Blood and Bilberries

Bilberry picking

The rain has just returned, hammering at the moss covered roof and leaking noisily from the broken gutter. Earlier, it was the picture perfect summers day and  I wandered up the valley, in the steamy August heat that has been so rare lately, playing at being a bear foraging for berries, growling at annoying sheep and dying my hands and knees purple with juice. Bilberry, Bleaberry… what do you call them where you are? There is something very primitive and comforting about gathering wild food and filling the store cupboards like a squirrel or a Moomin…  I’d already made 8 jars of red gooseberry jelly in the morning after discovering that I’d gone to work by mistake.

The  day started like this… morning sunshine making the inside of the black painted front door hot to the touch as I dashed out to work with my carefully packed lunch, rarely brushed hair and a day of selling wonderful art to lovely people ahead of me. Only I hadn’t read the calendar and had forgotten that I’m working on Sunday instead, silly me, I could have stayed in bed. I put all the lights on anyway and collected my newly framed work for C-Art which had been left in the gallery and headed back to the hills – at least I was up and about early and it was a ridiculously perfect day … as I drove back I thought, as I often do, how it is SO pretty here it feels unreal, like a fairy tale.

felted nests

After the gooseberry jelly was safely in its jars I took myself to the garden of the  house next door (which I pretend is mine when they are away) with a straw hat and a pile of things to make into nests. Some tiny bronze birds had come in to the gallery last week and I just thought they needed nests. I also just wanted to make something methodical because it stops me thinking too much. So there I sat, with a buzzard crying overhead and the mountains all around me and people rushing past looking hot, with heavy rucksacks saying “ooh isn’t it lovely, you are lucky” and feeling guilty for being lucky and also edgy because I’ve felt like this before about a place and look how that turned out.

a felted nest

Nest building is a lot harder than it looks and the birds were probably laughing at me but tomorrow I’m going to put the bronze wren in one and that will make it worth while. nest in the mountains

So, all the time I was picking bilberries and breathing in the smell of heather and bracken and warm mud and mountain air I was thinking about how to write it down so that you could get a sense of how lovely it all was. I came back and began to cook supper, feeling content in the way that you only can in summer when its warm enough to pad around in bare feet and a scruffy sundress, with the windows open… and then…the horrible sound of banging and squawking and panic and feathers and in the chicken house the mean old stoat. My favourite little chick was killed and Mr Stoat is so fearless that I know he will be back. I’m quite tough- I had to complete the job to make sure she was dead, you do these things in the countryside, I try not to be sentimental but I’m sad and I find the smallest thing hits me hard these days. I won’t trap the stoat, it was here first and probably has young to feed. Maybe I can fence him out, but anyway, thats how the day ended.  Sometimes I feel a bit like this …


Now I’m off to bed to read a little bit and try not to dwell on the possibility that I may be suffering from the Jam Makers Curse ( I remember life taking a sharp turn for the worse after a certain batch of Plum Jam back in the Joe Cornish Gallery days AND there was the Apple and Bramble Jelly that failed to save me from eviction !) I don’t even eat that much jam, I prefer Marmite 🙂

Reading :- “Haweswater” by Sarah Hall    Listening to :- “Stolen Car” Beth Orton and RAIN

2 responses to “Blood and Bilberries

  1. Don’t feel guilty. You above all people deserve some peace and contentment after all you’ve been through. Love the nest. That’s one lucky bird!

  2. Hi Kim,
    I’m so sorry about your chick….life isn’t easy in the country, not that it’s easy anywhere these days. Your nests are so beautiful, the bronze wren will feel very secure and happy.

    The countryside and mountains are looking really beautiful but I can understand your little sketch of the tree-house too.


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