Fun with fungi

Looking for fungi is a bit like beachcombing; you have to take it slowly, stop, look round you, look again. Celia has started attending Monday fungi identification sessions at the South London Botanical Institute. It means the weekends are now prime specimen collection time. I went along for the walk on a very mild afternoon. The hunting ground was Ruskin Park.
At first it seemed the park was a fungi free zone, and I suspect Celia was regretting agreeing to go there rather than one of our other local large green spaces. Then we found this:

First find


After that most of our finds were tiny, but Celia’s paper bag started to fill up. Some fungi is amazingly tough and will not be removed from its site by fingers alone. Celia forgot to bring a knife, though on reflection that was possibly just as well. Being arrested on a sunny afternoon in South London for possession of an offensive weapon would not have been high on either of our agendas.
I’m going to just give the other photos numbers and hope that Celia, who should be now be long home from her class, will enlighten us.

Two

Three

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Cemetery Days

Imposing


London is almost fifty per cent green, an astounding statistic for a city that is home to some nine million people (or the metropolitan élite if you prefer). we have an abundance of parks, small public gardens, private gardens, churchyards and cemeteries. The cemetery Celia and I visited on Sunday was not one of the Magnificent Seven. It was Camberwell New Cemetery. Situated next door to Camberwell Old Cemetery. Since generations of my father’s side of the family lived in Camberwell, I half expected to spot the name of one of my ancestors on a grave stone.

I didn’t.

But I did see a lot of graves. Hardly surprising. There are obviously fashions in monumental masonry as in everything else. When I was making arrangements for Aunt’s headstone I wanted something made from local stone. I was thrilled to find the monumental mason was of the same mind, and we spent a happy quarter of an hour agreeing that black marble headstones are an abomination in this country. Evidently not everyone shares our sensibilities. But despite the fact that I was supposed to be looking at plants, I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was behind this grave with its VW ornament.

Camper Van Grave

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Under Fen Skies

Another lovely day at das Boot. And not at it. MasterB went back to bed straight after breakfast. 41C78D41-7634-4E54-BEFC-526D138054EBFor bed, read under the rug in the fore cabin. I had a couple of things to do at Burwell, filling the car with petrol the most important. So post shower off I went, returning via Reach and picking more blackberries for the crumble that is ready to go in the oven shortly. That’ll be pudding after I have eaten the lentil shepherd’s pie that’s also ready to go in the oven. There’ll be holey spinach as an accompanying vegetable.ED2E81A0-D01A-47D2-AAA7-7B73F2A45E33

I’m getting good at do the washing up in cold water. It’s not that there’s no hot water in the tank, it’s that the taps are sucking in air rather than water when the pump is on, and so they splutter and spit, sometimes sneeze, instead of flow.

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September in the fens and democracy up against the wall

When the big lorry passed me the fenland shuddered under my feet. Just a little reminder of how this is borrowed land. The soil is thick, dark, fertile. Whenever I look at now I think of Celia and how she wanted to bag it up and take it home. Autumn is all around. Once the baling starts in August, you know summer is nearly over. There are berries everywhere, sloes, hawthorn, acorns, some I cannot name. I picked a bowl of blackberries today. Two weeks ago I managed to pick a small bowlful to give to my downstairs’ neighbours. Returning to the same spot this afternoon, I had to remind myself to take only what I can eat between today and tomorrow.

Other than picking blackberries I didn’t have any plans for today. The forecast was for rain until mid morning. I heard the rain in the night. On the boat there is less between me and the weather than at home. I thought it would provide a nice reason to lie in bed, but when I woke properly, the rain had stopped. It was windy and rather grey. It still is windy, in that brisk business-like way that wind can have at this time of year; not cold, but as though it has things to do, and no dilly dallying will occur. But now the skies are blue and it was a pleasure to walk down the lane to deliver a letter and look more closely at the fields and the hedgerows.

There seems to be an awful lot of maize being grown this year. Usually the air around here is heavy with the scent of leeks, and I associate late August and early September with the voices of migrant workers in the fields, and in the evening the sound of music coming from the nest of caravans where they stay. There were fewer last year, apparently none this year. Better to earn money in a country where the currency will convert to a better amount of cash when they get home.

On a whim, coming back from my blackberry picking, my fingers stained, my nails rimed in purple, and bloody scratches on the back of my right hand, I turned down a lane I have passed many times but never used. It’s six years since Mother’s death, and three since Aunt’s, but I am mainly travelling the same routes.

The lane stopped near a bridge. A bridge I recognised from the walk Celia and I did a few years ago on my birthday. The weather was kinder today. I was excited to see the sculptures again, and to know how easily they can be reached from the marina. If Older Nephew doesn’t come for lunch tomorrow I may drive back to the same spot, park the car and walk the three miles to Wicken Fen, and the three miles back. I wish I had a bicycle here.

At the marina a swan was in the middle of a patch of pennywort. It stopped what it was doing to watch me, so I couldn’t tell if it was the pennywort it was eating or something else. The former I hope.

