Today I've been in the outside doing that lovely autumn thing, 'putting the garden to bed', though in my case it's more of a hack-back, cutting back all the brambles and ivy before they head for the coast. This means I'm too busy to blog, so Needle, a tower hedgehog from Mistmantle, will do it.
(If you don't know about Needle, you need to read Urchin of the Riding Stars. Look at www.margaretmcallister.co.uk or www.mistmantle.com)
It's nearly the end of the blackberry harvest, and it can't come too soon. I'm not ungrateful -
I like bramble jam. I like blackberries. I don't mind at all going out to pick them on beautiful afternoons, with little Hope beside me sniffing around,
the sun all golden and the air still warm, and the leaves just starting to turn and fall. This
time of year we all have to do our bit. But I swear to you, I can't get the purple off my paws, and that's not good if you're trying to make a new Threading, especially when it's a Threading for the
winter festival with snow all round the tower. Poor Crackle in the kitchen, she's up to her elbows in blackberries. she says she still sees them when she shuts her eyes at night. Hope has them stuck on his prickles.
Then there's the cloaks. You'd think that animals who live among hedgehogs could cope with a few prickles, but no. Every animal on the island seems to have torn its cloak on a bramble bush. Why wear cloaks to go blackberry picking? They've been turning up all day asking Thripple and me - please will you mend this for me, I tore it on a bramble? Some of them are perfectly capable of mending their own cloaks, and Thripple tells them so.
The sun's gone down now, so anybody who's going to rip their cloak has already done it. We shan't have any more tonight. Thripple lit the fire and we sat down with mugs of hot raspberry cordial and chatted.
There was a knock at the door. There's Urchin - it's always good to see Urchin, though I don't always let him know it - with a cloak across his paws.
"Captain Padra's compliments," he said, "and could you mend this for him. It got torn on a blackberry bush. He says he'd mend it himself but otter paws aren't good for that sort of thing."
I was already threading the needle. If it's for Captain Padra, that's different.