Tales of Bees and Blood

Bee on a string
Image from https://richardlomax.bandcamp.com/track/bee-on-a-string

Mateo doesn’t talk much, but occasionally he just won’t stop. Today was one of those days and I got to hear some great stories of life in the Basque country.

DON’T EVER DO THIS! But

…one of my favourites was about how when he was young, Mateo would get some extra thin fishing wire, tie it around a bumble bee, and the bee would fly along beside him on the end of the wire like a balloon or an upside down dog. Occasionally the bee would get tired and sit on his shoulder, but after a while he would flick it and it would fly up on the end of the wire again.

DON’T DO THIS EITHER

He also told us a story about his dad playing as a kid.

‘When my dad was eight, he and his friend didn’t have any toys. So his friend would swing around this thing.’ Mateo mimed something swinging round. ‘And my dad would jump over it.’

‘You mean a skipping rope?’ I suggested.

‘A stick? A pole?’ said Dan.

‘No you use it to cut corn,’ said Mateo. ‘And Death has one.’

‘A scythe? They’d jump over a scythe?’ asked Dan, slightly high-pitched, as we start to realise where this might be going.

‘Yes,’ said Mateo. ‘But then it went wrong and he didn’t jump at the right time. So the scythe went into his leg. And it was deep, you know. Like muscles and tendons cut, and blood everywhere. I saw the scar and it went half way round his leg. But this was during the Spanish civil war and there were no doctors around, so my dad went back to his dad. His dad got a load of vinegar and a load of salt and filled the hole in his leg and then sewed it up with a needle and thread.’

Me and Dan were wincing quite a lot by this point.

‘It was weird too, eh?’ went on Mateo. ‘Because if you get a cut that deep, and cut the tendons, it shouldn’t ever recover. Your leg is never ok again. But he was fine, all he had was the scar .’

Trod in a bees’ nest!

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This is not as melodramatic as it may sound.

I was dead heading roses (does any gardener actually like roses? They’re shitty, fussy, spiky plants) and I stepped back and felt my foot slip into a slight hole. I walked back and looked down to see twenty or so bees come tumbling out of the hole. I was ready to run, ready for the stings, but nothing.

None of them stung me. Not a one!

They were a bit smaller than usual honey bees. At first I thought they might be hover flies, which mimic wasps, but have no sting, but they were too fluffy. My boss reckoned they might be leaf-cutter bees, which are awesome fellas.

In fact I have a theory that now many of the usual bee species are becoming extinct, leaf cutter bees (and other less common ones) are increasing in numbers to fill the space. Look out for small , neat semi-circular holes missing in leaves – that’s the leaf cutter bee.

OR alternatively, I am now Queen of the bees and none shall sting me. It is true I once stood in a swarm of killer bees (I think) and didn’t get stung. Unfortunately everything else is still attacking me and a colleague asked if I’d been bitten by a wolf because of the huge red and purple bruise that came up on my leg after getting stung by something that wasn’t a bee.

And these are the kind of rambling thoughts that gardeners have.

In other news: no sign of evil pea seedlings yet.

Have you been stung much this year?

Covidworld

So, I’m back at work and it’s great to see everyone again and be outside tackling some plants.

It’s all quite odd though, everything is not quite the same, little details have shifted. I’ll get some pictures tomorrow. It’s as if someone gave all of London a makeover. And then almost all Londoners have changed too. We hide our faces. We aren’t rushing, instead we keep our distance. No more stand on the right, walk on the left on escalators, now everybody stands. And there are police everywhere.

At work, my colleagues are just like they always were – cheery, lovable oddballs. But with longer hair. The guys have either slicked back styles or new wavy locks.

I feel like this is a puny blog, so here is a fella I read about this morning, the monkey slug caterpillar, Phobetron. They aren’t anything to do with monkeys or slugs, but they are caterpillars. Aren’t they incredible?

Click on this to go to the site I nicked it from
Definitely click on this photo to see more photos from the Maryland Biodiversity Project

And then a cat happened…

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Feeling much more sprightly, I had plans to do stuff today. Do some writing, go to the garden centre and buy pots, but the title should give you a clue as to why I didn’t.

I always say, if you’ve got a cat, then your day is sorted. You don’t even need entertainment.

This cat walked in when I opened the front door and without introduction she had a wander around. She kept acting surprised to see me there. Almost as if I’d invaded her space.

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We got to know each other. She’s a fan of friendly biting, which I’m not. And her tail shakes as if she’s having a fit. Oh and she likes lying on the floor, which I also don’t, but obviously I did for most of today so I could hang out with cat. I tried to tempt her onto the sofa, and she did jump up quite happily and snuggled up against me. Then she got up, moved along a bit and fell over, and then got up and moved further away and fell over, then walked back and bit me. Which was much more active than I was hoping for.

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Cats and Sundays go together well. I hope she comes back tomorrow.

Anyway, TLDR? cat.

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PS: My eye is much better now!

We all must have purpose!

foxy fellas

two foxes

I have tagged this Lifestyle, because this is my covid lifestyle, watching fox cubs. And here are some words for such a lifestyle.

Deponent – having a passive form but active meaning (I feel this sums me up at the moment, because I definitely mean to be active, but my form is passive.)

Stygian – having a gloomy or foreboding aspect; murky (not sure if this is my mood or the mood of the world today)

Medusiform – resembling a jellyfish (self explanatory).

Along with watching foxes, I went out to buy some milk and watched a bit of Seven Psychopaths ( I haven’t the concentration to watch a whole film at once). And I decided to stop trying to write a book that was annoying me, and start writing a new one. It went quite well too. I might start another new one when this one gets annoying. Maybe I can sell them on to people who have trouble starting writing.

Almost the greatest photo ever!

