The gifts of 2019

Bees Abroad Christmas card from National Bee Supplies
Bees Abroad Christmas card from National Bee Supplies

I do get excited at this time of year, but not particularly because of the usual hype of the festive season.

I really love saying ‘thank you’, and writing cards to those I have met over the years and think fondly of. This year, I have been able to make the time to make some gifts, and meet up with some of the friends I’ve neglected over the summer. The bees had kept me too busy to socialise.


Many people stopped writing and sending Christmas cards. Thinking of not only the environmental impact of card and paper, but also preferring the convenience of email and e-cards. I however resisted the change and enjoy sitting down with my address book and copious bits of paper with addresses of those I wish to remember. Needless to say, I over think the process, selecting the best card for each friend, add comments on my year, and if I’ve already received their card, a reply to their news and updates. This means that despite sending more than the average number of cards, I still end up missing a good many when time, and my supply of cards, just runs out.

Artist’s general benevolent fund

This year I bought most of my Christmas cards from the Artists General Benevolent Institution(AGBI). I’ve been supporting them every year since they generously supported me during my poorly years. The grant I received enabled me to crate and ship some of my paintings back to the UK from the USA where they were on exhibition prior to my falling so ill.

Throughout my career as an artist, the Fine Art Trade Guild magazine would include a small flyer from the AGBI advertising their Christmas cards. I rarely found any designs I was attracted to, and had no interest or idea about the very valuable work the charity did on behalf of artists, work that one day helped me tremendously. Since they helped me and I understood first hand the valuable work they do, I have always bought at least some of my Christmas cards from them, in a small way hoping to pay back the grant I received.

Mary Fedden 'Bringing home the Christmas Tree'
Mary Fedden ‘Bringing home the Christmas Tree’

This year an image by Mary Fedden (OBE RA) caught my eye and seemed extremely appropriate in so many ways. A tree carrying elf riding a zebra. As with most of the AGBI designs, their relationship to Christmas can often seem vague, or at least not images that i felt represented me or my business.This one, however, captured so many aspects of where I am now in my life.

The Zebra is the symbol for the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome sufferers. It represents the idea that as a rarely diagnosed condition, Doctors should be encouraged not just to think of horses when they hear hooves.

Elves and Elms

Elves apparently live under Elm trees, and as we have stopped seeing the elves, their trees have shrunk, Dutch Elm disease destroying the trees once they reach a critical height. We live on Elms Lane, and I was often saddened by the distinct lack of Elms in our hedge row. A few years ago I attended a herb walk with Lucy Jones, a medicinal herbalist in our town, who identified elms and their distinctive ridged bark. I realised then why all the ‘hazels’ in our hedgerow hadn’t produced any nuts! I have since been nurturing our handful of elm trees and they are now reaching a grand height, perhaps the elves will return too!


This year has been an incredible year for me, but I am all too aware that it hasn’t been so for everyone. I have lost a few close friends through illness and accidents as well as having friends also suffer with bereavement and trauma. None of us know which will be our good or bad years, but it is important to appreciate that we’re each on our own rollercoaster of life and its only when we are on the highs that we are able to support  those dear to us on the lows.

Elm tree
Elm tree

I am a great fan of Business coach Lisa Johnson and was delighted to read her list of 2019 achievements. As British we are often encouraged to hide our lights under bushels and modesty is is considered a virtue.

I know I’ve never been particularly modest, perhaps because I feel that anything I achieve is not a solo effort. I have a tremendous team of colleagues, friends and family who help me to achieve all that I set out to accomplish.

Business success should be a ‘win win’ situation, solving problems for customers, giving employment to staff and the financial rewards enabling us to share our success with those dear to us.

I have taken great risks over the past few years, both physically and financially, and I can start to see the rewards coming back, which still surprises me as I don’t undertake any project looking for rewards, I simply work from instinct and desire.

Things that made me smile in 2019

In case you’re interested, here are some of the achievements this year of which I am extremely proud:

  • A successful Skep making course at Buckfast Abbey Bee department
  • Invited to write about Bees for the gardening app Candide
  • On the panel of a local Beekeepers Question time
  • Writing a monthly Bee article for Sherborne Times
  • Publishing ‘Artist to Bees’
  • Publishing the second edition of Artist to Bees with colour illustrations
  • Invited to present my poster on the Bees in Bhutan at Apimondia in Montreal Canada
  • Speaking at Enys Bee Fayre
  • speaking at Exeter Beekeepers association
  • Writing and publishing ‘A quest for Bees in Bhutan’
  • Running weekly Bee Safaris at ‘The Newt in Somerset’
  • Completing the Advanced Honey sensory analysis class in Bologna
  • Spotting a great yellow bumblebee in North Uist, Outer Hebredes
  • Having a selfie with Bee Guru Tom Seeley
  • Meeting the Queen’s beekeeper
  • Meeting Caribbean Bee Guru Gladstone Soloman
  • Having ‘A to Bees’ in the Bees for Development Summer Garden Party goodie bag.
  • speaking at Lynne Franks’ ‘Summer Bee Garden Party’.

There are some really exciting adventures lined up for 2020.  I am eternally grateful for my Bee Team ( Joe, Linda, Rande & Kerry) and Nikki and Rande for helping with all my general business activities. Andy for all his graphic design ( he was responsible for designing all my books). Helen for helping with social media, Sarah and Alison for managing my website, Jenny for keeping my accounts in order. The Blackmore Vale Breakfast network and Women Mean Business. Sally for keeping my body in shape and of course my family and friends for keeping me motivated when the going gets tough!


I do hope that you’ve plenty to be grateful for at this contemplative time of year. If I didn’t send you a Christmas card, please accept this as festive greeting and thanks for being a special part of my support!




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