Thursday, 30 July 2015

Mrs Mac Suggests: What to read in AUGUST ...

Well now..... here in Europe we are still in the holiday season, and holiday reads are what people seem to like - perhaps something different from their usual genre.  So I am, for the first time, suggesting a time with a title.

Read a book set between the two World Wars - so the 1920s, or the 1930s.  I have just finished and reviewed on here a light read,  set in the 1930s, which I read in 24 hours.  I'm not on holiday, but if I was, I would have enjoyed curling up outside with: 

High Rising - Angela Thirkell

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

High Rising - Angela Thirkell

This was the first book that Angela Thirkell wrote, published in 1933.  It's a time and place long gone - upper middle class England, a few servants, and a different language.  But a lovely place to spend a wet afternoon, or a day in bed with, for there is something about the people in Thirkell's book(s), even when you don't like them!  Village gossip, people falling in love with people they didn't even guess they might love, the odd disagreeable bod who no-one likes.  If you are familiar with the Miss Julia books, by Ann B Ross set in Southern States of the USA, and Miss Julia's snobbery, her love of a little excitement even whilst complaining about it, and her detective work you may think "what is she talking about?  They are not at all the same"! and wonder why I liked this book  Well, a different world, a different place, a different time, but actually - it was Miss Julia who came into my mind when I was reading this.

Thirkell has a nice style, full of irony, her heroine a widowed mother of four boys, all but one having flown the coop writes books (oh joy!).  Not very good ones she thinks, but they sell well and pay her youngest son's school fees, pay for her little cottage (probably bigger than the house I live in  but I did say different times), her flat in London, and put food on the table.  She was obviously a great observer of folk, people come to life on these pages and you sort of recognise them all as people you have come across.  Short (275 pages) comforting (it all turns out right in the end) and entertaining (Alexander McCall Smith loves them!) It was a lovely little interlude for me and I am off to order the next in the series.   Also congratulations to Virago Modern Classics for the choice of cover designs -if they are all the same artist it's Mick Wiggins - hats off to you, Mr Wiggins, they are an absolute delight!
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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Bed and Breakfast Tales - 5

Life has some great optimists - I am one!  But sometimes I find someone even more so than myself.  A while ago we had a couple staying with us who came from further West.  He ran a little second hand shop.  We talked about different things, politics, money the state of the nation - as you do!
And then it came round to "finds" in the antique world.  I thought he was going to tell me he had found something wonderful, and flogged it for a fortune.

Well.  He had found something sort of wonderful.  A pair of leopards, or similar, cast in bronze, black in colour, probably French.  I have watched enough Antiques Road Shows to know what he meant, and also to know that the signature of the sculpture will be somewhere on the bronze itself.  This had no signature, but in his own words "usually they have a wooden base and if I can find it, I know the signature will be on it and it will be worth a fortune".  What can you say?  If you are also a diplomat, and sometimes I can be, you say nothing, nothing at all...........

The Misremembered Man - Christina McKenna

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This is a debut novel by an Ulster woman, who has captured the characters and their surroundings perfectly.  The bachelor farmer Jamie, living in a house that has not been cleaned nor tidied for many years; a man prescribed Valium by his doctor for the depression;  a man with friends but no real company.  And Lydia, the spinster schoolteacher, similar age, who advertises for a man in the lonely hearts pages of the local newspaper only because yet another schoolfriend is getting married and she just cannot face taking her mother and being asked again "when is it your turn, Lydia?"  Most of us look for love in many places, we know there are different kinds of love, we don't want to make a fool of ourselves so perhaps we miss a chance, and Jamie and Lydia are two ordinary people like that.

  I loved this book.  Loved it.  In parts, it made me laugh out loud for there are some fantastic lines in there, for example the description of a lazy woman as the type that would keep a shovelful of dung on the table to keep the flies off the butter. 

And it also made me cry.  I think we all know now about those places in Ireland (the last of which only closed in 1996) run by those who should have known better (I mean how could you profess to love God and follow his rules when you will beat a small child because his mother bore him out of wedlock and then gave him up into the care of the church??).

So this lovely story of two people seeking love has that dark storyline intertwined, but that does not make either thing less because of it.  And it just has the most superb and perhaps unexpected ending, when I was laughing and crying both at the same time.

