Wednesday, 7 May 2014

You know when you’re Fascinated, but also Terrified?

High Drama at the Water's Edge...

I went over to Virginia Water in Surrey at the weekend and wandered around the stunning rhododendrons at Savill Garden, then along to the Valley Gardens, all part of the Great Windsor Park.

Walking under a tree at the lake side, I heard a noise. No one else seemed to notice it; I think because of my history, I’m highly attuned to it. Bees swarming.

When I was growing up in the North East of England our neighbours kept bees – 40,000 of them. From time to time in the summer they’d break free from the hive and head over the fence into our garden. One time I was revising for my O levels (GCSEs) and was lying back on a deck-chair with a book in my hand.

Very quickly the sound developed; one tone, getting louder and louder and then the sky became thick with flickering black. A swarm of bees is an extraordinary and ‘shuddery’ experience to be in the middle of. One minute I was half-dozing to the verses of The Merchant of Venice, the next I was caught up in a dark tornado. I had no option but to run for the house. Bees were battering into the downstairs windows by then; they were trying to follow the queen bee and were disoriented. The inevitable happened before I got to the back door; one got caught in my hair. I could hear it buzzing away, frantically trying to get out, just as I was frantically trying to get indoors through the wall of insects! I was stung before I got inside. Thankfully, only once, but bee stings are nasty, especially on your scalp! I do confess, I became a bit hysterical, screaming ‘Get it out, get it out!’ to my bemused mother. She was busy cooking and I’m not sure she’d noticed what had taken place outside in such a short space of time.

Anyway – that was the history behind my reaction on Bank Holiday Monday - by the water on my walk, I heard the tell-tale sound. I looked up and sure enough the sky was thickening and there was a black sack developing on a branch. I kept walking – fast - but stopped a bit further on to watch other people. Everyone seemed oblivious. No one else seemed to notice it!

I was very brave (in my view) and went back to take this photograph. The bees were self-contained in a small area several feet above the ground, so no one was in any danger. I need to stress that I admire and deeply respect bees; I think they’re amazing creatures and I’m sad that they inevitably die when as a last resort, they sting. Unlike wasps – I take a dimmer view of wasps and hate the way they pester you at a picnic. They seem to sting randomly, just because they want to spoil the party...

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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.