Both Tess and Hardy calm down immediatly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The flour monsters

The children know, I know but did my husband pay attention? When you close the cupboard doors and you have puppies, you latch the doors. Otherwise you get...flour monsters!

Tess and Hardy decided to investigate the cupboard while we had supper. An unopened bag of flour proved the biggest draw. Flour covered everything and in the midst sat those two looking innocent as you can do covered in flour. They were dusted off.

And as my sister asked about how Chile was coping. He remains a bit grumpy but as the photo shows -- he does permit them to snuggle up. Tess more than Hardy. I always figure if animals are voluntarily sleeping in the same room, they have accepted each other.
Chile is very stiff these days and he takes the New Alston 3.5 miles much more slowly now. But he is the grand old man of the family.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Training -- end of week 1

Tess and Hardy have been here a week and my deadline is beginning to loom. This means I need to write.

I have also basically finished reading my dog training books. I have also investigated why cesar Milan is not very well loved in certain circles -- namely at times he advocates certain techniques that in the wrong hands can make dogs more aggressive. I am not into choke chains or electronic prods.

There again, I hope Tess & Hardy are going to be well balanced dogs. I have spent loads of time with them, handling them and trying to socialise them properly.
The things I like about Milan's methods are: 1. his emphasis on a dog is a dog. 2. dogs need exercise, particularly in the morning -- get up, get your trainers on and go out with the dog and then they eat. 3. no dog is too old to learn. 4. The problems can be more problems with the owners than the dogs.

WIth Jan Fannell, there are also bits I like: 1. dogs are dogs. 2. dogs respond well to positive re-enforcement. 3. use dogs' natural behaviour to get them trained.

WIth Barbara Sykes 1. border collies are border collies and highly energetic -- ie they need exercise. 2. border collies are highly intelligent and have a sense of humour but also need time alone to think. 3. training is all about teaching manners and positive re-enforcement works, particularly as border collies have such good memories.

The puppies now know their names, and will come IF you have their attention. They know how to sit and are working on down. They like to be clean puppies but sometimes I need better training. They are fed regularly and now know where they eat, and that they have to sit and wait quietly for their bowls to be put down. They also know that the bowls are picked up after they walk away from the meal.

WIth my wip, I need to get J &L out of the carriage. They have been there for the past week.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

puppy mayhem

Dew on the grass + freshly dug mole hill + one author who has a good idea for a scene = two very happy puppies, one filthy kitchen floor and an acquaintance with a towel.

It is amazing how cute and innocent puppies can look when totally covered in dirt.

They are growing fast. And already I can see a big difference. But a solid foundation is what is about and they do appear to be learning. With writing, my cp is threatening her whip. I do suspect somehow though I will get the puppies in. Border collies as a breed were not recognised until the late 19th century -- before that they were simply sheep dogs, but they did come from the English/Scottish border region so it is feasible for a pair of tri colour pups to be there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Collies have a sense of humour

Yesterday, I was treated to collie humour. For example, Tess & Hardy knew I was deliberately ignoring them. They also knew that going on Chile's bed is an automatic no. So having failed to get a reaction, they raced over to the bed and lay down. When I called them, Hardy lent over and gave Tess's neck a lick as if to say -- see, I knew we could do it.

Then last night, as Chile was with us (when you are old and a Labrador sometimes puppy pester power is a bit much) I had closed the door to the back entrance hall and Chile's bed. I went to put Chile away and suddenly there was a scurry of feet and two headlong dives as the puppies rushed to lie at my feet, instead of on Chile's bed. They both wore very innocent butter would not melt expressions as if to say they had no idea why that door was open.

Sometimes, you just have to appreciate it.
And Chile is really more than capable of growling and keeping the puppies in line when he wants to.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The troublesome twosome

It finally dawned on me yesterday on why two puppies at the same time is not reccomended -- twins. I know all about twins as my aunt and uncle are twins and growing up, I was treated to lots oftales about The Twins. Basically if one did not think of it, the other did. I should say what wonderful people my aunt and uncle are and how much they each enjoy being a twin.

I suspect Hardy and Tess really enjoy having a twin as well. They have a partner in crime. And if I am extricating one, then the other has time to get into more mischief.

I have learnt:

1. Puppies can squeeze through the narrowest of gaps and if the second puppy follows, they will invariably take off in opposite directions.

2. Do not be fool by seemingly shy and retiring puppies who sit and watch. Once given a bit of confidence, such puppies are often considering Will the oven glove fall of its own accord or can I make it happen type thoughts.

3. Children forget to close doors. Puppies are eager to investigate. Potatoes on the floor can make a great game until the unwary owner trips. Then it is time to play clamber over owner and lick face games.

