I’ve been beekeeping
When you think of beekeepers, you probably think of an old man with a beard, living a hermit-like existence in rural Somerset, who drinks milk straight from the cow’s udder. Well think again.
Exams are over for many of you. Your thoughts will have turned to your future career. It’s important to not rush this decision, after-all it will be colour the rest of your life. It’s also important to try the impossible, because why rule out greatness until it has been denied you? When I was at school, my careers adviser told me that I could be “writing articles for free in a middling circulation online tabloid”, so dreams CAN come true. It’s also wise not to simply take the default option: don’t just become a banker or an accountant because that’s what your dad does. So, in that light, I thought I’d try and tempt you into a job you may not have considered, and indeed I hadn’t considered until I tried it last week: bee-keeping.
I always thought bees were wankers. Summer terrorists, suicide stingers; obsessed with sugar, like flying toddlers but with knives for an arse. When I heard that the world was facing a “bee shortage”, it sounded the same to me as if the world were facing a “fart drought” or a “dickhead famine”. Good riddance I thought! We can do without honey, can’t we? Who’s it going to effect? Winnie the Pooh? He can do with laying off the honey away, that’s all he eats: he’s probably diabetic by now. He’s also very fat for a bear, and yellow, which is not normal. He’s got jaundice, basically.
But I got a call from my mate Andy. “Do you fancy coming bee-keeping for a day?” He asked. “I’m writing a film about bee-keepers and I need to do some research”, he continued. “Don’t you mean beesearch?!” I quipped. “What?” he said. “A film about bee-keepers, what a good idea”, I said, “I’d love to come”.
So that’s what led me here:
A small family home in Brentford. In the back-garden were two hives containing almost 1000 bees, and 16 chickens. “We eat all the cocks”, said the bee-lady, “I’ve got a brilliant recipe for cock soup if you want it?” This was going to be a fun day.
What do you think of when you hear the words “bee-keeper”? You probably think of an old man with a beard, living a hermit-like existence in rural Somerset, who drinks milk straight from the cow’s udder. Basically, you think of someone mental. But what struck me about this bee-keeper was that she was totally normal, a lovely lady, living in a nice house with two children and a husband. I’m almost certain she’s never had an udder in her mouth.
Amateur bee-keeping is much more popular than you’d think. After-all, having a bee-hive in your garden is like hosting a cunt-farm. Apparently there are 50 bee-keepers in Ealing alone. Over honey-cookies, I asked the lady if the neighbours objected to her keeping a tonne of bees? “Oh yes, they’re allergic to bees”, she said, as if that wasn’t relevant. “The bees do swarm sometimes, and obviously they get upset”, she added, “Also there’s a school down the road and they’ve been swarmed too, ruined their GCSE exams one year”. Well, bees will be bees.
A swarm happens when the queen leaves the hive and everybody else follows her. A Queen bee will mate once in her lifetime. She will go on a flight looking for mates, and have sex with 4 male bees from a different colony in one outing. She will have a lifetime of semen contained in her body. Returning to the hive she’s basically an airship filled with spunk, like Jordan with wings.
Now it was time for what I’d been waiting for: the bee-suit!
The bee-keeping experience concluded with honey-tasting. You taste honey much like wine, taking in the aroma, and then taking a mouthful, before making conceited and pretentious remarks about it. “I’m getting floral tones here and an after-taste of GCSE exam papers and regret”. Our host presented her award winning honey from last year, which was delicious. “At the competitions the honey is tasted blind”, she said. “Well, they say blind people’s other senses are more acute”, I ventured. “No”, she said, “Blind as in there are no labels on the jar”. She bought out another honey that was pale and stiffer than the others; I rushed a stick-full into my mouth. “Can you taste the rape?” she asked. “Sorry?” I said. “It smells and tastes like rape”, she underlined, “As in…the crop”. “Yes!” I said, “the crop! I thought you meant….forget about it.”
I had a brilliant day. There is something wonderfully life-affirming about someone living out their passion, in a cynical world which can sometimes feel like a threnody to dreams. I’m all for the eccentrics, heroically defying the moulds of what a life should look like. It was also great to have a go at rearing my own food, like a man of the soil, although briefly. We’re all haunted by the thousands of other lives we could be living. The infinite number of forks in the road we could have taken. We’ve all fantasised about what else we could be doing with our lives. Whether that be as a barista in Rome, or a pig farmer in Cirencester, or a painter in Provence. Experiences like these feel like becoming the ghost of a life that died when we decided to do what we do now. It is a glorious escape, a seductive tease. I heartily recommend it.
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