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Tuesday 22 February 2011

Catching up …Some Bee News

It was foggy, damp and very cold when we arrived back in the UK and has not improved yet and after New Orleans things are a little quiet in rural Lincolnshire. But Spring is on its way. It is light at 7 am and for the first time in many years I am seeing the snowdrops and aconites which carpet the garden in February.  I am delighted to see the squirrel has survived the winter and my favourite rooks are still here, sitting hunched and squabbling on the bare branches of the weeping ash or listening to worm music. ( see Rooks post ) No bee sightings yet, any sensible bee would surely be lying doggo in this weather, but I see from the BWARS forum that there have been quite a few early reports.  Apart from honey bees,  Buff tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris) Queens and, newcomer, the pretty Tree Bumble Bee (Bombus hypnorum) which is to be one of my next painting subjects, are out and about.

To cheer us up from lack of sun, here is my friend Jane Adams’ beautiful photo of pollen covered B terrestris from 22nd Feb 2009 taken in her garden.. exactly 2 years ago today! See her wonderful bee photos on Flickr here .

 janes bee

Exhibitions, Talks, Residencies, Commissions and BUZZ Vol 2.

This week I should also be back to my bee work.
I have two new commissions, orders for prints and Volume 2 of Buzz to work on as well as taking “Buzz” the Exhibition,  to Easton Walled Garden for a May Bank Holiday show, and The Lost Gardens of Heligan in June, 16th- 30th.
Then the first week in August,  2nd to 7th, the bees and I will be doing an art/ bee residency at the beautiful “Nature in Art “Gallery in Wallsworth Hall, Twigworth in Gloucestershire. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work in the studio, and also to talk about my work, the bees and meet some of the visitors to this great Wildlife Art Gallery.
I will also be with my bees in person at Heligan for at least the first week of the show and again hope to give some talks or workshops. I will post some more details as they are available.

Next week on 3rd March, to start things off and get my “head full of bees” again. I will be talking about my work to the local Gardening Club in the village. I am so looking forward to it. I know there will be bee enthusiasts and beekeepers amongst them who are probably much more knowledgeable but it will be fun.

“BUZZ” in BEECRAFT Magazine

And I have a big thank you to say to one of my lovely blog readers Lyn, who follows the blog and not only bought a “Buzz” book but recommended it to Beecraft magazine who very kindly reviewed it in their January edition. Thank you all. I hope to get Vol 2 done fairly soon!

Bees in Transit

While in the USA I parceled up my little bee specimen collection and, not very optimistically, posted them here. They had been sent to me by various very kind and helpful people over the last year and it seemed a shame to have to leave them there till God-knows-when. After two very bad recent experiences with customs I was rather resigned to never seeing them again but today they arrived. I was amazed.. it has made my day!

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Monday 21 February 2011

Goodbye New Orleans, Second Lines and almost back to Bees!

I am sitting in an hotel at Orlando Airport with my suitcase and my laptop. I’m in that strange calm limbo land of transit. It’s a little hiatus, a chance to catch my breath before flying back to the UK. Behind us we leave a million memories, unforgettable images, sounds, tastes, and experiences, all crammed into 3 short months in wonderful New Orleans. In front of us?  Who knows!

And exactly what were we doing in New Orleans for the last 3 months and why the lack of blogging? Well, we were lending a hand with running a B&B, which couldn’t have been further removed from the gentle delights of bees and botanicals. But sometimes an opportunity to do something completely different presents itself and you have to take a chance, throw caution, reason and common sense firmly out of the nearest window and grab it tightly!

The job was hectic to say the least, non stop from dawn till dusk and beyond, absolutely no time to blog or even turn on the computer some days, but occasionally we did get out to see something of this fabulous city. And for my taste, the more local the action the better. We ate, drank and shopped local, meeting people who live and work in this great city and became for a short time, a part of the community,  far away from the dubious delights of Bourbon St. ( but of course we did go there as well!).

Dancing with the Second Lines.

So sitting here in this calm quiet hotel I am reflecting on what were probably the most memorable experiences and something that will always be New Orleans to me, the wonderful and joyous Second Line Parades.  Those who know New Orleans will also know all about the Second Line Parades but for those who don’t here is a short description:

A Second Line Parade is a neighborhood event during which a local Social (Aide) & Pleasure Club parades through nearby streets.

“By state and city ordinances and law, very seldom do these parades take up routes on heavily traffic laden thoroughfares in the city. Most are held in the back areas, visiting the stops that help the clubs to continue the tradition.

 A Main Line is the "main section or the members of the actual club, that has the permit to parade. Those fans, admirers and curious are the "second line" or part two of this planned street parade. These parades have come to be called and known by this fact.”

And we were all of those things, at first curious, then admiring and ultimately huge fans of these joyful rolling street parties that sometimes rock on for 4 hours or more and cover miles and miles.

secondline crop

“The Perfect Gentlemen” accompanied by  “To Be Continued” Band.

This is probably as close as many of us will ever come to feeling like royalty because, as the parade marches on, the thoroughfares open up before them. Side streets are closed, police cars bar a giant overpass and traffic is halted. The Parade and its people are king, momentarily possessing the street, for just as long as it takes to pass by. Normal life is briefly on hold but quickly closes in behind this temporary wave of foot traffic, where stragglers may be nudged along by impatient police mounted on bikes and horses.

crowdman on signcrowd2

But  the route ahead is lined with people, they come out of their houses to shout and cheer and wave. They dance on their balconies. Children are hoisted up onto shoulders and whirled around and around.
Riders on prancing ponies appear from the side streets and fall in step. And in the “second line”, following on, strictly behind the yellow tape, everyone, just everyone, dances, even if it’s just a few steps here and there. The kids are just great.


And how could you not dance? The music is infectious and uplifting and the brilliantly dressed and most elegant ladies and gentlemen of the Main Line shake, rattle and roll their hearts out. You are impelled to follow.


So on three brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoons we joined the Second Lines, “cool cool” beer in one hand and superlative Who Dat beefburger from Uncle P’s Party Wagon in the other.

uncle p's wagon sm

Uncle P’s Party Wagon sign .. most excellent food complete with  handy bottle opener and photos of other Second Line processions.

We followed and followed, stepped out and sang our way through the suburban neighborhoods of New Orleans. Out along Washington, Louisiana, Daneel and Martin Luther King on to Broad St, over Canal, to St Peters. We danced all the way through Treme and along Basin St.  We saw many things which we would otherwise not have seen, new houses, old houses, haunting derelict reminders of Katrina and optimistic rebirths in new development. We stopped to talk and draw breath and drink and eat before starting off again.

Our last fabulous and jubilant Second Line was on Super Bowl Sunday when a break in the cold weather gave us warm sunshine and a big happy crowd as we followed along with the Treme Sidewalk Steppers.

A little snippet from the Times Picayune the following day…

treme sidewalk steppers

dancing ladyhappyhorsespgs

Had to include this cool cool shop!

busy bee


photos by Chris from his iPhone

We will, sadly, miss the great tourist event of Mardi Gras, which is a shame, but perhaps these smaller, participatory Second Line parades gave us a more intimate taste of the culture and traditions of New Orleans.

Static photos cannot really convey the atmosphere, especially the noise and the rhythmic drum beats, so for an added experience go to Youtube and just look for the Treme Sidewalk Steppers 20011.. there are some fun Videos! We are on some of them!

A BIG thanks go to our good friend Christopher Hammersla for making it all happen for us!

chris h

If you ever get the opportunity to Second Line, take it. Put on your dancing shoes and follow. Follow, follow and dance and sing. Your feet will be sore, your head may be reeling, but your sprits will be soaring….