We found a handful of frostbitten shaggy parasols, a lone field blewitt and some chanterelles which turned out to be false chanterelles. But it's midwinter. You can't expect much. From anyone, really. Even sunshine disappoints.
Mushrooming is a reason to connect with the environment in a very purposeful and real sense. There's the expected pleasure of the cooking and the eating. And then there's the poetry of their names. Rusty Wood Rotter, Woolly Milk Cap, Bare-Toothed Russula, Bulbous Honey Fungus... Beguling, huh? How could a poet resist? And then, of course, the frisson of the danger of misidentification. Ross, Fergus, Andrew, Sandra, Ali... Which name is the right name? Which of their bodies is poisonous?
I don't advocate the taking of drugs, but in 1990 I took magic mushrooms in Leeds with some friends from university. It was night-time and we all walked out into the city. The intoxication felt purging, and a return to an irrational, playful realm where inanimate objects seemed energised - trees became friendly and church towers became sinister, stretching up into the universe (my recent visit to the J.S.Lowry exhibition at Nottingham Lakeside reminded me of this). A playground became our elysian fields.
Somehow we have to find ways - safe, legitimate ways - to re-connect with our environments, redraw their maps and reinvest them, reimbue them, with the magic of our own psyches. This is urgent. If we don't do this, then what do we have? We have spaces designed for shopping, which look like copies of themselves, which look like they could have been built anywhere, for anyone. And we have roads which channel us with increasing efficiency to the places where everyone else is going. And the 'interesting' places in cities are the places we are told are interesting by councils and tourist boards. We need to take back the cities for our own purposes. Retail park, shopping centre, multi-storey carpark... Are these phrases beguiling? No. But they could be. If we looked differently.