In my happy place

Just a brief piece, but I wanted to celebrate the couple of days I’ve been able to spend identifying and cataloguing some of the hundreds of fungus photos that I’ve taken over the past couple of decades. The weather here has been continuously wet and windy – not so much as in the South which has been hammered – but enough to make staying and working indoors a guilt free pleasure.

Fungi can be surprisingly difficult to pin a name to. As time goes by you do get a bit better, but as I’ve sorted through some of the ones I’d already named I’ve found some real bloopers. Somehow I often seem to take the wrong photo; missing out a crucial detail so some will remain un-nameable; but gradually as I’ve gone through them all several times, the list and its attached photos gets satisfyingly longer and more reliable, and I sit in bliss; surrounded by my books, and checking the minutest details. I’ve found that phone apps are far less reliable than manual checking with fungi, but the exercise of close attention is just the habit I need to cultivate if I’m ever going to be any good at leading a fungus foray.

It was a slow start to the season but I’m off with a couple of friends on another recce tomorrow near a place that I’ve known since I was about 12 years old; a holy well dedicated to St Anne that’s now so diminished and overgrown I doubt that even local people know it’s there. I was once chased by an angry cow there and I accomplished one of the most extreme long jumps over a barbed wire fence and a stream that I ever did. I had spotted a newborn calf lying apparently dead in the field. At the time I had no idea that cows often momentarily leave their calves immediately after giving birth. Of course as soon as I came close she chased me with murderous intent and I had to run for my life.

But I’ve had the most lovely day. I know that my passion for cataloguing and lists; keys and databases makes me a borderline wingnut but there we are. My first book was a children’s dictionary and I haven’t looked back. Anyway there are plenty of people in our Natural History Society just like me. I feel almost normal occasionally when I’m at meetings.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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