What the bees know

A swarm of wild bees has taken up residence in the roof over our bedroom. They hum uncontrollably, their energy is frenetic. Nothing can be done, unless we want to kill them which we don’t and even if we did it might effect our own more sedate bees located at the bottom of the garden. Casting about for a reason why they’ve chosen our roof, apart from a gap in the tiles, I decide they are an omen. 

Their arrival coincides with the Boxer’s bad day, the day she did not get up. ‘I’m not getting up,’ she was adamant when I offered to wash her hair. She slept. Every time I looked in she would open her eyes and we would chat a little, though I’m not sure she was awake even then. I did odd jobs, read the paper, ate ice cream from the freezer but still she slept, so eventually about nine in the evening I left her.

 Not so fortunate in the sleep department sadly, all night long I fretted. I wasn’t worried but I thought surely at 95, one day this will be it. If the Boxer just went to sleep and did not wake up, wouldn’t that be a blessing?   Anyone’s old age is not for the faint hearted. I made escape plans that danced so vibrantly under my sleepless lids with an enormouse sense of relief- to walk the Via Francigena to Rome (and back) to buy the camper van and use it, life was exciting.

The Boxer is better. The grandiose dreams of freedom have faded like fairy gifts  – but not the guilt. 

The bees will be with us a while yet, till they decide to go.   I think they could be guardians of my conscience.

The Gathering


I have been reading Anne Enright’s The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2007.  Bit late, you might think and I would agree.  Impossible now to plug the gaping holes in my reading but like the little Dutch boy attempting to prevent disaster, I keep trying.

Enright examines  memory almost as a good Catholic examines conscience, at times with  gleeful detachment, at others with ensuing guilt, with the innocence of an eight year old and with the grief of a grown woman reassessing her life after the suicide of  her brother as the family gather for the wake.

The book is tender and subtle, as Colm Toibin says, but I am no judge if Enright’s vision of Ireland is ‘brave and original.’  It is an Ireland of thirty years ago, of seventy and of now, of her dreams, of her making and of her ancestry.

The book is about love and disappointment and is  beautiful and quite brilliant, as Joseph O’ Connor says.