Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Darling Buzz of May

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Darling Buzz of May

Article excerpt

Spring, when the earth tilts closer to the sun, runs a strict timetable of flowers. "The first ones out are snowdrops and crocuses, then you move into celandines in March. In April you've got dandelions, then all the tree blossom starting. Obviously there'll be apples but right now it's blackthorn and plums, then holly and laurel and sycamore ..." (This is the bee-keeper speaking. All those flowers, with their distinct characters, are sampled by his bees and recorded in honey.)

"Late summer is bramble and clover, which makes a light-coloured, low viscosity honey. But the spring honey is darker and thicker. I prefer it ..." A spring is the starting place of a river. It's a quick convulsive movement. It's a coil that, when stretched, jumps back to its original position. It's a high tide, a dance on the bagpipes, a waxing moon, a trap, a twig, a joint of pork, a leak, a hawser.

When you step outside in March and think "spring", all those minor meanings haunt the word, so that everything suffers a shade of something else: the flowers are spirally constructed, like interlocking springs, the leaves leak out like drips trickling off a branch, crops come up like a rising wave. You might be standing at the door describing all these things but if someone put a spoonful of honey in your mouth, you'd stop talking and taste the word exactly.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"But the farmers will keep planting these huge fields of oilseed rape. I've just noticed it's coming into flower the other side of Cornworthy. It's a good producer of nectar and the bees almost overfly other flowers to taste it. The trouble is the honey it produces is bland and it crystallises too quickly, plus it has an oily texture. The only hope is if the fields flower early enough then the bees will use it for raising their brood and the flavour won't dominate the honey. …

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