If You Go Down To The Woods Today . .

There are times when being awake is worse than reliving that moment in the film ‘Alien’ when John Hurt leans over one of those ‘eggs’ in the hold of the alien ship and suddenly – Waaaghhh! – the thing is all over his face and doing a Linda Lovelace impersonation.

(‘Deep Throat’ people – ‘Deep Throat’!)

J and I had our first ‘egg’ moment three years ago – we were heaving ourselves up to a ledge in one of our local valleys when there ‘they’ were at nose level. Eggs and aliens! A terrible stench of rotting carcasses filled our nostrils along with hoards of flies trying to do the same! We had never seen anything like these weird creations of some warped, alien imagination.

Since that first close encounter of the t#rd kind we have found a number of these alien hives – some very close to our house. We have also learned a little about them – say ‘Hello!’ to Clathrus ruber aka the Lattice or Basket Stinkhorn or, as the country folk around the former Yugoslavia prefer, ‘Witch’s Heart’!

Alien leaping from its egg

alien stage2

Clathrus ruber – Lattice Stinkhorn sharing an intimate moment with John Hurt; compare with Alien above – see the family likeness?

Learning about the Stinkhorn family is laced with auto-erotic symbolism – they are of the Order Phallales and Family Phallaceae; ‘eggs’ are called volva. In my opinion they are about as erotic as a smear in a Petri dish! They are however, part of a very interesting group of fungi. Another member of the group C. archeri or Octopus Stinkhorn, is a native of Australia and New Zealand –

an Oz alien Clathrus archeri guarding its eggs

– examples have turned up in Turkey and spores are believed to have been transported here in the boxes and equipment of the ANZAC troops following the invasion of Gallipoli/Çanakkale in 1915. It is equally weird but lacks the putrid stench associated with the Lattice Stinker.

glistening and pulsing the ‘egg’ slowly opens –

like John Hurt, curiosity draws you closer – suddenly . . Waaaghhh!

The ‘egg’ is roughly spherical, up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in diameter, with a jelly-like interior. White or grayish in colour, it is initially smooth, but develops a network of polygonal marks on the surface prior to opening. The ‘alien’ bursts the egg open as it expands (a process that can take as little as a few hours), and takes on its new persona as a cross between a dead body and a Wiffle ball! (a plastic ball with holes in it) As the sponge-like ‘lattice’ develops a thick, foul-smelling goo called gleba covers the inner surfaces. This attracts flies and other insects which help to spread the spores. Whilst the ‘eggs’ may take days or weeks to reach ‘hatching’, the amazing fruit will last but a few hours before dissolving into a slimy smear.

Alien hosts a ‘Bring-a-Bottlefly’ party

The time to see them is now . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

As Time Goes By . .

Off to the UK tomorrow – ‘this blessed land, this septic isle, this . . . strange and alien place.’ All a bit of a worry, really. It’s been a while since I was last there so I’m expecting a few changes. I’ll be letting you know . .

'Gawd bless ya Ma'am!'

 Some young lads ‘avin’ a good time down Southend

my daughter said the streets are a bit ‘iffy’ these days

Alan Fenn, (nearly not in Okcular)

Home Alone

It’s an odd feeling, being home alone; a mixture of elation at being free to watch the whole set of 4 ‘Terminator’ films at one sitting and minor anxiety brought on by the need to constantly check and re-check the ‘to do’ list.

Home alone? How come? Well, J has headed back to the UK for a couple of weeks to visit friends and family and take in a political ‘summer school’, which leaves me here and free to indulge or fret as the mood takes me.

Our ‘to do’ lists are a must these days as we try and keep our heads together when we’re apart. Together we seem to have enough active grey cells to make arriving at day’s end a reasonably satisfying experience as far as achieving the things that need to be done is concerned. Apart, even for short periods, results in having to clean the remains of exploding hard-boiled eggs off the ceiling – twice (me), to rescuing Noah and all the animals because the garden pump has been left running (J); and these are just a couple of funny consequences! What fool said that half a brain was better than none?

As long as we remember to look at them, lists are great.

Anyway, looking on the bright side of being home alone, there is the joy of being able to enjoy, once again, for the umpteenth time, my little (all right, not so little) stash of favourite films. Films like ‘Terminator’; ‘Lord of the Rings’; ‘Alien’ (Ahh! Sigourney Weaver/Lt Ripley – my hero!) and Terry Pratchet’s ‘Disc World’; sci-fi and fantasy one and all – I love the stuff!

It’s not that J is disapproving exactly, it’s sort of, well, hard to explain. There’s the getting up and leaving the room, or the sigh, or, most painful of all, ‘Is this stuff really made for adults?’ So I have this guilt thing that J says was instilled in me by my mother and which I should deal with. She’s right on the button of course, so while she’s away I’m having some therapy –

‘Look out Ripley; it’s behind you!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü