I may come across sound a tad naive here, but that’s okay — it’s part of the fun of exploring the world. Those toadstools that I saw pictures of in fairytale storybooks when I was a kid actually do exist. Laugh all you like, but they’re not native to Australia, so the ones we have aren’t very prolific, and the first time I’d seen a real one was here in France. To say I was surprised is an understatement. At first, I wondered if they were artwork!
Autumn is my least favourite season of the year (an unpopular view with many, but one I stand by for my own reasons), and these mushrooms, lessen my disdain significantly. They remind me of my childhood and the crazy stories that aid the growth of our imagination. The red and white mushrooms signify to me all that was brilliant about childhood.
That probably sounds odd to Europeans and others who have grown up with these mushrooms — which I now know are called ‘amanita muscaria’. It’s one of lots of things you may point and laugh at me and many other Australians about.
For example, during my childhood, Christmas signified a time to draw snowmen and eat a massive, hot roast dinner — with the air conditioning on while it reached 40°C outside. I had only seen plastic mistletoe and holly before I lived in the Northern hemisphere. The first time I saw a bumble bee I smiled in delight: I was 27 and living in London. No, we don’t have those in Australia either. Whenever I see a bug with pincers, I presume its poisonous, based on the variety of nasty crawly things in Australia. My French friends giggle as I panic.
There are probably a few more surprises ahead, and I will embrace them as much the fairytale mushrooms and cosy white Christmases. Unless, of course, they’re like New Years Eve in winter. How on earth did that happen?