As part of my 'wild plants that grow in cities' project I recently visited an urban Churchyard.
When I was younger, I used confidence as a power shield. I wasn't stupid enough to imagine this made me invincible but it worked pretty well.
Hanging in my cupboard over the years, un-needed, underused, it's grown threadbare and moth-eaten. But that day I suddenly felt I could do with it again for when I went through the gate I realised the wooded area behind the Church was full of raised voices. I faltered. It was a good guess, I reckoned, that there would be bodies attached to the voices and they might not be friendly bodies.
I'm not a linguist but the voices sounded Polish. There are a lot of Poles in England nowadays. All the dentists at my local practice are Poles and every one of them has been a darned site better at dentistry than any dentist I've had before. They seem to be remarkably adept at treatment without pain. None the less, however good Polish dental schools are it seemed unlikely that these graveyard woods would be full of Polish dentists haranguing each other so, as I said, I faltered. All I could think of was that these were migrants who hadn't found work and had set up an encampment. Would they be happy to have an English blogger wandering through their dispute? I never found out. For all the time I was there loud voices floated from among the trees but I never approached and they didn't emerge to approach me.
I stood for a moment, should I walk forward? It was the third Churchyard I'd tried in an hour. The others hadn't had graveyards - just tarmac, gravel and well tended flower beds. So I gathered up the tatters of my shredded confidence, drew them round me - and walked on.
Within a few steps, I was, once again, disconcerted. A young couple rose from a grassy area between graves. They seemed to be pulling on their real clothes as firmly as I was tugging at my invisible protection. Forward still? Yes. Why not? I slid my eyes aside and walked purposefully up the slope. Steps. A tomb. Plants growing along the plinth. Great!
I was just about to crouch down to get them in frame when two young drinkers clattered round from the other side with cans and a bicycle. Now what? We greeted each other cordially. I explained what I was doing. They asked. if I would like them to move out of the way. I said all was fine. So they sat chatting with each other while I crawled around with my camera. (That's one of the troubles with plants. They mostly grow on the ground.)
I took my pictures, thanked them (after all, I had intruded on their space) and went back down towards the gate. Should I leave? No!
Skirting the voices among the trees, I found bittersweet (Woody Nightshade) on the edge of the wood.
And fungi near a contoneaster seedling (do you reckon?)
and more fungi. These yellow ones were several inches across. I didn't touch them to find out if they are merely shiny or slimy too.
I'm not going to attempt IDs.
But . . . after photographing more graves and ivy and a sweet chestnut shell . . .
I hurried away for the train back home - full of puzzles, pictures and a cheerful sense that, with a little bit of work - a stitch here, a patch there - my old and tattered cloak of (almost) invincibility could possibly be worn once again with pride.