When I arrived yesterday afternoon MasterB made his way confidently down to the boat. He hid under the rug when Stuart, who has been doing some necessary work on das Boot, arrived. It was a glorious evening. I’d been filling the water tank, laboriously carrying five litre containers backwards and forwards, filling them at the tap on the other side of the marina. Some people turned up in a car, and stood about with bags of food and drink, like characters in search of a picnic. They told me they were waiting for a friend and were going out on his boat. I’m glad they didn’t stay at the marina. Boy they were loud. It was just after they left I realised I couldn’t see MasterB. He wasn’t under the rug, wasn’t on the bed, wasn’t using the litter tray.

I had left the boat open while collecting water. The pennywort by the boat looks like solid ground and for several heart pounding minutes I thought my boy had leapt onto it, fallen through it and was drowned. Willing myself to be calm, I searched the boat again and at last thought to check under the rear cover which was partly folded away. He was there. The relief I felt was overwhelming.

We did our old couple act in the evening. The sunset was around eight, and I closed the curtains against the insects once the lights were on. I watched Bake Off as MasterB purred under my hand. He is the perfect companion. I had watched much of the news, seen Rees-Mogg lounging, and on his feet, speaking in his most languid, would-be patrician tones, still saying the same old lies, still talking about Project Fear, or Project Reality as it is rightly called, while keeping silent about the lack of benefits Project Unicorn has brought us. I agreed with him about one thing, I should not like to see Corbyn as Prime Minister, and I believe there are many of the same mind as myself. However, if it came to it, I’d probably go for Corbyn and his church of Momentum groupies than Johnson and his inner circle of hell liars. We are, as the popular saying goes, between a rock and a hard place. I reckon Johnson wants a general election. I don’t. I think it would just muddle things even more. If the electorate does get asked to vote again in the next few weeks it should be for a People’s Vote, and any and all campaigning by both sides must be subject to scrutiny, with campaigners understanding that telling lies will render votes for their side null and void.

I noted that Rees-Mogg selectedly referenced Speaker Lenthall last week when he was rebuking Speaker Bercow. He said the Speaker should have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak. I’m guessing most people don’t know the end of the quote and that it was said by Lenthall when Charles I wanted to know where the five MPs he had come to arrest had gone. Charles I was behaving scandalously. Lenthall was quick witted and diplomatic. He said he had “neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak save as the House (of Commons) direct me, whose servant I am here”. In other words, he was defending and protecting Parliament from an assault on its powers and independence, just as Bercow was against an assault by Johnson.

The game playing has to stop. This is a fragile and precious democracy that is at stake.

What a Treat

I want an amaryllis. A particular one. Maybe I already have it, as I already have four growing in pots around my home.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. And loving it. One of the characters is called Mary Treat. The details about are are so convincing, her research so fascinating I wondered if she was real, or if she was  a creation from BK’s fertile imagination.

So a few minutes ago I turned to the internet and found Mary Treat was a real person, a botanist, as she is in the novel, a woman who corresponded with Darwin among other celebrated scientists, who made a living writing about her observations and experiments.  She was self taught, a respected name in the scientific world. All this at a time when few women studied the sciences.

She has an amaryllis named after her, as well as three other species of plant and animal. Wow. Continue reading

Sunday morning

Celia will recognise the scenario: go for a walk that includes a visit to a place with small, independent shops; stop in those shops and see a dress/shirt/cardigan you like; try it on; buy it; return from your walk with a new addition to your wardrobe. However, I have added a new twist. The shop is in Maghera, a small town not far away, so when we returned there to buy groceries, I went back to the shop, Allie Mae, to take a second look at two more items I had seen, and I bought them too. The shop will soon have a website and be selling via shopify, so if you want to look at the stock, sign up here.
Not all walks end in shops. Walks around Cousin’s are entirely retail free. It was warm and sunny this morning when Westie Boy, Poppy and I followed out usual route to the end of the road and back.

Shaded

Blue skies

Fortunately it had rained in the night so Poppy enjoyed a paddle in the larger puddles while Westie Boy drank. I admired the view.

Interesting

Both dogs are now lying on the floor asleep.I may take them for a shorter walk when we come back from hearing Alan Johnson later today. They only had one good walk yesterday, but Poppy was tired by the late evening. She took to her bed while I read the Guardian and was soon snoring, then dreaming, making little woofing noises and moving her front paws. I must have been very quiet when I came to the kitchen this morning as I surprised her sleeping on the sofa. Continue reading

The Roads Well Travelled

My photographs so far are fairly sparse.

Sunshine

Fungi

In my defence, it is quite tricky to take photographs when you have a Westie at the end of a lead in your left hand, and a yellow Labrador at the end of a lead in your right. And you are making sure each dog stays ‘in lane’ so that you don’t get tripped up, tangled or twisted.

