New book in progress
I have been working with Paul Horton of Apidae Honey on a new beekeeping book. Paul is well known in bee farming circles in the UK but may not be a household name among the general beekeeping public, although that should change when our masterpiece is published. For a fairly young (compared to me) chap, he has incredible knowledge and experience, which I’m excited to share. He is a second generation bee farmer based in North Lincolnshire, a former bee inspector, and part of the ‘knowledge exchange’ group at the Bee Farmers association. His honey yield per hive is staggering; a five-year average of over 130lbs per hive, and in the bumper 2022 season it topped 180lbs per hive. The main purpose of the book is to show how he does it. Plus some mutterings by yours truly, of course.
Between March and October, there is little time nor energy for writing a book due to the demands of the bees. We started the project last winter, had a busy summer of beekeeping, and hope to complete the manuscript this winter. I had a brief period working with the good folks at BeeCraft in 2021/22 as a director, and thought I’d persuaded them to publish our work, but alas, they have dumped me. I suppose it’s fair enough; I dumped them by resigning after only 8 months in post, which was probably quite inconvenient for them. I do have a tinge of guilt about it; not that I resigned, but that I took on the job in the first place. I gave it my best shot, but when something isn’t right it’s best for all concerned to bail out, so I did. Credit and respect to my former co-directors and the other staff at BeeCraft for the sterling work they do.
The focus now is to crack on with finishing the book, then see if any mega publishers are interested. Then, when they aren’t, to beg Mrs Walrus to do it through her excellent little publishing company, called ZunTold. They produce great books, but are more targeted towards young people and mental health. No matter. We haven’t put in all of this work to be scuppered by a little thing like not being young adult fiction! Both Paul and I are very excited about it; it’s going to be a classic…but we would say that, wouldn’t we?
We have settled into accepting that taking holidays abroad in summer is incompatible with having lots of bees. Each beekeeper must figure this stuff out for themselves, but we generally stay in the UK/Ireland in summer and get our sunshine in the winter on the small volcanic rock called Lanzarote. Lately, the summer weather here has been pretty decent, and in 2022 temperatures soared to 38 Celsius here in Manchester. That’s plenty warm enough for this walrus. We tend to have a week in Tighnabruaich in May and a week in Lanzarote in November, which works for us. If the winter is horrid, we may also throw in another trip to the Canaries in February, but one must try not to blow all the funds on frivolity. I always feel sad when I take my pet beagle to the kennels, especially as she is now ten years old. Based on our previous beagle’s experience, we should have her for another three years, but I don’t like the idea of abandoning her once she gets ancient.
On the subject of the Canary Islands, we have tried most of them and enjoyed them all. Lanzarote is our favourite because it is small and quiet, and we visit a particular spot that we find very restful. I don’t consider it to be a beautiful island, but our little corner comes close. All we really do is take long walks along a sandy beach, lay about, and eat. It’s the perfect lifestyle for a walrus!
When I visited New Zealand in January 2018 they were having a bit of a heatwave. That is one beautiful place. Shame about the earthquakes, and the insanely long flight. One highlight that lingers in my mind is the hospitality shown to me by Lorraine Muldoon, who made me eggs and bacon followed by toast and clover honey – divine. She never made it to my book, Interviews With Beekeepers, but I did keep my word to her and get her an article in the New Zealand Beekeeper magazine. She specialised in honeydew honey, from the beech trees around Oxford, but her clover honey was spectacular. Creamy and buttery and mellow and…yum.
About 8 years ago, I had cataract surgery on both eyes at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. It was incredible, after years of extreme myopia, to be able to see without glasses or contact lenses. Later on, my vision started getting bad again, which turned out to be PCO (Posterior capsule opacification). Back I went to Moorfields for something called YAG, which involved my surgeon firing a laser into my eyes to punch a hole into the back of the capsule in which the lens sits. After less than two minutes, I had perfect vision again; it was wonderful.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the lens implant in my right eye had a manufacturing defect. After a few years, the lens itself started to be covered by tiny crystalline deposits, called intraocular lens (IOL) opacification(don’t click on this if you are squeamish about eye surgery). It is an uncommon but serious complication of cataract surgery, so naturally I got it. Basically, as time has gone on, the vision in my right eye has become extremely clouded and not much good for seeing with. My left eye has a long-distance lens, and the right is for reading, so trying to write a book using the ‘wrong eye’ can get a bit difficult.
I have finally been given a date for remedial surgery, which is a relief. Apparently, it is extremely challenging surgery, complicated more by the fact that the YAG treatment has left the lens capsule more likely to tear. If this were to happen as the surgeon removes the defective lens, there would not be a place to deposit the shiny new lens. Should that happen, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t, the only option remaining is to have a replacement lens implanted in front of the iris, just under the cornea. This can make the pupil a different shape, i.e. not circular, but if I can see I won’t care about that. Whatever happens, towards the end of January I’ll be laying on a table, awake but sedated, as some bloke prods around in my eyeball for over half an hour.
There are people with far worse problems than me, and I have confidence in my surgeon. If I get clear vision in both eyes, who knows how good I can become at grafting?!