4. Two puppies snuggling up to you is wonderful. Puppies who learnt to sit or to come when called are magical.

At the moment, they are asleep -- exhausted from this morning's play. Rain equals wet and dirty puppies who have to be towelled.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

puppy puddles

The puppies in general are being very good about their toilet training, far easier in many ways than children. Thus far they have been very obliging. The only real puddles have been in the morning.
They did wake me up at 5:15 am again and demand attention. I did try the trick of putting the top I was wearing in as a comfort. Luckily was not very fond of it as the top is now full of puppy sized holes.
But puppies grow and soon, they will be too big to be bothered.

I have had to spray the bottom of the butchers block, the legs of the cabinet and the cookbooks on the floor with a dog training spray. It smells like citronella. It is just if they get a taste for wood, they can do a lot of damage, and at this stage, it is not their fault. I have also got a few more chew sticks etc for them. Puppies need to chew but they need to learn what to chew. Puppies have a hard time distinguishing between an old shoe and a new pair of heels for example, so it is best that they never learn that shoes are great to chew. Equally if puppies don't sit on the furniture, they don't want to sit later when they have muddy paws. I am spending a lot of time sitting on the floor.

With my writing, I spent a few minutes registering my books for PLR or Public Lending Right. Every published UK edition has to be registered by 30 June so it can count in the yearly total. PLR is a great invention and I am very grateful to the authors who campaign so long and hard for it. PLR is 30 this year. Long may it last!!!!
RIght off to grab a few moments of writing time before puppy mayhem descends again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apple trees and puppies

Yesterday was emotionally draining. Joss's ashes came back. We bought an apple tree -- greensleeves, dessert and planted that in his beloved garden. Seeing the collar and lead again was hard. But it is good to know my friend is where he needs to be. And I can see the tree from the kitchen window.

The puppies are very quick but then they are border collies. Tess appears to have grown in confidence and is determined to boss her brother about. Hardy learnt his name and like a man is most motivated by food. They both appear to have figured out the whole concept of going outside to use the toilet but then I did spend most of yesterday with them, making sure we went outside after meals, naps etc. Chile is maintaining a dignified aloofness despite the puppies desire to play. He was willing to eat his breakfast with the door half closed. The door had to be fully closed yesterday. It just takes time.

This morning was an early start as the puppies were crying. I suppose this is good as yesterday morning, they were far too frightened of the new surroundings. Chile was busy pacing the floor when I came down. The puppies tumbled about themselves. It is a hard thing to ignore them when you first come back and let them calm down before greeting them, but it should make everything easier in the long run.
But the main point of this post is puppy pictures as people wanted to see them. At this stage they are incredibly cute but that is the whole point of puppies. And they grow. I only managed a quarter of the words but puppies are puppies.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Meet Tess & Hardy

The lady who had the puppies phoned last night. Apparently they were ready any time but there was a slight snag. The puppy my daughter loved was a bitch, rather than a dog. Did we still want her? As it was love at first sight for my daughter -- the answer was yes. We drove out and picked the puppies up yesterday evening.

My daughter decided on Tess as she is currently v keen on Hardy. So the other dog's name had to be Hardy.

They are being puppy like. Tess has the mostly white face and is standing up in the above picture. Hardy has the tan patches on his face and wears a mask.

They both have their distinctive personalities. Tess is a bit more of a thinker and is cautious whereas Hardy just wants to investigate. Both seem quick.

Chile the Labrador is maintaining a dignified silence and is not very sure about his space being invaded by puppies. SO puppy training time has arrived.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More books on dog training

I visited with a friend who has lent a few more books on dog training -- namely the Jan Fennell Dog Listener ones and a Cesar Milan who has the Dog Whisperer television show on Sky and the National Geographic. Interestingly Milan references a number of the body language books that I read for writing purposes.

The one thing that is great about these approaches is that they are very much pack leader and thinking like a dog oriented. I am under no illusion of the task that I have taken on. Currently, I am working with Chile, my 12 year old Labrador to make sure he understands my commands. Actually, after a confrontation about 10 years ago, he knows who is the pack leader is and walks very well on the leash.
These two are going to require lots of hard work and training before they can learn manners and take their place as well behaved dogs. They have big paws to fill.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Border Collie training

After reading Understanding Border Collies by Barbara Sykes, I now know where I went wrong with Joss. Not that he wasn't lovely but more that I could have done more. The two big problems were -- barking at certain times, mainly when people arrived and pulling on the lead when he felt like it. The thing about border collies is that they do have a mind of their own and a mischievous sense of humour. And Joss was highly intelligent in a one track mind sort of way. If we ever went a different way on the walk, the next time, he'd stop and wait to see which way we'd go.

