It’s been a testing few weeks for all of us, I know, and there’s something energy sapping about living in a country that’s pretty much falling apart under a corrupt and incompetent government. I could list the terrible consequences of government idiocy but there doesn’t seem much point – we all know how and why they’ve failed; it’s just kicking them out that seems so difficult.
But there’s been another psychological hurdle at the Potwell Inn, and that’s a birthday that seems to take me over a line. Six years ago, when we retired, a friend had a T shirt made for me with the slogan “I’m not old I’m experienced!” written on it. Madame wouldn’t let me wear it outside because she said it seemed aggressive – “tough!” – I thought; “I’m not ready to screw my life down into the box marked old man”. There are so many assumptions about us – that we’re slow and doddery; that we’re all right wing bigots; that we have no idea about technology or media and that we have nothing to say that a young person might find remotely interesting. Harrumph!
Anyway, walking along the canal yesterday, these winter heliotropes made my heart sing; flowering, as they do, when the rest of nature looks like a dog with worms. They have a curious and indescribable scent; flower for a couple of weeks and then revert to looking like coltsfoot: most confusing.
In Henrietta Park we found a priceless oyster mushroom growing on the side of a long dead tree. I photographed and left it and then a couple of days later we found it had been cut off, probably by an urban forager. I was slightly peeved because, had it been left in place, it could have inspired lots of people to try to identify it. Who knows ? a future president of the British Mycological Society could have been jolted into a lifelong passion by that single fungus. The same tree had some nice brackets, turkey tails and honey tuft on board. What a good idea to resist all thoughts of tidying the stump away in favour of teeming fungi, going about their business clearing up dead matter and storing carbon.
The robins seemed more than usually pugnacious on our walk, and we spotted the Widcombe heron, not to mention wagtails, mallard, moorhens and swans – which we now know how to sex: dead easy when you’ve been taught to examine (from a respectful distance) necks and beaks (well, noses I suppose). The river, meanwhile, was flecked with foam and the perfume of detergent filled the air near Pulteney weir. While the new omicron variant of Covid stalks the streets we instinctively avoid crowded places now and didn’t feel able to go to the last indoor meeting of the Bath Nats – which is a massive deprivation for us; a second winter with no lectures and no meeting up with friends. Anyway, dawn will come and the heliotropes were a lovely sight in a grey landscape.