7th November

The Mushroom

‘That mushroom,’ the Gypsy said, ‘is not one I would care to eat. It’s edible, but I wouldn’t eat it.’

It didn’t look like a mushroom to me. It looked more like a toadstool, but then I wasn’t sure what the difference was, or even if there was a difference. This was why I was with the Gypsy, who knew all about mushrooms.

Then again I didn’t know if he really was a Gypsy, but that was what he called himself. ‘I’m a real Gypsy,’ he said, ‘not one of those hippy New Age travellers.’ I’d heard this one before. Real Gypsies like to put distance between themselves and New Age travellers. But if you’re not a real Gypsy and want to convince someone you are, what’s the first thing you’re going to do? Disparage the hippies.

A lot of people think Gypsies are untrustworthy. Not that I trust all the people who don’t trust Gypsies but the doubt lingers. A lot of people don’t trust mushrooms either. As someone once said, for most of us life is too short to know stuff about mushrooms, but someone had told me this Gypsy knew about them and I needed his knowledge.

So there we were in the woods, inspecting this particular specimen. It was mostly brown, with white gills and a fat stalk, and with thin creamy ridges on the cap that I didn’t trust.

‘Is it poisonous?’

‘No. Not poisonous. It won’t make you sick. Might give you a sore head though, or a disturbed one anyway.’

‘Ah.’ I thought I knew what he was getting at. ‘Magical properties, you mean?’

‘You’re all the same,’ he said, ‘you young folk. You say you want to learn about edible mushrooms, but what you really want to know is which are the magic ones. Am I right?’

‘No,’ I protested.

‘Thought so.’ He wagged a finger at me. ‘Whatever you do, make sure you cook it,’ he said. ‘And don’t blame me if you go mad and throw yourself off a bridge.’

That was it. I marked the spot. I was definitely coming back for it, but later, after dark, when the Gypsy was in the pub.

Reader: Bailey Newsome
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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