Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am feeling a little whimsical today. My brilliant co-writer has conspired with the publisher and the agent to get the deadline of the book pushed back, so I no longer need to feel as if I am a train hurtling down a track. I may stop, and smell the cool autumn air, and consider the lilies. Or, in this case, the lichen.
You may have noticed by now that I am slightly obsessed with lichen. It is partly because I find it so aesthetically pleasing. It is also because I like the fact that its abundance indicates the clarity of the air. I feel daily lucky to be living in a place almost without pollution. (Although the council does occasionally send out terrifying leaflets telling us that we shall all die of radon, a fatal gas that is produced by granite, so I suppose I can't get too smug.)
As the last of the flowers fade, and the roses and honeysuckles turn to hips, and the leaves begin to turn, the great consolation lies in the miraculous beauty of the lichens. I don't know if they have been growing particularly fiercely lately, or whether I am just noticing them more acutely, but they do seem to be flourishing just now.
Observe this extraordinary example, where an entire tree trunk appears to be wearing some kind of hippie sixties fur coat:
Then there are the delicate little balls, which make me smile with pleasure:
And the peculiar tufts:
And then the subtle little ones that merge with the tree bark, in a ravishing pattern:
And the ones that colonise half a tree, so that they look like some kind of sculpture:
And the more reticent ones that only occupy half an inch:
I did not know that there are 18,000 varieties of lichen in the world. I always want to know who does the counting. Wouldn't it be terrible if someone lost the piece of paper half way through, and they had to go back and start again at number one?
There is also a British Society of Lichen, where lichenologists may gather and share their passions. I have never met a lichenologist. I suddenly feel this is a terrible gap in my life.
As if all this glory were not enough, I still have the last of the flowers.
The salvia is in fine fig:
Observe the raindrops on roses, just as in the Sound of Music:
More sedum - one completely open:
One still shy and green:
I keep thinking I have seen the last honeysuckle, but then another one blooms:
The ferns are loving the cool and the rain:
As are the ladyships. Look at them, sniffing the air:
The shrinks all say that we should make little gratitude lists in our heads, so that we realise all the things for which we should be thankful. I generally go back to first principles: arms and legs, for example. I do not take those for granted. Sometimes I am passionately grateful for my ability to type. There is family and food, obviously. Clearly, I do not overlook the good fortune of living in a free country where I may vote and drive a car and walk outside without permission. But there are days when I would put lichen near the top of the list. Today is one of those days.