Getting Creative

Interviews with Beekeepers Cover
Interviews with Beekeepers Cover

I am no literary academic and don’t know how much of this is true, but it seems that Shakespeare’s life and works were shaped by the plague. This article (go on, click it) suggests that he had a lucky escape as an infant and that several of his plays were imbued with pestilence. He apparently wrote in concentrated bursts, possibly influenced by the levels of disease at the time. The current global pandemic of Covid-19 is severe but nothing compared to the Great Plague, and for that, we should be grateful. It is a warning shot; many will die, and the economic costs will be enormous, but at least the fatality rate is relatively low. I wish good health and happiness to all who read this in this time of worry.

Silver Lining

There is a small silver lining to lots of people staying indoors following a self-quarantine protocol. There is plenty of time to read, to write and to be creative. It may not be much compensation for loss of income, but if you are stuck in the house, you might as well use the time wisely. There is no football or rugby to watch, which creates a chasm in many peoples lives here. Perhaps there will be a spate of fantastic new books or plays or phone apps being created in these trying times – I hope so.

That brings me nicely to my humble contribution to the beekeeping literature. My book, Interviews with Beekeepers, will be published very soon. The publisher is waiting for a test print to arrive. Assuming it is as beautiful on paper as it is in the electronic form, they will then do whatever it is publishers do to make it available for sale. It’s been a family project in some ways because my wife’s company is the publisher, my youngest daughter Isla illustrated the book and designed the cover. My other children Clíona and Alex, accompanied me on some of my travels.

Free Signed Books!

It will probably be about a month before I can draw 20 names from a hat from those who follow me on social media and send a signed first edition to them. It will brighten up any room (it’s yellow), and there are lots of pages and photographs to entertain you as you sit in splendid isolation, nervously wondering when supermarket shelves will be stocked again.

My Travels for the Book

The itinerary for my interviews with beekeepers was as follows:
22 July 2017 Manchester to Burlington (Vermont, USA) via Atlanta
24 July 2017 Interviewed Mike Palmer
27 July 2017 Burlington to Manchester via Detroit, Atlanta and London (we missed our connection at Atlanta and had to catch a flight home via London…nightmare). Luggage went missing but arrived the following day.
Mike gave me one of his coveted “Vermont Beekeepers” caps.

15 August 2017 Interviewed David Kemp in The Fox Inn, Kelham, England

23 November 2017 Drove up the Lands of Loyal Hotel in Alyth, Scotland (beautiful place)
24 November 2017 Interviewed Murray McGregor & Jolanta Modliszewska

Beautiful New Zealand
Beautiful New Zealand

15 January 2018 Manchester to Christchurch, New Zealand via Dubai and Sidney (God that’s a long way)
21 January 2018 Interviewed Peter Bray in Leeston
23 January 2018 Interviewed Rae Butler in Ashburton
25 January 2018 Interviewed Lorrain Muldoon in Oxford
Unfortunately, Lorrain and Rae did not make it to the book – the editor had to cut down the amount of material to keep the book to a reasonable size
29 January 2018 Christchurch to Manchester via Sidney and Dubai

21 February 2018 Drove to Exmoor Country House near Porlock, Somerset, England
22 February 2018 Interviewed Peter Little

05 May 2018 East Midlands Airport to Dinard, France then drove to Corseul, Brittany. On the drive to the UK airport, I got a flat tyre, but Mercedes arranged for it to be sorted out in good time, so we did not miss the flight. Pretty stressful, though.
06 May 2018 Interviewed Richard Noel
08 May 2018 Dinard to East Midlands, then drove home. The flight (Ryanair) was delayed over 4 hours because the pilot wasn’t happy with his seat! They had to bring a new pilots chair from Paris.

Sad Interlude

26 July 2018 My dog died
17 September 2018 My Dad died


21 October 2018 Manchester to Sacramento (California USA) via London and Dallas. Stayed at Holiday Inn Express.
23 October 2018 Drove up to Orland to interview Ray Olivarez . Overnight stay at Oxford Suites in Chico.
23 October 2018 Drove to Sierra Mountain Inn, Grass Valley CA
24 October 2018 Interviewed Randy Oliver
26 October 2018 Drove back to Sacramento, stayed at Kimpton Sawyer Hotel
28 October 2018 Sacramento to Manchester via Los Angeles and London

Ray Olivarez with Mating Nucs
Ray Olivarez with Mating Nucs


Between then and a few months ago, I put in a considerable amount of effort transcribing, writing, editing, and so forth. I then had to check back with my interviewees that they were ok with their piece, and make the necessary edits so that they were. Trust me, getting busy commercial beekeepers to respond quickly is impossible; quiet, steady perseverance is the only way. Then it was over to the publisher (wife, Elaine) and illustrator (daughter, Isla) and further back and forth editing and shaping it into something readable, hopefully. I am happy with the result and hope others will be too.

Bee Tradex

Yesterday I was at Bee Tradex in Stoneleigh Park to meet up with my brother and collect some stuff that I’d pre-ordered from Swienty. They had not risked travelling here, along with many others judging by the low numbers of suppliers and customers present, but the goods were available for collection. I had chats with Alex Ellis of the BFA, Richard Rickett (Bee Craft Magazine) and Paul Beardmore (Happy Valley Honey) which was pleasant. Somebody had a bumblebee nest on display which was sweet (I love bumbles – so cute!). I managed to get rid of some leftover Euros by purchasing a ventilated jacket/veil from a German chap (der Original Honigmann). It’s one of the few items of clothing marked “large” that fit me; typically it’s XL. In fact, even the “L” size has plenty of expansion room for the belly area. Germans drink a lot of beer, don’t they?

Queen Catcher
Queen Catcher

My haul from Bee Tradex was: 10 poly top feeders for Langstroth hives, 4 top feeders for mini-plus boxes, a ventilated jacket with veil, a load of baby honey jars (55ml hex) and lastly a funny little plastic queen catcher thing. I like the idea that I can pick the queen up and put her safely in the queen catcher while I shake frames or whatever. The baby honey jars are to be wedding favours at my daughter Clíona’s wedding in July. Delicious walrus honey for our guests 🙂

Right then, I seem to have written enough words, so I’ll call it a day. Have a good one, and get creative!

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