I aitn’t dead

Several things have happened this week which are very apposite to this heading but since they aren’t fully resolved and I want to wait and talk about them when they are, I thought I’d settle for these two.

The strange case of the discombobulated cabbage.

This first piece of oddness is for interest more than anything. A couple of weeks ago Mum’s fabulous garden team started to harvest her rather splendid cabbage crop. Having picked a few on the Tuesday afternoon they left one on the kitchen table for me to take home when I visited the following day. When I arrived I walked into the kitchen and there was my cabbage, except it looked a funny shape and when I turned it over I found … this.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. What the hell takes a bite like that out of a cabbage and how did nobody notice the previous day when they were picked? I’m not that bothered usually, it’s all going to be boiled for a few minutes anyway, but the idea of eating something that was covered in fox slobber during a pandemic didn’t appeal. We were all set to cut large swathes off it, or bin it, when I turned it back over and peeled off some of the outer leaves. The crack went round well beyond the point where they were unbroken and still wrapped round it.

Surely no animal would do that. So what did? We had a look to see if I could piece the two sides of the crack together. While it wasn’t possible to do so en masse, it was possible to see that both halves of the broken leaves on each side of the fissure matched up. These leaves hadn’t been chewed. They’d been ripped asunder (sounds theatrical). The cabbage, once picked, had continued to grow … in parts. Those parts, while growing, had torn the other, non growing leaves apart. So what you see there is a cabbage that has exploded in slow motion. Weird, and kind of cool. Also, I imagine this isn’t that unusual, so presumably farmers and harvesters of fast growing veg have to factor this in when they pick them in case of … accidents. I also love the idea of something taking fifteen hours or so to explode. Wish I’d had a time lapse camera on it.

Living on the edge! Because that’s how I roll …

Recently I was listening to Joanna Penn’s excellent podcast and she was talking about setting goals and also the whole getting comfortable with smaller horizons aspect of lockdown. Her podcasts are great by the way, if you are interested, you can find a list and listen to them here.

When it comes to targets she was saying she’d love to earn seven figures. Frankly, I think seven figures in comedic sci fi and fantasy probably isn’t going to happen unless my surname is Pratchett, Fforde or Adams. I’d be really, really happy with five figures, per year, sod it, four would be good. If I made myself a profit of £1000 a year I’d practically jizz, except I’m a lady so I can’t. Yet my ultimate ambition, though it isn’t exactly monetary is that I want the action figures on my desk to be characters from my own books. That’s probably more than a seven figure ambition right there – so it’s pretty unlikely – but hope springs eternal eh?

Focusing on reality, in the short term, I want to try and push my monthly sales from £150 – £200 ish to £500 and my resulting profits from about £10 to say … £50? This will involve writing more books I suspect. Working on that, I promise. As well I suspect it involves working on a series that people actually want to read, rather than one that they love but only after they’ve been forced to read it at gunpoint.

Further to my ultimate end of maybe earning … something … I’m hoping to produce a box set of first in series funny sci-fi and fantasy books. There are ten of us and it will be given away free. This is one of those projects that’s happening, slowly. I’ll keep you posted on progress with that because it should be a good read once it’s sorted and of course, it won’t cost anything. Woot!

Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, the broadcast. Joanna was saying that one of the things she loved about travel was how it pushed her out of her comfort zone. She felt that it was important to do that every now and again, step out of the comfort zone I mean – and I agree with her. She asked what her listeners were doing to push their boundaries … if anything. Well it just so happens that, this week I did worry myself and learned that travel isn’t the only way out of your comfort zone. Oh no. I present to you … this tried and tested method.

I grew up in the country and was brought up as a bit of a forager. If I go on a walk I’m the one at the back of the group picking fruit out of the hedges or leaves from the verge and eating them. I also grew up picking mushrooms. There are a number of these that I am totally comfortable picking and eating, some that I’m perfectly comfortable picking but can’t eat because I’m allergic to them and others that I’m pretty sure I can identify but am not comfortable putting in my or anyone else’s mouth (phnark).

Young parasol mushroom, the snakeskin er … shaft is unique to this mushroom. If it has that, you will not die from eating this.

