The mushroom man

As usual, this morning I walked my dogs. I am fortunate enough to live on the edge of a vast woods where I can be alone with nature and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If I had my way, I’d live deep in the forest with only the sounds of wildlife to listen to.

Occasionally I see the odd dog walker, like me (no pun intended!), the occasional jogger or cyclist. This morning was different. A man crossed my path out of the undergrowth. A man who reminded me of Grizzly Adams, tall and broad, a stained white beard, heavy boots and A KNIFE! Let me add, he was also carrying a wicker basket, the kind a genteel lady might use for gathering blooms from her flower garden. In a flash, quite wrongly, I was scared. In the next few seconds, I said “good morning” and expected us to both go our separate ways. He walked over to me, knife still in hand, and smiled. A smile that was filled with warmth. As he approached I could see that his basket contained all kinds of mushrooms, full to the brim. I asked him if he was going to eat them and he proceeded to show me all the different types of fungi he’d gathered, quite proudly.  I told him I’d read about about edible wild mushrooms, but was frightened to pick any for fear of poisoning myself! He scraped off  some of the outer parts of the mushrooms showing me how to prepare them to eat. This man was a forager. Judging by his accent, he was not from this country, but somewhere he had grown up with an appreciation of nature and its offerings. I suspect he was Eastern European, possibly Ukrainian by his accent. “When you grow up in the forest, you know these things. The forest provides everything you need, mushrooms, berries, chestnuts, wild rocket”. He went on to tell me how sad it was that part of this wooded area had been butchered by so called professional tree fellers. “They clear an area, then put a bench on it, then spread a little further, until to forest is destroyed. They even cut down healthy trees, all for money and greed” As he spoke, I could see he was clearly and genuinely upset.

This man was right, our woods had been damaged by diggers, natural hedgerows crushed, saplings flattened, habitats lost. I told him how sad I had been when I first ventured out after the massacre of this once beautiful place. It is still a woods, but since the forest management people have been in, the canopy is a little too thin  (in my opinion) and the deep marks of the heavy vehicles have destroyed too much. He said, “You are the 100th person to say this to me, we all need to respect mother nature and she will provide”. He waved me off, knife still in hand, wished me day a good day and we parted company. This man, who I have never seen before left a mark on me. I’d wrongly been scared of his outward appearance. This man mountain was a gentle soul, a lover of the outdoors and a scarce guardian of our green and natural spaces. A rare gem. I’d been lucky to encounter him, if only to reaffirm my duty to conserve our countryside.

We are so often consumed by the lure of material ‘stuff”. We could all do with stopping for a moment, being present and respecting nature. The woods will no doubt recover if they are left alone for enough time. If only there were more people like him. On reflection, if there were more people like him, the world would be a more pleasant place.  Sir, I am glad we stopped and chatted.

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Pride before a fall.

I never intended to be a curtain twitcher, but jeez, I am!

After my shower, I was swanning around the dressing room, dancing to Andy Williams, thinking I’d better close the blinds (well, who wants to see this half naked wet, middle aged woman wrapped in a towel and ever-so-fashionable bath turban?). Well low and behold, I spied two men dressed in black, on tiptoes peeking over the wall of my nearest neighbours. You see, I’ve always fancied myself as a modern day Juliet Bravo (for those my age, an excellent cop show from the 80’s featuring a female police inspector)