I was surprised to read about the so-called faults of border collies. Joss never rounded up the children up, never nipped, and did not dig holes. He also did not chew furniture or shoes. He rounded the ducks up. He was very good on recall and would obey my commands to sit or go down even from about 50 yards. After reading the book though, I realise that the minor irritations could have been easily solved. The fault was mine for not thinking like a dog.
I also now know about floppy ears v prick ears, dark brown eyes v light amber ones and even medium coat v rough coats. With Joss, we did manage to make some choices that make for a more easy going border collie. Apparently floppy ears, and dark brown eyes make for a softer more family oriented dog. But as with anything, it is about the training and teaching the manners. I succeeded on some things and with others...perhaps they did not matter as much to me.

I also know that getting 2 puppies from the same litter is going to make training much more difficult in some ways. When they are being trained, the puppies will have to be trained separately. There will already be a pack hierarchy within the group of two, but there again, there is Chile the Labrador to consider.
And the books say -- don't get a border collie when you have children under 10. When we got Joss, the children were 8, 5, and 3. There was never any problems. Perhaps it is why I am willing to have 2. After there are basically 5 adults who will take part in the training.
And of course, the pups will have a job. The ducks are getting restless and although Chile does a good job, it is better if there is two dogs...
I do think owners of border collies and people who are interested in the breed should read Barbara Sykes. She definitely knows her collies.
Anyway, once I get these puppies next Saturday, I will keep an update and will see if my theories work or if we were just really lucky with Joss...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who wrote the melody for Auld Lang Syne

Do you want to know who is creditted with writing the melody for Auld Lang Syne? Robert Burns wrote the words, but a former boat builder from South Shields who became the Master of the King's Musick is credited with writing the melody. Learn more about the controversy at my blog on Risky Regencies today.

The Sugar Queen and rants

First of all a few weeks ago, the publicist at Hodder contacted me and asked if I wanted to read The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. She read my blog and thought it might be a book I would like.

This sort of thing rarely happens.
It is Ms Allen's second book and I will be looking to get her first book -- Garden Spells. Ms Allen creates a lovely atmosphere that leads you on into the book. It is definitely a single title women's fiction with romantic elements rather than a romance but I enjoy all sorts of different genres.

Anyway, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read with characters who linger in your mind.

The blurb says Twenty-seven year old Josey is sure of three things:

winter in her North Caroline hometown is her favourite season;

she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle;

and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet

For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romance she escapes to each night...

Until she finds her closet harbouring none other than local waitress Delia Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis and two parts fairy godmother.

It is a coming of age tale and as is usual with a tale set in the American South, long hidden secrets lurk under the surface, add a dash of magic to mix and you are away. But Josey is a good character and I wish Ms Allen well with her next book. I suspect that this will be a word of mouth book...and so I am doing my bit.
And now my rant. I opened my alumni magazine, The Carleton Voice to find an article denigrating romance and by extension the women who read such fiction as well as those who write it. Some MALE English senior has done a project where he pretended to a woman writing a romance. It is a meta fiction. BUT his research seems to have consisted of reading literary theory from the late 80s and early 90s, with no reference to recent scholarship (for example A Natural History of Romance by Pamela Regis or indeed any of the work of the recently formed International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. He also stated that romance writers tend to write in italicised capitals. And that he felt like he was trying to put make up on a dead horse. Huh? According to him, the accepted definition of a romance is the social identity of the heroine comes into question, she goes away for awhile and finally her identity is restored. This is news to me! A more accepted definition of romance is one where the growth of the emotional relationship between the two main protagonists forms the central arc or spine of the story and the ending is emotionally satisfying.
The editor of the Voice felt including this piece was justified as the man was writing fiction and it was the first time something like this had been done as a comps paper. She also felt the tone of the article was justified and predictable as they were talking about a twenty-something male. Umm, I thought the battle of the sexes was fought long before I set foot on the campus in the early 80s. Why should women have their reading matter mocked? Why should men get away with sloppy scholarship since they were dealing with a fluffy piece?
Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editor and then another one after I received the female editor's reply.
I am well aware of the pretensions of some males BUT this smacks of sexism on serious scale and I really expected better of Carleton, a college which is very proud of its liberal traditions. They would never have published the article if the white male student had been mocking say Afro-American fiction. He choose romance rather than say a Walter Mitty male attempting to write a guys with gear who go novel. It was just a serious error of judgement on behalf of the editors. The act of publication implies the college condones and supports those views. Amazing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Simple things

I went to the meeting of the Hexham Beekeepers yesterday. There will be bees in my future. The man who hosted the meeting has twenty hives and queen rearing is in full swing. I was so impressed with his bees -- very well behaved and non agressive, plus his own beekeeping skills. He was able to quickly demonstrate how to create an artificial swarm.
But it was the hum of bees, the smell of the honey and just the general being around the hives. Sheer bliss. I would urge anyone interested in beekeeping to attend the meetings of their local beekeeping association. With the apiary meetings, they do have extra suits for people to wear.
He is going to make up a nucleus -- this year's queen and several frames of brood for me. It should be ready in a few weeks.