Recommended.  Get a copy, read it - I just don't believe you will not enjoy it.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My Sister, My Love - Joyce Carol Oates

If you remember, by any chance, mention of the murder of a small star of what the Americans call Beauty Queen Pageants, JonBenĂ©t Ramsey in Colorado some years ago ........ you may recall that this small child was found dead in her own home, the suspects her family, and in the end, no-one ever paid for that crime.  Here Oates has taken that true and dreadful occurrence as a base for her similar fiction-based-on-fact novel; named the child in her novel Bliss Rampike, and made her a very small, very young skating champion.  Like JonBenet, this little girl has a brother.  Like JonBenet, this little girl has two parents.  The story is a wandering one, mostly told from Skyler's (the brother) point of view, but in varying styles, which may confuse if you are not concentrating, but I found it a rather clever way of telling a complicated tale.
Skyler is the first-born in the family; Mummy's "little man", Daddy's "Skyboy", and is leading a lovely life, with loving parents when his sister arrives.  Named Edna Louise after her paternal grandmother, she is only four years old when she shows some skill at ice skating, and is renamed "Bliss".  Skyler is pushed aside - but is that in his head?  Certainly, his sister loves him, and looks on him to help her when she is frightened, when she wets the bed, when Mummy gets cross.  And this is only the start of the siblings problems, for it becomes clear very soon that Mummy drinks - and Mummy takes drugs (the kind that doctors prescribe), and Mummy is going to live her life vicariously through Bliss and her skating.  Daddy?  Well,  Daddy is a go-getter in the work place, he's heading for the top of somewhere or other and he's always staying away from home for "work".  Is work a blonde or a brunette?  Mmmmm - maybe he really is at work?

Both children are soon taking drugs like Mummy.  Bliss to make her sleep, both at night or for the afternoon rest, and also to perk her up so that she skates well; she has to take vitamins; and then there are the injections - apparently to make her bones strong (after all a broken bone for a skater is the finish, isn't it?)  Skyler?  who knows what drugs he takes, just accepts the handful from Mummy.

There are sharp pokes at the American Dream in this book.  As a Mummy, your kids should do well; you should go the right church every Sunday; you should have friends who's husbands are like yours.  Your children should have "play dates", arranged by Mummies, for they are too young to pick friends, especially the ones your parents want/need you to have.  You  need to attend the hairdressers and the beauty salon on a very regular basis, you need to be a brilliant hostess - in fact you need to be a kind of Stepford Wife for real.  And the children?  What they have to suffer is truly dreadful but not because they starve, or have no fresh water, or nowhere to sleep - but the pain for them is as bad, just in a different way.   Well, we know straight away that Bliss is dead, and we have several suspects including Skyler.... but it will be very near the end of the 562 pages that we find out who did the killing.  Between the start and the finish my heart broke for Skyler - Skyler who might be the killer -  and his broken life.

I was just horrified about the way some people live the American Dream and if you think it's not real, just look at the Real Wives of Texas/New Jersey/wherever  somewhere on your TV - it's not for me!    A complicated novel, but with not too many characters.  An eye-opener, a fat read.  I like Oates and her "under the microscope" tales of American life (We were the Mulveneys was another deeply sad but worth reading novel).  I had to concentrate, but I enjoyed the read.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Heading Out to Wonderful - Robert Goolrick

I do enjoy North American fiction.  Is it because it's so different?  Perhaps the pull of a continent so different, but with the same language, entices me.  This is Robert Goolrick's second novel, the first being A Reliable Wife, which was an extremely readable tale, and this too was a page turner, although it is rather darker, and for me, the better of the two.

Charlie Beale arrives, at the end of WW2, in a small town in the shadow of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  He has cash in one suitcase, and clothes and a set of butchers' knives in the other.  It is unclear where the money or the knives came from, although at some point in the narrative we find the knives are French, so probably he picked them up in France, so he must have seen action?  He doesn't talk much about his past, and all he wants is peace and quiet.  Having found a tiny parcel of land down by the river, he sleeps out there nightly, near the river, under the stars, and finds peace.  He makes friends too, particularly a little boy, Sam, and Sam's parents, Alma and Will.  Will is the town butcher and takes Charlie on in the shop.  Alma helps Charlie by finding him a house to live in and accompanying him to auctions, to fill the house with furniture, kitchen ware and the like.  And that too is a peaceful existence, especially as he takes the child Sam under his wing.  Yes, everything is peaceful, and as in the book title, wonderful.

