THE VEXED question of tipping has been discussed in this column before, when the Restaurateurs' Association of Great Britain advocated legislation to levy a standard service charge on all meals served in restaurants (as in other European countries). That way there would be no doubt about how much one should leave, or who benefits from the arbitrary surcharge that many restaurants slap on top of the bill.

Where shall we meet?: Fungus Mungus, SW11

This grunge bar on the way to Wandsworth has the dubious distinction of being more easily seen in the daytime than at night; its rather garish frontage fades at dusk. The interior, hung with bits of 'art' of the sling-a-frame-in-front-of-something-painted-on-the-wall variety, is inhabited by the less coiffed of south London's beautiful people, preening their beards and having those intense conversations that only beautiful people can get away with. The garden has a table that would do well in a college dining hall and plenty of little nooks where you can gaze in a glazed sort of way at the stars. Open late.

Foresters warn Dutch elm disease is back: Epidemic halts return of the tree that once defined rural England. Steve Connor reports

DUTCH ELM disease, which destroyed more than 20 million trees at the height of its last epidemic 20 years ago, is making a comeback by reducing the majestic English elm to the status of a stumpy shrub.

Curiouser and curiouser: A legal oddity allows access to some 'natural' drugs but not others

After Glastonbury and other free festivals several plaited-haired friends of mine have been prodding ceaselessly through the deer droppings in Richmond Park and among the finer grasses of Hampstead Heath. They are looking for magic mushrooms, Psilocybe semilanceata, which, they claim, even thrive amid the police horse droppings of Wormwood Scrubs.

Ancient forest set to share its secrets

TED GREEN inspected the corpse of an ancient oak which flourished for 600 years in Windsor Park. It died last summer, finished off by the drought, but its massive trunk will be left as the home for generations of insects and birds.

Iceman's fungus awakes 50 centuries on

(First Edition)

Closure of hospital lab was ordered after fungi accident

A MICRO-BIOLOGY unit at a leading London hospital medical school has remained closed for five months after an accident involving dangerous fungi, on the order of the Health and Safety Executive, writes Celia Hall.

Friendly fungus

MANY of the chemicals traditionally used as wood preservatives are now known to cause environmental damage when the wood is discarded. Some chemical preservatives have been restricted and total bans are possible in the future.

Microbe of the Month: Friendly fungus to grass, but poison to grazing animals

Anyone driving around Kentucky and adjoining states is bound to notice the lush green of much of the turf and pasture land. It is the colour of tall fescue, a grass that grows vigorously to produce stunning green swards and is exceptionally resistant to attack by insects and nematode worms. It also survives well in areas subject to drought and in soil depleted of nutrients.

Shopping News: A Mushrooming Interest

TAKE a trip to the New Forest this weekend and you will see scores of eager mushroom-pickers, bent double in their efforts to locate a tasty cep, Shaggy Parasol or Horn of Plenty. This month is the peak of the mushroom season - and with more rainfall than usual this autumn, enthusiasts expect a bumper crop.

Country Matters: Fat, white, big as dinner-plates

DOWN IN the meadows by the stream there is a fair scattering of what I take to be shaggy ink-caps - elegant, tall, slender mushrooms which come up beautifully white but in a day or two turn black in the gills, and then sink down to become puddles of slimy liquid dark as pitch.

Out of Albania: Invasion of the mushroom bunkers

KAVAJE - Albania is the sort of place that makes surrealists weep for joy. It is possible that in other countries waiters park their bicycles in hotel restaurants, but surely not when the restaurant is indoors on an upper floor? Such, however, is the practice at the Hotel Tirana in Albania's capital.

Good day for the squirrels

KATHRYN BRAHAM, aged three, was walking her dog Hilly, a five-month-old spaniel, in Oxleas Wood yesterday, writes John Arlidge. Her parents, Alan and Lynne, had told her that the planned route through the wood had been scrapped.

Letter: Drug danger in a mushroom

Sir: I can ony presume that your home affairs editor temporarily lost control of his senses to publish Michael Prestage's expose of the 'magic mushrooms' season (26 September).

Recipe: Picking caps and parasols

STOP PRESS. In the same spirit that each and every cigarette packet and American wine bottle must carry health warnings, it is not only prudent to repeat cautionary words before we print this week's column on cooking with mushrooms: it is necessary.
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