Nest: Letter One

Olya Ryder

Twin Fold Barn

Burthallan Lane

St Ives

TR26 2BO 

9th November 2018




Dear Mr McDonough,


Please find enclosed my receipts for the trough. Yes, you can refund by cheque if that’s easier for you, although I can’t remember the last time I banked a cheque! I usually use PayPal whenever I buy anything from eBay but I know this circumstance is quite unusual. It’s actually very refreshing to go back to old methods – letter writing, banking cheques and the like.   


I have boxed up the nest as best I can and hope that nothing has been broken in transit. Your men came to collect it all yesterday at 10am, as promised. There are now only five eggs. I still haven’t found the other one. Perhaps it hatched and whatever was inside took itself off somewhere. I can’t imagine that my cat would have taken it – we’ve kept it shut in the shed since it arrived (the trough, not the cat). I can only assume that the newly hatched creature ate its own shell as I haven’t found a single fragment. Please note that since our last exchange, one of these eggs has started to mottle and these new marbling veins are tacky to the touch. I wore gloves when I wrapped it up and would advise you to do the same when handling the nest.


The trough is discoloured in one corner, the corner where the nest was huddled. You will see that the discoloration has traversed the stone and is now visible from the outside although it hasn’t stained our shed floor, I’m happy to report. My husband, upon arriving home from a trip away, noticed a significant change in size – almost as if the eggs are growing.


The others continue to tap, only at sunset or if covered with a blanket. You will notice that the tapping gradually synchronises and becomes one collective rhythmic knock. I’ve never heard of this before and can’t find any information online about this kind of behaviour. Perhaps they are calling for a parent? On the second night I covered them with a large, heated towel and it seemed to calm them (or simply muffle the noise). I was quite pleased that I’d managed to create a fake mother for them. After three minutes, however, the smell was unbearable. Dried cheese and cat food is the only way I can describe it. I returned when the towel had cooled. The smell had dissipated, thankfully.


You mentioned that your father kept the trough in his aviary for years. Who’s to say that some of the aviary residents – or even descendants of the residents – didn’t continue to return after he’d moved away? I’ve given this a great deal of thought and – if you don’t mind my saying – I think that this is why you have asked us not to involve the RSPCA. I know that, way back when, all kinds of species were illegally traded as pets. This was simply a sign of the times and I don’t see why you should be held accountable for what went on – your secret is safe with us! Although I appreciate your generous offer of ‘compensation’, I’d like some reassurance that our proximity to this nest won’t cause us any harm. We don’t need compensation, that’s not our way, but I’d like to reiterate the fact that my husband picked up an egg and held it to his nose before he went away. We’d simply like your assurance that, if something were to happen, you’d be willing to disclose any useful information to a medical third party. Evidently you are reluctant share it with us…


Just incidentally, I am quite disappointed about having to return the trough. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get another one of that age and size! We had to call my sister-in-law and my two nephews to help us move it, and even then we could only lift it onto casters and wheel it into the shed. Goodness knows how your two men lifted it into the back of their van. Anyway, we were hoping to use it as an out-of-the-ground fish pond. Perhaps if you come across something similar you’d let us know? Unlikely, I know, but worth a shot.


I shall await your cheque. I’ll be in touch when I’ve received it (although most probably by email).


Yours sincerely,


Olya Ryder

By Amy Lilwall

About Nest

Nest is our epistolary project, written collaboratively by students and staff and published every fortnight right here on Falwriting. You can find out more about Nest here.

Want to know what happens next?

Read Nest: Letter Two, Nest: Letter Three, and Nest: Letter Four.

Nest Podcast

We have just released the first episode of our Nest podcast, where each writer will read the newest letter and talk about their writing process and influences. You can listen to Amy discuss her writing process and influences in Nest: Episode One.

You can also listen to our future Nest podcasts here.

Have you ever found a nest?

Have you ever found a nest?