Bees in lime trees

As today is World Honey Bee Day, it seemed appropriate to finish a post I started in July! What can I say, I’m a slow blogger 🙂

Bumblebee on lime blossom in Haddington, East Lothian
Bumblebee on lime blossom in Haddington, East Lothian

Our travels this summer took us to Svalbard. The most notable difference for us between Svalbard and our home in Scotland were the bees.

Bees, our Longyearbyen guide told us, are not seen in Svalbard. Coulson et al. (2014) reported that any honey bees found in Svalbard are classed as “accidental migrants”, with the bumblebee completely absent from the archipelago.

The contrast was most strongly demonstrated the day after we returned home. As we walked under the lime trees beside the River Tyne in Haddington, each tree hummed with a variety of pollinators, including honey and bumblebees [55.954270, -2.772102 to 55.951603, -2.773239].

Below is the recording I made as I walked by the river. Note that I started giggling as the bagpipes started up, further proof, if proof was needed, that I was recording in Scotland!

I found out more about solitary bees in this thought-provoking video from Team Candiru, tweeted by the London Beekeepers (@LondonBeeKeeper) on August 12th 2016.

The Solitary Bees from Team Candiru on Vimeo.

As a further celebration of all things East Lothian-bee related, we treated ourselves to a jar of local Cockenzie spring honey from Jacobite Apiaries, via our local food assembly.

Three cheers for East Lothian bees, and it is lovely to be home!

 

Reference:

Coulson, S.J., Convey, P., Aakra, K., Aarvik, L., Ávila-Jiménez, M.L., Babenko, A., Biersma, E.M., Boström, S., Brittain, J.E., Carlsson, A.M. and Christoffersen, K. (2014). The terrestrial and freshwater invertebrate biodiversity of the archipelagoes of the Barents Sea; Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 68, pp.440-470.

Were they ever alive?

Amenhotep III @ British LibraryIt’s been a hectic time again, but thanks to earlier actions, at least my lists are in order!

I have also been trying to make quiet time within the busy-ness, space for thinking and recharging. One opportunity presented itself at the end of March, when I was down in London for the day for work. In addition to priceless reading time on the train “there and back again”, I noted there was a little space between the end of work and my return train departure. 

I decided to walk from Westminster to King’s Cross, passing all the famous sights along the way and getting grounded before the journey home. As I neared Bloomsbury, I realised I had a half an hour to spare. Hmmmn, what to do?

No question – half an hour sitting in Room 4 (Egyptian sculpture)!

There is something about the immensity of the statues in this gallery that calms me, reminds me of how small I am, how insignificant my lifespan is within the breadth and span of human history. It doesn’t sound like a cheery reflection, but it does put my small worries very much in perspective.

As I sat with Amenhotep III, I heard a girl ask her companion (mum, aunt, granny, sister, carer…) a key question:

“Were they ever alive?”(indicating big statues with a sweep of her very small hand).

“Yes,” came the answer, “there were once people alive who built these statues to represent their kings and important people.”

After listening to a brief overview of Egyptian history, the girl thought for a moment, and then rephrased her question, as it was clear her companion hadn’t understood the first time.

“No,” said in a tone of infinite patience, “were these [pointing at individual statues] ever alive?”

“No,” came the reply, “these are just statues.”

I looked at Amenhotep, who in turn stared down the gallery, ignoring those who had come to capture his image. Now I was raised with Ray Harryhausen movies, where statues were very likely to come to life. Perhaps this girl had also seen Night at the Museum, and could readily believe that the statues shook loose when the doors close in the evening.

I feel there is something beyond the influence of mainstream media on imaginitive folks like this girl and I. After all, these statues were created to inspire awe & worship. Like Ozymandias, they may be crumbly around the edges, their earthly rulers long gone.  They have been taken from their homeland to cold halls, but they still call their worshippers to gaze at them with cameras and phones.

I longed to ask the girl what she thought. Like me, did she think they had their own kind of life, locked in stone memory? I was too polite, or more likely, too shy to ask, and they moved away.

When my half hour was up, I walked the short distance to the train station. On my journey home, I thought more about her question and the answers. The first answer was good, it gave her all the core historical facts. The second answer left no room for discussion, no space for imagination, possibility, philosophy.

I must, I thought, make sure I leave that space in my teaching. 

Gift of time in the workplace

scrabble board with words relating to connections, e.g. ideas, people

I have been fortunate to be on a work secondment for one day a week to the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). The secondment started back in October 2014 and it has been a valuable protected time in my diary to focus on sustainable education in the veterinary medical curriculum.

Today is my last day.

As a secondee, I have had the benefit of working with a great group of people with connections to the wider University which are essential for any project to succeed. I also had space away from my desk – in fact in a different campus – ensuring the time was protected.

The value of this time cannot be underestimated. It not only creates space within which to explore a research area or idea in more depth, but also empowers staff to take action in implementing new approaches to teaching and student support.

The Institute’s secondment process contains within it all elements of a socially sustainable (Hammond & Churchman, 2008) community of practice – an interconnected, equitable, diverse and democratic group to support and encourage staff creativity.

This process has enabled me to lay the groundwork in evidencing sustainable education within veterinary medicine (more on that in future posts!). It has also given me confidence to speak about this to others, to share with colleagues and students.

