It must have been the first week in January. Although it feels like much longer ago, given the way that 2020 has unfolded. It feels like a different era, a wild carefree one… Anyway, I bought a diary from the local Oxfam. Always love a paper diary, for scribbling in, to wedge post-it notes into, and to remember where I’m supposed to be on any given day. Although Zoom is the most consistent entry for location since March. To think I got fed up of endless crowded train stations and sweaty tube trains in London last summer… now I’m almost nostalgic for them. Well not quite, but I do miss demolishing Ottolenghis cakes on the 7.50pm from Euston.
The dairy has a blue cover, with golden honeycomb and bees printed across. When choosing a diary for the year, it can be a talisman for what you hope for in any given year. Maybe you’re happily single, but choose one with hearts printed across, to echo the love you’d be chuffed to find and share. Or yearning for a move to the seaside, a diary with beach scenes and surfers hits the spot. Something business-like, if you’re launching a new venture, or something that’s cute and will make you smile. These decisions are often made in bleak, chilly January. Well for me it’s usually January, when I stumble on the lack of pages in last year’s diary… you may be more organised and have one by December’s beginning. Or if it’s the academic ones you use, then in the scorching heat of August, as you write ice cream and barbecue lists, the new diary appears.
I’ve had a thing about bees for a few years now. Love watching them waggling across the blackberry blossom in the garden, or rescuing them with a saucer of water in sweltering heat. The poetry of Jo Shapcott is a favourite, with many mentions of bees to savour. It’s thanks to her work that I learned the notion of telling your news to the bees. Not having grown up with country wisdom, but in inner city Birmingham, with concrete towers closer than trees and beehives, I devoured this idea. What a beautiful tradition, that you go and whisper your news to the bees in the garden. So what better motif for a diary than a bee. Hoping for a busy year of work as a freelancer, and for plenty of news to pass on to the bees.
Then 2020 continued to unfurl into the strangest year so far. So what do we whisper to the bees now? Where to begin? How long have they got to listen, as they’re busy making honey. The sticky joyful stuff in jars from our local farm, delicious drizzled on thick greek yogurt, dolloped on top of the blackberries just picked from the garden today. A full circle, as the bees waggled happily across the bramble’s pink blossom recently, now their honey anoints the fruit.
But what to say to the bees? They’re far more experienced at living with uncertainty than we are. Hostage to weather fluctuations, the effects on plants, and the continued destruction of much of their natural environment by us humans. Einstein believed we would have just four years to live, if the bees became extinct.
We should thank the bees, and maybe listen to what they have to say. It’s always a good place to start when you don’t know what to say. Even in the most difficult times, there is something to be grateful for and appreciate. Even with the deepest loss, there may be staff at the hospital who showed such care and kindness to our loved one. Or as we stumble through dark days, friends and family may not have magic wands to wave or the perfect words to sooth – but we can be so glad they’re still there by our side, putting the kettle on and listening. As many countries throughout the world begin to tiptoe out of lockdown, unsure of so much of what lies ahead, we can help support each other in a million tiny ways.
At the beginning of each day, if the sun rises again, and we are still here to greet it, Thank You. It means we have a 100% success rate of surviving everything life has thrown at us so far.
Someone once said, ‘If the only prayer you ever say is ‘Thank You’, that is enough’.
Thank You. To the bees, without whom, none of us would survive. Thank You. And to you, for what you have done so far, and what you will continue to do. Thank You. I’ll put the kettle on for you.