Mum and I are walking back home from the village. We have left the war memorial behind us where it meets the fork in the road that heads off to Aberdeen one way and to the village of Kemnay in the other behind us. It is late in the afternoon. We have been to the Co-op collecting the divi. There are fields on that side of the road and on this side, shielding the nine-hole golf course, are heather, gorse and a few trees, silver birch, hawthorn and several tall old Scots pine with their flat tops.
Suddenly, mum puts a hand on my arm stopping me in my tracks, “Listen” she says, tilting her head to one side and smiling, “can you hear it?”
“What?” I say, straining my ears to listen. It is quiet except for some birdsong.
Mum purses her lips and whistles a little tune. “That’s a yellowhammer’s song," she says, “It’s saying, ‘a little bit of bread and no cheeeese’. Listen.”
We stand and listen. Now I can hear it too. Yes, that’s what it is saying, no doubt. It is saying that.
“There it is,” mum says, “there on the hawthorn. There,” pointing, “there.”,
I can see it now, singing its little heart out.
As we stroll on mum plucks a leaf from a hawthorn branch, “Taste that John,” she says, folding in into a tiny parcel and handing it to me.
“No thanks mum,” I say doubtfully.
She pops it into her mouth and chews on it. “It tastes like bread and cheese,” she tells me and plucks another leaf for me to try. I fold it as she had done and take a careful nibble with my front teeth, “eat it properly,” she says laughing.
I pop it into my mouth and chew. It tastes slightly bitter. I cannot taste bread and cheese at all.
“What do you think?” she asks.
“Yes, nice,” I say, not wanting to disappoint, “nice.”