I’ve done it again! Not nearly as badly this time though, and I have a different apprentice, Sarah, who will do the handling for me. Done what?  Read this poem, written 8 years ago, which will tell you all about it:


I need more bees; equipment too.

Two artificial swarms will do.

The two-queen way will be the best:

Re-queens, makes nucs and all the rest.

I’ll make some boards; it won’t take long

And then I’ll put my dinner on.

In shed I find some useful board

That lurks among the jumbled hoard.

I measure, mark and then prepare

To cut it accurate and square,

A smidgeon over 18 inch

With edging strips to raise a plinth.

The work is easy; not too hard

I’ll use the saw without a guard,

But ear muffs, goggles, face mask too

Will keep me safe from all that’s threw

From spinning, whirring, noisy saw.

Look on those jagged teeth with awe.

Without a guard I must take care.

I count my fingers: none to spare.

I push the work in with a stick –

But what comes next will make you sick.

The work goes well without a hitch

Until the last strip gives a twitch.

The hand moves faster than the brain

A sudden grab and sudden pain.

My thumb’s a ragged, bloody stump

And Oh! I do feel such a chump.

I shove the stump into my gob

I haven’t time to cry or sob.

I reel and stumble from the shed’

Turn back to press the button, red

That cuts the power from the saw

Which grabbed me in its shark toothed maw.

I run up through the garden plots

Of neighbours, Steve and Angie Watts.

With exclamation ‘Bloody Hell’

They see I’m not exactly well.

We put the hand over the sink

Cold water gushes, turning pink

And then the water’s running clear.

I look upon the stump with fear;

Ange covers it with sterile wrap

And sits me down before the tap.

She holds my hand raised high above

My head and squeezes it enough

To staunch the flow from flesh and bone

While Steve is on the telephone:


Explains about the damaged thumb

And asks the Ambulance to come.

Some perspiration on my brow

Suggests that shock is coming now.

I’m feeling comf’table and warm

And working with a gentle swarm.

‘Wake up! Wake up!’ then Angie cries

And jostles me to my surprise.

I hear Steve tell the medic men

‘I think he’s fainting now and then.’

My brain is woosy; in a muddle.

While Angie gives a kindly cuddle

Another neighbour, Joan arrives

She knows First Aid – preserving lives.

Joan makes me talk to stay awake

I sing a song for Heaven’s sake!

Three quarters of an hour or more

The Ambulance is at the door.

A single driver – paramedic

Can cope with all from death to headache.

He goes with Steve, my next-door chum

To find the missing bit of thumb

I know already that it’s gone

The thumb encountered blade head-on:

Any bits the blade out-spat

Will be demolished by the cat.

The medic man – his name is Robin

Aware my thumb is surely throbbin’

Suggests I’d like a morphine jab

But meantime ‘tother hand he’ll stab.

He thrusts a needle in a vein

With tubey bits with which to gain

A way into my blood supply:

To pour in more if I run dry?

He gives me O2 through a mask

‘You’re sure no morphine?’ now he’ll ask;

‘Or I could give you gas and air-

The pain will go- you’ll know not where.

But now a job I must not shirk

For I must do the paperwork.’

He asks me questions and writes down

Each syllable and verb and noun

That in response by chance I uttered

Spoken loud and clear or muttered.

Along the way he takes a look

At my poor, mangled hitching hook

A hasty look; a muttered blessing

And on goes proper medic’s dressing.

At last we get into the car.

It won’t take long. It isn’t far.


But just before we do depart

‘I have another form to start.’

Eventually he transports me

The eight short miles to A and E.

He books me in and makes me sign

His form repeating ‘No Morphine.’

I’m found a place upon a trolley

Where I can brood upon my folly.

I’m feeling faint and getting thinner

Should not have sawn before my dinner!

A doctor causes further pain

With needles – aren’t they just a bane!

At long, long last I’m found a bed

In which to rest my weary head.

My arm’s held upright in a sling:

A most uncomfortable thing.

In noisy dorm no sleep will come;

Worse than the one at Gormanston.

They give me tea and toast at 6,

But after that there’s nothing – nix;

Not even water after 10.

They’ll operate but don’t know when.

I’ve now’t to do so far from home

But twiddle one thumb and write a pome.

A lunch is served but not for me

Nor yet a welcome cup of tea.

Anaesthetist then comes around

And asks if any tooth is crowned.

A wobbly tooth is worth a note

In case she shoves it down my throat.

Be-suited surgeons, one, two, three

Examine stump and talk to me.

A staff nurse, Bev, squirts down my tube

Some penicill with salt as lube.

A chap called Shaun then comes my way

With cheerful talk of MRSA.

He takes some swabs with lab to share

One nasally, the rest elsewhere.

I glance outside, blue sky, no breeze;

A lovely day to play with bees.

I lay upon the bed and doze

And listen to the noise that goes

Around the ward as visitors

Attend their friends – that’s theirs, not yours.

A pleasant nurse of dusky hue

Arrives and has a job to do.

Blood pressure’s up – one twenty two

The pulse is down – low fifties too.

She watches me and wants to know

Do I always breathe this slow?


I’m hungry I explain for sure

I’ve missed a couple meals or more.

I’m slowing down so I’ll not waste

The early morning snack I faced.

Two interruptions come as one:

By phone from Steve and Charles, my son.

The latter says he’ll come to stay

And miss and overdue essay.

He’ll pick me up in little car.

