Sunday, 27 January 2008

We like lichens

Still battling with the cold, and it's a good job it doesn't affect my typing. In reality, I'm only uttering pitiful squeaks. I felt reasonably human for most of the day, but I always seem to sink between about 6pm and 10am the next day. Not good.

However, I got quite a lot done today during the "good" hours. Firstly, a brief-ish stint staring out the French windows for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. Nothing too exciting but all the data is important. The boyfriend did his count yesterday in the park, which is allowed, but I'm not sure they were envisaging the type of park we're near, with a large lake. A little grebe is hardly a garden bird. But never mind.

Then we headed down south for some wildlife tuition at Sydenham Hill nature reserve. As you may be aware, there's a strong north-south divide in London, with closely held loyalties to one and deep mistrust of the other, generally based on where one first lives on moving here. I got a place in halls of residence in Hampstead when I came up to uni, and so have been a north London girl ever since and only go south of the river with a distinct sense of trepidation. We survived though, and even found some interesting statues at Brixton overground station - a life size bronze commuter on each platform. This woman was patiently waiting for a train on the southbound side:

Whilst this bloke lounged against the wall opposite, headed back up to London:

The purpose of our trip: a field session on lichens, courtesy of the London Wildlife Trust. Lichens are symbiotic organisms, effectively the bastard offspring of algae and fungi, an unholy inter-kingdom alliance that produces a vast range of bizarre scaly, warty, powdery or feathery growths on trees, rocks etc, eaten by very little apart from reindeer (and there aren't many of those in south London). Out of the UK's roughly 1,600 species, we were taught to recognise 10 or so. There are at least three of them on this stick:

It was a very interesting yomp through the forests, and I love learning about the more obscure flora and fauna out there - in future I'll notice them so much more. But, whilst the boyfriend was diligently making notes (it's his job), I was rather distracted by some startling knitwear at large amongst the decidedly nerdy lichen-spotting fraternity. I therefore missed some crucial details of lichen reproduction to surreptitiously take photos for your amusement. Firstly, a very bright pair of rainbow fingerless gloves, in some kind of reverse stocking stitch/stocking stitch horizontal rib, not handmade as I could see a maker's label:

(Glad I didn't get busted taking photos, essentially, of her crotch.)

Better still, a woman wearing a vast amount of crazy knitwear - she must be a knitter, right? From the top, a cream chunky knit hat with a pom-pom, an eye-watering intarsia jumper in neon colours, and, if you look very closely, red and white striped angora fingerless gloves. Whoa.

At a static point in the proceedings, I snuck a close-up of that jumper over the boyfriend's shoulder. My eyes!

Lichens, incidentally, are, according to Wikipedia, a source of natural dyes for yarn and fabric, so we should all love and respect them. And isn't "ethnolichenology" a great name for a scientific discipline?

After the lichen hunting had finished, I headed off to Ting's to celebrate her new arrival, the gorgeous Ewan, and coo over him as all good godmothers should do. I'm sure she'll be waxing lyrical about her bundle of joy on her blog soon enough, so I won't write too much, but maybe one day soon I'll be able to give him a little brother or sister?

But indisputably the most bizarre sighting of the day? This abandoned wig on the Victoria line:

Is there someone out there who got off the train and suddenly realised they were bald? If so, it's probably in lost property with the other weird stuff. Give them a call before I claim it and try to spin it...

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