Saturday, January 26, 2008

Deadly Swarm Conjures Granny's Memories

While browsing the web aimlessly I called in on Jean at The English Armchair Abroad, as I often do these days. In doing so I came across two posts which are of particular interest to me.

The first being Granny’s blog. Jean’s mother in law; a respected artist of advancing years has recently taken up blogging.

Due to failing sight; this remarkable woman has found another outlet for her creative energies. Granny’s blog is intended to be of assistance to the blind or partially sighted.

I enjoyed reading her anecdotes so much I thought I would publish a link to them here.If you have any friends or relatives who might benefit from reading Granny's blog, why not put them in touch with her?

The second item of interest was posted a while ago, but, I only scanned through it. I had intended to return for a proper read about beekeeping; a topic which is particularly close to my heart. A word of caution; for those with emotional involvement with the family Peirce; don't cry...

Shortly after my return to Ireland; almost thirteen years ago, I was delighted to discover bees in the flat roofed extension to the front of our three bedroom bungalow. Having never been afraid of bees, often working unprotected on the small patch of flower bed beneath their home; I considered this a blessing indeed. We were privileged to share our lives with these mystical creatures, and it was a sign our new home would be a happy home…

A skilled woodworker; my late father enthusiastically made me a special hive. Knowing very little about the lifestyle of the honey bee; this was completed hurriedly, following the arrival of our first swarm on the June Bank Holiday Monday 1996. The help of a local bee keeper was secured and soon after they were happily installed into their new home.

Unfortunately, Noel; the bee man, took me to his apiary and promptly forgot to tell me the most fundamental lesson of bee keeping; which is not to stand due south of the hive. Upon my return to work the following day, I passed quietly in the corridors; unnoticed by my normally chatty colleagues, the result of this omission slowly became obvious: facial disfigurement bearing a strong resemblance to Plug; of the Bash Street Kids! I later discovered that I had been unrecognizable until I spoke…

Not to be deterred by this initial misfortune; I went on to purchase my Sheriff beekeeping suit, two veiled hats for nearest and dearest, foundation (where the bees live) and other essential bits and pieces. I learned how to subdue the hive using smoke; allowing me to inspect and identify the different members of the community. I was to mark the queen bee with yellow enamel paint for ease of identification.

Around this time my father became unwell. Always a stolid man, he had been driven in recent years to show more of his emotions, especially over the past months; since my return to the locality. Instinctively he knew what lay in store for him and delighted that my mother would have my strength to lean upon in the coming days.

My trips to the North Circular Road; Dublin became more frequent as my father became frailer; Eccles Street lay just around the corner. In those day’s money was precious; in short supply. As my father’s health declined I invested more and more time, energy and money in my new hobby; it was a form of escapism.

At the back of my mind, however; lay the memory of my first disastrous encounter with bee venom. I was cautious and sensible. My trust shaken; my confidence also. My relationship with apis mellifera mellifera; the European honey bee was growing shakier by the moment.

My father’s condition became serious, terminal; prognosis poor with the anticipated longevity of six to ten months. He was discharged and returned home to die; much sooner than expected.

My passion for the bees was almost as short as my renewed relationship with my father. Within five short months we had celebrated one homecoming, three birthdays’, one newfound passion and my father’s death.

That was a long time ago. The bees in the roof are still there; a constant reminder of times past. The precious hive lies broken in an abandoned chicken shed, my suit and smoker at the home of a consultant surgeon and my love for my parents; ever present, charged by memories evoked by the strangest of things.

Thanks Jean; for making me remember, especially now that the snowdrops are about to provide the bees with their first crop of the New Year.

1 comment:

Jean said...

I am truly honoured to have evoked such strong memories. Thank you for telling me - us - about it.
Thank you too for including the link to Granny's Blog. As you can imagine, she can't get around other people's blogs very easily herself and to give her a plug will be a real boost! I will pass on the message and I'm sure she'll come over.