September 2011 Archives
This is the peak time of the year for various flying insects. It's the time when all the local wasps' nest populations peak, the gnats and midges plague us on summer walks, the sultry July and August weather brings out flying ants, and good conditions elsewhere in Europe may result in the migration of millions of moths, butterflies, dragonflies and ladybird beetles. (I am usually alerted to the ants' nuptial flights by the behaviour of birds. Not only the swifts, martins and swallows which live almost exclusively on flying insects, but also the noisy squadrons of gulls which pick the ants off both in the air and on the ground.)
One insect which sometimes causes needless concern is the 'marmalade fly' - a browny-orange and black creature about 10mm long belonging to the hover-fly family. This is a large family the members of which are found all over the world. Many of them, including the marmalade fly, have yellow or orange and black stripes. At first glance therefore they are often taken for wasps or bees. This is a big advantage for the fly, by mimicking the much more aggressive and dangerous wasp it fools its enemies. Add to this the fact that this is one of the migrating species, and that a few dozen can suddenly appear in the garden, and people too are fooled and fancy that they have an influx of wasps. This year I noticed that they suddenly turned up in my garden at the end of July.
Observing the flies for a few minutes will reveal the differences between them and wasps. As their name suggests they spend some of the time hovering close to flowers and generally have a less purposeful flight than wasps. The Americans call hover-flies 'flower flies' and flowers are all they are interested in. Wasps are hunters, finding aphids and other small insects to feed their grubs, hover-flies are just looking for a meal of pollen or honey. If you look closely enough you may also see that the flies only have one pair of wings whilst wasps have two pairs. In addition the male marmalade flies have large red eyes which meet on top of the head.
Whilst its numbers peak in the summer the marmalade fly is one of the few insects which may be seen at any time of the year and it is very good news for gardeners. Although the adult flies feed on flowers their larvae are, like others in this family, voracious predators of aphids.
Keep an eye out for this species and its cousins. Any yellow and black, or orange and black, insect which looks like a bee or a wasp, but is somehow different, not quite right, (doesn't have the right 'jizz' as birdwatchers would say) is most likely to be a harmless, indeed beneficial, hover-fly.
Me and Mr Stephen Woolley
I've noticed something. Stephen Woolley, the British Film Producing legend, has been appearing at significant points in my career to sprinkle magic on it. I've never worked with him, probably only exchanged a few sentences with him in the space of 21 yrs and yet he's played a part in a number of the highlights. Has Stephen got special powers?...
Anyway, here are the markers in mine and Stephen's relationship
In 1990 I made my first film - a half hour documentary about the Scala cinema (aka Sodom Odeon) in London's King's Cross. Stephen was one of the founders of the cinema and therefore responsible for its distinctive programme and all night culture. He'd moved on to Palace by 1990 but kindly gave an interview to a very nervous young director.
Cut to 2004. Stephen was a panel member for The Turner Classic movies shorts prize. They gave my short film 'Brown Paper Bag' third prize in the competition. Although we didn't win, the resulting exposure almost certainly helped raise the film's profile in the run up to the BAFTA's which we most certainly did win!
2010 After years of development hell and unfulfilled expectation created by the BAFTA wins, myself and the producer of Brown Paper Bag, Natasha Carlish decided enough was enough, we were gonna 'just do it', a decision which led to making 'Turbulence', my first feature film. It just so happened that Natasha had been able to secure Stephen as her mentor (I had no part in this) on the guiding lights scheme at that very same time. She showed him the rough cut I'd mostly put together (no money for an editor), which was painful but turned out to be extremely useful. Stephen declared the film to be not at all his cup of tea, then went on to say something like the following (I wasn't there you see)
'but its not really about me, who is your target audience? Show it them and see what they make of it'
We went away and set up test screenings for Turbulence, there were none in the pipeline before this moment. I've written some blogs about them and the experience of that. Let's just say it was a total revelation, not only one of the highlights of making the film, I'd go so far as to say it has completely shifted the way I see the film making process. I had no idea that was coming. Its too early to say what the result will be of this particular revelation but it feels significant.
So, Mr Woolley, I thank you very, very much and look forward to seeing you for the first time in seven years at this Saturday's 'Scala Forever' event at the Cinema Museum in London this Saturday 17.9.11. They're showing my documentary and there'll be a panel talking about the cinema's legacy and what not too. Cant wait!