Tuesday 5 May 2009

A Well-Tempered Hive

I'm afraid I'm still in a strange (but pleasurable) stunned state after the Great Event, incapable of much by way of intellectual engagement, especially with the deranged, depressing and incomprehensible passing show of politics and economics and epidemics. Yesterday our little party took a walk through the drizzle to a local 'May Fayre', which was everything an English May Fayre should be - cold, damp, dishevelled, the scene expressing the characteristic mix of stoical resignation and dogged cheerfuless, a slightly embarrassed observation of attenuated tradition. There had been a maypole and a May Queen (that tradition Ruskin was so creepily eager to revive) and there were stalls around a muddy field - manned by well-wrapped figures hugging themselves and shuffling from foot to foot to keep warm - offering the familiar amusements and the familiar domestic rejects for sale, all raising money for local good causes. And there was a stall manned by a beekeeping couple, who had lost a swarm this spring, like so many others, but were still in business. They are hoping to replace the lost queen from a local source, as importing from farther afield carries a higher risk of getting a queen with an 'evil temperament', and the temperament of the queen dictates the behaviour and attitude of the swarm. There is a huge difference, it seems, between an evil-tempered queen and a good-tempered one, and tending to a well-tempered hive is a pleasure, with little or no risk of stinging. This was all very illuminating - and this morning I have just eaten some of their honey (in the comb) and it is the most delicious I ever tasted... Where was I? Nowhere very much - but in England definitely. In these damp May Fayres England lives on, unnoticed, unsung, unworried, still - despite everything - a pretty well-tempered hive.

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