Blackberries 

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‘Tis the time to go a hunting for blackberries…. 
Yesterday, I went blackberry picking with my children and my cat. That’s right, my cat! She decided to join us on the whole journey, dutifully following us like a lost puppy. Anyway, I digress, this was the second time we’ve been blackberry picking. It’s become an Autumn ritual for me and I have been eyeing up the brambles all year. 
Here is my guide to blackberry picking (not that you need one, I just like writing about it!):
With my health and safety hard hat on, I would just like to say that make sure you know what you are picking and make sure you are safe (no picking blackberries whilst hanging one handed off a railway bridge for instance …..). Oh and best to leave the blackberries that are on road sides as they will be covered in pollution. 
My only other rule is to always leave enough for Mother Nature. This is pretty easy when it comes to blackberries as they are so abundant! Also, the best ones always seem to be out of reach. A walking stick can help you to access the ones that are tantalising close. 
Blackberries are pretty easy to identify. The black clusters of juiciness drip down off thorny stems and dark green leaves with a serrated edge – and more thorns lay along their veins. I’ve provided many photographs just in case you don’t know what you are looking for! 
Talking of thorns …. You can’t go blackberry picking without the following hazards:
Thorns – they will scratch you and stick in your skin! I’m currently sporting a rather nasty gash on my finger where the thorn ripped through my skin. Ow! Thorns also have a habit of lodging in your skin, like splinters. Remove them quickly to avoid irritation. 
Nettles – damn them! They get everywhere and I was stung several times yesterday.
Dog poo – sadly so, hedgerows seem to be the perfect place for dogs to poo and owners to not clear up after them. Also, don’t pick blackberries near or at ground level as you never know if a dog has urinated on them. Bleurgh. 
Spiders – I class these as a hazard! You might love them but I don’t… One managed to land in my trainer which caused me to flick said trainer and sock into the hedge. Spiders relish making their webs on and around brambles so careful where you’re reaching to. 
I hope I’m not ruining this for you! Blackberries are probably the most well known hedgerow food that are free to forage and devour. I don’t bother with supermarket berries or even the pick your own places, I find these berries to be bland and tasteless. Nothing compares to the taste of a wild blackberry and as they are only available for such a short window of time, I make the most of them! 
Not only are the berries wonderful to eat; the experience of being in the autumn sunshine, listening to the bird song and feeling the breeze on your face is second to none. Whilst I was out picking, I noticed rose hips, elderberries, sloes and crab apples. All are edible – as are the hawthorn berries that I spotted (but please do your research as many need cooking and deseeding before they are safe to eat). 
My top tip is to not eat them fresh but to freeze them for use in apple and blackberry pies and crumbles. They provide a welcome reminder of the summer sun when all out side is wintertime gloom. 
Once you’ve picked your blackberries, give them a good rinse with cold tap water. Allow to dry and then open on a baking tray. They don’t take long to freeze and there’s something magical about the frozen blackberry. It looks like the most delectable boiled sweet known to womankind! Bag up your frozen berries for later consumption. When you need them, give them another rinse with boiled water and add straight into whatever you’re cooking. 
Blackberries are still out in force so get out there now and fill your freezer with free food straight from nature’s larder. 
Happy picking and happy eating! 

Exxx @womentogether  

    
   

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Time hopping through life (CW)

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Everyone now and then a time hop (other products may exist!) pops up on my FB feed to remind me of something that I knew nothing about in the first place. A child’s birth or an anniversary or just a great day meal this person happened to have. Yes, I’m being a misery but bear with me! 
Every time I see one I think to myself ‘thank goodness I don’t have that!’. There a lots of things in my life that I enjoy remembering and those memories will always be held in my heart. There’s also lots of things I’d rather not remember. This is how it might go ….
April 2007 wedding day – worst day of my like so far! Weeping quietly to myself in the hotel room. What have I done?! 
April 2009 Gave birth to my third child today, a beautiful girl. Husband celebrated by head butting and punching the wall then demanded I discharge myself. Home now, feel free to pop over when my husband allows you too. 
Dec 2011 today we had our house repossessed! What a lovely Christmas present for the children.
Sept 2012 rushing around like a tornado trying to pack all of our belongings into three cars to escape my abusive husband. At least the sun is shining. 
Jan 2014 today I tried to kill myself so I apologise for the lack of comms. 
October 2014 well, that was an eventful few days. Ex found not guilty of raping and sexually abusing me. Off to have dinner with family. 
I’m quite proud of myself for being able to inject some humour into these memories. As my nan used to say ‘you have to laugh otherwise you’d cry’. I think it’s called gallows humour….and is a much needed survival mechanism for those of us who have experienced trauma.
Until I’ve found away to process my traumas, I’ll always be bound by my past. Your past shapes who you are and what you become (having said that, a traumatic past is not an excuse to go and cause others trauma). I’m now in a place where I have discovered feminism and sisterhood, I doubt I ever would have if I hadn’t been through what I did. The negative experiences in my life created a deep empathy with other women that I would never have gained through a life of comfort and joy.  
When I do get moments of contentment and happiness, they rush through my body like champagne. However fleeting they are, they are mine and no one can take them away from me. 
Yours in sisterhood 

