Monday 12 September 2016

How the Hills Roll

We ended August by driving out to the Lake District, and from there onto Scotland, and got back last week. But as usual, it's taken me longer to come back to this space. I quite enjoy keeping away from the laptop these days. As much as I enjoy coming back to catch up with those of you who are still here. I hope you've been well!

When we reached the Lake District and our little, whitewashed B&B in the village of Near Sawrey, I looked at the hills and realised that I'd forgotten to pack my watercolours. For this, I'm thankful. I could never have done justice to the light and the land, to the greens that were at once opaque and translucent, the ferns that were delicate and raucous, and the dew-soaked smell of wild things.

I could not have captured the trickle of the brook, the scores of tiny snails clinging onto half-eaten leaves, or the smile of the woman who invited us into her garden for freshly-picked runner beans.

I would not have known how to paint the din of the village pub, the warmth of strangers with whom we had many long conversations as we sat with our pints in the evening, nor the wisps of smoke that rose from our coil of Cumberland sausage. 

This was the same pub that Beatrix Potter had painted in her Peter Rabbit books a century-and-a-half ago. And much like the pub and her paintings, her hills haven't changed. They speak straight to your soul, they slow down your thoughts, they inspire poems, and roll on as gently as they always have.

We walked up the hills and down, we met people who told us stories of how their great-grandfathers had built their houses, grown their gardens and died with a love of The Lakes in their heart. We stopped to pick blackberries. They'd been washed shiny from the rains of the night before. We ate the blackberries standing by the road. The bushes were prickly, the fruits sweet and tart. They stained our fingers the same shade as the sky at sunset, when the last light dipped behind the hills.

by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.



  1. Amazing write up..have left me wanting to read some more...U r a wonderful storyteller.I have been following your blog for the past 5 years ..First time commenting.:-)

    1. I love that you decided to say Hi, Shaoli. So lovely to 'meet' you :) And hugs for staying with this space for five years.

  2. So lovely to see you back.. looking forward to more and more stories. :-)

    Am I too late in wishing you a happy birthday? And then i think, what the heck, the wishes are still as warm as I can keep, so am sending them over to you. much love..

    1. It's good to be back, and to hear from you, Fiona :) How can a warm birthday wish ever come too late? Much love for the wish!

  3. Such beautiful pictures! And your words - they bring the place to life! Spending a couple of days in a place like this must fill your soul, no? I'm desperately craving for a couple of days like these - for about 2 years now - but it just hasn't been happening. We have been travelling to religious places and family events and what not, but this is the kind of travel that my heart has been craving. I don't even know if this kind of travel is possible with a kid as small as Bubboo! :)

    1. You with your love of travel books will be Bubboo's best guide to becoming an intrepid traveler, I'm sure. Go on and get those traveling shoes'll be surprised at what great travelers kids can be. It's never too early to start :)

    2. Ummm.. we love to travel in real life too, just as much as I love reading travel books. The husband and I were avid travellers before Bubboo happened, so much so that people around us would wonder how we managed to take so many holidays. But we managed, and we were happy. We would plan out our holidays at the very start of the year, when the both of us received our yearly holiday lists. Just browsing about holiday destinations, reading up about them, planning them, and then writing about them would get us high. Sigh!

  4. Pia,
    I have devoured each of your posts for a couple of years now. I cannot tell you how much joy they bring to me - you have a wonderful way with them and I wish I could say something so beautiful to tell you how much I love your space here, how inspiring your photos are, how lovely Chotto-ma is, how charming your home is - but I cannot. Everything pales in comparison to the way you write.

    1. The universe works to bring you words that you need to hear - through books, or songs, and sometimes a note like yours. Thank you, sweet kismitoffeebar. I've been thinking about the blog lately; about how to make time for it, and whether there's a reason for my rambles at all. And then you tell me it brings you joy - so there must be a reason still.
      Hugs, Pia

    2. Of course, there's a reason to your rambles! We all love reading you. You have no idea how much your posts inspire me!

    3. I'm sending you a late, but giant, hug, lovely gal. Your visits and words mean much to me.

  5. Such a lovely post..more than a post it seemed like poetry and my favourite place.. Scotland...
    take care

    1. Thank you so much. The landscape almost shakes the words out of you :)

  6. The Lakes are so utterly beautiful. Loved your post, and the pictures, as always! :) x

    1. They are, aren't they? It's one of our favourite places to go back to :) xx


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