Worms and bees


Bees beaver (!) away all their short lives to produce the honey we love to consume. The sight of them evokes a feeling of joy and awe at their dainty appearance and diligent endeavours – so much so that my fellow writer and friend Judy Darley named her collection of short stories after them (Remember me to the Bees) – each of these stories captivates, unsettles and above all has a luminous quality that stays in your mind for a long time.

In comparison to these rather glamorous flitting insects that help in pollination and balancing the eco system, worms on the other hand are forgotten and are easily reviled. I unearthed an enormous black cake with these shiny wriggling creatures when I opened the compost bin earlier this week. This treasure house of slithery annelids work away to break down the kitchen waste into black dust – imagine the bright orange, yellow, greens and tougher cores from the gallons of fruit and vegetables that we discard, breaking down systematically over a period of a few months. Compost is the essence of life after death, I think. Enabling this natural act of decomposition seems to be a simple act of gratitude. As the bees and the worms show us, there is a lot to be done and we jolly well get on with it.

Which brings me to the celebration of Spring – never has a season been written and praised about so much in Indian literature – from Tamil poetry to Tansen’s music. Never has a season been more invisible to me than when I lived in India. Of course the colourful festival of Holi that welcomes Spring is visually dramatic – a profusion of colour and crazy celebration. Krishna and his friends danced at the sight of trees springing back into life, birds building nests and flowers raining down and that is the idea behind this famous festival. But in the tropical south, where seasons range from hot, wet and hotter – this season’s arrival is not as dramatic an event in the natural world – or at least not any more. In Chennai, the barometer is on the rise at a furious pace around this time of year – 34 degrees and climbing, as we in Bristol revel in 17!

Spring in the west is traditionally welcomed by eating huge amounts of chocolate, which seems to be a good way to mark the season of rebirth. There is a natural desire to gorge on the sudden burst of activity all around. The magnolia are long shallot shaped purple and white buds – they look like giant chandeliers on trees everywhere. The pink and white blossom will drop off soon – and the leaves on the bare branches are all ready to burst into full verdant glory. The volume of chirping and tweeting has gone up – these birds are flying hither and thither gathering twigs for their nests. Nature that stayed still for all these months is suddenly making noise and I feel ready to welcome it.


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