(I wish this was fiction)
I got home that afternoon feeling like a wild explorer, a Grizzly Adams for the twenty-first century, corduroy jacket and a jute bag full of picked blewitts; they were blewitts, (They really were.) I felt very liberal-middle class – the good kind, (not the look-down-their-nose kind) the home-school, artsy, Nigella Lawson cookbook kind.
So with windows open on a golden, autumn afternoon, and the street below humming with the warm sound of shoppers and kids playing, I turned on the hob. Rough slice your mushrooms, fine chop garlic, olive oil, fry – whilst a thick slice of bread rubbed with oil grills.
Homemade bread too, self sufficient almost (satisfying images of Felicity Kendal getting loose in the kitchen on the homemade wine).
An hour later and I’m online, and curious, were they blewitts? They were certainly delicious. Several thousand sites want to help me and I begin to scroll through photos until – that was it – tall stem, pale brown cap quite flat like an umbrella that’s been caught by the wind and is just about to pop inside-out. Click – and wait a few seconds – dial-up unfurls my page slowly.
Death…Cap…Mushroom…Do…Not…Eat, five items left to load and each one looking more and more like what I’ve just consumed. Seven days to live – massive organ failure – liver – kidneys – no known treatment.
Your first reaction would be make yourself sick, right? I mean I felt sick by then so I had a go but nothing came up. I heard the front door.
‘Hey are you alright?’
‘Well, I…’ I giggled with embarrassment, my flatmate dropped his bags, I was on the brink of hysteria.
‘What’s up, are you ill?’
‘I ate poisonous mushrooms.’
‘You’ve turned grey, you don’t look well.’
‘It might be nothing, I was sure they were just blewitts.’
Accident and Emergency – and I confess all to various different people at different stages of triage. Why did you eat the mushrooms? They ask and I realise that they think I’m a drug user or weirdo.
‘No…you don’t understand, I’m a teacher, they were sautéed in olive oil.’
‘Show me the one you ate.’ The doctor asked when I was in her office. All she’d done was Google it.
‘That,’ she scrolled down; it was the same damn one.
She read – apparently inner-city doctors don’t have a clue when it comes to poisonous mushrooms.
‘Right well, we’ll admit you, I think…should we? It says there isn’t much we can do but I think we should – at least – observe you.
They WERE blewitts, I’m here now writing this so they were definitely blewitts which kind of vindicates me (I mean I’m no expert).
It’s a unique experience to spend seven days like a fugitive, worried and tense. Travelling the country seeing friends and relatives, hugging, apologising, crying. Every damn twitch, every rumble in my gut sending me to the bathroom sweating and staring at myself in the mirror.
Staring at my mortality.