Beekeeper Review: Elizabeth Boyd and Bill Chalmers

“Between two beekeepers there can be no strife. Not even a tepid hostility can mar their perfect communion.
The petty enmities which life raises to be barriers between man and man and between man and woman vanish once it is revealed to them that they are linked by this great bond. Envy, malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness disappear, and they look into each other’s eyes and say ‘My brother!”

Uneasy Money is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse and, like most of his works, it is a farcical comedy. Unlike too many of his (and everyone’s) works, this is a story about beekeepers. The fact that they are beekeepers is not particularly relevant to the plot, so I’d hoped I could go into detail without giving much away, in case anyone wanted to check out Wodehouse (which they ought) and decided to do it through a work not related to his more well-known franchises. But I do kind of need to spoil a bit here. There are two beekeepers in this book and they fall in love. I admit that’s a pretty big spoiler, but I assure you there are jokes and misunderstandings that will get a reader through the story even knowing the ending.

Elizabeth Boyd is an American beekeeper, but she isn’t making much money at it. “She had not prospered greatly. With considerable trouble she contrived to pay her way, and that was all.” On top of running her bee farm in Brookport, Long Island, she also has to take care of her loser brother Nutty. She’s a hard working, nice young woman.

William FitzWilliam Delamere Chalmers is an English lord (albeit one of the poorest of them) who enjoys beekeeping. He worked for a year on a bee farm until his lack of money and the response of his peers. “The general impression seemed to be that I should be foolish to try anything so speculative as beekeeping, so it fell through. Some very decent old boys got me another job.” Luckily, by the end of the book, Bill and Elizabeth are off to be wed and buy a big farm of their own. He’s a particularly nice guy, if a bit dim.

How do they rate as beekeepers? Well, Elizabeth is the only one employed as such during the events of the novel, and she admits her business just barely scrapes by. It isn’t for lack of trying, though. Any success she has at the job comes from natural aptitude, for she “loved bees, but she was not an expert on them” and she has “reached a stage of intimacy with her bees which rendered a veil a superfluous precaution.” Bill may not keep bees during the story, but at the very least he has a year of experience and no fear of the insects. He is capable of the job. And what of fighting? Well, it isn’t the kind of story where they get to do much fighting, but Bill is often described as a physically fit and even imposing figure. It isn’t his nature, but I suspect that if he had to fight, he’d do alright. Also of note: on one occasion, when wanting to inflict some minor pain to Bill, Elizabeth pokes him with a pin, which is on brand as a stinger. Maybe she’d do more with that motif in a fight. Any supernatural powers? Nothing significant, though there is one moment when Elizabeth is trying to hide something from a snooping reporter and one of her bees “stung him at the psychological moment” which could be coincidence, but also could be a bee knowingly doing its keeper’s bidding.

Beekeeper Rage? Well, Elizabeth at one point notes how quickly she goes from being unhappy that her brother may come into some money he will surely misuse, to “boil[ing] with rage” when he doesn’t get it. She knows it is inconsistent, but the rage is still there. But also “it was a trait in her character which she had often lamented, that she could not succeed in keeping angry with anyone for more than a few minutes on end.” So there isn’t too much Rage to be had.

Three Honeycombs out of Five.

PDR is Not Back To School

At this point the city is teeming with students again, and classes have begun anew. I am not attending them, though. Intent on becoming financially stable, I am taking at least a year off of my schooling. This is the monetary saving that I should have before I quit my job to go back to school, but that I had not the forethought for.

I am a little sad that I won’t be in school (though if I can find some that fit into my schedule, I may sit in on some larger, easy-to-blend-into classes), but I was also getting pretty tired of all the stuff I hate about school too. Perhaps this break will allow me to refocus on the positives sides of schooling before I go fully hateful of the system, as I did back in my teenage years.

And also, maybe I’ll have more money when the year is over.

But I will to work on my education in my own way through this year. I have taken fifty books from my Unread Books bookshelf and set them aside in a pile. I plan on reading the heck out of all that pile before this time next year. Some are the kind of works of literature that could come up in my education. Others are not. Either way, it’s more reading than I’ve been able to do during a school year, which is generally close to none. Here goes.

PDR News

I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try to give some updates about PDR on this PDR Website.

As I have mentioned, I am done with school for a while, so I’ve been making the most of my time off. Not by going anywhere or doing anything that would involve spending money, oh heavens no, but I’ve been quite relaxed as I am. I am still very broke, as is my usual situation, but it does feel like I am now broke, but improving instead of broke, and getting worse. So that’s a plus.

It should be obvious from the title (“The End”), but the current Secret Government Robots storyline is the last one. This is what the whole thing has been building up to. It’s going to be pretty long, and I am taking my time with it (it involves more drawing than I’d like it to). It is also not the top priority project I have going on right now (the lack of any audience beyond myself allows me to justify that), but I do hope to get it done before the end of this year.

Haiku!

Remember haikus?
No? Yeah? No? I don’t either.
Were they limericks?

One of the things I am currently prioritizing as higher than webcomic making is reading books. Perhaps the biggest drawback to being in school again was that I was unable to read almost ever. I had to read too much for school, so I never had time to read anything in full, and anything I wanted to read for pleasure became something that stole time from schoolwork. But not anymore! In my effort to get back into reading, I have taken fifty novels from my ample Unread Books Pile and broken them into a smaller, less daunting pile that I am working my way through at the maximum pace a PDR can manage.

