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Have you read that book, The Wasp Factory? I asked Brassica, while flicking

away yet another of the little pesks.

(Suttonford seems to be overrun with the stripey menaces.)  It is as if we

are being afflicted by one of the Plagues of Egypt. I wonder what we have

done to deserve this castigation?    Perhaps it is part of our having

experienced at least seven lean years.  I do hope that the River Sutton

doesn’t turn to blood, or we find frogs in our beds.

No, can’t say I have read it, Brassie replied.  It seemed to be a bit violent,

from what I heard.  Wasn’t it Iain Banks’ first novel?

Yes, it was… Well, perhaps I have been accused of being waspish, I continued,

but it is only my tales that have a sting. These wretched vespula germanicas

had a go at me in my own kitchen when The Husband was making apple juice.

I was oviposited when I tried to open my fridge door.  One of the blighters

was skulking behind the handle and didn’t take kindly to being squeezed.

They say that Asiatic Hornets are going to invade us, so I don’t know what

we humans will have to do to wreak revenge on the whole entomological pack

of them.

I thought ‘entomological’ meant something like ‘cut into pieces’, Candia.  So

couldn’t you chop them up and anatomise them?  But you don’t hate bees,

do you? Didn’t you write a bee poem once, Candia?

Ah, yes, but bees are different. I did write about them.  I was incensed when

I read an article by Tim Rayment in The Sunday Times about Buckfast Abbey

stocking its gift shop with Mexican Honey when they had Brother Adam, a

world expert in their community, cultivating his own hives.  He knew all about

bee genetics and the coming dangers of varroa, but they didn’t appear to fully

value his lifelong expertise.

Bruder Adam ScAD0009.jpg

(Brother Adam: Wikipedia)

Ah well, expertise is not valued as it was in our day. Buckfast Abbey?

Isn’t that where monks produced that fortified wine? 

I was surprised that Brassie had heard of it.

The one that all the down and outs imbibed, to drink themselves

into oblivion? she persisted.

An empty bottle of Buckfast discarded in the street.

Yes, I laughed. I don’t suppose they could afford Benedictine proper.

It was a favourite tipple in Glasgow, as I recall. I’d be surprised if Ginevra

didn’t have a couple of bottles stowed away.  She probably developed a

nose for it when she lived up north.

But, surely all that outcry about Brother Adam was ages ago? Brassie

queried. I remember people being cynical and re-naming the abbey

Fastbuck!

Yes, it was in the Nineties, but the wise old monk is dead now, I elucidated.

Tell you what, though, I will try and find that poem and give it an airing. 

You might find it a tonic!

Bad pun, Candia!

SWEETNESS AND LIGHT

That consummate Cretan craftsman Daedalus

delivered the golden comb to Astarte,

at Erice, in Empedoclean obedience-

a votive for deliverance from vindictive Minos

and hospitality in a land far from home.

The divine sanctuary was perched

on a parched plain, pervaded by mists.

Clocalus, King of Sicily, harboured him,

though homicidal.

When Astarte became Aphrodite,

the bees performed for the Romans.

Pindar sang with a swarm surrounding his lips,

savouring ambrosia; waxing lyrical,

achieving honey-sweet immortality.

Bees no longer born from bulls,

were winged messengers, bringing fortune;

reciting rosaries;

nourishing neophytes, even as in Nazareth-

before honeycombs became catacombs.

Man would not live by bread alone

and John the Baptist found this so.

Parthenogenesis proved paramount;

passion usurped by agape.

But now the Fastbucks,

who neither know nor care about

Aristotle, nor acarine disease;

Vergil nor varroa

usurpthe Superbee with entrepreneurial excess.

He could hermetically seal them up

in a sepulchre of propolis and wax,

like acherontia atropus.

Brother Adam could have them balled,

or left like open-eyed statuary of Daedalus.

For this monk, equal of kings

and approaching the gods

has known Rule without recognition

and obedience rendered-

a Pope, and regulator of reproduction;

equaliser of wealth and

dabbler in dethronement,

halting hostilities and honing harvests,

unveiling the comb as blind Huber.

Aristomachus may have had a bee in his bonnet,

buzzing around for nigh on sixty years,

but Adam, superceded after seventy,

degraded, drone-like, yet faithful to his queen

will enter Pantalica’s passage

and swarm, immortal in a golden prism.

The king will bate his barb,

but abbots should not suffocate their saviour.

Notes to follow-

Daedalus, although reputed to have come from Athens, probably came

from Crete. He was said to have made a fantastic golden honeycomb and

presented it to Aphrodite, or Astarte, at Erice, Sicily.  He was thought to

have brought apiculture to Sicily- see Vincent Cronin, The Golden Honeycomb.

Daedalus was on the run from Minos, King of Crete.  Daedalus’ nephew and

apprentice had been murdered.  Maybe Alan Sugar ain’t that bad!

Empedocles suggested that Aphrodite could be made propitious by

offering her honey.

The bees- this was a nickname for the priestesses of Aphrodite.  Two

hundred Roman soldiers guarded her shrine at Erice.

Pindar wrote about Sicily. A poet described him as above.

Bees were thought to have been born from bulls- a superstition much

like scarabs being thought to originate from dung.

The boy Jesus was given a honeycomb so that he would associate

scripture with sweetness.

John the Baptist lived on locusts and wild honey.

Parthenogenesis- reproduction in insects, without the ovum being

fertilised.

Aristotle wrote treatises on bees.

Varroa- a bee disease

Brother Adam created the Buckfast Superbee

Maeterlinck describes how the invader is not expelled but suffocated

in the hive.

Daedalus was the first sculptor to represent the eyes as open.

Balling -to surround the old queen until she suffocates, rather than

directly killing her.

Huber- blind and born in Geneva in 1750.  he devoted himself to the

study of bees.

Aristomachus-another ancient bee lover.

Pantalica- where the Sicels built tombs in the gorge.  Bees swarm into

the rock clefts and produce inaccessible combs.  Was this the site of

Daedalus’ missing masterpiece? A possibility, according to Cronin.

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