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Berries, nuts, a book and figs

I have picked a big bag of crab apples, and a smaller bag of rowan berries, and am making rowan jelly.  There are still a lot of crab apples left, so I think I may pick some blackberries (it's such a good blackberry year!) and make some blackberry jelly too.  I wonder if you can embalm whole figs in jelly?  I have got so many ripe figs, I am running out of things to do with them!  The heatwave may be over, but the skies are still blue enough and the sun warm enough to ripen figs on a south-facing wall.

It's the time of year when I find myself constantly stopping to snack on blackberries and hazelnuts from the hedges.  There are so many nuts that there are enough for the squirrels and plenty to spare for me.

Which reminds me of a book I read recently: "Witch Light" by Susan Fletcher.

It's set in 1692, and tells the story of Corrag, whose mother and grandmother were killed as witches.  Corrag fled to Glencoe shortly before the famous massacre, which she witnessed.   Corrag has been captured and is being kept prisoner before she is herself burned as a witch.  In the meanwhile, she is telling the story of her life to a secret Jacobite sympathiser investigating the massacre.    It's a really beautifully told story, full of wonderful images, and I feel quite bad that I wasn't entirely able to just let go of practicality and enjoy the flow of the narrative.  Yet things like 'but what is she EATING?' kept intruding. It's all very well to talk vaguely about roots and berries - but berries take a while to pick, specially when you don't know the land.  Also her horse dies en route, and since she has nothing to feed the poor beast, and she can remember her as a foal, I kept being distracted and thinking: that horse is only about 12 years old!  It's dying because she's ridden it into the ground!

I think part of the problem here (aside from me being weirdly obsessed with wild food) is the very tight point of view.  The story has a wild strangeness to it that is like a fairy tale - Corrag gallops her white mare along a beach at midnight, she arrives at Glencoe with moths in her hair and trails of brambles in her skirts - atmospheric, slightly impractical images (if I were walking with brambles on my skirts, I would stop and unpick them.  Because they really slow you down, brambles!).  All of this would work perfectly if we were told about it by a third party, or via a more
omniscient viewpoint so that it felt more fairy tale.  But with the close personal point of view and the fact that Corrag is telling you about it as something that happened to her directly, you start to wonder: how did she get those moths in her hair?   How do you remove a pile of moths from hair without squishing them?  What *kind* of roots?  and that sometimes meant the story as a whole didn't quite work so well.

That said, I really enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it.  


I meant to pick the nuts in the garden today, and then cut back the nuttrees, but instead I have cut back the big sycamore near the window, which was leaning out perilously over the lane and (I suspect) annoying the neighbours who have to get past it.

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