I have put more puppy pictures on the blog as my sister informs that the pictures I sent her took far too long to download and my nieces enjoyed looking at the puppies. My youngest neice takes a keen interest in my family's pets even though she has never been to the UK.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Border collie puppies in my future

While Joss was alive, my husband and I would often say -- he's lovely but no more border collies, they are manic. Ummm. We are picking up our two new border collie puppies on the 23rd. A neighbour of a friend has a litter and we have chosen the two who would not make good sheep dogs. They are lovely. But will need lots and lots of training. However, I do know that once properly trained and being exercised, border collies do make lovely (if slightly manic) pets.

The neighbour also explained where I was going wrong with the mole! I have not been setting the trap properly. As the lawn is once again looking like the Somme, I am hopeful.

There is a beekeeping meeting this afternoon and my fingers are crossed about getting more bees.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Thoughts on operations and dogs

Many thanks to everyone who sent messages of condolences. My family and I are truly touched.

We are still in a state of shock. It is the suddenness in the way he went. I now understand that cancer of the spleen is relatively common amongst older male dogs. If they can stop the bleeding and remove the spleen, there is often a good outcome. BUT because any operation is fraught with danger (including blood clots), vets prefer to wait until the tumour has burst. In Joss's case, they did stop the bleeding and successfully remove the spleen, it was the blood clot which was the problem.

One tends to think once the operation is over, all will be well. However, this is why he was in the hospital. These things happen -- to humans as well as dogs. It is why for example humans wear surgical stockings...

So we are slowly adjusting to our loss. He was a big part of the family -- always wanting to play fetch with anyone -- capable of raiding bins in search of paper to fetch, trying to communicate through any squeaky toy and adapt to sing. He also loved to run, had incredible stamina and loved being on the go. He was highly intelligent in a manic border collie way and would attempt to anticipate your next move, particularly when out on a walk. He just was.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Joss died. He survived the surgery but at about 9:15 am, a blood clot went to his brain or his heart and he died.
This was not supposed to happen.
He was such a wonderful dog. And we all loved him so very much.

Worrying times

My plans for yesterday were put on hold. My plans for today which included a lunch with the members of the RNA Northumberland have been cancelled. Our border collie Joss had to undergo emergency surgery yesterday. He had a burst tumour on his spleen and began to bleed internally. As of 9 pm yesterday evening, he was breathing regularly and coming around slowly. However, the vets caution that he is an old dog (10 years old) and has lost a lot of blood. But we are hopeful. I will know more later today.

There was no real warning. On Tuesday, he seemed a bit slow on his run with my husband. And we thought that he might be gaining weight again. He was off his food on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, he was not right. Then, he really went downhill -- vomiting, being lethargic and by the time it came his appointment, not being able to get into the car.

Of our two dogs, I would have thought Chile would be the first one...anyway fingers crossed.

Luckily my deadline is not until the end of July.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Slices of pie

The US Mother's Day happens on Sunday. It is a day of peace and has a totally different foundation than the UK Mothering Sunday. Anyway, my aunt sent me a load of sayings about mothers.

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.--Tenneva Jordan

Does anyone know who Tenneva Jordan is? I can find the quote and it is attributed to her, but can I find out anything about this woman? All I can find is the quote. So I would be interested to know more about her. Was she only a mother? Why did she say it? When did she say it? If you know, I would like to find out.

