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I find within myself the tendency to believe, when dwelling on such things (not often, it must be said; perhaps once a month at a most generous estimate) that our vinegar fungus (mère, in the French tongue) is a contented entity.

To give you a brief, potted history (in so doing I fear I have no choice, "brief" and "potted" being the extent of my understanding in this matter), the blessed organism was given to us some eight years ago in the City of Bristol by a friend from across the Channel (French being both his nationality and native tongue). Prised from its resting place, abbreviated with stout kitchen scissors, a portion of its mortal essence was placed into our hands and our care for as long as we both shall live.

In turn, our friend (going by the name of Xavier, as they are wont to do in that country of romance, poetry and strong cheese) was given custody of his maternal share not by his mother, indeed, but rather his grandmama, she having taken delivery of the organism in her youth and nurtured it well into her ninth decade. (One can quite easily find oneself believing that one's own dear mère shared a common ancester with the noble mushroom that gave of itself to slake the thirst of the Son of God as he hung bleeding on the hill of Golgotha, such longevity do they endure.)

We have been good to our piquant friend. His first meal in the period of our guardianship was a more-than-generous pouring from a magnum of 1990 Chateau Lafite. Subsequent quenching has been both considered and loving. And our reward is a fiery juice, blood red and fruit-filled as one can only derive from a fungus that has truly become a part of one's family.

Mortality may have us firmly in her grip, but I live in hope that appreciative others may tend this secret garden as we, Xavier and Xavier's grandmère have done for more than a century. Her's is a benevolent and passive presence.

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