Katy Guest: Soaking up rare glimpses of nature

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

To the left of the train track between Sydenham and Crystal Palace, there is a bright green tree draped in a bright red Virginia Creeper that can just about make the whole thing worthwhile.

Not just the train journey, which loops around the gloomier parts of autumnal south London like a rickety metaphor for time going by. No: some mornings, the sudden carnival of unexpected foliage can put a positive slant on the whole day. The train is usually half-empty when I get on at Forest Hill, but it's becoming quite hard to get a seat on the left. Passing The Tree, all the commuters crane their necks and smile.

A rare glimpse of nature in October in the capital feels like something discovered; something for free. Next to a bus stop alongside the South Circular are three phallic mushrooms sprouting in a row from a crack in a wall. They're like a one-act comedy put on for the observant, and the bigger they grow, the funnier they are.

Tooting Common, aside from the odd streetwalker with her HQ in the brambles, is a fine location for the scrumping of blackberries. If we don't take them the birds will get them, and leave purple diarrhoea all over the shiny black 4x4s in Balham Sainsbury's car park. Which is another good reason to look forward to autumn.

This summer's weather was bad for conkers and good for spiders, apparently, which must be why my garden looks like the set of Arachnophobia. Good also for growing 10 different varieties of tomato, which when they are frozen bear a pleasing resemblance to snooker balls. But the most gratifying plants in London are those that you don't grow yourself, and don't expect to see. I love the buddleia that's found a purchase on the roof of the building opposite this office. I hate the more traditional plane trees in the churchyard next door, with their dirty grey bark and their evil spores. Unless we could drill holes in their trunks and inoculate them with mushrooms, that is. That would be a fun thing to see out of the window.

Let's hear it for office life

Further proof that Facebook is increasingly the province of a very particular generation comes with the new group, Overheard in a Newsroom; or Drop the Dead Donkey for the Twitter generation. These bon (or usually mal) mots are an insight into life in any modern office. (Publisher: "You all need to... get on the change train." Reporter: "I feel like I'm on the change Titanic ." Editor to Adviser: "Every time I email her I put a smiley face at the end, but I don't mean it.")

Susie Rushton returns next week

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