I have been in this situation before and have foregone the pie. Sometimes, and perhaps this means I am not a good mother, I have divided the four pieces between five. Because the number of pieces does depend on how you slice it. And it can better for everyone to have a taste, than for one person to gobble it up.
Equally I suspect that my husband would say that the first stance does lead towards martyred mother syndrome. Particularly if you have been looking forward to a taste of pie...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Last night I finally finished Max Adams' biography of the Martin brothers and the world they inhabited The Firebringers. To call it a biography is wrong. It is provides illumination on the early 19th century, through a variety of anecdotes and facts.
Because John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge, I was initially interested in learning more about him. What I had not realised was how bound up he was in London Society and invention as well his famous paintings. It was great to learn more about Prince Leopold, the unlucky consort of the Princess of Wales or Marc Brunel's troubles with the Thames tunnel or JMW Turner's double life.
I also learnt that in 1832, 32,000 people in England died from cholera. It rather puts the current swine flu panic in perspective. It is an enjoyable read and illuminates the time period nicely.
I now have Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder to read. It covers the same period and deals with the growth of science before Darwin.
Donna Alward is doing something on conflict (her book The Soldier's Homecoming has just finalled in the Golden Quill -- go Donna!) and Kate Walker is finishing up her alpha posts.
The mole has once again been working overtime in my garden. SIGH. Why me?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Venice redux

I am blogging about the allure of Venice today at the Pink Heart Society. Even after being back in the UK for nearly two months, I only have to close my eyes and I can be transported again. It is such a wonderful city to visit.

As part of its spotlight on Harlequin Historical, Eharlequin is doing a Carnival of Venice cyber masquerade ball. It should be outrageous and fun.

As Natasha Oakley asked when she was here, the mole is still digging in the back lawn. It has taken to filling in my traps. To add insult to injury, my youngest thought he was being helpful, refilling a hole but he managed to bury a trap. I note there is a new hill this morning...away from the traps and back where I put the original traps. Are moles intelligent?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Things to help bees

Yesterday, a neighbour phoned, concerned that he had not seen any honey bees in his garden. I had to explain about my earlier bee murdering disaster and my hopes of getting a new colony. Somehow I don't think he was mollified. Apparently he is worried about his damson crop...

So what can people do to help the honey bee? The British Bee Keeping Association has a list of 10 things the general public can do.

1. Write to your MP or MEP to lobby for more funds for bee research. We really do not understand enough about bees and what makes them ill.

2. Plant bee friendly plants. This is important. Grass and evergreens are not bee friendly. Certain repeat flowering plants are not bee friendly. The BBKA does have a list on its website but flowers like foxgloves, herbs including mint and thyme, fuchsia, asters, sunflowers, daisies, hollyhocks and delphiniums are all loved by bees. In many ways with the problems of agricultural pesticides, gardens area haven for bees.

3. Join your local beekeeping association. They do run courses for beginners. They are friendly and welcome new people.

4. Find space for beehives. Even if you do not want to look after bees yourself, you might be able to have space for a hive. Some beekeepers need sites. The benefit for you is well pollinated crops and perhaps several jars of honey. Sited right, a beehive does not bother its neighbours. Contact your local beekeeping association.

5. Buy local honey. Local honey has lots of good properties including not being ultra heat treated so it is helpful for colds and allergies. If you are not sure where you can buy local honey, contact your local beekeeping association. Local honey tastes far richer than the mass produced stuff you buy at the supermarket.

6. Do not keep unwashed honey jars outside the backdoor. First of all it attracts wasps but more importantly, foreign honey can contain bacteria and spores that may be harmful to your local bees. The bees as well as the wasps will try to eat the remaining honey.

7. When encountering bees, be bee friendly. Do not flap your hands or run. Stay calm. Walk slowly away and go into the shade of a tree or shed. They sting because they are frightened for the hive.

8. Protect swarms. Call your local council to get the number of someone to deal with them. swarms are important. Generally they are not aggressive as they have fed on lots of honey. But if you disturb -- say spray them with water they get irritated. So leave them alone and call an expert.

9. Encourage your local authority to plant bee friendly plants. Parks, verges and other public areas can be a real haven for bees. Wildflowers such as rosebay willowherb can provide lots of honey. Evergreen plants and grass can't.

10. Learn more about bees. Contact your local beekeeping association. There are beekeepers ready and willing to talk to all ages and manner of groups. Generally they have an observation hive for schoolchildren.

The loss of bees is a very real problem but little things can help to make a difference.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Hexham Book Festival

The Hexham Book Festival went well. There was a definite buzz about the town. The panel was informative and hopefully everyone who attended could see how passionate we all were about writing and reading romance.

Natasha Oakley pointed out a very importnat fact. Mills & Boon outsells all the other publishers of women's fiction. It is the largest publisher of women's fiction in the world. But for some reason, this fact often escapes people.
Sheila Hodgson who is truly awesome did say at the end that they are looking for new authors across ALL the series. The editors really want to find new stars and unlike many other publishers, they do really all submissions. All three authors came from the slush pile orginally. None had submitted through the RNA or an agent.

BTW I did my level best to ruin the photo. Natasha, Sharon and Sheila Hodgson -- all look lovely. I did my forced smile. My daughter took the photo.