‘They are dying,’ they said. As the words left television-mouths and buzzed towards my ears, they moved my eyes towards the window and through the window to my little garden. Unknowingly, its end loomed. No more bees.
At once, I knew our salvation lay in books and bulbs and seeds. The garden centre would bring us – the garden and myself - new, better, stronger bees and our future would be secure. If, whilst in this seductive retail Eden, I should happen upon some essence-drenched candles or succulent, hand finished chocolate treats that would be a fortunate happenstance but my quest was to recreate the perfect bee-friendly haven to usher in a new generation of fluffy, Gloucestershire bees.
Bombs are falling. The news is full of ‘if only’s and terror. A perfumed candle flickers hopefully on the table. The weather may turn against us. Guns may end us. Chocolate melts the sharpest edges from the pictures. A new, unseen foe may be pushing up through our society like an angry spot… but I have a garden. I have a little patch of rented earth and in that earth I can plant a new world. I cannot save the people dying alone in foreign lands. I cannot mend a society full of individuals each of whom has their own demons, their own pains, their own secret resentments but I can help a bee. I can make a little, safe society whose border control is hedge and Cotswold wall. There will be no vehicle pollution – I can cross the whole land in two strides – but whole communities will live there in harmony. A rainbow of bees will call it home and I will let them. I cannot fix the world but I surrender my garden to buzz and fuzz and pollen toes.
My husband was informed that we were at the brink of a New Garden Order. He listened.
‘So we’re making it a bee garden?’ he asked.
I saw the pictures in his mind. He was playing through the morning walk from door to car – buzzing borders on each side. He was calling to mind my bee allergy. He was weighing anaphylaxis against apocalypse. He was imagining Cotswold honey melting onto buttered toast.
‘OK,’ he said.
A year has passed: the new country has been built and handed over, by mutual agreement, to its democratically elected government. An alliance of bees maintains absolute harmony over roses, snapdragons, jasmine and geraniums. Huge bumble bees levitate over a lawn which is now home for many months of the year to little blue bees. They have no queen but live in their own little homes in the ground and happily share space with their golden honey bee friends in the borders. When my husband mows over their roofs, they glide out of the way of the blades without a cross word.
Peace on Earth may be a long way off but until it comes, in this little corner of Gloucestershire we are giving bees a chance.
‘Bees on Earth’ by Rebecca Woodhead was first published in the anthology 'Write Around Gloucestershire' - in celebration of the county's 1000th birthday