A few years ago McOther and I went on a mushroom picking day at one of the nature reserves on the fens somewhere – probably Welney. They showed us how to identify a parasol mushroom and then they cooked some, which we ate. They were delicious and as they have some unique aspects I swore that I would pick them and eat them the next time I saw them.

However it was 5 or 10 years until I saw my first parasols in the wild and I wasn’t confident enough to pick them. Especially as the folks I was with patently had zero confidence in my fungus identifying abilities. This was in the days when all you did on a mobile phone was talk to people, text them or play snake so there was no looking on t’interweb to check. Anyway looking it up on t’interweb doesn’t always help and the point is probably moot because, at the time we happened upon them, we were on on roof of the Shropshire hills. Even now I doubt you can get a signal up there. Then last week while having a walk in the grounds of McMini’s school I found a load of them. I was almost certain what they were but – as usual – not 100 percent.

Having erred on the side of caution, I went home and looked them up. Now, I was as sure as I could be that these were the Real Deal. Still too scared to pick one though. Then I hit on a way to jog myself out of my inertia.

I was due to be driving to Mum’s to have lunch after school drop off the next day. To gather that much needed vote of confidence, I hit on the idea of asking her care team if any of them would like me to bring a mushroom down and leave it at hers for them. My cunning plan was that my Mum’s country care buddies could identify it, know it was parasol mushroom at once and asked me to bring one for them I would know it was edible.

Sure enough. The lady with Mum the day I was to visit said yes please.

Good. Now I had to pick them.

A mature parasol mushroom.

That Wednesday, morning I dropped the lad off and headed across the park to pick me mushroom … or two. In the end I picked three. I also photographed some of the mushrooms in situ in various stages of development. Naturally, once I was half way back to the car I realised that, having taken those photos, I’d left my phone on the ground by the mushrooms.

Bollocks.

Back I went. As I swished through the grassy field, filling my sandals with dew and soggy dead grass, I turned on my Bluetooth headset. Eventually the plastic voice said ‘connected’ in my ear and I knew the phone was within a 12 metre range. After a quick search I found it, put it in my pocket and returned to the car. Never mind, I expect the extra walking did me good.

When I arrived at Mum’s the lovely carer and I had a look at them, consulted our phones decided that we could definitely eat them without dying. She cooked one for Mum and I, took one home for herself, and I took the other one home and had it for my lunch on Thursday and Friday.

All three of us; Mum, career and I are delighted that we are not dead. And I’m very glad that I stepped out of the zone and finally summoned up the courage to eat a parasol mushroom after a mere twenty years. And it tasted chuffing marvellous, too. Another edible fungi on the list of things I’m confident picking, then. I call that a win.

I think the three of us felt quite pumped by the act of taking that small risk.

So the moral of this rather long story is that you don’t have to leave the country to enjoy that little frisson of danger. You can experience it right at home.

___________________________

Has this inspired you to do something unusual? (Trust me, this is unusual.)

If you’re feeling like pushing the envelope (snortle) or stepping out of your comfort zone, you can always try reading one of my books. I mean, they’re not that weird.

Well … only a bit.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling up for anything and really, really brave, you can help yourself to a couple without even paying for them when you join my mailing list.

If you want to do that, you can join here:

https://www.hamgee.co.uk/freens.html

Think how pumped and smug you’ll feel afterwards, as well.

10 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

10 responses to “I aitn’t dead

  1. Well! Well done you! I never knew parasol mushrooms were edible, or that anyone really ate them (there’s a difference, isn’t there). From what you said, I wonder if they are a little like the french mushrooms I love so much I can’t put their name in my hard at this moment. (It’ll be there once I’ve pressed ‘post comment’. I used to know where to find parasols. Now it’s a weeny bit of a long drive. But I know I saw some last year… maybe in Hampshire, not Norfolk?

    • It might have been Norfolk they like sandy soil quite a lot of the soil up there is. 🙂

      If you do see any they were worth picking because they taste delicious. 😁👍 Quite sweet and nutty.

      French mushrooms I’m thinking chanterelles?

      Cheers

      MTM

  2. “one that they love but only after they’ve been forced to read it at gunpoint.” Funny we have the same problem – except that you’re doing far better at selling than I am. I get such lovely reviews from people I can persuade to read – but have the persuasion abilities of the plague.