 Until,one day, a woman in a white dress walks into the butchers. She is Sylvan Glass, wife of the richest man in this little town;  and for Charlie, this is love at first sight.  Trouble ahead for everyone concerned, for there is a secret about Sylvan that she cannot disclose.

You will not find out until the last page or so who is telling the story, and indeed, it does not matter, for it is a story of love and loss, greed and pride, loss of childhood innocence - all so beautifully put together with a sense of foreboding that is tangible.  Be prepared for people behaving as humans always behave, for avoidable things happening, for love to turn out bad.  I'll look forward to another book by Robert Goolrick, any time.
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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Just In Case - Meg Rosoff

This was Rosoff's second YA novel (the first was How I Live Now).  An American author, married to an Englishman and settled in London, she has the gift of getting inside a teen's head.

David Case is 15, and he has a baby brother, Charlie, who is 18 months old.  The day he sees his brother perched on the windowsill of his bedroom preparing to leap off into the unknown, he knows he has only a split second to save him, which he does.  When he grabs him, Charlie shouts "birdie fly!"  because, as you know, before you can speak properly you can converse with birds and animals - and once you learn to speak properly, that lovely skill disappears.  And a bird had just flown by, telling Charlie it was easy to fly, and lovely to do.
David knows that he only just saved Charlie.  But what if he hadn't?  What would fate have decreed for him then?  And in fact, what has fate in store for him now?  He's frightened, because fate is going to intervene in his life at every turn, and he will have no control over it.  Unless........ unless he disguises himself so that fate cannot find him.  And so he changes his name to Justin.  That's Justin Case (see book title), and Justin is taken in hand by a girl photographer who sort of adopts him in a charity shop and chooses clothes so unlike his own for him that he believes he is now truly hidden from fate.  When he has his first sexual encounter with her he believes that not only has fate lost track of him but also that he has found the love of his life.  Neither is true and there are bigger things out  there for Justin to deal with.
Easy to read, It only took a day to finish. It's a great book for adolescents I think, but it's also a great read for those of us who have left adolescence far behind, or perhaps those parents who are looking at the adolescence of their own child and wondering how the hell to cope.  Clever concept, and I really enjoyed it. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Mrs Kimble - Jennifer Haigh

Ken Kimble must be an accomplished liar.  He persuades lots of people that he is something when he isn't that something at all, throughout his life.  Especially women.  But how does he do that?  How can three different women love this nondescript man at different times in his life?  All well, there's the rub, as Will Shakespeare might say.

  • Product DetailsIt is no secret to tell you that Ken Kimble is dead.  This is described on the first couple of pages.  Once that's over, you will meet the Mrs Kimbles as we come across them,  and later they come across each other later in the book after each of their stories of life with Ken Kimble has been told.  The first one he just walks away from after eight years - leaving two small children and a twenty six year old wife.  He moves on to a woman older, but with physical health problems - and then on to a woman with whom he has another child, and stays around for longer.  Do they call those cold, emotionless people sociopaths?  Mmmmm, I think so.  He lies when convenient, and loves fame - his pic in the newspaper or his business on TV.  He sets his alarm for early, and jogs every single morning at 5.30 come rain or hail.  He eats badly, food down his front or on his shirt cuffs, and making love is beyond him.  Oh yes, he can perform the sexual act by fitting the appropriate parts together and grinding away for five minutes after which he rolls away, but that's that. And that's sex for him with each of those wives - and still he can keep them close and make them think they love him.  Is there something about a man who tells you nothing of his background?  There must be for some of us - but not me, as I want to know the ins and outs of everything.

                                                    Really enjoyed this odd, well written first novel.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Love - Tony Morrison

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    Well, well, well. 

    Why did I not read some Toni Morrison earlier?  What a fabulous writer she is.  I have read a couple of novels by Pearl Cleague (another black American) and loved her style, which is quite different to Morrison's - in this book at least.  This is a well-woven short novel, around 200 pages, where we will find out how one man can be the downfall of so many women.

