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After reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley

Every year, honey bee colonies move house. It’s called swarming. It’s how the colony, as a superorganism, reproduces. [Beekeepers do what they can to control and manage swarming – but that’s another story.]

I’ve recently been reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley. What he demonstrates, through decades of scientific research about honey bees and their collective-decision-making, is astonishing.

Continue reading After reading Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D. Seeley

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Playing in the garden

A new garden – and the gardening spark has been rekindled! There was I thinking that I’d been there, dug that and worn out the T-shirt. Even sent all my gardening books to the charity shop. And now, faced with a new terrain, I am back in thrall to my trowel, heaps of manure and – my imagination, which, sadly, seems rather more fertile than our stony ground looks. Still, Continue reading Playing in the garden

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Of Family, Friends and Felines

The saga of the three weeks preceding our relocation to Kent has been shared with many of you, but you’ll forgive me if I revisit it briefly to set the scene for our further adventures.

Two bike incidents on one Sunday resulted in an ankle ligament injury for me and a broken right wrist for Archie. With a week to go before our farewell charity concert, don’t you think it reasonable that when Archie phoned to tell me his news from the hospital, my first query was ‘Will you be able to play in the concert?’ Continue reading Of Family, Friends and Felines

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Farewell to Ha’penny Bridge

There are good things and bad things about having a dog.

For years now, we have seen how the children who visit our house for lessons can only see the good things – while their parents only see…! Right now, as it’s time for one of Sanday’s bi-annual moults (each of which lasts about six months), I am currently living out one of the bad things. But as I yet again hoover up what seems to be enough Sanday-hair to make a second dog, I reflect on one of the best things about having a dog. No, it’s not that wicked, whipping tail Continue reading Farewell to Ha’penny Bridge

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A Gift from The Lady

Sometimes you hear a real gem on the radio. Some years ago while driving on holiday with the car radio on, I heard Aung San Suu Kyi, the then Burmese Pro-Democracy leader, give an interview to Eddie Mair on PM on Radio 4. Speaking as a piano teacher, I couldn’t get over how lucky we all were to receive such a gift of encouragement to take the chance to learn an instrument when young, and all done with such a light touch. Few presenters have Eddie Mair’s knack of creating informal conversations Continue reading A Gift from The Lady

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A Concerted Effort

A transcript of some thoughts which we shared with the audiences at the end of our final pupils’ concerts. A playlist from the concerts is included at the end.

After our first pupils’ concerts over 30 years ago, I remember saying to Archie how well they had turned out and how we mustn’t hold them too often or they would stop feeling special. Yet, somehow, we found ourselves having at least two, if not three, concert days a year and holding at least two, if not three, concerts on each of those days. Continue reading A Concerted Effort

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A good yarn

Do you ever find that when you’re extra busy, you feel the need to take up some all-consuming activity that has no connection at all to the matters that are crowding on your life and uses up the time that you have allotted to these urgent tasks?

I could blame my daughter-in-law who tentatively told me that the baby, my granddaughter, had grown out of all her cardigans. I could blame the family who house-and-animal-sat for us while they were between houses and we were away from home – they gave me a voucher to spend in an exotic wool shop. Continue reading A good yarn

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Silence in music. Silence and music.

I used to teach piano in schools. At the start of each new school year, I would speak to a class, or all the classes in a school year, or perhaps a whole school, to tell them about the piano and piano lessons. The idea was to recruit new pupils. Usually, I took the opportunity to tell the children something about music in general, and how music worked on the piano in particular.

Continue reading Silence in music. Silence and music.

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Tablet – a Scottish recipe

  • Butter (slightly salted) – 100gms
  • Milk – 250ml
  • Condensed milk (sweetened) – 1 tin (397gms)
  • Golden syrup – 20gms
  • White granulated sugar – 1 kg (cane sugar rather than beet though both make excellent tablet)
  • Vanilla extract or essence – 5-10ml (1-2 teaspoons)

I have made tablet all my life, although I have to concede that my mother (I should say ‘our’; there were a lot of us!) helped me at least until I started school.

Some tablet recipes are ultra-simple. Something like this: Combine the ingredients and bring to the boil. Continue boiling till the mixture looks medium brown. Remove from the heat, beat for a few minutes, and pour into a greased tray. And, in a sense, that’s all there is to it. But if you look at some of the comments on YouTube or cookery websites, brief instructions like that sometimes produce inedible results. But so do longer, more detailed instructions!
Continue reading Tablet – a Scottish recipe