Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина
, проректор по международным программам, зав. кафедрой лингвистики и межъязыковой коммуникации Самарского муниципального университета Наяновой, кандидат педагогических наук, доцент.
Директор негосударственного учреждения дополнительного образования “World Class-Samara”.
This time I am going to share my impressions of the place which is always dear to my heart and where I found myself after a long stop-over at Prague airport on the way here. I found myself on an island! No, it was not deserted! After a long sleep (imagine the jet-lag!) I opened my eyes and found myself in a paradise! I heard the birds’ singing. I am not an expert but to my mind it was a thrush. The singing was so sweet! There were the other birds, too. Sitting in a sun-lit room with a French window facing the garden, I noticed a magpie, a dove (do not confuse doves with pigeons) and actual pigeons, of course!
In a small garden behind the house, there are beautiful flowers -pansies of many different colours, blue, yellow, purple, red and multi-coloured) Also, there were bushes with ripe blackcurrants and goose-currants which are called fruits here. Nearby, there was a patch raspberries too. Of course, I could not help tasting them, they were delicious! And all these things are within easy reach of the house!
Have you guessed?
I am in Great Britain, in the County of Cheshire, famous for its magnificent gardens and many other things amongst which there is a church with a Cheshire cat depicted in stained glass, the cities of Manchester and Chester (Liverpool is close by in the next County of Lancashire) of which I wrote in my previous columns. I am in Runcorn, in the house of my friend David Wright, the permanent School English author and story-teller. Remember his book ‘Cheshire Tales’?
I must inform the School English readers that the students from Samara Municipal Nayanova University held a translators’ competition for the best translation of one of David’s stories which was published in School English. All the participants were presented with copies of the books autographed by the author.
And now Mr David Wright has the floor:
You can tell that Nadia is not yet thoroughly acclimatised to life in England as she has not yet mentioned the weather! Perhaps that is because it has been rather disappointing so far. After a bright start at Manchester Airport, we have had continual showers, some quite heavy as I found out to my cost when returning from the shops yesterday without an umbrella.
As well as all the birds, another frequent visitor to my garden is a friendly squirrel, but it has not yet shown itself to Nadia this visit so far. You must not think these creatures come to see me; their motives are far more basic than that. They come for the peanuts and other scraps that are put out for them, together with dishes of water for drinking and bathing. Their apparent affection is what we call ‘cupboard love’ – love only for the sake of the food. You probably know some people like that.
I have several large plastic containers in my garden which I fill with grass-cuttings, shredded paper, weeds, kitchen scraps and peelings and other materials. These gradually rot down under the action of natural processes to make excellent compost for fertilising the plants in the garden. So as well as being a convenient way to dispose of waste materials, I get a useful product at the end – a so-called ‘win-win’ situation. But I am not the only one to appreciate my compost bins. Some tiny little field mice have taken up residence in them. I don’t know how many there are as they all look much the same, but I have seen two or three at once so there must be at least that many, perhaps more. They seem to like the steady supply of food and nesting materials. As far as I am concerned, they are welcome visitors as they assist the multitude of bacteria, moulds and funguses in the decomposition process and, by helping to aerate the mass, keep it fresh and sweet smelling. In a way, we all work together to produce those delicious fruits that Nadia was telling you about.
The following is an extract from ‘Tales from an English Country Garden’, in the book ‘Cheshire Tales’ – Chapter 9.
Bertram was a modest sort of chap. He had a very keen sense of his own unimportance, nay, insignificance, in the world. We know that nothing in nature is unimportant and that all creatures have a place somewhere in the great scheme of things. But Bertram the bumble1 bee was a humble fellow, in fact some people called him a ‘humble bee’. He lived in the nest with his queen and all his sisters and the girls took very good care of their little brother. He thought himself to be unworthy of such attention. He knew that the queen was the great ruler of the little colony and the ladies were responsible for taking care of her, the eggs, the larvae2 and the babies. But why they should bother to take care of him too, he couldn’t imagine. He didn’t know how to gather pollen and nectar from the flowers as the girls did and he was no use as a soldier. He was ashamed to admit it, but he didn’t even have a sting like the females. Whereas his cousins, the honey bees were a veritable byword3 for industriousness4 and usefulness, he just whiled away5 the summer days. It was not that he was lazy; he was not, but he didn’t know what else to do. I suppose the truth of the matter is that he was not very bright6. But he was good-natured and all the other bumble bees loved him dearly. If anything threatened him, one or other of the lady soldiers would be quick to defend him and they did have stings – not that they often used them, but they were pretty effective when they were unsheathed7. He was the baby of the family, he wasn’t born until mid-summer when the girls were all quite grown up (or thought they were – you know what teenage girls are like!)
The honey bees on the other hand were always drawing attention to themselves, buzzing away, rushing hither and thither, as if to say:
“Look at us, aren’t we clever. See how useful we are. We have made three pounds of honey today. Whatever would the flowers and fruit and vegetables do if it were not for our pollinating8 them? Watch out, don’t get in our way, we have powerful stings. See how bright our colours are – just like wasps. Look at our slender waists, and our streamlined figures, we are not like those frumpy9, dumpy10, overweight bumble bees. We hear obesity is the biggest killer of insects these days, but we know how to keep our youthful shape. It’s exercise and good living that does it!”