Exxx 

I Close My Eyes – Poem 

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I close my eyes in the darknessIn the hope that you’re not there

It’s a burden that I live with 

A pain I cannot share.
My eyelids are like blankets 

I shroud myself from view 

To feel a certain safety 

And sleep again renewed. 
These eyes are tired and sore

From seeing damage done 

Like dust from absent dew drops 

Those battles only lost not won.
I close my eyes despite the darkness 

A hood of velveteen 

There’s safety in there somewhere 

Amongst treasures left unseen. 

The assault I’d almost forgotten (CW/TW) 

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As some of you might know, I was in hospital recently due to a rather belligerent kidney infection. 
Waiting on a bed in A&E for the nurse to come and see me, I was surprised to be told that I was being put on a ward. Another nurse and a porter came to wheel me up to the ward on the second floor. 
I looked at the porter and we made eye contact. He averted his gaze and that was then I realised who he was, I’m not sure if he recognised me but as the nurse had referred to me by my full name, he probably had. I thought it best to pretend I didn’t know him (I’ll refer to him as D from now on). 
The man in question was someone I knew when we were both in primary school. I think I’m a couple of years older than him. His family lived up the road from mine and our mums were friends. They often helped each other out with childcare. 
There were a few afternoons when D had to stay with us after school. I’m not sure why but we were left alone in my house, maybe my mum had an appointment or something. 
We would play games and run around the house, you know, the sort of thing young kids do. Then there was this particular afternoon where things turned that bit darker. 
When I saw D standing over my hospital bed/trolley, it all came flooding back. I felt vulnerable on the bed, cannula in the crook of my arm and wiped out by days of infection. Not the sort of time you’d want memories of an assault to come flooding back. 
I remember him chasing me around the house. At first it was fun, then his jog turned into a run and suddenly I felt fear instead of excitement. I raced into my bedroom and jumped on to my bed, it was a place I associated with security and comfort. 
D raced into my room and pinned my down on the bed kissing me. I pushed him away (he has gripped my arms so this was no mean feat) and said ‘no, I don’t want to kiss you’. I ran out of the room and he followed. I can’t recall how long it went on for but he chased me up and down the stairs and through various rooms. Terror span through my mind, I needed to find a way to get away from him.
He managed to grab me a couple more times until I made a run for the bathroom. In my haste to lock the door, I caught my face causing a slight gash which bled lightly down my face. I could hear him outside the door but I didn’t come out. Instead, I sat on the floor and tried to breathe normally again, relieved that it was over. 
Time went on and I heard my mum come home. I didn’t come out, I felt ashamed and dirty. Ok, it was ‘just’ a kiss but I was a very shy 8yo (maybe 9yo) and it was like I had done something truly awful. Needless to say, I blamed myself. I was young and not equipped to process what had happened, assault was not a word that I was familiar with. 
Eventually he went home, I reluctantly stepped out of my new sanctuary to be met by questions as to why I had locked myself in the bathroom and what had happened to my face. I didn’t lie about what had happened to my face but I did lie about the events that led up to it. D never stayed over again, I can only imagine that my parents released something wasn’t right. I’ve never spoken about this before or since. 
Whilst writing this, it suddenly occurred to me that the bathroom was then and now my safe place; my sanctuary. Many, many times I would lock myself in the bathroom as an upset teenager or when I needed some space alone. It was also the place I went when I wanted to flee my ex husband. Hearing him lurking outside, sometimes thumping the door, sometimes saying my name over and over again….. 
It’s been a long time since my bed and bedroom ever felt safe and secure like it did when I was a child. Probably why I struggle with getting to sleep and feel anxious at night (not as bad in daylight). My new house has locks on the the bathroom and WC doors but they are the sort that you can undo from the outside. When I shower, I don’t feel as safe anymore. 
I wonder when I will ever feel safe again? 
Exxx