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So I fixed my goddamn camera (well, I assume I did. I was trying to fix it and now it works. I’m not exactly sure what the connection between these two states is, but presumably I did something.) And I can take actual photos! I can’t really go out exploring, of course, but then the fox cubs came to visit.

I crept out the back door and got a couple of wonky snaps, (I had to kind of lean over the fire escape, it was awkward) and then, just as I was about to take the best photo ever, the kid from next door started shouting out the window.

‘Go away foxes! Go away!’ she yelled.

They weren’t even in her garden, they were in mine. The little bugger.

I sympathise though, she’s about eight, has been left with her grandparents and is going slowly insane. She spends hours hitting their washing with a stick while singing nonsense very loudly. This cannot be an easy situation for an only child. Still, she could have waited a few minutes before shouting.

Feebility and foxes

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I like how the cubs started trying to kill each other, while mum fox became super interested in a daisy.

Wallydrag  – feeble person or animal. Runt of the litter

While checking wallydrag, Google suggested:

Sneckdraw  –  a sly crafty person trying to worm his way in.

Housal  – belonging to the house

The last few days I’ve been chased by a migraine. I have intense dreams about dying and then wake up with my back all twisted up. It’s getting a bit shit now. Anyway, so this is a short little blog, with foxes and words. I hope you all staying sane and delightful, keeping the plague away.

A few things to stay safe the government haven’t suggested yet, but may work:

  • A rabbit’s foot nailed to the door (only if the rabbit is already dead, otherwise is cruel).
  • A sprig of rosemary under the doormat (unfortunately my rosemary bush died last year. Coincidence?)
  • Three left shoes arranged in a triangle in front of a mirror (this really works!)
  • A tissue soaked in bleach on your pillow (this may explain the bad dreams)
  • I believe some people are also using rainbows drawn on the pavement to ward off evil, but they must be drawn by a child at midnight and I haven’t been able to procure one yet.

little Corona life

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The most interesting things of my day

Parent fox left the three cubs alone in next door’s garden where they climbed over each other for a while. I guess they’re getting big enough to be left alone.

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Went to the little Sainsbury’s since it’s the only one that usually has a combination of food and no-queues winding up the street. Which was the case again.

I bought some veg and bread and milk and although there was someone at the checkout, I figured the self-checkout is fairer because it doesn’t put the cashier at risk. Anyway, I happily beeped through my items until I got to my loose potato. It has no bar-code, so I pressed the Look up other items button and Veg. No sign of potato. I pressed the Popular items button. No potato. I pressed the help button and a Sainsbury lady cautiously approached, I did my best not to breathe and explained about the lack of potato options.

The cashier shouted over from the tills, ‘You can’t buy a potato at that self checkout till. You have to use that one.’ He gestured at another self-checkout that was occupied. ‘Or this one.’ He gestured at his own till. The Sainsbury lady gave me a Whoops, that’s foolish! expression and I had a chuckle and then bought the single potato at the front till. It cost 39p.

It’s these little moments of the ridiculous that make my day.

Oh and the foxes.

Life’s entertainment has got much smaller, but I don’t think it’s got any less entertaining, although that might be my simple brain.

How about you? Any small moments that made you smile?

 

Good gravy! Can no one stick to the social distancing rules?

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So yesterday I went to get some crisps from the cupboard, because such is my covid diet, when I spotted a fox in the garden. And she wasn’t alone, she had the cubs with her! I watched them for a while skipping about, tumbling, playing tag, playing football with the two footballs left by the kid from downstairs. Meanwhile the mum hung out keeping an eye. Finally they all tumbled out through the fence. then two tumbled back in, kicked the football a few more times and ran out again.

I knew mama-fox wouldn’t be scared of me after I walked into that tree! Worth it!

note: It occurs to me I’m assuming that this is a female fox because they’re with cubs, but I believe both male and female parents stay with cubs, so one parent must have died. Which means this might be a male or female. And I am sexist, sorry!

Tomorrow I release the next three chapters of my book, so for those of you reading, I hope you’re enjoying it. And for those of you not reading, well, I shall be pestering you!

Me vs. Tree. I lose.

Red Fox cub
As you can see from the watermark, I nicked this from Warren photographic

I’ve been keeping busy in the lockdown.

I was hanging out at the end of my garden today. I pruned the apple tree in winter and I’ve been terrified it wouldn’t bud. However, it’s sprouting like a trooper, blossom abounding, so I was getting a close up look. Then I noticed a fox the other side of the tree, standing staring at me. So I stood and stared at her for a bit. And she stared at me. I thought, This is nice. We’re having a moment. Then she ran over to the fence where a small animal was trundling through a hole into my garden. It looked like a puppy, squat and dark brown, with a stubby tail. I’ve seen fox cubs before, but they didn’t look like that. The fox tried to nudge the pup back through the hole, and when it wouldn’t go she gripped it with her mouth to try and pick it up. I shifted around the tree to get a better look and saw there were four or five of these little puppies squeezing through the hole, ignoring the fox trying to get them back out again. They were crawling underneath her while she tried to sit on them so they couldn’t, all the while still gripping the one pup by the neck. She kept looking over at me warily, no doubt thinking I was up to no good.

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I decided I needed to get my phone to try and get a picture and quickly turned, smacking my face straight into a thick tree branch of my lovely pruned tree. I didn’t knock myself out, but had to sit on the ground for a bit with my head in my hands. When I looked later my eye had gone a bit purple, and there were scratches and bumps across the lid and up my forehead in a clear line.

Anyway, now I’ve looked it up, those dog-like pups are exactly what fox cubs look like when they’re very small. No wonder the fox was protective and suspicious. Hopefully, having seen me walk into a tree she’ll have realised I’m not even slightly a threat.