Keep Calm and Carry On

A few weeks ago I noticed this Tweet from Ellee in my Twitter feed:

“I’m in the most extraordinary bookshop I have ever visited, sipping coffee in front of a welcoming fire .”

Before I even clicked on the link I knew exactly where she was, even though it is far away from her home.  It is one of my favourite bookshops too.

The book shop is situated in what was once a Victorian railway station designed by William Bell in 1887.  It is one of largest second hand book shops in the UK.

It is also the place where the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster of war time propaganda was rediscovered.  I am sure that people in the UK are familiar with the slogan and its many spin offs.

You can hear all about the story of the poster and the other war time messages on this video.

The tweet also reminded me of another occasion when I talked about the bookshop…

Richard had just set up a blog promoting the best independent bookshops in Britain and had asked for reader’s contributions to add to the blog. I thought Barter Books was the perfect place to be included so I emailed him my thoughts on the bookshop.

He posted my thoughts as follows:

Yesterday I decided I needed to be away from the Mac, twelve days on the run staring at the screen is not good. What better a thing to do than go and visit a bookshop, so I decided to pack up some books that were OTR and head for Alnwick in Northumberland; it’s the home of Barter Books, Britain’s biggest second hand book shop. At about 3.15 yesterday afternoon I was standing in line ready to pay for the books I had found during my couple of idyllic hours of browsing. Two were books I had been looking for – two volumes of Rupert Hart-Davis and George Lyttelton’s letters to each other; they were the paperback editions that each contained two volumes – so all I need now to find are volumes 5 & 6. I also got several books that I didn’t know I wanted.

I deliberately didn’t take my mobile with me so I could avoid the temptation to check my emails or any other such unnecessary Saturday act. When I got home there was an email from Cherie.

“I discovered this wonderful second hand bookshop a couple of years ago when I was on holiday. It is situated in an old Victorian railway station, which gives it a lot of character. There is a huge selection of books, which are laid out in a logical sequence; there is even a map to help you find your way round easily.

To add to the enjoyment, it has a waiting room where people can sit down to read, drink coffee and in wintertime enjoy open fires. To cater for families it even has a children’s room with toys, so the adults can enjoy browsing the books uninterrupted.”

Synchronicity works in strange and mysterious ways 😉

My Lifelong Passion for Books

As Valentine’s Day is almost upon us I considered writing of love or other obvious themes for the day, such as flowers, hearts or chocolate.  But I realised that most of my thoughts on these subjects would be covered by other people, especially at this time of year.  Whilst I was still considering what to write about, I received an email at work which reminded me of the Quick Reads Initiative and the recent 2012 releases, this in turn reminded me of World Book Day and got me thinking of my lifelong passion for books and reading.

In my teens and early twenties the novels I read were mainly science fiction and fantasy but I also read about nature, science, strange facts, unexplained phenomena and other related subjects.  One of my favourite magazines at the time was Omnium which was a mixture of science fact and fiction.  My choice of novels expanded to include history, philosophy, world views; any reading that stretched my mind and got me thinking.

By the time I reached my thirties, my reading had further diversified to include books and magazines on photography (digital and film) so that I could understand the principles and explore the different techniques.  I also read computer manuals from cover to cover (almost) to teach me how the computer operating system worked and how to write code to magically produce web pages.

In my forties I gained an interest in family history, stately homes, castles and gardens and started to read about those.  I always pick up the guidebook for the places I visit, to give me background information which enhances my enjoyment of the visit.  Whenever I visit another country I pick up a travel guide book to give a sense of history and culture, so I can enjoy the country even more.

My recent readings have mostly been on the theme of history, science, philosophy and world views, interspersed with one or two mystery thrillers.  My readings always include alternative ideas to the accepted view of the world, which allows me to expand my horizons.

I knew I would enjoy the first book that was chosen for the Vision & Verb book group, especially because I was sure that when  I had finished it ( which I have now ) I would love to hear what the other V&V ladies had to say and discuss the themes and ideas with them.  For me, one of the best things about books is being able to discuss them, or what you have learned from them, with other people.

I think other people would describe my reading as eclectic/eccentric, maybe it is…

I will leave you to wonder which book I am currently reading…

A Fascination with Bees

I have always been fascinated by bees and it is always a joy when they crop up in books and articles that I am reading. In each article I always learn something new.

In ‘What on Earth Happened?… In Brief (the planet, life and people from the big bang to the present day)’ by Christopher Lloyd, I learned that bees descended from wasps and emerged at the same time as the first flowers. Bees switched from dining on other insects to a diet of pollen and nectar. I had no idea that there are 20,000 different species of bee alive today. Some of these, especially honey-bees, bumble-bees and stingless bees form highly social groups that offer a deep insight into how nature’s civilizations work.

Bees are eusocial creatures and divide up jobs between themselves. They pass knowledge and learning on from one generation to another, care for their youngsters and even, in certain circumstances, sacrifice lives for the benefit of the group. Such characteristics were for a long time thought to be unique to mankind when it first organized itself into tribes and eventually cities and states.

But, as any beekeeper will tell you this is not so…

In her book ‘The Morville Hours’, Katherine Swift, who is a beekeeper, shares many interesting snippets about bees. One thing she mentions is that bees are now threatened by Varroa which is a parasitic mite endemic in most countries. It arrived in the UK in the mid 1990s. The mites attach themselves to the bees and weaken their bodies’ immune system. This is easy to treat in domesticated bees, but not in wild bees and if left untreated, it can lead to the extinction of whole colonies.

In a recent article in the National Trust magazine, Emma Hill, the head gardener for Dunham Massey, explains how the bee keepers at Dunham Massy deal with the virus by using icing sugar to treat it. The sugar is sprinkled onto the bees through a fine mesh. This encourages the bees to groom which removes the mite.

Emma also tells us that the keeping of bees in hives dates back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians and that a bee society is predominantly female.

Emma has been studying bee behaviour and has observed that when their stomachs are full of honey they are happy and emit a low hum, whereas a high pitched hum means that they are angry. Bees have two stomachs; the extra one is for storing honey.

Worker bees can fly up to two miles to collect, nectar, pollen, propolis and water. They perform their figure of eight waggle dance to indicate to other bees where to forage.

On my recent holiday to Northumberland I visited a honey farm where I was able to see the bees in action and see how the honey was prepared for distribution to the public. I was also able to sample the products and was tempted to purchase a jar of Heather Honey which has a delightful taste.

I say long live the bee.