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Archive for the ‘Bylaugh’ Category

Honey for Sale!

Anyway, by this stage it was half past four and Mum said that we should find someone to take the bees away.  She suggested that I ring the local butchers shop as they sold local honey.  Not my first thought of action, but a sensible one.  Mum always had sensible ideas in an emergency.  The butcher gave us the name of a local beekeeper who answered their phone straight away.  It was a quietly spoken woman.  I explained what the situation was and she said:  “I’ll be over right away.  It should take me about 20 minutes”.

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The only previous experience I had had with bees (at least I think they had been bees) was when we were living in Scotland about ten years previously.  My brother and I had been out on a long walk in the countryside.  About half a mile from home we had been larking around (as small boys do) when my brother had pushed me backwards.  I fell directly onto my back and felt about a dozen stings press into the skin on my back like tiny short needles.  As I stood up, I saw the insects were in a tiny hole in the ground.  The pain was jabbing – but soon wore off as I walked the last stretch home.  Mum had put camomile lotion (I think that is what she called it).  She said it was good to sooth the pain.   That is all I remember, really.   Interestingly, after the incident I did not feel fearful about bees or wasps. Just a few little pin-pricks.  I had had much worse pain walking through stinging nettles with bare legs!

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What a Relief!

Mum came out of the house just at that moment.  We shared the excitement with her.  “Look!” I said “What do you think it is?”  “It is a swarm of bees!” Mum said. Bees!  There was a scientific explanation for all those mysterious happenings.  And it lay in the fact that all these strange things that had happened in the past few minutes had been caused by this large ball of buzzing bees.  What a relief!

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The Appearance

The next second or two are a blank. Just as people in an accident can often remember some parts with extreme clarity and then blank-out, so I had a blank moment. I suppose it makes sense if you think about it. All these sensations and feelings piled up into a couple of seconds must mean that your brain has gone into overload. My brain must have done that. I didn’t run. I didn’t get a large adrenalin-rush and feel my heart race at double its normal pace. I just stood there and watched in awe. It was a bit like watching one of those old movies when the frames don’t quite mesh together and time jumps from one scene to the next leaving a bit out in the middle. That is what happened. One moment I was looking at the dark sun with the indescribable humming noise. The next thing I remember was looking at the railing on the fence about two metres in front of me to see a large black ball appear. It seemed to grow in front of me like a balloon which was being blown up – and it kept on getting larger and larger until eventually the buzzing got quieter, the sun returned to its normal brightness and the balloon became a large black blob about the size of a medicine ball with a moving skin.

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My brain ticked fast to work out what was going on, but it did not come up with an answer!  The only similar experience I had ever had like this was a few years before.  I was getting off a bus with a load of other people in (what was then called) Rhodesia in Africa.  The sun had dimmed like this and all the birds and insects in the nearby forest went silent – yet the sky was cloudless.  I had been a little more prepared on that occasion.  Someone had told me a week beforehand that a partial eclipse of the sun was going to take place on that day at 1.20pm in the afternoon – in the heat of the African day.  I had actually forgotten the prediction in the interim – but remembered as soon as I felt the dramatic drop in the mid-day heat.  I connected the ideas pretty quickly and once I explained the phenomenon to those around me, we all felt better.  There was a scientific explanation!  The most vivid memory was at the height of the partial eclipse – when the sun had made tens of thousands of crescent-shaped moons on the ground.  The leaves from the forest had acted like pinhole cameras – letting through just enough light to create a collage of tiny moon shapes.  Fifteen minutes later things were back to normal and all the birds and insects were back chattering at their normal volume of forest babble.  But now was different.  There were no birds and insects going silent……and in any case there was a lot more noise than before – not less.  Nor had there been any predictions of eclipses of the sun in the last few weeks.  I had studied science.  I needed to know what was going on!  But this time I could could find no easy explanation.

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And then the noise started.  It sounded like a frenetic buzzing coming from the sun.   I looked at my sister in sheer amazement.  She looked back.  We were used to the American air force jets buzzing about overhead.  The local air force base often used the surrounding countryside as a mock war-zone.  They flew particularly low.  No one complained any more.  It was part of the way of life that went with living on the largest aircraft carrier in the world.  The American war-machine had used the English countryside as a launch-pad for nearly a hundred years and the low-flying aircraft was some sort of “tax we paid for America to police the rest of the world”, or something like that.  Dad certainly wasn’t the one to ask controversial questions on that subject, but he was proud about paying the tax.  Yet this noise wasn’t like an aircraft.  It was much closer.  It was more overwhelming in its intensity.  It was gentler.  It was a frenetic buzzing noise and not a roaring jet engine.  And it came at the same time as the dimming of late afternoon sun.

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Spot-Dark

For about second (although it seemed like several) the darkening sun and the slowness of time was mesmerising.  The haze still hung in the valley below.  The willow still breathed not a whisper.   I looked down the field to the trees near the road to see if there were any long shadows there.  There weren’t.  The dimming seemed quite local.  Almost as if there was a sharp stab of “dark light” projecting itself at my sister and me.  As if we had been caught in some sort of spot-light which was really a “spot-dark” (if such a word exists).

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Cakes for Tea?

Mole trapping is not really a team sport and we soon became bored looking at Dad’s intensive trapping routines.  So we went round to the willow tree to see if there was anything interesting going on there.  Maybe Mum had made some cakes for tea and had put them out early.  It was nearly 4 o’clock, so it was a fairly good bet.  Then it happened.  The sky suddenly went dark.  It was as if the sun had been switched off.  I looked at my sister.  She looked at me.  It was quite extra-ordinary. Magical.  Momentarily unexplainable.  For just a instant we gazed at the sun in a sense of awe.  Just as our ancestors must have felt before the scientific age and an understanding of cosmic happenings – when mysteries happened and there was no explanation.  Just bemused wonderment, later explained-away by an “Act of God”.  Another strange thing happened whilst the sun dimmed.  Time somehow stood still.  It was similar to the experience that one gets if one is in an accident.  Time slows down and you become much more aware of everything that is going on around you.  It was as if we were in an art gallery and had been studying a painting for about twenty minutes and then had all the senses, emotions and interpretations concentrated into one second of intensive experience.

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Moles and Mines

It was one of those hot, hazy summer days.  The holidays seemed to have gone on for weeks.  The willow in the garden was silent.  Normally the willow rustled in a kind whisper from the slightest breeze.  But today it was completely still.  The air across the valley to Bylaugh hung like a hazy lazy mist in tune with the lethargy of all the other creatures in the garden. We had been outside helping Dad with his mole traps.  He was as determined as any trapper with a near-religious focus combined with an intensive routine that you often find with ex-Military men.  The moles had been a problem for several years and Dad had just about mastered the art of trapping them.  It reminded him of the war in Italy when he had to clear a minefield at the age of nineteen.  It was a passion of his and each day he tried slightly different techniques which he logged in his mole-catching diary.  This activity filled his afternoons after he had taken his siesta and before taking his tea.  “Best time of the day for laying traps”, he used to say.  “The moles are not active.  It is too hot for them”.

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In the Bardic Triads it says that Britain was the “Island of Honey”.

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