    In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Bill Cosey owned and ran a resort hotel on the American East coast.  It was a classy spot, where musicians could enter by the front door and sleep on the same cotton sheets as the paying guests.  Where you could drink cocktails, dance all night to great bands, have sex with someone other than your spouse or regular partner and no-one would tell.  And in the day, you could lay on the smooth white sands, and swim in the ocean.

    If You Were Black.  For this was a resort owned by and catering for only black Americans.  Actually, black Americans with money.  For the locals, even if they saved the money for a celebration, perhaps a wedding, the hotel was always "booked" the day they wanted it, and it was always that way.

    The book starts and ends with the thoughts of "L", a woman with no other name who was cook at that hotel, producing wonderful food.  In between, you will find out a lot about Heed (Heed the Night) Cosey's second wife, and  Christine, his granddaughter, the two key characters.  How they first met, how they loved and then hated each other. The book isn't called  Love for nothing.  All aspects of love are covered in this powerful story, and my advice is to read it without anything to disturb you - you may miss a clue or two!  It's powerful stuff, and a world was opened up to me that made me want to read on.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

What to read in JULY!

Well, nearly forgot you were out there........ Not really, just a couple of busy days so I missed the first of the month.  Anyway, what shall we read in July?   I am reading a book set on the east coast of America:  So I am suggesting something set in a coastal area.  Mine is -

Love by Toni Morrison

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Nora Webster - Colm Toibin

Looking on Amazon for other people's views, this is another marmite read.  I'm always disappointed at the views of people who say "boring", or "nothing happened".  Quite a lot happens to Nora, a widow with two older teenage girls, and two younger teenage boys, in rural Ireland with a quiet but telling background of the start of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland towards the end of the 20th Century.  

She has to sell the little tin-roofed seaside house where her family spent all their Summers - it has to be patched and mended every year, and she cannot deal with that alone (and the money will come in handy).  The two girls need to get through college, one on to teachers' training, and one to University in Dublin.  The boys, one with a stutter, and an unhappy time at school taught by the Christian Brothers, and the other, a worrier about everything.  

Nora really isn't a sociable animal, particularly after her husband dies.  She doesn't really want to make the right noises when yet another acquaintance knocks on her door and asks how she's doing.  She has to take a job to pay her way, and ends up in the accounts department of a local factory, under a harridan of a supervisor.  She must somehow find her own way in life, and although she has family who would support her if she let them, she really wants to do it on her own.  She wants to be Nora the woman, not Nora the mother, Nora the sister, Nora the widow.  This is her story.

Colm Toibin has a wonderful way with words - he has this woman perfectly portrayed, how did he do that?  One of the reviewers that didn't like this book said that they didn't like Nora.  Well, she isn't particularly likeable, but that doesn't make it a bad read!  I felt I knew her well (and liked her better) by the time I got to the end.   I was pre-occupied with other things when I started it, and it is a book better read in large chunks I think, so if it passes your way, do have a go.
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Friday, 26 June 2015

A good year for....... dandelions, foxgloves, mares tails - especially mares tails, damn them!

Image result for mares tail pic               Image result for mares tail pic

 In full flush!  Part of my garden is full this year.  Above, all stages, from right to left.

First it was dandelions.  Everywhere, but what a show earlier in the year!  Had to rush around taking the deadheads off before the seed heads formed  though.  Then I noticed that foxgloves where also everywhere, on banks and verges where I had never seen them before.  Both of those were ok, but the mares tails isn't.  I don't do weed killer, but I will have to succumb for this little bugger or I am lost.  Have a few every year;  but this year?  they have gone mad and so have I!!  I know I will never get rid of them, they have been around in this form since prehistoric times, but even though I live in the Jurasic Coastal Area - please!  take them away! 

