We’ve had a lovely weekend away with cousins, they live in a very old village not far from Swindon, and as well as being excellent company, they always  find interesting places to take us and things to do and see. So it was this weekend, a walk to an ancient stone barrow grave, continuing round an ancient and mysterious monument, to a canal with a very long flight of locks, a beer museum, a bronze age hill fort, a writer’s house… oh and picnics, barbecues, curry and cake!

Because harmful pesticides are no longer used as much, the countryside was full of the most wonderful array of flowers, and even though the weekend was rather cloudy and grey it was lit up by the colour of these plants growing naturally across meadows, fields and hillsides. Where there are flowers the are bees, and as we walked along all we could hear was the sound of skylarks and the hum of bees busily searching for nectar.

As usual, my mind was buzzing with thoughts, images storing in my mind, words and phrases, ideas, for the things I am writing now and new ideas too… I have my long novel to finish editing, I have my latest Radwinter novel to finish writing, plus my other thoughts and ideas… the grim house by the river, the forgotten poet, the Neolithic chambered tomb with the flowers and fossils arranged in a little pattern on a stony ledge deep inside…

I was thinking just now that my thoughts were like bees buzzing – which is a recurring image in my long story…

‘In her dream James and Jaco were playing chess and becoming increasingly annoyed with each other What they didn’t seem to realise was the pieces were actually alive and were moving from square to square of their own accord.
“Let music soothe the savage bees,” she said and began to play the mandolin. The chess pieces had become bees and they flew to the window.’

… and…

She was dreaming of bees again. Even as she dreamt she thought she ought to find out if there was any significance in the image. They were golden and precious and maybe made of metal, maybe their wings were studied with sparkling gems… but it was a dream and the buzzing was her phone, vibrating on the table beside her bed.

This somehow led me to think about a more famous poem by Isaac Watts; I’m sure many people know this poem, but few would know who wrote it. Isaac Watts was born in Southampton into an extremely religious family and in fact hos father was imprisoned twice for his beliefs. Isaac was born in 1674 and he too became a minister; he wrote many hymns and other religious works, his most famous hymns are probably ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’, ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’, ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’  and ‘Joy to the world’. He died in 1748 and although few people might know him, many people will know this short poem:

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Why might so many people know this? Because of Lewis Carroll’s parody in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
If you haven’t read any of my Radwinter genealogical mysteries, here is a link:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

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