BEE BRIEF

I finished it! Sitting in Costa coffee in the Truro Waterstones bookshop, crying my eyes out at the sad-but-happy ending of my new childrens\’ book \”One Bee\” and hoping nobody notices the lunatic in the corner dropping big teardrops and snot all over her paper. Why is writing so undignified?
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I get so excited as the book zooms towards the end, building up speed in the last ten thousand words until my writing is appalling and I leave out chunks of sentence. I retype it into my computer after a bit of time to let it settle, by which time I\’ve forgotten what I\’ve written for some of it and have to rewrite those bits.
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This system of handwriting the first draft isn\’t me being deliberately retro: I can write anywhere, on anything. It\’s just that doing the thing by hand works a kind of brief magic: you stick to the point much better because you\’re lazy and don\’t want to have to write anything that isn\’t essential. It\’s the perfect vaccination against word-processoriasis which causes books to swell up like the legs of somebody afflicted with elephantiasis. (By the way, don\’t click on the link unless you\’ve got a strong stomach.)
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For a truly dreadful example of the literary version of this, by the way, read J K Rowling\’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Or indeed the whole of George R R Martin\’s A Feast for Crows which had me petering to a halt after being totally consumed by all the previous Game of Thrones books.
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Mind you, the bee book – called \”One Bee\” – had a sort of natural limit on it, seeing that the main character is quite an old lady by the time she reaches the grand old age of 30 days.

BEE DEMOCRATIC

I\’ve been enthralled by a wonderful book about bees – this one is called \”Honeybee Democracy\” by Thomas D. Seeley. It\’s beautifully produced, beautifully written and tells the story of how a colony of bees swarms and finds a new place to live. Not only does he tell the story – he also explains how he knows. The book gives the painstaking scientific background to a fully formed scientific statement. When he says what kind of hollow tree bees prefer, he knows because he\’s checked. I admit his explanation is hard to read because it involved poisoning bees with cyanide. That was back in the heedless 1970s though. I think Seeley would do it differently today.
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You don\’t need to be interested in bees to be amazed by the story of how a swarm of bees effectively vote on where they\’re going to live – politicians and historians might find insight into ways a large group can come to a decision as fairly and efficiently as possible.
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The only criticisms I can think of are the cost of the book (it\’s gone down since I last checked) and the fact that being a large hardback makes it difficult to read in bed – for goodness\’ sake, will somebody please publish Seeley\’s work in paperback?