I’m on the top of a cliff in Jersey. Below me, lots of spangled fifty year olds play happy hardcore music in a fort. “It’s a celebrity party!” I am told by a guest I ask, so now I know the one thing that it isn’t.
Below them, skatekids play music I don’t recognise beside a temporary skate ramp. They do all of their arcane skatethings. There is much youthful interest in their antics. I know that smell. We all do.
Below them small children scream bloody murder as the waves roll in to the beautiful beach at Greve de Lecq. Their parents sprawl on towels or deckchairs. Everybody is out this evening, and everybody is enjoying the sun. I’m in the mood where I look at things.
“Watch you don’t get stung,” says Jamie. I’m standing still at the edge of the gate to his apiary. I’m not going to get stung if I can help it. One sting and, with careful breathing, I might not have to go to hospital in any particular hurry. Multiple stings might have me very slowly calmly and politely calling an ambulance. “Don’t worry,” I tell him. Some of the bees whip by my head. He’s smoking their hives out. I don’t tell him I’m a little bit allergic. He’s already worried enough for me. “I’m fine. If I do get stung I’ll just roll with it.”
“I’m worried they’re gonna think it’s Spring,” he tells me, speaking his thoughts. “If they go swarming again, it’ll kill them.” I watch him work, pulling my best tree impression, trusting the old wisdom regarding bees – they only sting you if you’re flailing around. They think I’m a tree.
He’s methodical. He cares about his bees. He wants these bees to stop being so active. “I’ve often thought about keeping bees on the roof of my block in London,” I tell him. “Sometimes you’ve just gotta do it,” he replies.
Bees. Yeah it wouldn’t last a week before the leasehold people made me take it down. And that’s if I didn’t die of stings. I’d have to find a way to scientifically test my reaction. I might not even BE allergic. The first sting was on my back. My whole back went red. The second was on my ankle. I was feverish and my leg swelled up to the top of the calf. I couldn’t wear my shoe for a week. That was aged 11. Nothing from bees since then when I stopped fucking with their hives. I’m extrapolating from my large reaction and the fact that my dad used to say he was allergic to conclude that it might be worse for me if I get stung again. So I’m wary. But I’m not gonna live in fear of bees. I like bees.
This warm September evening all the Jersey people are partying hard. All the bald old guys in the fort are ‘aving it large like they did in the nineties. The humans think it’s Spring. All the skatekids are turning tricks on their ramp, immune to harm, the definition of spring behaviour. New-minted. Untouchable. As with the bees, the skaters seem to need plenty of smoke to become docile. They’re applying it to themselves in stealthy huddles round the back of buildings.
I’m locked in to an old barracks at Greve de Lecq that wouldn’t have smelt like weed in the Napoleonic wars. They let me out to go look at bees. I’m sharing a room with Pablo. He’s reading to my left. To my right, the crashing of the waves through the window. This is gonna be an interesting week. The circle is drawn. We are all gathered. Equinox on Tuesday and then the dark will overtake the light for many months to come. A good time to be cocooned. The beds are comfortable. The food is plentiful. I should have bought chamomile tea. I’m off to bed without it and I’m gonna sleep like a log.