bee aware

hoverfly on red and white geranium

I’ve mentioned before KWP, the minister at the church my family attended when I was a little girl and the stories he used to tell. They were simple stories with morals, usually based around small domestic occurrences – like the Green Shield stamp that had lost its stickability and was therefore of little use. (The notion of “stickablity” as a value to be cultivated and encouraged has remained with me all my life.)

Once KWP told of having been in London with a friend who was an ardent nature lover. As they were walking, the friend suddenly stopped; he paused while the rest of the crowds surged past them, then turned and in a moment or two had located a tiny green grasshopper sitting on a kerbstone.

When the minister asked how he’d known it was there, his friend said, “It’s all about tuning your hearing.” He took a coin from his pocket and dropped it. It made only a faint chime as it hit the pavement but, as one, the crowd paused, looking down at their feet while they checked their pockets. Naturally, the minister used the story to question our values and priorities: were we tuned in to the world of Mammon, or to God and his wonderful natural world??

Yesterday, I was travelling, and, having an hour to spare between trains in Birmingham, I sat outside and watched the people go by. It was not a very nice day – dry, but grey and breezy – but it had to be better outside than in the airless architectural monstrosity that houses Grand Central shopping centre and New Street Station.

I didn’t hear this little furry friend arrive, but she landed on my bag and clung on tightly to avoid being blown away again.

Honey bee on hessian bag

She stayed with me for quite some time while I took photos and wished I had some sugar water to offer her to drink. I did have some crackers, but even though they probably count as fast carbs, I couldn’t see her chowing down on them.

Eventually it was time for me to go and find my connecting train, so I took my new friend over to the unweeded garden border and helped her onto the plants there. There weren’t very many flowers in bloom – a trangle of stunted willowherb and a convolvulus or two – but I hope she was able to find some nectar and, with it, the energy to continue her busy day.

I think my fuzzy fellow traveller was a little tired, but she looked quite healthy, as did her cousin, who I met a couple of weeks ago a little nearer to home.

bee on vine leaf

Although she was apparently bright-eyed and bushy tailed, she, too, was very much comatose or I would never have got close enough for such a clear picture.

Another cousin I met recently was looking altogether more active and more at home, using her tiny paws to comb through the filaments of the golden stamen crown as her proboscis probed the heart of a giant yellow daisy.

Honey bee on yellow daisy

This next cousin, was also active – busy about the burdocks despite her raggle-taggle wings. I fear she won’t have been well enough to complete many more days’ foraging,

Honey bee on burdock

It’s hard to write “burdock” without thinking of Dylan Thomas and the children tussling and running to Cockle Street sweet-shop, “their pennies sticky as honey,” to buy:

“gobstoppers big as wens that rainbow as you suck, brandyballs, winegums, hundreds and thousands, liquorice sweet as sick, nougat to tug and ribbon out like another red rubbery tongue, gum to glue in girls’ curls, crimson coughdrops to spit blood, ice-cream comets, dandelion-and-burdock, raspberry and cherryade, pop goes the weasel and the wind.”

Had I had any of those sweet delights with me, I might have tried to revive the urban bee I met yesterday rather than leaving her to take her chances among straggling city weeds.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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