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Archive for the ‘Bylaugh’ Category

Then she started chanting in a very soft and gentle voice.  It made me feel very calm and I lowered my voice in sympathy.  My head filled with questions that I wanted to ask, but her calmness somehow slowed down my racing brain and I remained silent so that she could concentrate on what seemed like a very dangerous job to me.  Having studied the swarm and the fence post she said “This will be an easy job.  They have been kind to me today!  They are often on the sides of people’s houses or up trees and I have to smoke them at the top of a ladder”.  I did not think of her as a smoking-type somehow!

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I was still intrigued about the whole affair when the beekeeper arrived.  She parked her car well down the road and walked up the small drive in a white bee-keeping suit.  She had a hat on that made her look like the cross between a nun and Joan of Arc.  A veil hung down from the brim of the hat giving the image of a soon-to-be-wed bride.  It was difficult to put an age on her because you could not see her face properly.  She appeared completely beautiful and the white suit made her angelically radiant, oozing calm and serenity.  In her left hand she had a metal container that looked like the cross between a watering can and an old metal milk jug.  It was battered and had smoke burns on it.  In her right hand she had a box which was about the size of a cardboard wine crate you get from a wine shop.  She put both objects down on the ground a few yards away from the swarm and then she very gently walked up to look at the bees.  They were much quieter now, although the bees on the outside of the ball were still moving about.  (I later found out that a swarm of bees is like a colony of penguins.  The ones on the outside keep the ones on the inside warm and then move into the inside to make themselves warm.)

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I was surprised that the beekeeper was so willing to come to our house so quickly.  Later I discovered that collecting a swarm of bees is not like sending for a rat catcher.  It is not even like mole catching.  A swarm of bees has a value – and if you want to take them from a resting place like the one they had chosen that afternoon in our garden, then you only have until the next morning before they will be on the move again. 

The old English saying goes:

“A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay

A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon

A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly!”

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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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