Good luck if you have them too.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Truth According to Us - Annie Barrows

As I have had some time on my hands to just sit still for a few days, I gave the 482 pages of this book my all. My favourite book size is around 300 pages, so this was a smidge outside my comfort zone - but it didn't matter, I really loved it all.   And what a perfect title, because all of us see the truth of something in a slightly different way to the next person, and the book certainly reveals much in this wonderful read.
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Willa loves Felix her father, of course Jottie her aunt plus several other family members, but it's Felix she loves most.  Jottie loves Willa, her sister Bird and of course, Felix her brother.  Jottie is bringing up Felix's daughters, the mother has flown, and Felix is often on the road selling chemicals. The year is 1938, and into Macedonia, a small town in the state of Virginia comes Layla Beck, employed to write the history of the town.  It's she who will the the catalyst for truths to be told, loves to be lost and found, history to be re-written.
It was a glorious read, great chunks of it inhaled over a two day period.  The characters are so well-drawn, each has their flaws, their charms, their burdens. The truths that come out along the way will surprise you sometimes - but some of them will confirm your inklings of truth from earlier in the read.  Get to know all these characters, you are going to remember them I think! 
Written in an odd but for me a wonderful style - when Willa's talking it's first person, in Layla's case, her thoughts are often recorded in letters to family and friends, and for the other characters, well, they don't have their own voices, but they have plenty to tell you if you keep reading.  Sometimes Willa's first person voice will appear half way through a chapter, but I didn't find that disconcerting in any way.
Congratulations to Annie Barrows, who co-wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with her late aunt.  As they say across the pond - You nailed it!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing final UK cover copy 
Something rather different here, and a book which I enjoyed very much.  I wonder if I should use the word "enjoyed" for a book whose heroine is a very elderly lady suffering from dementia?   Well... yes, I can.  A well written book with a subject that probably worries us all as we get older - when we forget the word for something and say something like "you know what I mean, the stick thing, for cutting a loaf" and then five minutes later remember it's called a bread knife!  This doesn't mean dementia is on the way for you, but here is a book that will help you if you know someone who suffers already, or someone you cared for very much that is now gone - I suddenly realised how hard it must be for the sufferer.

Maud's friend Elizabeth is missing.  She's been to her home several times, but there is no-one there; she's phoned too, but no-one ever answers the phone. She's reported this several times at the local police station, but the sergeant on the desk just laughs.  She has come across Elizabeth's son too, who just shouts and swears at her.  She just does not know where Elizabeth can possibly be.  She keeps notes on small scraps of paper that are supposed to help her through the day, like "don't make toast" (she's putting on weight); but the most important ones are, of course, about Elizabeth.

Older memories sneak in now, and the writing changes, for all the memories of her childhood and teens seem crystal clear, and her sister Sukey, who left home when she married, also disappeared.  The younger Maud is desperate, like their parents, to find their missing sister and daughter.  She visits Sukey's home, she discusses the disappearance with Douglas, their young lodger, Frank, Sukey's husband, and her parents are often on the train up to London, in case Sukey just ran away. 

So I really liked how the author showed the difference between old and new memories here.  Maud remembering everything from 70 years ago, but not very much at all of yesterday.

Specialists who deal with dementia will confirm that as the memory starts to go, the new memories disappear very quickly, the old memories are much more clear, and stay with the patient longer.  A friend who's Mum suffered in this way was told by her doctor to perhaps imagine it this way.  Think about an old-fashioned pantry or larder, full of shelves of food, bottles, packets, bags.  As the memory starts to go, the shelves nearest to door start to collapse, and all the fresh foods and recently bought packages fall,ruined, on the floor.  But there at the back, on the dark shelves, are jars of jam and pickles made years ago, and the shelves holding them up are sturdy, and not collapsing.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

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    This truly is a marmite book, judging from reviews on Amazon, but never let that colour my judgement (or yours!).  It is a decidedly odd read, but compelling nonetheless.  If you decide to read it, I wonder if you will feel the same. 
    Rosemary is going to tell you the story of her family.  Her sister Fern, her brother Lowell, and her mother and father.  She's going to tell you how her sister disappeared when she was five years old, and how Lowell walked out of the family home in his last year at high school and just never came back.
    I want to tell you why, but for readers who are going to read this and don't know about the twist revealed about a quarter of the way through the book, I will keep silent on the subject.  The trauma of all their lives is explored by Rosemary, who has never felt complete since the disappearance of Fern.  And at college, when Lowell appears back in her life for just 24 hours, she realises that she is not, and can never be like most of the population.
    The time frame jumps about a bit - after all, the first line is "So the middle of my story comes in the winter of 1996" - but it wasn't hard to follow her thought processes.  I found the loss of both her sister and her brother heartbreaking, although not in the way a bereavement might do; and I was sad for her inability to make friends.  Let Rosemary tell you about her odd and extraordinary life.
    WARNING!  Do not read the back of the book (acknowledgements, book group guidance etc.) at all if you do not know the subject matter before you start.... in fact, leave it till afterwards even if you do - but do read all those pages afterwards.  Illuminating!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Glory Beeeeeeeee! The Bees are back!

