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?
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:
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.
I work at Whitworth Leisure Centre and the Whitworth Bee is here
Hurrah! Thanks for letting me know, Chris! I am going to pop in and have a wee look when I’m back at Christmas.
I hope there’s a bee-yolked sweater in our future!
This was a honey of a post:)
I too heart bees and your blog too! If you can get past the cover art, and are feeling ill enough to need a new-age page-turner featuring bees in a v cool way, read The Fifth Sacred Thing. It was recommended to me and post-laryngitis/sofa-bound I delighted in it and the bee bit of the story. It’s a great adventure. If nothing else giggle at the cover art!
Wish you better…
I loved the article on Jane Gaugain. What a fascinating story! I am looking forward to the pattern for the paper dolls…
Sorry to hear you are poorly. I love bees too, did you know bumble bees live on their own in holes instead of a hive? There is a lovely pattern for kids felted Bumblebee socks/slippers in Vogue Socks 2 book, was planning to make a pair for my niece.
Your lovely post made me think of this – a poem by Emily Dickinson (another lover of bees)
Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!
Really interesting article in Twist – congrats! Looking forward to the release of Paper Dolls, and very curious about the mysterious Bee project!
Loved the article. Eagerly awaiting the Paperdolls pattern.
Hope you feel better soon
I’d never heard of the Whitworth bee…which is shameful really being as that’s where I grew up! My grandad was involved in the town twinning with Kandel so it may well be that my nan knows something about it (although I’m sure she doesn’t have a huge model bee stashed away in her flat!). I will ask her when I speak to her.
Kate, I can’t remember when I’ve read a more delightful article. And a walking tour yet to come…oh goody!
All through the beginning of the post I had my fingers crossed that perhaps you might mention a bee-themed design. On the edge of my seat, for sure. Get well.
Have you thought about getting a bee house? It’s a wondrous thing to watch. I tried making my own this year but it didn’t work. Here’s a link http://www.birdfood.co.uk/search.php?srch=bee
And once you are well, you must treat yourself to some Burt’s Bees hand salve to soothe your calloused hands. And some Brakspear’s, of course.Beeautiful beer.
Hope the honey works soon.
Bees mean flowers. Flowers mean Spring. Those first two images in particular make me pine for the weeks to come! Hope you feel better – honey in warm tea (or even just water) really is the best throat soother there is.
Great article, Kate. It was especially interesting to see that knitting women have long been regarded with suspicion in some quarters!
I too heart bees – they are also of special signifance as my sister dressed up as bee for halloween one year (yes, the bee a crucial part of halloween!!) so we are donning bee costumes for her hen party – I quite like the idea that my sister gets to be queen bee for a evening!!! Sorry to hear you are feeling poorly and hope the honey mends the throat with its magical powers!
I really enjoyed the article. Thank you. I’m coming up to Edinburgh for the weekend soon and was wondering if there are any textile exhibits worth visiting?
i love bees hope you are feeling better x
loved the article, and can’t wait to see the walking tour… I will just *have* to make a trip to Edinburgh :)
Wishing you well.
Great article Kate…didn’t know about Jane or her “crinkum-crankum” knitting style! Lovely for me to be transported to the New Town of Edinburgh where I spent my teenage years….look forward to the walking tour too! Hope all the bee medicine gets your throat back in working order soon!