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'Writing Inspired by an Island in the Atlantic'

Avoid the Doctor, Eat Honey

I don’t want to be too depressing as summer approaches, but we will soon be heading into the season of coughs, colds and flu once again, together with the misery that such conditions bring. In most cases, these illnesses are relatively short-lived, but can be unpleasant, inconvenient, and annoying, and also serious in cases where there are underlying health conditions.

Coughs are mostly caused by a cold or flu virus, or bronchitis, and will usually last for around three weeks. Antibiotics make very little difference to symptoms and can have unpleasant side-effects. More importantly, unnecessary prescriptions reduce their effectiveness. As a child, whenever I had a cough or cold, the first thing that my mother would do was to give me a regular concoction of blackcurrant juice and honey to drink. It was a very comforting drink and certainly helped to reduce symptoms. In adult life, I continue to follow this advice, although with the addition of a large tot of whisky for good measure. It is the honey that is the magic ingredient, because it is a natural antibiotic. Many doctors are now asking their patients to try honey before visiting their local surgery if they have a cough or cold. It is all part of a growing effort to tackle the problem of resistance to antibiotics. Of course, to benefit from honey we must also have bees.

Bees are very important for our very survival; the simple headline fact is that if bees didn’t exist, neither would humans. Bees are responsible for much of the food that we eat, since they keep plants and crops alive. One surprising fact is that around one third of the food that we eat is pollinated by bees. Bees do not pollinate our crops out of a sense of duty to the human race; they simply eat to survive. They absorb the protein that they need from pollen and all of the carbohydrates that they need from nectar. Bees feed from flowers, and as they move from flower to flower they just happen to provide an essential service to humans.

Pesticides appear be the main cause of the problem, although some experts also attribute some of the collapse of the bee population to climate change, the loss of their usual habitat and attacks from a variety of parasites. Popular pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which is similar to nicotine, cause bees to go insane and to abandon their hives; they don’t know how to return home and some experts claim that they develop a form of Alzheimer’s. Maybe this disturbing link with nicotine-based products that attack bees should give a serious warning to human smokers too.

Climate change also can take its fair share of blame with the disruption of the natural synchronisation of bee hibernation and flower opening, which causes bees to die. Despite this gloomy scenario, some positive steps are being made to help to rebuild and sustain bee populations. Measures to address the problem are being taken in several countries. Strategies include funding to help farmers to establish new habitats for bee populations, alternatives to nicotine-based pesticides, as well as support from beekeepers who are determined to maintain the viability of the species.

To prepare for the forthcoming season of coughs and colds, do take my mother’s advice and remember to include a jar of honey in your shopping basket. It really is good for you.

© Barrie Mahoney 2023

Join me on Facebook: @barrie.mahoney

To find out more about Barrie and his books, go to:

“I Could Write a Book…”

I did; indeed, I have written and published fourteen books, with some more popular than others. Unlike the days of Dickens, when his stories and that of his contemporaries were eagerly awaited and devoured by an adoring public, reading is not such a popular pastime for many. Watching films and plays on the television and YouTube has continued to dominate time that was previously devoted to enjoying a good book. Rather than read, more and more people nowadays prefer to listen to podcasts and vlogs rather than to read for themselves. Over the last few years, I have noticed that readers much prefer to listen to my podcasts, rather than to read the actual article. I haven’t got around to producing an audiobook just yet; maybe that is a project for another day? Does it matter that many readers now prefer to watch and listen rather than to read? I don’t think so, just as long as the content attracts the listener’s attention, develops an imaginative awareness of the plot and is enjoyable. Surely that is what it is all about?

One of the many joys in my life is writing and hopefully sharing some joy and maybe amusement with others, be it in written or audio form. I have always written and, later when I became a teacher, I did my best to encourage my pupils to write too, not only for themselves, but for others. As a young teacher, I remember encouraging pupils to “Think about the audience that you are writing for.” Later in life, with more experience, I realised that the most successful writing often comes from writing for yourself; if others enjoy it too, then that’s a bonus.

In the days before Covid and lockdown and the closure of many independent bookshops, I used to enjoy attending book events and book signings for my latest book. As well as hopefully encouraging sales of my latest book, I particularly enjoyed talking to potential customers, answering questions, and discussing issues raised in my books. Some of the questions were always predictable; for example, I was nearly always asked, and still am, why I killed off Tristan, a much-loved character in my first novel, ‘Journeys and Jigsaws’? The explanation is that I had to, since the book is part of a trilogy, and hopefully readers would understand why Tristan had to come to an unfortunate end to allow the story to progress in books two and three. Rarely were they happy or convinced by the answer and often suggested alternative plots that would allow Tristan to live.

In my ‘Living and Working in the Canary Islands and Spain’ series, I was often asked for advice about which island would be best to move to, questions about moving pets, buying a property, and motoring issues. It was always heartening to listen to people expressing their hopes and dreams for the future. In my later book, I would be challenged about my political views and strongly disapproving comments that I expressed about Boris Johnson, the depressing state of the NHS and post Brexit UK in general. Sometimes, it would lead to a lively debate, but having argued and debated issues surrounding vegetarianism since my time as a primary school pupil, I am rather good at it, so I always enjoyed the challenge.

More times than I can remember, conversations would nearly always end with “Of course, I could write a book…” I always nodded and tried to give a little helpful advice, but knowing full well that in most cases it would never happen. At the time of speaking, it was clear that my customers felt quite sure that they had a book inside them, which we all have, but whether they have the discipline, stamina, determination and, perhaps most importantly, the time to start, let alone succeed, is quite another matter. I always used to stress that it is important to write for yourself and enjoy the process, but I suspect in many cases it was potential fame and fortune that was the vague lure behind the comment. Sadly, the reality is that few truly, gifted writers are even recognised, let alone make any money from their endeavours. If you are a celebrity, a politician or a person of note, then that is a different matter. I understand that, apart from the Bible, the most popular book of all time is Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’, which wasn’t even written by him, and is, I am told, of doubtful literary quality and it is highly unlikely that it will withstand the passage of time.

I am at a stage in my life that I no longer have the demands of newspapers or magazines to write for, and in many ways, I now admit that the limitations of time was helpful in the past. Despite this, I still find time to write a blog or record a podcast each week, which helps me to remain connected with readers, many of whom have been following and reading my work for many years. I always make time to write, since nowadays I find it therapeutic as well as a joy.

© Barrie Mahoney 2023

Join me on Facebook: @barrie.mahoney

To find out more about Barrie and his books, go to:

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