I might show him my massive scar!

The nurse comes back. She’s had advice

And does something that isn’t nice.

She pricks my hand and from it squeezes

Blood to check for diabetes.

I check my chart for breathing rate.

It’s up to nine – it was just eight.

My brother rings. He’ll tell my sis.

I’ll have to give my Mum a miss.

A nurse appears and does aver

‘You SHALL go to the theatre.’

‘Oh, that’s nice’ says little me.

‘There’s simply nothing on TV’.

The nurse explains that this is not

The time and place for comic spot.

They’d hoped to operate quite soon

But others took all afternoon.

A noisy man across the way

I think is dying so I pray

His stress and pain will soon be eased.

He’s quiet now – I’m really pleased.

Anaesthetist – a diff’rent one

Assures me it is soon begun.

Some food arrives: soup, cake or both

But Mr Slade is ‘Nil by Mouth’.

A diff’rent Registrar appears

‘We’ll do it soon, just have no fears.

You’re on our urgent ‘Trauma’ list.

But wait, where are your notes?’ he hissed.

They’d disappeared – this isn’t jolly.

He later found them on a trolley.

‘We’ll do our best to cure your ills

But if the job’s beyond our skills

We’ll pass you on to Sal’sbury

Where skin’s their speciality.

They may need to cut a flap

The end of your poor thumb to cap.’

At last the Surgeon comes. I’m sped

Along the corridors in bed

He pushes me although he oughter

Had the job done by a Porter.


They check again I’m whom I say

Not stranger picked up on the way.

Then down my tube they squirt their fluids

While dressed as medieval druids.

We talk while I take oxygen.

I’m fine for several minutes then…….

I wake up with a diff’rent crew

They weren’t there earlier, I knew.

They tell me that the op’s been done.

I shall not need another one.

They wheel me on my mobile bed

Returning whence I first was led.

It’s late. I get what I crave most-

A midnight snack of tea and toast.

My stump is short and fat and round

With bandages about it wound.

I get some shallow, restless sleep:

With arm aloft it’s not too deep.

I’m wakened each and every hour

Within my dim be-curtained bower.

Nurse Lorna takes my blood pressure

And pulse in order to be sure

If complications do arise

They will not take us by surprise.

At Two, when at our hourly meeting

She offered me a birthday greeting.

At eight it’s breakfast time at last

And I shall cease my lengthy fast.

There’s porage meal and prunes and roll

With buttered toast to fill my hole

To spread on this – you’ll think it funny

A little tub of E.U. honey.

I lie back on my bed and think

‘Doesn’t perspiration stink!’

I ask if I might take a shower.

Some squirted water under power

Would wash away the sweat and dirt

From gardening just before my hurt.

The nurse says ‘Yes, of course you may;

Turn right it’s just along the way’

She finds me towel, soap and stuff

And when I’m washed and shaved enough

Discard my most immodest smock

And elastic squeezing sock.

A night shirt there’s to wear instead

Although I’m seldom in my bed.

It doesn’t reach quite to my knee

So if I want to modest be

My knees must touch. I must not bend

Lest I display my nether end.


As down the corridor I went

A nurse saw my predicament.

She beckoned me into a room

Whence came I clad in pantaloon.

I try to use the radio

But first I really need to know

The way to turn the darn thing on.

The complicated box of trick

Will let me hear the wireless quick;

But do I really need to tell yer

My efforts came to total failure.

I give it up. A useless job.

And now my thumb begins to throb.

I tell the nurse. She doesn’t scoff.

The anaesthetic’s wearing off.

She brings me news – so thanks a bunch

I may go home soon after lunch.

Now there’s so little time to go

I learn to use the radio.

Then lunch arrives – its rather good

With soup and sausages and pud.

My son from college then turns up.

At 20 he’s my youngest pup.

The nurse gives me a bag of pills

To help to cure me of my ills.

She checks my pressure, it was low

But now it’s up to one one oh.

And down my tube just one more squirt.

It just looks odd – it doesn’t hurt.

I feel it coldly without pain

Inserting fluid in my vein.

At last she takes the tube right out

And plasters so the blood won’t spout.

I get into my dirty clothes

Quite aromatic to the nose.

I can then head for the gate

With medical certificate.

I worry now about my bees

I cannot handle them with ease.

The thing that puts my mind at rest is

The thought that I have an apprentice!

This time, again I was making beehive bits, cutting thin plywood ‘starter strips’ to try on the top bars of the TBH I am building for Sarah to make a daily check on the fallen debris to see whether the bees exhibit any of the traits described by Ron Hoskins in his varroa tolerant bees.  It’s the right thumb, which looked just like bloody corned beef when I did it on Tuesday evening.  I missed the nail and bone this time. I had the dressing changed today and it’s healing well so I hope to be back in action in a few weeks. Something strange has happened though: soon after my first accident, to my left thumb, I was attacked by gout in my right big toe.  It was a painful nuisance at the time but hasn’t bothered me for years now.  Suddenly I have gout again, on my left big toe!  Is this simply coincidence or is the body trying to counter one problem by distracting me with something more painful diagonally opposite?



About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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  1. Margaret says:

    Reminds me of the old Gypsy cure for a lame horse. “Kick the other leg”.
    I hope you will soon be back on form and the thumb heals well.

  2. Emily Heath says:

    It’s a brilliant poem, but I’m sorry it was inspired by such painful incidents!

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