There’s a sign nailed to one of the old oaks in the wood. Don’t interfere with the wildlife it says, right at the bottom, after a long list of other things you should bear in mind, too, like accepting personal responsibility as the woods are a dangerous place, disposing of dog waste and where the nearest bins are, keeping to the path, not picking the flowers and so on.
Don’t interfere with the wildlife.
Well. It’s a bit late for that.
I can imagine the camera pulling back – a panoramic drone-shot – David Attenborough’s resonant voice describing a landscape scarred by housing estates, roads, a landfill site, and then maybe a jump-cut to an underwater scene, to a bleached reef, a solitary carrier bag floating along upside down, like a jelly fish with handles.
I know what the sign means, though. Don’t sweat the big stuff. (To interfere with a cliche). Do what you can in your own backyard, and maybe if enough follow suit, things’ll work out.
All of which is a run-up to saying I had to apologise to a bee.
I wasn’t concentrating, you see. I was too busy thinking about the sign, and how pointless it was, because the kind of people who’d interfere with wildlife are probably not the kind of people who’d ever read a sign (they’d be much more likely to interfere with it). So I was busy thinking about that, in a self-satisfied way, about how I moved through the landscape with the utmost respect, when I blundered into some purple clover and almost stepped on a foraging bumble bee. The bee buzzed up in that furrily furious way they have, so indignant I could’ve sworn it gave me the finger before lumbering off across the meadow. And even though I said sorry, I was glad there wasn’t a helpline number on the bottom of the sign, because I was sure if there was the bumble bee would’ve straightaway called it (those leg pouches aren’t just for pollen, y’know – mobile phone, sandwiches, tiny little black & yellow thermos, and a book of wildlife poems, because I have the feeling bumble bees are quite old-school), giving a wild but surprisingly accurate description of me to whoever it is operates the switchboard and enforces these things (Ents? Sprites? Not sure).
So maybe two forms of interference, then. Intentional & unintentional. Either way, with the best will in the world, you probably can’t expect to go through life without stepping on the odd bee now and again. I’ll try to do better, and pay more attention in future. And if the bee is reading this, I am very sorry I gave you a fright, and if there’s anything I can do… (Yeah? he says, tapping one of his feet on the floor, two of his hands placed angrily on the cinch between his abdomen and thorax, Well you can stop with all this patronising anthropomorphic crap, for a start….)