I have a list of projects which would not exist without this thinking time and inspiring connections. Colleagues and I have undertaken projects to enhance learning and teaching at the University. Beyond that, the process improves our wellbeing by demonstrating that the institution values our creative input and seeks to include us in future planning.

Now I step back and release that gift of time for another colleague; looking forward to adding another new inspiring connection!

 

Hammond, C., & Churchman, D. (2008). Sustaining academic life: A case for applying principles of social sustainability to the academic profession. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9(3), 235-245. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14676370810885862

Getting organised

list-372766_640As I mentioned, I have not been doing so well for the last couple of years. This year, my aim is to find ways to live and work more sustainably.

Oliver Burkeman raised an interesting point about how our to-do lists are overlong and  easily get out of control. I am as fond of lists as Oliver – goals to aim for, MS memory prompts and work priorities. However, my lists were indeed getting longer, I was adding new tasks and rarely crossing any off. I was feeling stressed and dissatisfied.

A recent post on the British Psychological Society blog by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) about work/life boundaries explored this topic further. Alex reported on an article by Smit (2015) which links feelings of increased anxiety with tasks that remain undone. Smit suggests having an incomplete to-do list makes it difficult to disconnect, in effect extending the working day.

Both articles inspired me to rethink my process of planning and organisation. I like starting the day with a clear idea of what needs to be done, so I needed a method that worked. My daily list now has a maximum of five key activities. It has become fun to celebrate new and unexpected tasks that each day brings; additional unplanned tasks become a bonus. If anything on the list is not finished at the end of the day, I leave a step-by-step plan of how that task will be completed before I leave the office.

I’m aware it is still January, but I’m resolutely optimistic. Granted, I usually am optimistic, that’s my default setting. This is working well so far though!

Smit, B. (2015). Successfully leaving work at work: The self-regulatory underpinnings of psychological detachment. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/joop.12137. [Open access article]

Waking up the blog…

Right, I’m back. No honest, I am!

This last year has taught me that, try as you might, you can’t win out over medication. The meds I was on for the last three years left me with chronic fatigue. I described it to a colleague as trying to run up a mountain through a treacle downpour.

Thankfully, I’ve had a meds change – whoop! It has required time to recharge and set new targets. However, all that means I can get back to writing, thinking, dreaming and, of course, studying.

Did I say I wasn’t going to study anymore? I have no recollection of saying that (innocent face). Ah sure, isn’t all life a learning experience 🙂

Roll on 2016 – and hello from the one and only 2015 post!

Sustainable Dying – Re-use and Recycle

This article on organ donation reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad a few months before he passed away. Planet with plant from Pixabay.com

His mum had donated her body to science, and he planned to do the same himself. Then we saw an article about donating your body, and realised that we hadn’t taken any of the steps to ensure that could take place – no forms completed, no notification made, not enough time left. He knew then that it was not an option for him.

I’ve always carried my donor card, but realising that it might not be enough, I’ve ensured in as many ways as I can that it is clear I am happy to be an organ donor should my varied odds and sods be of value when I no longer require their services.

I like to think my organs would be happy to have a second life, to be reused and recycled to help someone else. Previous owner: one careful lady driver 🙂

I also have multiple sclerosis, and again in the newspaper spotted a piece about brain donation to help with research. A talk with my specialist confirmed the details, and I have now signed up to the UK MS Tissue Bank. I particularly like the idea that my brain and spinal cord may get the opportunity to travel around the world if they are assigned to a project outwith the UK, which is certainly possible. I think they’d enjoy the trip, and why should they stop living simply because the energy that makes me ‘me’ is no longer residing here?

Two things to note: 

  1. the letter from the Cambridge medical students and the life stories of those who have benefitted from transplants in the articles mentioned above are inspiring – as are the stories of those brave enough to give a living donation (I’m not that brave!)
  2. don’t underestimate the strength, love and understanding of your family – choosing to donate needs their acceptance and agreement too

So go on, give your fantastic body the option to go on doing good after you’ve moved on to pastures new 🙂 

NHS How_to_become_a_donor

Reading inspiration: Apocalypse Bookshelf

Oliver Burkeman’s article on reading ‘smart’ reminded me of my own approach – the Apocalypse Bookshelf. 

I love reading, but there are times I feel I’ve been focussing too much on a certain genre or two. I’m in a reading rut, which might be comfy, but is getting a little ‘samey’.

Inspiration comes from a challenge I set myself when working in libraries (it’s amazing what you think of when shelving books!).

Apocalypse Bookshelf
Pick a book…

The task is this…

Imagine this shelf, this random shelf I’m looking at now, is the last shelf of books on the planet.

(Cue mild bibliophile panic)

Now, pick a book and read it. 

Remember, this is one of the last books on the planet. One of the last chances to open a cover and be transported wheresoever the writer wanted to take their reader.

Sometimes, I’ll follow Lionel Shriver’s advice – the book is not ‘for me’, and reading time is precious, so I’ll take advantage of the fact it isn’t the last book, and move on to something else. 

Sometimes, you’re faced with a shelf of car manuals which, without a car to tinker with to add the practical input, don’t hold my attention for long.

Most of the time, however, I have the joy of learning something new, being inspired to try something myself, or just wallow in someone else’s experience. 

I’ve never made it through all the shelves in any library I’ve been in, as usually I get sucked into a new genre and follow the thread of synchronicity on to new books and new authors. It’s still my fix of choice for those days I have reading space and need new input.

Give it a go and let me know how it works for you 🙂