Just so pleased to report that the ladies are back, working hard and finding lots of good stuff in  the garden.  This is the first year that they were late in arriving and I don't mind telling you I was very worried.  I had a bumble in one of the bedrooms on Friday, so desperate to get back out, and I managed to direct her to an open window, so that's all good.  And today, there were so many that I could hear the buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...... and that's what I like!

Annie Dunne - Sebastian Barry

Annie Dunne is an old fashioned spinster.  Irish, living with a cousin on a smallholding somewhere in Ireland, she is there because her cousin took her in.  She works hard (they both do), in the old-fashioned way - the milk cow is milked, the chicken are fed, eggs are searched for, land is dug, potatoes are planted, and the pony and trap is taken to the village for shopping.  It's the 1950s, and this summer Annie and her cousin Sarah are to look after two small children, their grandniece and grandnephew, whilst the parents are off to England looking for a job, accommodation and a better life.

The children arrive, are happy to be there, and the cousins are happy to have them.  It's going to be a good summer.  But in the background, little niggles are aired by Annie and suddenly she's not quite as nice as she seems.  Or perhaps she is just human, airing the kind of thoughts we all harbour but never let out.  Several things happen that summer:  the pony attempts to throw off the trap;  Annie sees in the  children the fact that they lie (but then, all children lie - she just finds that hard to come to terms with); and you get to learn some family secrets.  Reading this was like sitting in the garden on a sunny day, and just as you think it will last forever a cloud covers the sun and you get a feeling of trepidation and you hope the cloud will move on.

Every book Sebastian Barry has written is different.  Every one readable, and this one - well, this one is like reading poetry.  Told in the first person by Annie herself, and told in the present time it might take take a while to get used to, but it really is worth the read. 

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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Baby Pea Soup

I was looking for something light for friends who are dropping in for lunch, and I remembered this recipe which I blogged about a few years ago.  Thought I had printed it out but no.  Anyway, found it, printed it out and then thought that someone reading me now might not have been reading me then...... so here is the link to a real easy Summer soup.  It's made with frozen petite pois, but at pea time, if you grow them, of course you can replace the frozen with fresh.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

What to Read in JUNE

Well, if you are in the Northern hemisphere, you'll feel like Summer is on the way, so for June, let's find something with a holiday/vacation destination in the title, shall we?   For example:

Honolulu - Alan Brennert


Where are all the bees?

I have a garden full of bee-loving plants but no bees.  I have probably seen 3 bumbles and a dozen others since March.  I should be seeing (and hearing the buzz) every day now, but no.  Even though a huge Rosemary bush is in full flower.  Even though my Cotoneaster is in full flower.  Even though nearly all my flowering plants are "singles" (bees don't like doubles), even though this was a brilliant year for dandelions;  still no bees.  I have a yellow clematis (Bill MacKenzie) which is just now coming into bloom and that will have hundreds of flowers.  Perhaps they will come for a feast on that?
Red tailed bumble queen

I don't use weedkillers (except Roundup gel for dandelions in my paths, and even then I cover with a flowerpot after application until the dead plant can be removed).  I have bee hotels for mason bees, but don't see many.  I used to see loads of bumbles, but not this year.  It's so sad not to see the little workers out and about - but that's just sad for me.  The worry is where are they at all?  Someone told me this morning that if they are out at the rape fields this does them no good in the winter as the rape honey sets too hard for them to use. 

Here's an interesting article from a local (Dorset) magazine a couple of years ago.  Still relevant.  I hope they will be off the rape and back in my garden soon, I miss the buzz.