Faeries in My Garden and Brown Owl’s on the Toadstool

Cherries of the night are riper
Than the cherries pluckt at noon
Gather to your fairy piper
When he pipes his magic tune
Robert Graves

Mushrooms started popping up in a shaded area of the garden a week ago and I wondered whether they were in fact mushrooms or where they toadstools.  Scientifically there is no difference; they’re both fungi that like similar growing conditions.   According to Wiki.Answers the name toadstools comes from the fact that fungi enjoy similar growing conditions in which toads like to live, and because the fungi looked like stools they became known as toadstools.  Other websites offered other reasons for the name but I’ll leave that for now.

I decided those in the garden were in fact mushrooms because the mental picture I have of toadstools is that they are red with white blotches, as in the children’s books I’d dog-eared as a child.


 Mushrooms, like earthworms are a sign that the soil is in good condition for plants requiring both moisture and organic matter.  So when they appeared in a particularly shady corner of our garden they interested me not for their edibility (we buy our mushrooms) but for the memories they evoked.  

They reminded me of a childhood pastime making faerie furniture from leaves, twigs and flower petals.  These intricate pieces were placed under the cap of the faerie house awaiting their return.  No doubt these faerie families were totally blessed by such creativity and generosity.

After a week in perfect conditions

After a week in perfect conditions

The other memory is generally associated with a child’s view of how oddly adults behave at times.  For some reason when I started at my new boarding school my mother enrolled me in Brownies.  I was doing just fine until Brown Owl, a plumptious middle-aged woman,  sat atop a large purpose-built toadstool.  And now for the part that completely flabbergasted my nine year old sensibilities … we Brownies formed a circle and danced around Brown Owl as she struggle to keep balanced on her toadstool.

After two terms my mother tired of Brown Owl’s complaints about my disruptive behaviours; giggling and laughing were not appropriate behaviours for an up and coming Brownie, apparently.  I wasn’t fussed at being asked to leave the Brownies because frankly the idea of having to jump over the toadstool as the right of passage into the Girl Guides was too silly.  That I didn’t even earn my Brownie uniform was a great disappointment to mother.

Wanted. One Brown Owl.

Dismissal from the Brownie pack may have been a grave disappointment for mother but it was worth her wrath to join my friends in the playground.  After all, dancing around man-made toadstools wasn’t for everyone.  If they were real toadstools in a real forest there may have been a better outcome for my mother.  As it was I didn’t miss having to recite the Brownie creed of:

I will promise to do my best,
To be true to myself,
To my God, and my country.
To help others and to keep the Brownie Guide Law.

As we had recently moved country I was confused about where ‘my country’ was.  On top of which  I had no idea who God was  or how country and God were mixed up in the craziness of Brown Owl, the toadstool and circle-dancing Brownies.  And if helping others meant encouraging them to be a part of this bizarre activity which tolerated no happiness (giggling and laughter) then I was out of there.

Were you ever involved in after school activities you didn’t enjoy?


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