This afternoon I walked the two underpasses route via the Sir Walter Tyrrell.

Yew Tree Cottage wall

Car stop, Yew Tree CottageThe wall of Yew Tree Cottage at Stoney Cross bore evidence of the season on which I had focussed last week in France, as did the row of logs laid out to keep cars at their distance.

I was to see many more mushrooms on my walk across the North side of the A31. Holly The heathland felt and sounded as if I were walking across a thick-piled Wilton carpet.  Although still warm, it was a dull day on which holly and rowan berries provided the occasional welcome gleam.

Mushroom gathererMushrooms 5As I tramped downhill towards the above-mentioned pub, I encountered two Eastern European gentlemen who didn’t have much English, but did know their mushrooms.Mushrooms  I think at least the man with the basket did understand when I told them about Jessica’s avid interest in the foraging that they were undertaking.

Mushrooms 7This meeting reminded me of Anansi.  Sometime in the late 1980s I was facilitating a series of team building days with a staff group of residential social workers at varying levels in the hierarchy.  I very soon realised I had my work cut out because most of these people only met during handover periods; no two individuals shared the same nationality, gender, racial characteristics or sexual orientation; and there were 17 of them.

By the end of the first day it was all in danger of going horribly wrong.  Racking my brains overnight, I came up with the idea of the West African mythical storyteller, and Little Miss Muffet.Mushrooms 3

Mushrooms 2

Abandoning the programme I had prepared earlier, I took a flip-chart and drew a spider hanging from a web on the large sheet of paper.  I asked the group members to tell us what they thought and felt when seeing this drawing.  As always, it took a minute or two for the first volunteer to tell us about her thoughts.  Slowly, people began to rush to tell theirs.  And eventually fear or reverence could be expressed.  Anansi, the spider, is loved for his storytelling; whereas it was a spider who ‘frightened Miss Muffet away’.

On another sheet of paper I portrayed a set of cricket stumps with a West Indian male wicket-keeper crouching behind them.  I went on to tell of Tony Pinder, the best keeper who ever received my bowling, and how he and his brother Winston, who, when I began playing club cricket in 1957 had been the first black people I had ever met.  I spoke of their influence on me, and, in particular, the father figure that Winston, known as Bunny, had struck.

I had their interest.  This waned momentarily when I invited them to take their turns at drawing anything relevant to their culture or history that they would like to tell us about.  That was scary.  However, the floodgates soon opened.  At the end of the day many people had not had time for a turn, but all wanted to spend the following, last, day finishing the task.  Many brought their own art materials.

Mushrooms 4

Then came what, to me, was the greatest, and most satisfying, surprise.  A white Central European woman and a black African man both described mushroom gathering from their childhoods.  They realised that they had, after all, something in common.  I have always hoped that the team continued to build on the discoveries that emerged from these exercises.  Once we accept our differences and look beyond them, we are quite similar, really.

Helen sent me her pig pictures, one of which I inserted into yesterday’s post.

This evening Jackie fed us on her classic chicken jalfrezi with mushroom rice and Kingfisher beer.

14 responses to “Anansi”

  1. “Once we accept our differences and look beyond them, we are quite similar, really.”
    Well said Derrick. I’m glad the exercise was a success.

  2. Thank you for the mushrooms reference, thank you for Anansi ( I thought of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys), and most of all, thank you for a description of your brilliantly creative team building session. I can certainly relate to it, as team building was actually part of the curriculum of my school for children with special needs. You have instinctively stumbled upon one of the best methods of doing it.

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