Armed with just my iPad and quick wit, heart racing at the thought of nailing two hardened criminals caught in the act, I started snapping a series of photos of them. Let me set the scene, they are 200 yards away, I am crouching in my towel trying to hold the iPad lens between the slats of the blinds without being spotted. I mean, the zoom isn’t half as powerful as I need it to be, but my,  the boys in blue are going to be impressed with me! I could almost hear my own heartbeat with the adrenaline that was flowing… like a river having burst it’s banks. Click! Got them …discussing their heinous act…Click! Yes! A (fuzzy) close up of their faces. I could almost see the Pride of Britain award already and planning an outfit in my mind to upstage Carol Vordermann, damn she looks good. Click! They’re jumping up, straining their necks to view the loot over the wall. The self congratulatory thoughts were coming in thick and fast when DH calls up to me “are you done yet, love? Blue Planet is about to start”. From me, silence; I couldn’t break my cover and thwart my plan. “Anna! Are you ok?, from DH again.  I was holding up our date with David Attenborough and a bottle of red. For pity’s sake! I thought, leave me alone! ; I’m about to crack the local crime of the decade and he’s about to spoil it. I tiptoe down the stairs and recruit him to team Anna. Me, “put your  shoes on and go outside, there’s a burglary about to happen, you can catch them and I’ll call the police”. Jeez, I love him and all, but there’s no sense of urgency;  I show him my grainy pictures and fill him in on the details. Poor Derek, (the elderly neighbour), we can’t stand by and let this happen without doing our bit for him…so out we run, me in a towel/terry turban combo and DH, pyjamas and slippers. We arrive on scene.

“Hey you!”, DH calls out to the suspects. A pride swelling up in me that I hadn’t felt since, well goodness knows when. “My wife has photos of what you were up to and the police are on their way. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, he’s an old man” (the bit about the police was a complete lie, we hadn’t called for any help, apart from each other) Me, quite smug, “yes, it’s all been photographed. Thought you’d got away with it didn’t you? You’re disgusting!”. Out shuffles Derek from his beautifully kept, wisteria adorned bungalow on hearing the commotion. “Ah, (looking straight past us), you must be here for the trampoline, go around the back”. One of the suspects looks at us and says “you’d better get some clothes on, it’s getting a bit nippy”, the pair of them were laughing. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Swallow US up . I’d made a terrible mistake. Dear old Derek was donating his grandsons redundant trampoline to another family and the two (now I could see close up, very smartly dressed) young men were here to collect it and had been checking that they had the right address. This explained the interest in Dereks garden. I am a complete fool.

The images of my accolade for bravery, championing community spirit, the dress, meeting Carol,  the acceptance speech all went down the drain in a nanosecond. DH muttered and slithered away back home. Derek says to me, “Anna darling, would you be a love and get your John back to give these young men a hand, and anyway, why are you dressed like that? I made some feeble excuse about dinner being in the oven and made a quick exit and sent DH back to help the ‘burglars’ dismantle the trampoline and load up their Jeep. Spying them from my window again, all three of them still laughing at my assumption that the poor guys were hardened criminals.

Derek was thankful for the extra space in his garden, the ‘burglars’ were thankful for and extra pair of helping hands from DH, the receiving family were thankful for the trampoline and I was thankful not to have any other neighbours who might have seen me. DH saw the funny side. Oh, the things I drag him into..I suppose it keeps him entertained. Talking of entertained, Blue Planet was recorded and we watched it with an extra bottle of red to match my cheeks. I’ll leave the heroics to Mr Attenborough and his team.

First blog

Hello,

Now this is a bit strange, talking to nobody, but I hope someone out there might be reading. You see, this is my first blog…

I thought I had loads of interesting things to talk about,  but when it comes down to it I wonder how I should go about it; topics, observations, etc. I spent an age deciding on a user name, armed with links and advice on choosing a name to suit my interests and possible readers ( most names were already taken) and WordPress telling me ‘sorry, choose another name!’ How difficult could it be? Anyhow, now I’ve chosen a name, I’ll stick with it.

Well, I suppose as good a place to start is with a wee bit about me…I’m a wife, a mum of 3, (they’ve all flown the nest), I’m middle aged in years, but in my head I’m 30-ish (who isn’t?), I revel in nature, adore animals and keep active with still running about after my brood (maybe I should charge them for being their P.A?). I’m fortunate to have a career that allows me to choose when I want to work, which is just great! My social circle is small, very small (I might elaborate another time). Oh, and I like wine.

Well, that was easier than I had imagined! Looking forward to spilling some beans