Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yesterday was the twenty year anniversary of The Great Storm (so called because of the storm of controversy surrounding Michael Fish's lack of skill as a meteorologist). Meridian TV, which I'd describe as my 'local' news channel if it wasn't for the fact that it seems to cover Dorset to Kent, taking in Berkshire and the Thames Valley, thereby encompassing half the country, chose to celebrate the occasion in the most appropriate way possible: by giving out an entirely inaccurate weather forecast.

I'd been planning to join a 3-mile guided walk around Stanmer Woods yesterday afternoon, organised by the council's Countryside Service for people like me who are desperately looking for something to write about for the next issue of The Kemptown Rag before today's submission deadline. Unfortunately having seen the weather forecast on Monday night, which talked of heavy rain sweeping across the south of the country all day and gave the impression that anyone stupid enough to be on a hill in Brighton at 2pm was liable to be cut off by rising flood waters, I cancelled my plans and agreed to take Lisa's Mum to the dog track instead.

So I spent an enjoyable morning looking out of the window and wondering why it wasn't raining, before eating my lunch under a blue sky, changing my plans (again) and rushing off to the woods.

The walk (poetically entitled 'It Was 20 Years Ago Today') wasn't the most well-attended event I've ever been to. It turned out to be just me, four pensioners, my old mate Dave Larkin and his lovely assistant Lisa (no relation). Dave had a couple of photos of Stanmer Park taken after the Great Storm in 1987 which looked more like Hiroshima in 1945, but it's amazing what a difference a couple of decades can make. Thanks to the council's knee-jerk policy of excessive planting, Stanmer now has far too many trees in all the wrong places (apparently). I sense that Dave would quite like to chop some of them down, but the councillors disagree, and there's no point fighting them on the beeches.

So like the over-60s version of The Blair Witch Project, we spent two hours wandering about in the woods looking at fallen trees, woodpecker holes and fungus, whilst learning how to recognise a walnut tree from the smell of its leaves, and how to eat a poisonous berry without dying (apparently you have to avoid chewing the seeds - let me know how you get on).

It wasn't until I was in the thicket of it, however, that I realised we had a celebrity in our midst. It turns out I was with the Pru...

I'm with the Pru
(The rare sight is the one on the right).

Yes indeed, one of my four fellow walkers was none other than ace fungus-finder Pru Gridley, famous (in toadstool circles) for being the 13th person since 1960 to discover Tree Hedgehog Fungus in the UK. Sadly, despite Pru's nose for a mushroom, we didn't find any hedgehogs nesting in trees, and instead had to make do with a slice of King Alfred's Cake, so called because it looks like one of Lisa's burnt waffles, and is just as inedible.

Having stood in the council's coppice wood and heard Dave admit that they pay their workers in twigs and leaves, we made our way back to the car park and I sped home (in the sunshine) to jump into the shower while Lisa phoned her Mum to say that I'd changed my plans for a third time, and would be able to go to the dogs that evening.

Lisa lovingly prepared a bag of drinks and sundry supplies for our night out in Hove, which we then proceeded to leave in my kitchen, but despite suffering from dehydration all evening, it turned out to be well worth going. Lisa's mother, as mentioned here before, is the jammiest woman alive, and having walked through the door 30 seconds before the first race, she slapped down two quid on number three without even looking at the race card, and got upstairs to the grandstand just in time to see it romp home in first place.

As for me, well I bet £21.20 on eleven races and won a total of £32.85, so even taking into account the medicinal brain food (portion of chips with mayonnaise) that I had to buy to help me study the form, I still finished ahead of the game. Especially as Lisa's Mum paid my £4 entrance fee. I was planning to pay her back out of my winnings, but with one race to go, she looked at the race card, picked out the three names she liked most, and put a quid on a (frankly ridiculous) 80-1 trio. Two minutes later she was eighty pounds richer. So never mind the entrance fee, the woman's lucky I didn't charge her for petrol.