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Day of The Bee, Part 1

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

The Day of the Bee began at 9.13 am on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday. When it began I was in the middle of getting dressed and at the precise moment when it happened I had my head absolutely and irrevocably stuck in the neck hole of a t.shirt.

     Getting your head stuck in the neck hole of anything is one of those events which takes you back to childhood in an instant.
   
     So, even as I was grappling physically with the t. shirt and wrestling mentally with the conundrum of how and why it had become so small, and wondering if perhaps this was not my t. shirt at all, but the t. shirt of a random and diminutive stranger who had happened casually to abandon it on the single bed which takes up all of the space in the tiny spare room where I was getting dressed, even as I was endeavouring to cope with all of this, I was being simultaneously assailed by flashbacks to my childhood. I felt again the overwhelming panic of getting my head stuck in the neck holes of sundry garments, (jumpers, dresses, woollen vests), which my mother thought might just do me for another Summer or Winter, but which I, and, in particular, my head, had patently outgrown.

     It was then, trapped in my adult t.shirt, with grown-up, present-day panic rising, that I heard a huge squawk
so loud and beastly and so terribly close to my face that I would have jumped out of my skin were it not for the fact that really vital regions of my skin had been captured by a hostile t.shirt and would have had to be left behind.

      I stopped struggling. I became very still. I was both inert and on the alert. I was poised, like a French resistance person, ready for the worst in whatever form it presented itself.

      I peered blindly out through the black cotton mesh of the t. shirt fabric which swaddled the lower half of my head and was attempting to strangle my eyebrows. All I could see was the criss-cross weave of the cotton in gloomy close-up.

An entire second passed and suddenly, there it was again: a raucously loud yet  also piteous squawk which instantly signalled  two messages to me. In a subliminal flash of interspecies understanding, worthy of Doctor  Dolittle, I understood that a) the squawk meant, 'HELP!' And b) the squawk meant:

      'I am a fierce gigantic bird, evolved  from a species of flesh eating dinosaur, and I am trapped beside your head  in this very small, spare room and my panic is also rising and yes, I have seen Hitchcock's The Birds and no, it's not looking good for either of us.'

     The stuck t.shirt was beginning to exercise a tourniquet effect on the supply of blood to the top part of my head. Since I was too afraid to move lest I nudge, dislodge or in anyway antagonise the creature perched, or so it seemed,  right by my ear, I did the only thing left to me, left to any sensible person in such a predicament: I called loudly for my husband, Shedley.

     And every time I called, ‘Shedley,’ the bird squawked by my head. And the louder I called for Shedley the louder the bird squawked.

     Because, to be honest, Shedley did not come straightaway.

     Our house is not so very large and I thought I was calling loudly enough for the firefighters at Stockbridge fire station to hear me but my face was swaddled in t.shirt and probably that had the effect of muffling my voice.

   And, of course, Shedley does have such  tremendous focus and I could appreciate that he was focusing tremendously on more pressing business, like coming to terms with the complete failure of our brand new £180 Freesat box to record any tv programmes whatsoever; or retrieving our  nasty, wet, domestic rubbish from the recycling bin where it sometimes gets dumped late at night, in error.

     Besides, it was not Shedley's fault if he was not able immediately to distinguish between my calling for him in a real time  life or death emergency, and my calling for him in a lower priority situation; like the one the day before when I urgently needed him to help me find my purse.

     Nor is it Shedley's fault that, when he did eventually arrive to rescue both me and the bird, his irrepressible good humour rose to the surface and prevented him for several minutes from actually helping me out of the t. shirt and proving to me, beyond doubt, that there was no avian monster trapped in the room with me but a poor jackdaw fallen down from the roof and stuck inside the chimney.

     And, super hero that he is, it was Shedley, not me, who bravely opened the chimney trap in the fireplace, in the little spare room, and ushered, as it turned out, not one but two jackdaws, to freedom via the open window.  

14.08.2012



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Going Fishing 
The winning Australian exhibit at The 2013 RHS Chelsea Flower Show
No Nettles at Chelsea

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