(Photo by Annette Corkery, check out her work stocked at : https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/ )
Down at the bottom of the garden there is a magical place of life and wonder. Apple trees bloom, brambles stretch out, buttercups stand tall in the long grass, swaying to the musical hum of busy insects and singing birds.
In amongst the trees there is a beauty to behold hanging from a high branch, a papery structure by some of the most amazing engineers of the insect family, a palace fit for a queen and made by a queen.
Queen Beatrice is that queen and a fine queen is she. She was named by her mother to confuse the grumpy giants who live in her realm into thinking that her strikingly handsome daughter is a bee when in fact she is a wasp, the waspiest wasp you ever did see.
The giants decided that while bees are good and must be tolerated, mainly because they like their honey, wasps are bad and must be destroyed. They hit them, spray them, poison their babies and sometimes even burn them alive in their homes just for fun. It’s not a bit of wonder the wasps get revenge by stinging them as often as they can, which isn’t that often because they are generally very, very busy. As busy as a bee in fact, as busy as Queen Beatrice of Bottom of the Garden.
Queen Beatrice decided one day that she was fed up with the eternal on and off war between the wasps and the giants. She thought she would call a truce and negotiate peace with the giants but how was she to do that as they couldn’t hear her speak? All they heard was what they thought was an irritating angry buzzing noise and so they swiped at her each time she approached. She would have to try a different way and that was when she asked me to help and I did just that. I am a helpful kind of sprite most of the time.
I had to slow her down she talked so fast, no wonder the giants thought she was angry. I understood she had work to do, a new home to build from the wood pulp she collected and constructed into beautiful shapes with the most comfortable cosy hexagon cots for her babies but she did seem quite bad tempered to me. I gave her some nectar tea and it calmed her considerably.
We both knew the giants had spotted her home and had been thinking of destroying it so she wasn’t sure if there was any point building another. Maybe she should just leave and go elsewhere where there were less giants. The problem was they were everywhere and she liked Bottom of the Garden. We talked and talked and then I suggested a most unusual approach.
“Why don’t we talk to the child?” I said.
“The child! The child! How absurd! I must talk to their Queen” she snorted, strutting around majestically holding her teacup steady as she moved, her wings fluttering behind her.
“There is no point talking to their Queen, she is dead set against you ever since your mother stung her on the bottom. The best one to approach is the child. Convince her, she’ll convince her mother.” I watched her as she stopped to think.
“Of course my mother stung her on the bottom, she was about to put her large derriere on top of her! How do we talk to the child? How do we talk to any of them, none of them hear us speak.” She was beginning to get annoyed, that calming tea drink didn’t work for long.
“I will whisper in the child’s ear tonight and get her to come here tomorrow. Then I will blow some dandelion clock in her face while I say the words that make her hear you.” I said.
“I don’t know. Your spells never quite work the way you plan.” she pointed out and I couldn’t disagree, she was right about that.
“What harm will it do? Let’s give it a try. You don’t want another summer of battles with poison spray and rolled up newspapers do you?”
“No” and so we agreed. She went off about her busy business and I went to visit the child.
I had to make sure I got this right. Queen Beatrice might be a wonderful queen, a hard working queen and a wonderful mother to her larvae, but she is not a lady to be messing with. She is a mighty hunter as are her worker wasps who hunt all summer to feed the larvae. They hunt all the creatures that eat the crops the giants like to grow so perhaps I’ll tell the child that. That would please the queen giant.
I started to wonder if I should do this job at all. Queen Beatrice isn’t particularly good to the workers either. They are kept busy all summer hunting to feed the larvae food they cannot eat themselves. Luckily the babies are able to give them a sweet drink in return. The problem is that once the larvae grow up into wasps themselves they too are no longer able to eat the food that is hunted and neither are they able to make the sweet drink. So they need more babies which Queen Beatrice provides but in no time at all there are more wasps than babies and no food for the wasps.
It is not all bad, Queen Beatrice did think to build her nest in an orchard so if the giants leave some fruit to rot on the ground the hungry wasps could drink that. That was one of the reasons she didn’t want to leave Bottom of the Garden. It suited her family so well.
I wasn’t sure if I should tell the child that bit of their story but it might help to explain why wasps are angrier in the autumn. I definitely wasn’t going to tell her how sometimes they drink too much of the rotting fruit and get very, very tipsy and then they get a hangover which makes them sleepy, clumsy and even grumpier. Always best to leave them alone at that time.
All of these thoughts went through my head as I climbed in the bedroom window and tiptoed over to her bed. She is a pretty giant, but she snores very loudly! It nearly deafened me. I whispered all that I’ve told you so far in her ear and asked her to remember to visit Bottom of the Garden in the morning when Queen Beatrice is in her better mood. She likes the mornings. Job done, I went home to make my spell and waited until morning.
The next morning she woke and she remembered, or if she didn’t something inside her made her come to Bottom of the Garden to sit on the rocks and look around her. I sat beside her, she didn’t notice, she can’t see me if I don’t want her to. She picked up a dandelion clock and started to blow, that was handy, half my job done for me. As she blew, I whispered
“Though you’re big and they are small,
understand them when they call.
They will help your garden grow
Listen, and you soon will know. “
“What did you say?” She looked directly at me or through me, I wasn’t sure which.
“I asked you, what did you say? Who are they that are small? You talk in riddles, speak plainly.” She was definitely staring at me, not through me.
Queen Beatrice arrived just as she spoke and looked at me with her two big eyes and three small ones. It was a wicked stare. “I knew something like this would happen!”
“You speak too!” said the child.
“Yes, but how do you see her? You’re meant to hear me but not anyone else and it is very bad luck for you to see a sprite!” said the wasp.
” Stuff and nonsense, is that what she is? I thought she would be prettier and with wings.”
“No, I’m the pretty one with wings” said Queen Beatrice laughing loudly at her own joke.
“Well, now that you can speak to each other go ahead and I’ll be off about my business” said I as I began to tiptoe away.
“Not so fast” said the Queen, “when does this wear off? How long have I got to explain our plight?”
“Ah, well, I’m not so sure it ever will now that she has seen me and I might be better off wandering away before the high council find out she has.” I was very eager to leave but the child grabbed my arm to keep me there.
“Are you saying I will be able to talk to wasps forever and see all the invisibles?” she laughed in delight as she kissed me on the cheek and held me tight. It made me warm and pink which made her laugh even more.
“Maybe. I don’t really know but you better have the chat with Queen Beatrice anyway just in case.” I said and sat down.
Queen Beatrice looked at me and smiled. “Perhaps it is a good thing, having a giant hear us all might be the best thing that ever happened us.”
“A giant! You think I’m a giant?” said the child. “I’m just a little girl, I’m only eight. My name is Maisie by the way, what’s yours?”
“I’m Queen Beatrice, queen of Bottom of the Garden and I want to talk to you about how hard it is for us wasps when you giants are busy trying to kill us all the time.” said the Queen “and you can’t know her name as a sprite never tells.”
“I’m all ears” said Maisie, which was a funny thing to say when she only had two, We looked at her a while and wondered what she meant until she finally said “I’m listening.”
That morning was the day everything changed for Queen Beatrice and me. Maisie became our friend and she was very happy to be able to hear us all. We picked the perfect ambassador to tell all the giants about Bottom of the Garden and all our other kingdoms. She even promised never to tell anyone else about seeing me and she never did. When she grew up she continued to tell everyone how to live in harmony with us and taught the world to listen closely to the music of our voices.