Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Matthew is a fun guy

I was waiting in the Bristol Guild cafe with a pot-of-tea-for-one (it was Assam, since you ask) and beguiling the minutes by staring out across the potted plants on the flat roof and sketching the fire escape, just a useful exercise in drawing perspective,which failed miserably, as it happens. It also felt a bit precious, but then that's the Guild for you. Arty. There were two other people wearing berets, and the group of elderly folk across the way threw Anthony Gormley's name into the conversation. Quite loudly. I'm not sure where that particular conversation was meandering, but one of them, a chap with a beard as well as the beret, was one of life's Eddicators. A lot of geology was mentioned; I poised my Lamy Safari fountain pen in readiness to capture the spirit of the thing, but lost the thread soon after he said "the Tibetan plateau is a similar structure." The woman opposite him at the table, to whom these words were addressed, looked duly impressed, though.

And then Charlie came along and we talked. And then we went off in our different directions. Last time I'd met Charlie for coffee, I'd ended up being run over by a car, so this time I was being vigilant. As I ascended Park Street, I saw a man holding a basket, in the sort of way you would hold a basket if you wanted people to see what was in it, but weren't entirely sure that you wanted them to look after all.
So of course I had to look. And then I carried on. And then I stopped and went back.
"You're wondering what they are," he said.
"They're Jews' Ears," I said.
"I'm impressed," he said.
He was touting them around Bristol's restaurants, but it being lunchtime, they were a bit busy so he was biding his time.
We agreed that Jews' Ears aren't the most pretty of fungi, but at least they are available in January. That's macrobiotics for you.
I asked his name, so that I would have a name to go with the photo.
"I'm Dru"
"Not the famous Dru of Oxford?"
I had to think about this for a few moments.
"I don't think so..."
There's a famous Dru of Oxford? Crikey.

(postscript) I've been criticised for describing the fungus as Jew's Ears. As I don't own the term, I have taken the crit on board, and shall in future make a point of describing the fungus in question as Jelly Ears. Perhaps in time the Latin name will be changed from its present Auricularia Auricula-Judae to something else. I can only say that I was aware of the historical resonances of the name; Judas is supposed to have hanged himself from an elder tree, and it is upon elders that Jelly Ears like to grow. And further, elder is a tree associated with witchcraft. So associating it with Judas, and naming the fungus after him, is both anti-pagan propaganda and anti-Semitism. I consciously used the old name because it is an historical curiosity, in the same way that I look at Marlowe's Jew of Malta and Chaucer's Jewish characters, compared with whom Shakespeare's Shylock seems almost benign; as examples of institutional racism that need to be looked at full-on. But you can hardly be expected to know that, in a casual description like the blog entry above.


  1. Is there a famous Dru here in Oxford? Whole life spent hereabouts, and I've yet to meet her! Maybe she only comes out for Philip Pullman or something.

  2. I guess she's just differently famous. In a field of her own where the mushrooms grow. I did wonder if he was punning, and there was a famous Jew of Oxford (given the stuff in his basket) in the same sort of way that Malta has one courtesy of Christopher Marlowe. Who knows? -I think I'd stay in if it was Philip Pullman :-)

  3. Dru, are you eight feet tall? Or perhaps you're standing on a box to take the photograph.

    Caroline XXX

  4. I was on my pogo stick of course. Tchah!

    I held the camera aloft and hoped for the best. I like this angle, and the fungus is the centre of attention. Shame Mattew's head is a bit underexposed, but hey...

  5. Do they taste nice and how do you cook them?

    I wonder what 'the famous Dru of Oxford' was famous for? Google says do I mean 'the famous drug of Oxford*'? Then there is Dru Famous, but first comes your conversation with Matthew.

    * a lot of illegal substances and alcoholism around Oxford. Now I know what 'Going down the rabbit hole' means

  6. They're alleged to taste nice if you poach them in milk, but they just look and feel so unappealing.

    I used to visit a friend in Jericho, in Oxford. His local pub was quite pleased to find that it had featured in "Busted! The sensational true story of an undercover hippy cop" about Operation Julie. It told, for instance, how he mingled with the hippies but avoided detection by blowing through the joints instead of sucking. Oh how we laughed.

  7. The Bookbinders perchance? Somehow the others that remain don't quite fit the description.

  8. The Victoria. Jericho does seem to have changed a fair bit since the early 80s, as I noticed when I called at Walton Street Cycles a couple of years ago.

  9. I am the famous Dru of Oxford.

  10. A sight for sore eyes, like a litter of kittens in January. A month for which Matthew looks well-enough exposed, and benignly disposed, for a street vendor waiting for the lucky Dru. This one had me looking up stuff from Dru Famous to Spring Heeled Jack. The fungi, if I find any, will get well cooked and served with lots of pepper.

  11. If you knew Jericho in the '70s or '80s you'd hardly recognise it now. Then: the Place your Parents Warned you Against, now: the Place your Parents Couldn't Afford to Live. The Victoria's still there, recently been refurbished, though very well indeed. Awesome pies(but still no famous Dru)!

  12. I come back hours later and I've just got the joke....

  13. Either Matthew is tiny, or you are at least 12 feet tall, Dru!

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