I once met an old Bosnian man, while living in Sarajevo, who had spent his whole life studying bees. In fact, he had written a hefty tome on apiculture. I recall being so fascinated by him. He was poised and slim with wizened skin and a sparkle in his eye. I was frustrated by my limited Bosnian vocabulary to suit an apiarist, in light of a fascinating conversation opportunity.
I’ve just downloaded Virgil’s Georgic’s Volume IV on Beekeeping to read and it has made me ponder when my first fascination with bees developed. Maybe it was as a small child in my grandfather, Poppy’s garden. Driving our Volvo to my grandparents’ house near the sea was one of the most thrilling things for me as a child. On arrival, I would race to Poppy’s garden. It was often hard to find him as he was quiet and reserved but once discovered, I’d hug his knees tight (that was all I could reach) and tell him I loved him.
There is something special I want to tell you about my Poppy. He could pat bees. He would stroke their abdomen with his rustic farmer’s hands. They never stung him in return. This fascinated the grandchildren and we would watch, wide eyed. After his death, I was asked by my Mum and Aunties,
“Did Poppy stroke bees”?
Didn’t they know?
“Of course he did,” I replied. It was concluded posthumously that this was something learnt in the Prison camps of South Germany, where apparently he had undertaken an apiculture course to pass the drudgery of incarceration.