    As for comfort zone, I’m going the opposite direction. To hunker down IN my comfort zone, reduce news and social media as much as I can, and try to finish a couple of scenes that are giving me stomach aches. Not because they’re anything but necessary, but because they are a commitment to a decision I made in 2000 – and it’s finally come up, and I’m afraid.

    I keep telling myself I started this, which turned into a trilogy, for myself, and I have to finish it while I still can – regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s an odd position to be in after a quarter of a million words.

    Wish me luck.

    Glad you were cautious about the mushrooms – and worked your way out of it.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence of my selling skills. I need to write a new series of books which have some appeal but we’re in a similar boat when it comes to capacity. Things will keep popping up and sapping all my energy at the moment. It’s always like it this time of year but I guess, with pseudo lock down and everything, I thought it would be better. No.

      What you are doing sounds like an excellent plan. I’ve attempted something similar. I’m not watching the news and have been retreating into inner space. Unfortunately I do have to engage though. More than I would like to.

      Cheers

      MTM

  3. Diana

    I have zero confidence in mushroom identification — other than the really clear understanding that the big beautiful red with white-polka-dotted capped ones that sometimes grow here are deadly.

    I like mushrooms and envy those of you who grow up learning how to forage for healthy ones.

    Because I was puzzled by how 3 mushrooms could extend to multiple meals for multiple people –I did a search and discovered the answer — Those are monsters!! Up to 50cm(!!!!) across!

    As for your cabbage — I checked online for that, too — and found a link at https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/cabbage/splitting-cabbage-heads.htm
    that says “Split cabbage heads usually follows a heavy rain, especially after a period of dry weather. When the roots absorb excess moisture after the cabbage head is firm, the pressure from internal growth causes the head to split. The same thing may happen when the heads are fertilized late in the season. Early varieties are more susceptible to splitting cabbages than late varieties, but all varieties can split under the right conditions.”

    I learn a lot from your posts.

    (my “outside your comfort zone” experience was donating blood platelets yesterday for the first time. I am used to donating blood, both for the blood bank and for blood tests, and have avoided one arm for years now since the vein — after one blood test taking — suddenly enlarged in size and I was worried it was an aneuryism waiting to happen. Yesterday, the techies with the needle looked at my “good” arm in dismay, coz they couldn’t find a vein — then got REALLY excited about the arm I was concerned about. So I trusted them, and the vein both worked well, and didn’t explode. Bonus!)

    • I’m impressed you learn anything from my drivel! Mwahahahaaaaargh! Well done giving platelets. I keep meaning to give blood but it involves organising myself. Not my strong point. Thanks for the cabbage link. Intriguing. It was a fast growing one that had been in dry conditions and then very wet ones.

      Cheers

      MTM

  4. Carol Powney

    On toadstools and mushrooms, be sure, be sure, the cautionary tale of Aunty B’s friend, an expert on fungi who used to lecture at Oxford and other universities on such, picked her last and breathed her last some years ago, when finding she didn’t know as much as she thought. For each edible there is an alike that is not…some as she found out were deadly. The picture you show is similar to a puffball too, one such is,
    Lycoperdon perlatum, popularly known as the common puffball, warted puffball, gem-studded puffball, wolf farts or the devil’s snuff-box, is a species of puffball fungus in the family Agaricaceae.

    So blame the gas on wolf farts.

    The cabbage is one of two causes, heavy rain, extreme dryness to follow that will split the leaves and look like it has been cleaved at times, or it might be…please use a lisp to recite the rhyme…as in Richmal Crompton’s Violet Elizabeth Bott –
    Cecil is a caterpillar, Cecil is my FRIEND! The last time I saw Cecil, he wath THISth big. (use hands to display slightly larger caterpillar) I said “Good morning Cecil. What have you been doing today?” and Cecil said “I’ve eaten a WHOLE cabbage leaf.” Cecil is a caterpillar. Cecil is my FRIEND! The last time I saw Cecil, he was THIS big. (even larger caterpillar) and on and on Cecil eats through cabbage, cabbage past, then finally, he shrinks to normal size when he’s been sthick!

    • They do a bit in the photos but they were actually growing near some puffballs and there’s quite a difference in size luckily. I agree though there’s always a ‘false’ version. That sort of the aunt 😱 yikes.

      And yes I do remember chanting the open about Colin in the playground and my brother used to do it as a comedy skit.

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