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Mushrooms make their presence felt

The most exciting news of the week is that mushrooms were found growing on a seat of an active Bangkok bus. In addition to carrying passengers on the No 82 route from Phra Pradaeng to Phahurat, the bus featured a battered seat covered in newly sprouted mushrooms. Alas, the seat has now been replaced by spoilsport officials following complaints from passengers unimpressed by sitting next to a seat covered in fast-growing fungi.

It had all the potential of one of those wonderful killer plant horror B movies like Day of the Triffids, this time with mushrooms taking over Bangkok. That would definitely provide a whole new challenge for Governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

It is not entirely clear what happened to the rogue mushrooms, although rumours suggest they may well have ended up in the bus conductor’s cooking pot.

Actually, eating wild mushrooms is not recommended as I was reminded of some years ago following a PostScript column featuring mushroom expeditions. I received a cautionary email from a professional mushroomologist (Yes that’s what they are called). He admitted the mushrooms he consumes “have to come wrapped in cling film in an environmentally unfriendly polystyrene carton from an air-conditioned establishment with a name like Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Waitrose etc”.

That’s straight from the mushroomologist’s mouth. Forget being in the jungle looking for a wild breakfast — it’s down to the supermarket if you don’t want to end up with the Thailand trots.

Witches and Dead Molls

The magnificent mushroom is unfortunately often a villain in literature, primarily because of its poisonous potential. You only have to look at the names of wild mushrooms to put you off any mushroom adventures — Poison Pie, Witch’s Hat, Dead Moll’s Fingers, Devil’s Urn, Destroying Angel and the most common killer mushroom, Death Cap.

Perhaps the best known fungi in literature is the Giant Mushroom, which plays a significant role in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Following the Caterpillar’s advice, Alice discovers that eating one side of the mushroom can make her taller and the other side shorter which she puts to good use. Mushrooms also feature regularly in the Harry Potter books, the fungi being ideal for magical potions.

Speaking of magic there have been tales of bizarre behaviour by tourists after consuming special mushroom omelettes on Koh Samui and adjacent islands.

Larry’s lodger

British PM Liz Truss, who incidentally is quite partial to mushroom pizza, looks as if she could do with a few friends at the moment, even if it’s only Larry the Cat, the resident No 10 moggy. However, Larry has appeared grumpy ever since he discovered who was his fourth boss.

Larry’s official title is “chief mouser” and he even has a Twitter account. It may not come as a surprise that his account has a bigger following than Ms Truss. You may recall at the time of Boris Johnson’s resignation a no-nonsense tweet from Larry announced: “I can no longer, in good conscience, live with the Prime Minister. Either he goes or I do.” We all know who won that one.

Soon after Ms Truss moved in to No 10, Larry was tweeting again letting everyone know his stance on the new arrival: “I’ve just told Truss the same thing I told Johnson when he took the job: Work hard, follow the rules, treat people with respect and never lie to the public. I just hope that she was paying more attention than he did.”

Doorstep drama

In a recent appearance on the steps of No 10, Larry appeared to give Ms Truss the cold shoulder when the PM tried to tickle him and he strode off in a huff. A recent tweet from Larry informs us that “Liz Truss has asked me why I am more popular than she is. I pointed out that wasps are more popular than she is”.

However, this week Larry acted above and beyond the call of duty, fearlessly chasing off a fox prowling around No 10.

I hope the prime minister rewarded Larry with a treat or she will be in real trouble.

White House moggies

It’s not just in London that felines roam the corridors of power. The White House has a long history of resident cats. Even Abraham Lincoln had a couple called Tabby and Dixie. He once observed: “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet! And furthermore she doesn’t talk back.”

The present occupant is Willow who joined the household last year with Joe Biden becoming the 11th president to have a cat. Which leads us to a significant Thai connection with White House cats…

Maeow Thai

In 1879, an American diplomat in Bangkok sent president Rutherford Hayes a Siamese cat, imaginatively called Siam. It is believed to be the first-ever Siamese (Maeow Thai) in the US. Unfortunately after a year of White House hospitality the cat died of a mystery illness.

The next Siamese cat to arrive at the White House came a century later. Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan had a Siamese called Shan. It was a beautiful-looking cat, but had an unfortunate habit of biting staff.

President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy also had a Siamese quaintly named Misty Malarky Ying Yong. It prompted guitarist Gabor Szabo to compose a funky jazz number by that same name, possibly the only musical composition inspired by a presidential cat.

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