Spring 2012

And what a spring! Weather patterns everywhere seem a little bizarre, a little extreme, don’t they? Friends tell me that England and Ireland have been experiencing a pre-Easter heat wave and now snow threatens! I have to admit that we have been enjoying well above average temperatures with some days reaching as high as 26/27° Celsius. And this is March!

Because I am a lizard and come alive when the sun shines, I do love these hot sunny days, but there is also a concern. Is this normal or is it a result of climate change?

We have such a wealth of blossoms in full flower here at present and they appear to be attracting clouds of bumblebees. The trees and shrubs provide both habitat and a nectar source for the bees. Everywhere I stroll on the land, their vibrant buzzing accompanies me. Even as I write, there are half a dozen beyond the window foraging in a wall of tumbling wistaria, though there are noticeably fewer honeybees.

I try to identify as many of the the pollinators as I can, to chart the flying visitors we are entertaining, so that I know who is collecting from which of the plant varieties. Then I can shop for the garden accordingly. Our local organic nursery sells packets of seeds that are pollinator-friendly and I have taken to buying these and chucking them willy-nilly onto the grassed terraces and wildflower areas. One sachet is Fleurs pour Oiseaux, flowers for birds, while another is Fleurs pour Papillons, flowers for butterflies. I love to imagine them all fluttering this way: ‘Let’s fly over to Drinkwater’s Olive Farm and have a spot of lunch!’
And such an array of petals and flowers colours up the olive groves too.

If you’d like a list of which seeds I am throwing about the place, send me a message or join our Facebook page and I’ll pass the information on to you.

I have recently discovered that there are somewhere in the region of 250 different bumblebee species worldwide. Predominantly, they are natives of Europe and the Americas. However, like the honeybee, the bumblebee is also in decline and some species seem to be disappearing entirely. In Ireland, four species are on the endangered list.

If you have visited the Bee Awareness page on this website recently, you will have read that there has been a fair amount of coverage over the last few weeks in such newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post and Daily Mail, reporting on two new studies into the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Two small groups of scientists have published their findings in Science magazine (Volume 335) implicating this class of pesticide in the decline of bee populations. When exposed to these drugs, one study reports, the colonies under observation had ‘significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens…’ The researchers also suggest that the pesticides may ‘be having a considerable negative impact on wild bumble bee populations across the developed world.’
As you know, if you are a reader of my Olive series of books, this is an issue that I feel passionately about. If you would like to know more or be involved in discussions about this, please join my Facebook page.

Work. Hooray! We have completed principal photography on five films in the Olive Route series, and there is some fine material in amongst all the images that have been sent back from various Mediterranean corners. All is in the editing suite, as I write. One of the great thrills for me is that I was able to do a little bit of  the directing myself again. I spent nine days in Jerusalem and the West Bank and filmed with a family of Israeli Settlers in the area of the West Bank known as ancient Samaria. It is a region where there is much controversy and sometimes violence, including the uprooting of olive trees, over land rights. We also filmed in Bethlehem and in the countryside close by the city where I discovered a very special olive tree… Oh, what a beauty, but I won’t say too much about the story that accompanies this tree because I want you to watch the films. I am convinced that when you meet this tree on screen, you will be as impressed as I am by its stature and its grace.

Each of the five films is set in a different area of the Mediterranean and concentrates on certain challenges for the local communities who are working within the olive industry in that region.

I have learned a great deal while out on my journeys of discovery for these films. They remain inspired by my two books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, but they have taken me further and deeper and I have met many more folk working within the Mediterranean Olive Community. I have also had the good fortune to become acquainted with Jean-Louis Barjol who is the director of the Olive Council in Madrid and his splendid assistant Juliette Cayol, both of whom have been enormously supportive towards us in our quest. Juliette even sent me a little email to say that she had spotted all my Olive books on display in a bookshop in Madrid, which was thrilling for me.

So, when will the films be ready for the screen? I am being asked this on a daily basis. ARTE TV in both France and Germany will receive their version of the films as soon as I have completed writing the narration and it has been recorded. For certain territories, I will also be recording the material, as I will be the voice for the English-language versions. Once ARTE have their copy, which is slightly shorter than the international length, we will re-edit the films for other markets including the British. The challenges of filming! It has not all been easy.  In filming, it never is, but what has remained uplifting throughout has been the immense commitment and excitement shown towards me and the project.

I have a new book being published in August in the Scholastic My Story series. Do watch out for it and offer it to your young relatives and friends. It is titled Nowhere to Run. It has been edited and is off to the printers after Easter. So, once the films are on their way to the various television stations who are our partners, I can finally settle to the fiction work I have been eager to write for some time. I feel sure that another book for adults will feel like a holiday after the months on the road for The Olive Route films. How lucky I am! I hope to tell you more about this new book next time I write.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Easter, enjoy the school holidays and enjoy this fabulous spring. Keep an eye out for and protect all those insects pollinating the lands around you. Remember, these are the critters whose work feeds you.

Thanks for reading this and please do join us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/olive.farm

You will be very welcome and I will enjoy getting to know you.

All good wishes


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