COLUMN: May 2, 2013

I HATE gardening. But I had to do some a week or two ago, seeing as winter had finally decided it had better get its skates on or it would be late for the southern hemisphere.

I do not know if you do gardening, but it is just like tidying up, except that complete strangers are able to judge you on how well you have tidied up by simply walking past your house instead of coming inside and running a finger along the dusty mantelpiece.

I spent some time pushing a lawn mower over the back garden. As there had been no sun since October this should have been a fairly easy task. The grass had grown maybe one or two millimetres in that time.

But the trouble with mowing a lawn that has barely grown is that it is very difficult to see where you have done. It is like colouring in a large green piece of card with a small green felt-tip pen. While insects attack you.

Insects and I do not get on particularly well. I am not a racist, but I do not like their eyes, and believe strongly they have too many legs. They come into my house without invitation, make me paranoid about covering my food if I have to leave the room, and make loud insistent buzzing noises. If the insect kingdom were a person, it would be Gregg Wallace from Masterchef.

I see gardening as an incursion into enemy territory. I cannot help thinking insects use this to justify their invasion of my home, as I dodge clouds of tiny flies. But I know that is ridiculous because insects are as stupid as they are ugly.

At this point I expect the many entomologists among my readers to tut loudly and explain to me how insects are useful and, in many cases, beautiful.

And I say to them: “Why do the insects have to be useful in my garden? Can’t they be useful in somebody else’s garden? And stop showing off, and pretending you like exo-skeletons, compound eyes, and creatures that vomit on their food before eating it.”

With the back lawn more or less polished off, it was time to tackle the weeds at the front.

One of the previous occupants of my house was evidently a sadistic weed enthusiast and had installed cobbles from pavement to front door. It is less a pathway and more some sort of city of dandelions.

Over the years I have tried a number of chemical solutions to prevent the weeds appearing between the cobbles but the thing about weeds is that they just laugh at me. The only action that works is the application of a wallpaper scraper, stabbing through their roots.

As I began the long tedious process, I became aware of a presence next to me. And a buzzing. A loud, lazy buzzing. I turned to face it.

Hovering by my head was a very large bee. I assume it was a bee. It could quite easily have been a pigeon on its way to a fancy dress party. If this bee had been any larger I would have had to include it on the electoral register.

Out of all the insects – and there are lots – the ones I like least are bees and wasps, because they have stings, and stings sting, hence the name. I am aware that if a bee stings it dies, but, as I have established, insects are stupid, and I am not sure the bee actually understands the consequences.

I tried to ignore it. I couldn’t remember if that was something that worked with bees. I know it’s supposed to work with bears and bullies, although in my experience it never worked with bullies, who persisted with sticks, stones, and names.

But the bee remained attracted to me. I suppose that stands to reason. We are always attracted to one who shuns us. I am not saying the bee had a case of unrequited love towards me, but I cannot rule it out.

So I waved my hands around my head, as if I were plumping up an invisible afro, hoping to frighten the bee away.

But I went too far.

Reader, I punched a bee.

I am not sure which of us was most surprised, but I sent the bee flying in an arc over the roses. I shuddered violently.

Then I became aware of another presence. A passer-by had watched me as my elbows jerked about like a breakdancing Thunderbirds puppet. Out of context it probably looked disturbing.

“It’s not what it looks like. I punched a bee,” I called after the man, as he scurried off.

This is why I hate gardening.

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