No-vember or Yes-vember



Have you ever thought about the first two letters in November? A month beginning with ‘No’ does not bode well, and it seems to have even more meaning in our situation now. I have been trying to change ‘No’ into a positive, though it is hard sometimes.

Early November has always been exciting. There is usually an electric atmosphere in the air, caught first by children, who are in tune with these things, and then spread upwards to the rest of us.

Bonfire night always brought light into dark nights and, even if I did not go to an organised bonfire, I could sit at a bedroom window and watch. The night sky always lit up with bright colours shooting into the dark. I can remember bonfire night when I was a child. Living on a farm, we had huge piles of hedge clippings and we added to it with sacks of dead leaves, collected from our woodlands. There were no regulations then, and we played with the gunpowder and lit the twigs without a thought. But we didn’t have many fireworks, we could not afford such luxuries, and there were only a few children, so no harm was done.

This year we are in lockdown and our town bonfires are cancelled so some people will light one in their own gardens. The RSPCA has sent out a warning about the safety of animals.  It is not only about care for our pets. Hedgehogs could be under even more threat than they are already if they have chosen to hibernate under a pile of bonfire sticks. It is not going to be easy.

So, how can I change ‘No’ into something positive in this gloomy picture? How do I shoot light into the darkness? How do I turn bad into good?

Well, the leaves, before they fall, are spreading a glow in the garden and fields here. The yellow birch trees are spectacular. The bird table is busy and there are bright red berries are on the bushes. It will not be long before they are covered with all kinds of interesting migrant birds.

But my favourite this week must be the amazing toadstools on our woodland edge. They are bright red with white dots on, like the fairy tale pictures in children’s books. They are like miniature white trunked trees with red canopies. These fungi are highly poisonous – but the magical sight of them is enough to lift my spirits.

They are called fly agaric and they live in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the birch tree, growing there. The tree benefits from the breakdown of rotting material and the fungi will take sugars from the tree.

Win, win all round. At least, it seems as if the wildlife here is having a Yes-vember.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

Fly agaric fungi, under our birch tree. I saw the cap open out to reveal white 'gills' underneath


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