Bugwoman is Five Years Old!

The photo adorning Bugwoman’s first ever blogpost

Dear Readers, it hardly seems possible but five years ago, in February 2014, I started Bugwoman’s Adventures in London following a most excellent course run by the Gentle Author, whose masterwork Spitalfields Life has been published every single day since August 2009. One of the Gentle Author’s most helpful rules was to establish exactly what you were going to do as a blogger, and to make this public. And so, on my page, I wrote the following:

‘Bug Woman is a slightly scruffy middle-aged woman who enjoys nothing more than finding a large spider in the bathroom. She plans to spend the next five years exploring the parks, woods and pavements within a half-mile radius of her North London home, and reporting on the animals, plants and people that she finds there. She will also be paying close attention to the creatures that turn up in the garden and the house. She promises to post every week on a Saturday, and more often if she can tear herself away from the marmalade making. She looks forward to finding out what’s happening in your half-mile.’

Well, I have kind of kept that promise. I have certainly posted every Saturday, and indeed every Wednesday with the Wednesday Weed. To start with I was strictly local. I shared Coldfall Wood, and Cherry Tree Wood, and then there was the saga of the foxes who lived in the cemetery.

What I could not have anticipated was how my ‘half-mile’ was going to spread to encompass Canada, Austria, Monterey Bay, Costa Rica, and  Milborne St Andrew, where my parents lived until very recently.

Humpback breaching in Monterey Bay (Photo courtesy of Peter Dunn)

Nor could I have anticipated how my subject matter was going to spread. To start with, it was very strictly the birds and the bees and the weeds. Here, for example, is a link to my very first blogpost.  At that point, I thought that it was all going to be about the writing, and that the photos were secondary. Later, I rediscovered my love of marrying image to text. I sometimes think of this blog as the equivalent of the nature table that I looked after when I was at school, a rather magpie-ish collection of things that I’ve found interesting, and hope that the reader will too.

Once, when I was desperate for subject matter (and I feel that I underestimated the pressure that a blog creates), I did a post on the foster cats that I used to look after. It remains one of my most popular posts, to my chagrin.

Hamlet

However, it was this post from 2016 that really changed the focus of the blog. My mother and father had come to stay with us for Christmas. While she was here, Mum became ill with a chest infection that developed into  sepsis, and she nearly died. It was one of the worst times of my life, and it brought home to me what a solace the natural world can be during these times. It isn’t just that it provides beauty and distraction and in doing so it pulls us back into the present moment – it also provides much-needed perspective. Nature carries on doing her thing regardless of our worries and troubles. Strangely enough, I find that very comforting.

Mum’s orchid

The next few years were full of trips to Dorset to nurse Mum and Dad through their various crises. As regular readers will know, Mum and Dad both went into a nursing home last year, and Mum died in December. Throughout this period my walks around the village were a constant source of relief and inspiration. Last summer I remember standing under a lime tree that was heavy with blossom. The bees buzzed around it and the scent was enough to make me want to recline underneath and sink into slumber. For a few blissful moments I could drop everything that was weighing me down.

Lime blossom

And then, of course, there has been the Wednesday Weed. In spring and summer this has been an easy piece to write, but it has become more and more difficult in the winter. I have gradually moved on from plants that everyone would agree was a weed, to plants that are wild but desirable, to plants that are happily growing in someone’s front garden. At Christmas this year I even did a piece that I am rather proud of on brussels sprouts. I have loved finding out about the plants that pop up on the waste ground of East Finchley, but I fear that, after 250 ‘weeds’ I may have to expand my area of interest even further. Still, the one thing about doing a biweekly blog is that, at least twice a week, I have to go outside, open my eyes and see what’s happening. I honestly think that the process of creating the blog has kept me sane over the past few years. The combination of looking and walking, taking photographs and writing is to be highly recommended to anyone who wants to try out their creative wings. And it has kept me accountable. I don’t know if people are exactly hanging on my every word, but I do suspect that some people would notice if I stopped posting, and so I feel a responsibility which has kept me going when nothing else would have done.

So, the question now is, whither Bugwoman? I shall be considering my plan for the next five years, but I would be grateful for your comments and ideas. Is there anything that you have particularly enjoyed, or would like more of? Does anything stick in your memory? I would quite like to expand my writing to include some of the nature books that have inspired me or piqued my interest. Part of me wants to have some more expeditions to interesting places in London and beyond, but part of me also wants to root back down into the very local. Part of me wants to deepen and research my pieces more thoroughly, while another part loves the broad brush stroke, the overview. Whatever I decide, I can bet that the next five years will throw up opportunities and challenges that I can’t even imagine at the moment. Thank you all for coming along for the ride so far, and I look forward to your company as we gallop into the future.

A cucumber spider (Arienella curcubita)

 

 

31 thoughts on “Bugwoman is Five Years Old!

  1. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    Happy birthday Bugwoman! We particularly remember one post where you had taken lots of photos in the streets on a wet day, the traffic lights reflecting on the wet pavement. You seem to have a knack of photographing things that we might otherwise miss. It would be lovely to hear how the foxes are getting on, but we always enjoy the posts, so please keep writing 😁

    Reply
  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Congratulations on reaching 5 years old. It’s a fantastic milestone. For me, I enjoy the variety of topics that you cover and I’m always amazed at the links you make to art and poetry. (Though I understand that this research can take a long time, so I wouldn’t want to burden you with that for another 5 years). As you say, your Wednesday posts are not always ‘flowers in the wrong place’ and anything on nature is always a delight to read. So maybe that’s an avenue you could take – or indeed any local avenue to a place of interest or with history…? London is a big place after all. 🙂 Anyway, here’s to another 5… 🥂 Cheers!

