Bees are little creatures with a furry body. They can fly and specialise in making an edible substance called honey, which is completely unsuitable for diabetics like myself. The bastards. They also possess a sharp, needle-like appendage that is technically known as 'a pointy thing.' This is used to attack children, gardeners, women hanging out their washing and drunken persons who mistake beehives for footballs, which is Not A Very Clever Thing To Do.
Every year, a swarm of honeybees nests in a wall cavity at the rear of Casa Hallowell. One can see them entering and exiting through a small hole in between two wall-bricks. What they do inside I do not know, and to date neither Mrs. H nor I have been invited in to watch. It's all very mysterious.
But not as mysterious as something which happened on June 15, 1833, at the village of Todstead, near Rothbury.
Mrs. Gibb – for it was she – was going about her daily business that morning when a bee landed upon her head. Being a seasoned country lass and well accustomed to such creatures, this did not discomfit her too much. However, the several thousand other bees which followed it did. Within seconds her entire head was covered in the things.
Initially her husband assumed that his missus was simply suffering from a bad case of cystic acne, but when he noticed that the pustules were actually moving around and making strange buzzing noises he realised that it was not acne at all, but something quite different; a surfeit of bees.
"Here, mate", he said to a passer-by, "would you look at that! My wife's head is covered in bees!"
"Bloody hell, you're right! Are they stinging her?"
"Well, she isn't screaming or anything. She better get the situation sorted out sharpish, though, because she needs to get those potatoes on to boil for lunch. We're having hotpot".
Always one to make a full-blown drama out of a crisis, Mrs. Gibb started waving her arms around theatrically and bumping into things.
"This is getting embarrassing", said Mr. Gibb. "People are looking".
The passer-by – for it was he – came up with a plan.
"Here, there's supposed to be a special bee in those swarms you know. It’s a female, called the Dolly Bird Bee, or something".
"You mean the Queen Bee?"
"Aye, something like that".
"Well, Farmer Brown told me that all the bloke bees have the hots for her".
"And this is pertinent to my wife's current predicament how, exactly?"
"Its obvious, innit? Watch…."
The passer-by walked over to the now extremely distressed Mrs. Gibb and stared intently at her face, or more accurately the swarm of bees clinging to it.
"I can see her".
"Well I can't. Her face is covered in bloody bees".
"Not your wife, you nackerheed*, the Queen Bee".
"How do you know it’s the Queen Bee?"
"She's wearing a thong and false eyelashes".
Now at this juncture, the passer-by, whose name has unfortunately been left unrecorded in the tomes of Geordie history, did a very brave thing. He reached out with his hand – yes, his hand – and plucked the Queen Bee from the chez lounge upon which she reclined.
"Jeez", said Mr. Gibb, "What are you going to do with her?"
"I've got an empty hive in my garden. I'm going to put her in there".
"Why have you got a hive in your garden?"
"I saw how to make on Blue Peter years ago".
Now the passer-by waltzed off with the Queen Bee in his hand towards his garden. The other bees in the swarm – particularly the horny bloke ones – were really pissed off at this. They all wanted to sit and ogle the Queen Bee and harbour naughty thoughts about her. Now their plans had been ruined. It was the bee equivalent of having your stash of porn videos stolen.
Within an instant, the entire swarm vacated the visage of Mrs. Gibb and followed the passer-by to his garden. As soon as he got there he whipped off the lid of the hive and put the Queen Bee inside. The other bees followed, and then he stuck the lid back on.
"Hah!" he said triumphantly.
Meanwhile, back at the village green, Mr. Gibb eyed up his missus intently.
"There's still a dozen-or-so of the critters on your face, petal", he mumbled, "but they aren't moving. I think they're dead".
"Thems not bees. Thems my acne", his good lady replied.
"Good; now get your arse home and get those taties on for the hotpot".
Mrs. Gibb, according to Fordyce's Historical Register of Remarkable Events, did not suffer a single sting during her entire experience.
Mr. Gibb was served his hotpot at lunch, and got to the pub well in time to listen the match on the widescreen radio.
The passer-by advertised the swarm of bees on Bee-Bay as a, "living, ugly-wife mask" and sold it for an absolute fortune.
In Geordieland, cystic acne later became known as Gibb's Syndrome or Buzzings Disease.
Every year on June 15, locals celebrate "the Great Bee Event of '33", as it is the only interesting thing that ever happened there. Apart from the time when that other bloke did that thing in the woods with the milk churn, which was also a bit interesting. And that other time, when Mrs. Rafferty's dog did one in the bar of Ye Olde Knuckleduster. And that other bloke stood in it. They were interesting. But not as much as the Great Bee Event of '33…
*Nackerheed: A Geordie colloquialism, which literally translates as, "a man with a head that looks suspiciously like his own scrotum"; essentially, an idiot.