There was much more boasting in the same vein. Bertram knew that much of what they said was true; they did work very hard indeed, so much so that few of them lived very long – they died of exhaustion11 whilst still young. But he knew that his sisters worked very hard also, without all the fuss and noise, and it annoyed him to hear them denigrated12 so. His sisters were kind and generous and he loved them with their round, cuddly figures just as much as they loved him. He liked to hear their gentle drone13 which was so unlike the angry buzzing from the honey bees. They didn’t live in a big, posh, wooden hive like the honey bees – they only had a simple nest, but they had made it with their own hands and feet. It was home to Bertram and it was a happy home. Why even the fierce and vicious14 wasps built their own home out of paper and chewed up wood, whereas those boastful honey bees had theirs made for them by Hodge. You will gather15 that there was not much love lost16 between the bumble bees and the honey bees, but there was seldom any trouble – by and large17, they just kept out of each other’s way. They lived in different places and even though they both collected nectar and pollen, they tended to frequent different flowers so that was seldom a problem. Besides that, although Bertram didn’t realise it, the honey bees were rather afraid of the bumble bees because they were so much larger. They were jealous of their easy-going life style too and that is part of the reason for all their bragging18. Whereas the honey bees rushed about all over the countryside, the bumble bees just cruised slowly along, quietly minding their own business, trundling19 around the garden and visiting their favourite flowers. The honey bees also envied the bumble bees their stings too. If a honey bee stings, the barb20 on the end stays in the victim and pulls itself out of the bee’s body, so the bee would die. Bumble bee stings didn’t have barbs so they came out easily and could be used over and over again – they were bigger too!
Hodge didn’t mind the bumble bees. They never attacked him and he never consciously bothered them, although his digging might disturb their nest occasionally. They didn’t cluster in swarms21 like his honey bees and they did no harm, either to him or to his vegetables, fruit or flowers – actually, they did quite a lot of good because they spread the pollen around. Because they mostly stayed in his garden, they didn’t waste their time in other people’s fields and gardens either. Instead, they tended to keep themselves to themselves22, making just enough honey for their own needs and not needing to be fed sugar in the autumn. Hodge never realised what a lot of harm he did to them accidentally though. In his eagerness to get rid of the creatures which he called pests, he sprayed poisons all over the place and many of the bumble bees suffered in consequence.
Although Hodge paid great attention to his vegetable garden and his fruit trees and bushes, it was his flowers that the bumble bees liked best. Lavender was a favourite and so was laveteria with its pinky-mauve, trumpet-shaped flowers. Hodge didn’t like mowing his lawn and that went down very well23 with the bumble bees because they loved the clover that grew in it when the grass was not too short. They liked Mrs Hodge’s flowers: fox-gloves, antirrhinums24 (which children call ‘snap-dragons’, because they seem to open their mouths if you squeeze them), etc.
One day, towards the end of the summer, the queen decided it was time to choose a husband. This was always a great occasion for the bumble bees, because the whole future of their species depended on the queen producing good, strong, healthy babies next spring. The great queen emerged from the darkness of the nest where she had been busy with her brood25 since the previous spring. To little Bertram, she seemed enormous, but very beautiful – remember bumble bees like chubby females! She stood there for a few moments, blinking in the sunlight, and then took off into the air. She flew round and round, inspecting the neighbourhood to see what had changed since she last saw it. All the bumble bees flew round with her, not in a swarm like the honey bees, but just at a respectful distance. There were not so many of them as Bertram remembered – many of the lady workers had died during the late summer. After inspecting her subjects, the queen made straight for Bertram. His heart sank – what had he done wrong now that he should have incurred her displeasure? True, he had not worked had like the others, but he didn’t know how to and he was so small. She came up to him and he bowed as well as he was able to in mid-air. Then she spoke, directly to him:
“Bertram, will you be my husband and father the next generation?”
Bertram looked over his shoulder to see whom she was addressing, not that there was another ‘Bertram’ in the colony. But it was indeed him! His little heart swelled inside him, not with pride, for he was a very humble little bee, but with gratitude that the mighty queen should have chosen him. She knew what he did not. He had a kind, generous and loving heart and it was that which she wished passed on to her offspring. It is not always size that matters!
During the cold winter to follow, while the queen was hibernating26 beneath a pile of old leaves like a grumpy hedgehog, Bertram would die, but in the first warm days of spring, the queen would emerge to start a new colony and perpetuate27 Bertram’s sweet nature.
1 To bumble means to make a buzz or hum; and the bumble bee is called that because it makes a loud, low humming noise.
2 Grub-like insects intermediate in development between the eggs and the adult bees. Singular is ‘larva’, which is nothing to do with ‘lava’, the hot stuff that comes out of volcanoes.
3 Proverbial, typical.
4 Busy, active.
5 Passed his time to no purpose.
7 Drawn out of their scabbards.
8 Moving the pollen from one to another so that they can make seeds.
10 Rotund, chubby, fat.
12 Put down, made to look foolish or unimportant, insulted.
13 The low, deep hum that bees make when they are not angry.
15 Understand, realise.
16 The expression ‘not much love lost between..’ is commonly used to mean that they didn’t like each other.
17 ‘By and large’ means ‘generally’, ‘most of the time’, ‘usually’.
19 Moving in a slow, laborious way.
20 The arrow shape on the end.
21 cluster in swarms
22 ‘Keep themselves to themselves’ means ‘they minded their own business’.
23 ‘Went down very well’ means that it suited them, they liked it like that.
24 This is from Greek words: ‘anti’ meaning ‘looks like’ and ‘rhinus’ nose, showing that even the scientist who gave it its name thought it reminded him of an animals mouth.
26 Sleeping through the winter.
27 Continue for ever.
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