Gazette & Herald Column: It was a weekend of bees, Bollywood and blessings

Part of my ministerial job involves leading on government coordination on critical UK industries like cars, steel and chemicals, and so I travelled up to Stoke on Trent last week to open new facilities for Michelin, and learn how they are massively improving the use of scarce raw materials by re-treading truck tyres – a new industry for me to learn about but one that employs thousands of people nationally and is an important part of the supply chain.  After that is was home to Wiltshire for a wonderful weekend in the sunshine that featured bees, Bollywood and blessings!  As people may know, we have long held ambitions to become apiarists and have quietly been learning some skills and acquiring local bees thanks to the fantastically supportive friends we have made who are similarly obsessed with things that buzz.  It’s a whole new world of hive design, handling tips (bees love lemon balm!) sting management and general excitement when unexpected events like flying queens or raiding wasps suddenly happen, and so we spent part of Saturday in our rather intimidating bee suits, happily inspecting and discussing our new arrivals.  We are starting small with two hives but it is a wonderful new world to be exploring and it’s impossible to think about anything in the political world while working through the bee frames.

Then it was time for a Wiltshire first I think – the formal opening of the Burbage Mela!  This was a celebration of South Asian culture that formed part of Burbage Gala Week. This was a true celebration with so many opportunities to learn, from Bollywood dance steps to sari wearing, and amazing food to sample.  I felt very proud to be part of a group that was exploring the diversity of our great country, and it was an inspired choice for an event – I hope we will see many more.  The same theme underpinned my final event of the weekend which was the Eid celebration in Devizes, hosted by the Devizes Muslim Community, to which members of all faiths and from the community were invited to attend.  There were some truly inspiring speeches focusing on the need to celebrate our shared British values and the many aspects of our various religions that teach the same things such as humility, charity and tolerance.  There was wonderful food as well as fascinating opportunities to learn from each other about cultural differences and varieties, and above all, blessings to celebrate the end of the Ramadan. Eid Mubarak!