Seeds of Change

IMG_2283category_diary80SEEDS OF CHANGE – Many of our most beautiful plants have come from far-flung lands, brought to us by intrepid Victorian explorers. It was their dare-devil stories that inspired me to write my third novel, The Naked Name of Love, about a Jesuit priest in pursuit of a rare lily in Outer Mongolia.

But I never considered that many of our most brilliant botanical finds made their way here in the hulls of ships as ballast. Ballast – the mud used to weigh down trading vessels when they docked – was picked up from countries all over the world and then dumped near Bristol’s Floating Harbour. And so we ended up with seeds from Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean sprouting here in the south-west. Artist, Maria Thereza Alves, has created a a floral tribute to our city’s trading history: on an old concrete barge floating off Castle Park in the heart of the city, she’s planted seeds that reflect the global routes travelled by Bristol merchants.

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Sugar: The Book I Wish had Changed the World

category_diary80SUGAR: THE BOOK I WISH HAD CHANGED THE WORLD – There is something sweet and sickly in the air.

It’s ten years since my book on sugar, Sugar: The Grass that Changed the World, was published. Next week I’ve been asked to sugar copyopen a conference at Bristol University on sugar – covering many of the topics I wrote about, from the evolution of sugar cane through to its effect on our health – although I’m expecting the academics at Bristol, a decade since I researched the subject, to have far more insightful things to say.

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