The approaching storm sent us scurrying from the shore at Changi Point back to the boardwalk and washing area last Saturday. In this quarter transected by Nethevaron Road and Cranwell Road, crumbling bungalows converted into holiday chalets, haunted hospitals and derelict army barracks lie low amidst rich copses of mature trees. Even without the rain, a hazy dampness bathes the morning air, covering the coastal hillocks with a dewy cloud. Few cars disturb the windy roads here, so the loudest sounds of the dawn are the bubbles and whistles of bulbuls and koels that flit over our heads. On some days, the hornbills reveal themselves as swift phantoms who lord over the canopy in their search for a breakfast of figs and other fleshy pericarps.
The sun had already risen, but some insects were still sluggish and probably remained so, given the impending deluge. A green baron clung to a banana leaf with unusual patience, while at the porch by the tap, a few workers were milling about listlessly, allowing rare portraits of the bees at rest. Did they spend the night away from their hive or were they lost or simply outcasts at the end of their effective tenure? Or were they misfits rendered homeless by acts of human mindlessness that focus only on the stings but forget the vital services and sweet syrup that bees render to mankind with no thought of compensation? Surely it is no mean feat to coexist in peace with these essential pollinators and symbols of selfless industry that outnumber tetrapods in diversity? In Phuket, we landed one fine morning this March and were ferried to a little house that serves as both headquarters and home to a family who rents out vehicles for a living. After settling the paperwork, I took the chosen Suzuki out for a test drive with two happy riders who unfortunately didn't come with the package. Back from the spin, a toilet break brought us into a breezy chamber at the back of the dwelling, where a massive hive hung from the upper corner facing the hole in the ground. The bees could venture out via an adjacent window, and it was evident that they were tolerated tenants, as fresh paintwork had been applied to the walls which narrowly circumvented the insects' home. Clearly, the family sees and suffers no harm from sharing their halls with this hive. So why can't the fine folk on this buzzing island do likewise?