At this point, I have to admit, I still feel kind of burnt out from schooling. But once I get a few books read, a few pages done, and one or two other projects off my to-do list, I should probably be less overwhelmed and that will only make it easier for me to do more things. Hopefully.

Beekeeper Review: Mirasol

“When human beings first discovered honey, they had hunted the wild bees and followed them back to their nests. Some enterprising honey-lover must have noticed that bees often nested in hollow trees, and so, perhaps, rolled or dragged or hacked out a suitable log nearer hoe, left it at a convenient spot, and hoped a passing swarm might settle in it. Eventually someone began experimenting with making hives out of straw, mud, clay, pottery, and with sowing the seeds of plants bees were seen to like; and eventually with breeding more docile bees.”

This history of beekeeping comes from the point of view of a young lady called Mirasol. The protagonist of the novel “Chalice” by Robin McKinley, Mirasol lives in a place called the Willowlands in a fantasy universe that relies very heavily on traditions. The Willowlands are governed by a body called the Circle, eleven mystically appointed individuals who keep the realm from tearing itself apart, literally and figuratively.

At first, Mirasol is just an ordinary civilian, keepin’ bees out in the forests of the Willowlands. Even at this point, she’s damn good at beekeeping. From a line of beekeepers going back at least as far as her great-grandmother, she is the most successful beekeeper in the Willowlands. It is widely acknowledged that her bees produce the best honey “because they like [Mirasol]” and she knows how to treat wounds, such as burns, with honey and make candles from beeswax that contain honey for scenting. Her bees are “unusually large” and “only their bellies were striped yellow; their backs were a black as velvet-gloss as a fine horse’s.” She also has a policy of helping her colonies survive through the winter, instead of culling them as the other beekeepers in the realm do (which probably is why the bees like her).

But that’s just the beginning for ol’ Mirasol! Because after a tragic turn of events that results in the death of several members of the Circle, Mirasol is chosen by the mystical powers that guide the land. Mirasol is made the new Chalice, which is not only a member of the Circle, it is the highest ranking member. The bad news is that Mirasol was never given the training she needed for a magical and highly ceremonial role. To make things worse the turmoil of Willowlands are “teetering on the edge of disintegration” because of this traumatic changeover. Spoilers though: in the end thing turn out well enough for the Willowlands. I’m here to talk about her powers.

Becoming the Chalice gives Mirasol’s already impressive Beekeeping Stats an incredible boost. Every Chalice is connected to a symbolic fluid, mostly water or wine, though there are historical precedents for milk or blood, but Mirasol becomes the very first Honey Chalice. Almost as soon as she is chosen as Chalice, her bees just go into overdrive. They dedicate whole hives to storing honey without combs, so Mirasol can drain the honey without the need to break anything, and in other hives they store empty wax for her to use for things such as make candles. They even seem to store excess pollen for the winter. Furthermore, she develops an ability to “listen” to honey and tell what kind of benefits it has, which is good because her bees produce a bunch of different types of honey. There’s a honey for helping one sleep and another for giving one energy to stay up. One is good for curing stomach-aches and another keeps dogs from barking. Basically, she’s got a bunch of magic potion honeys on tap and ready to use.

Given that they already liked Mirasol, it is no surprise that in her powered-up form, her bees never sting her and she never needs smoke to calm them. They also develop a tendency to follow her around in small groups, helping her out or protecting her. When the final climactic scenes of the book come, her swarm is joined by bees that aren’t from her hives, and even wild bees.

Finally, Mirasol does get angry from time to time, but never to an extent that it seems to be Beekeeper Rage. Thus, I have to say that the one and only thing that keeps Mirasol from getting a perfect score is that she shows no skills as a fighter. And personally, given how well she picked up being the Chalice of the Willowlands, I bet that if she tried it out, she’d master it pretty easily.

Four Honeycombs out of Five.

Beekeeper Review: Mr. Andretti

“‘Your average beekeepers usually wear gloves,’ he explained. ‘A lot of the brave ones use gloves with no fingers and thumbs so they can work with the bees more easily.’

Mr. Andretti thumped himself on the chest and went on. ‘But your truly outstanding beekeeper – such as myself – likes to work with his bare hands. My bees trust me.'”

Mr. Andretti is a beekeeper who appears in a Goosebumps novel called “Why I’m Afraid of Bees” and, as the above quote proves, he’s kind of a boastful sort. I fully admit that when I set about reading this book, I was under the impression that the beekeeper was going to be the bad guy, responsible somehow for the main kid getting his brain switched into a bee’s body. Disappointingly, that ain’t the case. The kid gets himself into that mess on his own. Andretti is just an ancillary character, the kid’s neighbor. He’s seems to be a decently successful beekeeper, though he’s kind of a jerk. He seems to know that the main kid is afraid of bees and likes to make him think the bees are out of control just to laugh when he gets scared. He also tends to yell sarcastic remarks at the kid if he catches the kid staring at him. And he’s got a strong tendency to laugh at his own bad jokes. I can only assume that all this jerkish behavior is Andretti’s way of dealing with a relatively mild case of Beekeeper Rage.

I’m taking Andretti at his word that his bees trust him. He also claims to “have complete control of those bees at all times.” He apparently doesn’t mean this in the sense of literally having mental control of the bees (he uses a net to catch straggler bees), but this is as close as Andretti gets to any kinds of powers or badassery. With that in mind, I can only give him:

Two Honeycombs out of Five.