the grumbling hive


The title comes from Bernard Mandeville’s 1705 poem of the same name. Its only relevance here is that I have bees on the brain, and because, since I am feeling peaky (again) there’s been a bit of grumbling going on in this particular hive. Bees on the brain, you say? What’s that about, then?

(landing bee)

1) I heart bees. Whats not to like? Bees are brilliant. I will leave the precise beescience to Tom (who knows more about bees than I) but as creatures with a unique and intriguing social organisation I find them both mysterious and appealing.


2) Right now, I am busy like the bee. And I find the bee a very pleasing symbol of purposeful activity. In the mid-nineteenth century, bees were often used symbolically in this way – on a a quick walk around Manchester’s city centre, for example, you will spot many bees carved into the gothic edifices of the city’s great Victorian public buildings, and bees still adorn what the planners refer to as ‘street furniture’ in Manchester (such as the rubbish bin above).

My favourite British bee, however, has to be this one:

(the Whitworth bee)

This fabulously jolly creature, standing over six-feet high, was the gift of the people of Kandel in the Bienwald (bee-forest) to those of the town of Whitworth, near Rochdale, with whom they are ‘twinned’. I understand that these carved bees are a Kandel speciality — and isn’t this one just fantastic? I like the fact that its feel and style speak of craft methods that are so characteristically German, even as its union-jack colouring proclaims it as firmly British. I loved this bee so much when I read about it in the Rochdale Observer (or, in local parlance, th’Ob), that my mum found me a picture, and sent it to me. The Whitworth bee-photo now sits on our fridge, and is a very cheery addition to the kitchen.

The details are hazy, but I understand that a sinister bee-themed crime subsequently unfolded in Whitworth — the bee was apparently stolen from its civic home (just imagine the logistics of sneaking off with a six-foot wooden bee) and a replacement has had to be commissioned from the generous folk of Kandel. If anyone has any further information on the Whitworth bee mystery, or news of the secret whereabouts of the original bee, I would be really interested to know.

(brakspear bee. I highly recommend the ale.)

3) I am knitting and designing something involving bees. I *love* it. I really do. Everything about it is immensely cheering. More soon.


4) I am suffering with a terrible throat infection (really not good for delivering lectures – groan) and require the healing power of the bee. I need honey and propolis! Bees, fire me up with your tasty bee goodness! Allow me to buzz at the correct volume!

(beeswax. Don’t worry, I won’t eat it)

Erm, well, that’s all I can say about bees for now: the bees will heal me (one hopes); I shall knit like the bee and the the bee-thing shall emerge from my needles. And if you are really good, next time I’ll talk about the bees in Virgil’s Georgics.

In other news.
1) Today is the closing date for submissions to the parliament. You can send me your owls until midnight, your time (whenever that is). The grand winner of the competition will be selected at random, but I just love all the pics so much that there are going to be a few other minor prizes. I can’t say too much about this (don’t want to spoil the surprise), but will just hint that these lovely Edinburgh designers have generously donated something. More from them later in the week.

2) The Paper dolls pattern is nearing completion. I have entered mathworld. It’s strangely familiar and reasonably satisfying– reminds me of calculating student degree profiles when I was chair of examiners! Good to know that part of my brain still works.

3) Remember I was going on about Jane Gaugain, last summer? Well, I’ve written a feature about her in the new Twist Collective. Go and check it out! There are so many amazing patterns in the issue. It is probably symptomatic of where I am right now that Mary-Ann Stephen’s Sleepy Monkey and Luke’s Diced Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone speak to me so. Just look at that colourwork! And the yarn for Luke’s Vest comes from lovely Carol Sunday! (Carol’s yarns really are gorgeous, and I am just one of her many Edinburgh admirers). Oh, and I also produced a knitting-walking tour of Edinburgh for Twist (in which you really can walk in the steps of Jane Gaugain), which will appear on their blog soon.

What a miscellaneous post this is. Buzz buzz.