    Reply
  3. Jill Day

    Congratulations! Your blog is the start of the weekend for me. I enjoy your talent to see how the commonplace has interest and value, and also to spot the exotic among the the mundane. ‘A nature table’ is a an excellent analogy: a serendipitous collection tied to the seasons. Thank you. (And GA for introducing us to you.)

    Reply
  4. penthompson

    Dear Bug Woman , we were on the same blogging course and I’ve enjoyed your blogs ever since. What a lot has happened in five years ! I stopped regular blogging when i left my work role and became “differently occupied” ; I’ve admired you and “A London Inheritance “ who was on the same course, for keeping going. I’ve loved the way you mix nature and the human condition . I’ve learned about plants . I’ve empathised with the story of your parents ageing and the death of your mum; in parallel i was going through a different but similar experience . My finally father died in October . So i think you should keep going and follow your successful formula .
    It would be nice to have a blogging course reunion perhaps ! Perhaps the GA will think about it .
    All the very best, Pen

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I remember you very well Pen! Yes, a blogging course reunion would be great fun. So sorry to hear about your Dad, we think that we’re prepared for these things though we never are….

      Reply
  5. Daisy

    Congratulations on 5 years blogging! This sounds obvious, but I think you should cover things that interest you – don’t listen to us! Your interest will then continue to shine through, and inevitably, whatever you write about will interest us. Personally I’m not very interested in insects, wildlife or animals, and yet I enjoy your posts. So follow your heart.

    Reply
  6. Sarah

    Congratulations on your anniversary. I found your blog in the fox-feeding era and have barely missed a post since then. I particularly enjoy your pieces that mix observations of London wildlife with musings on the human condition. I’d love to read your responses to nature books too. As another scruffy middle-aged woman with a fondness for bugs and poetry who has recently lived through the decline and death of loved parents, I feel great affinity with you. I’m in awe of your commitment and discipline in writing twice a week no matter what else is going on.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Oh thank you, Sarah – so sorry to hear about your parents. I feel as if I’ve joined a very sad club, but it is comforting to have the company of other people who have been on a similar journey…

      Reply
  7. trailriderincentraloregon

    Hello Bugwoman! I have blogged daily for years, and until very recently, sending by email. Inspired by both you and The Gentle Author (whom I also follow, whose blog pointed me to you), I’ve moved recently to WordPress and am learning how to combine visuals and words. I understand fully and appreciate your thoughts about the challenges of and pressures to continue writing. My feelings as a follower are that you can write about anything you wish. Yes, photos and words are important, but the ability to communicate feelings in a way that readers may share is what’s essential, and you have that talent. You’ve inspired me to look more closely at what’s in my yard and to think more broadly about what I’m seeing; your feelings while working with your ill parents have been much like my own when I’m with my elderly, ailing sister. I live in Oregon and you’ve become a neighbor. Blog on, Bugwoman!

    Reply
  8. Katya

    Dear Bug Woman. After following your blog for the last few years, and finding out today that you’ve been writing this labor of love since 2014 (!), I was inspired to read from the beginning. For me, your discovery of the queen bee and efforts to revive her, only to witness her demise, seemed to set the tone of what might follow. I am so grateful for your vision and talent for spotting and writing about the quiet pandemonium of life, and hope you continue and maybe even expand… with a book?

    Reply
  9. gertloveday

    So interesting how readers love posts about cats. One of us in thrall to her cat, who I must say is very beautiful. But cats are so often perceived as cute and cuddly when they can be sadistic killers.
    Write about what you like, Bugwoman. I’d read it anyway. Congratulations on five years.

    Reply
  10. Toffeeapple

    Congratulations! That really is a grand landmark of an anniversary, thank you for all that you have written, especially the posts where you teach me new things!

    I will happily continue to read whatever you write about, it will always be enjoyable and interesting.

    Here’s to the next five years!

    Reply
  11. tonytomeo

    Congratulations; but I have no recommendations. I always figured that you know more about this than I do. I only do this because I am a garden columnist. Blogging is more interesting than that by nature.

    Reply
  12. David

    Hi Vivienne. Sorry for the delayed comment, did start last Sunday but think I forgot to post.

    Congratulations on your 5 years, and for 2 posts a week. I always read your posts and often intend to comment, but never actually get round to doing so. It seems a long time since the weekend course in Spitalfields, but those 5 years have also disappeared very quickly.

    In answer to your question about what else BugWoman should be considering, I would not want to offer any suggestions. To me, the pleasure of reading other peoples blogs is getting a completely new perspective and learning about subjects that I know very little about, so keep going exactly as you are.
    .
    I completely agree with your comment “combination of looking and walking, taking photographs and writing” – I use the same process for the majority of my posts and it opens up a whole new world of exploring and creativity.

    I look forward to wherever the blog takes Bugwoman over the next 5 years.

    Reply
  13. Anne Guy

    Congratulations on reaching this milestone Viv! Love all of your blogs no matter what the subject! As an occasional blogger I admire you for publishing twice weekly…I have lots of ideas for posts but end up doing so much research and going down other avenues as part of it…it takes me an age to actually press the publish button! Thanks for following me too by the way! Here’s to the next 5 years and glad to be along for the ride…oh do please update on the foxes too!

    Reply

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