Dear Readers, in the UK we are going to be pretty much locked down again from 4th November. The only difference from the March lockdown appears to be that schools and universities will remain open, though it’s clear that this will push up the transmission rate and may make the lockdown longer. Scientists thought that the original lockdown was loosened too early, and have been calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown since September, so none of this is a surprise, but it’s still terrible news for small businesses of all kinds, for those who will lose their jobs, for the self-employed and above all for the many people who are going to lose loved ones unnecessarily because of the mishandling of the crisis. Let’s just hope that the government get test, track and trace up and running in the interim and that one of the many vaccines being trialled proves effective (though as immunity to the disease seems to run into months rather than years I wouldn’t get too excited just yet).
Meanwhile, I’m relying on my friends in the US to provide something to lift the spirits on 4th November. Keeping everything crossed for you, and for the rest of us too: if nothing else, a change of President would be immeasurably better from a Climate Change point of view, let alone everything else.
Anyhow, there’s nothing like a walk in the cemetery to lift the spirits, I find, and on this damp blustery day there was still plenty to get excited about. Howsabout these fungi, for a start? They were popping up under the Cedar of Lebanon at the entrance to the grounds, and I am hoping that my fungiphile (is that even a word?) friend A will be able to suggest an ID before this blog goes live. The white one looks temptingly edible (though I personally won’t be trying it), the purple one less so. (Update: apparently the purple one is called Amethyst Deceiver, and the other ones are called Shaggy Parasols. Amethyst Deceivers, according to my fungi book, are ‘perhaps the most strikingly beautiful of all very common toadstools, and they certainly do have an ethereal beauty. Shaggy Parasols are edible, but upset some people’s stomachs. This all just reinforces the foragers’ mantra: if in doubt, don’t.)
On we go. A big area of the cemetery is currently closed while they seem to be digging the whole thing over with big yellow digging machines – at the moment it looks like a claggy wasteland, good for a renactment of the Battle of the Somme but not much else. No doubt it will soon be turfed over and available for graves again. It’s a bit of a shame for the masses of goat’s rue that popped up there during the summer, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be back.
The Field Maples (Acer campestre) have mostly shed their leaves, as have the sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus). The Field Maple leaves look very much like those on the Canadian flag, but as I have just discovered, the symbolic leaf shows a ‘generic maple’ with 11 points in the design: a sugar maple (as in ‘maple syrup’) has no less than 23 ‘points’ on its leaf.
On the ground, the Field Maple leaves are bright yellow, and smaller than those of Sycamore.
More importantly, though, they don’t have those characteristic black-tar fungus spots that I was talking about a few weeks ago.
It’s extraordinary how the colour in the leaves breaks down, and once the leaves have fallen it gives the casual observer a chance to see how individual each one is. Some look as if they’ve been spattered by acid rain, while others look as if the icy fingers of Jack Frost have touched them and turned the green to yellow. There is such glory at the end.
Finally, I encountered a most confiding magpie today. Normally I only have to raise my camera and off they go (making me think about the Avian Eavesdropping talk that I mentioned yesterday). This one seemed to be both wary and curious. What handsome birds they are! I love the way that you can really see the iridescence on the feathers. If they were rarer, I’m sure we’d be stunned every time one flew past. As it is, their machine-gun rattle of a call and their blue/green/turquoise/purple plumage doesn’t hazard a second look. If the lockdown has taught me one thing, it’s that I am surrounded by small wonders, if only I stop to look and listen.
Photo One by Jared Grove