Poppy at the field gate

Other than that, the walks up and down the lane have mainly gone well. I say mainly as both canines disgraced themselves when we met a black Labrador, also on a lead, on the road. Honestly, you’d have thought they had been brought up in the gutter, or had never seen another dog in their lives. Gone were the socially adjusted dogs I know. Poppy and Westie Boy tolerate each other rather than being best mates, but faced with a dog they didn’t know they reacted as one, lunging and barking.

Once was enough, but we met the dog again and the whole performance was repeated. Seeing another dog coming towards us I expected the worst, but apart from suddenly pricked ears and quickened gait, we walked by without incident.

During the day yesterday I took the longer road to Belfast, travelling there and back by bus to meet Fiona. Regular readers of this blog will anticipate an account of shopping, but not this time. On Wednesday afternoon a friend of Cousin’s called at the house. She runs an antique business and I have been a customer of hers in the past. Her daughter Charlotte is a curator at the Ulster Museum, and curated the Fashion and Feminism exhibition Fiona and I visited last year. I said how much we’d enjoyed it, and a few hours later we got a message to say Charlotte would be happy to take us around her new exhibition Vice Versa.

It’s not a large exhibition, one gallery, but fascinating. Charlotte loves her job it’s clear. She talks knowledgeably and entertainingly. It was a lesson in socio-economic history, and much much more. Charlotte will be doing talks and arranging workshops I shan’t be about to attend, but i’ve A feeling Fiona might. Continue reading

Some pictures and thoughts from last week

I am looking at my diary and wondering if I can return to das Boot sooner rather than later. The good thing about being freelance is that you can take time off. The bad thing is that when you do, you don’t get paid.

Cow parsley

Flat earth and cows

But having discussed Mother’s ashes with Older Nephew who is going to think about the issue, our minds naturally enough turned towards my father.

Alert

Stretch

He was a fit man though an ex smoker, an ex Royal Marine Commander, a man who was always on the go. Barely a year after retiring he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from which physically he recovered well. But it shook him. Suddenly his body had let him down. Mentally it took longer.

One swan with reflection

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Avoiding the cup final

A glass of chilled wine as the breeze picks up and the evening cools. It’s been hot today. I’ve drunk more than two litres of water, and shall drink more before I sleep. I am going for an early night. MasterB is currently stretched out on the bed, enjoying the air coming through the open door. Last night it was quite busy here, and I had already cleaned my teeth when he let me know that it was quiet enough for a perambulation. So I carried him ashore rather than risk my heart lurching as he leapt from the front of the boat, and once I’d got him in his harness we perambulated. Actually we stayed still for quite a lot of the time. Cats seem to like to drink in their surroundings, it’s quite boring when you are at the other end of the leash. Then there are spurts of activity, determined movements in directions I do not want to go. I hoped he’d have a poo, or at least a pee, but he saved the latter until he was back on board. I just hope he isn’t saving the poo for the journey home.

Toady, when it has been hot, he has spent most of his time under the rug in the forecabin, a rug that is supposed to save the upholstery from fur and claws. Sometimes he and I are not on the same page. The forecabin was bathed in sunshine. Surely it must have been horribly hot, but he stayed there until around five this evening, when he emerged, like Mole taking a break from spring cleaning, and blinked dazedly about him.

Shamed by my new neighbours (who set off after breakfast and have not been seen since), I felt I had to do some boat cleaning. The hot sun soon had my face running with sweat. Not wanting to disturb the grebes I didn’t want it to use the water pump and power hose. So my efforts, which were mighty but without great results, came to an end after an hour, and I retreated to the shower. I had already visited the big city, well a large village, and bought my newspaper, so after an early lunch I reclined and worked my way through pages of newsprint.

I knew, indeed how could I not? that Donald J Trump is coming to London this week. What I had not understood was how many members of his family he is bringing with him. This is less a state visit, more an invasion. I do hope they all have return tickets. Prince Charles and Camilla seem to have drawn the short straw and are spending a lot of time with Family Trump. I worked with a Trump supporter last week, and one day was enough to exhaust me. Continue reading

A little slice of heaven

The gentle movement of das Boot at her mooring, the creak of the ropes, the birdsong, are like a balm. The great crested grebes are nesting yards from the galley window, and watching them tidying up the nest, adding to it, taking it in turns to sit on the eggs, has fascinated me. When there was a change of shift last night, the one who had been sitting, the hen I think, immediately went off to collect more weed to add to the structure. Had she been thinking about this, looking about her for likely material during what must have been a fairly tedious afternoon?

Maybe Older Nephew’s and my coming and going provided her with some entertainment. We went to Ely and back, eating lunch aboard and enjoying a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc the ON had brought with him. The newly serviced engine purred. Not far from the marina we spotted a terrapin the size of a side plate. It was sunning itself on a stone. No doubt an unwanted pet, dumped in the river, and now a predator of small fish and young birds. I hope the baby grebes, when they hatch, will be beyond its orbit. MasterB joined us after a while, and as is now customary, I built him a cushion citadel. He seemed perfectly at ease. Continue reading