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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 24th August 2011

I’m starting to think about what to do with this blog. I started it, in June, on the day of my last talk of the 2010/2011 ‘season’. The idea was to both see if I could find something with a connection, however tenuous, to poisonous plants to write about every day and to keep my mind busy during the long summer break.

The groups I talk to are mostly ones that meet during the autumn and winter and that means I get quite a long break through the summer months. I thought a daily blog might help me to keep myself up to date because there’s nothing worse than getting to the Q & A session and having someone ask about a recent event that I’ve heard nothing about. I shall have to think about whether to continue with it, in this or a modified form, during the autumn and winter.

As it turns out, there have been surprisingly few problems with finding subject material and, often, there is a number of things I could choose. Today, for example, I could write about the announcement from Amy Winehouse’s family that no illegal substances were found in the post-mortem toxicology tests. Or, the reports from Rhyl that seagulls found dead on the beach seem to have been poisoned though nothing is yet known about the poison used. Or, there’s the new definition of ‘addiction’ from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

But, the results, so far, don’t tell the full story on Amy Winehouse’s death so it is better to wait and deal with that when there’s no danger of false speculation. The tests did find alcohol, apparently, but no-one is saying how much for the moment.

The Rhyl seagulls may have been poisoned by a non-organic poison and that would mean their story had no place here. It is, actually, more likely that a non-plant based poison was used because, in spite of all the dark romance attached to plant poisoning stories, things like arsenic, bleach and battery acid are more often used.

And the new definition of addiction runs to eight pages and needs more careful analysis. It would be easy to condense it down to saying addiction is an illness but that has been known for some time by those concerned with reducing the harm caused by psychoactive substances and the notion that it is an illness is rejected by prohibitionists who cling to the idea that users can be made to quit completely and non-users just have to ‘say ‘No’’.

So, rather than try and produce about 800 words on one of those topics, I’ve been thinking about what to do once the ‘season’ starts again. My first talk is in just over a week and I will need to spend quite a bit of time preparing for it. As well as reviewing the content, I’d better make sure that three months in the cupboard hasn’t caused my projection equipment to forget how it works.

And then there’s the event on September 23rd.  This is an all-day course about poisonous plants in all their forms. I’m always saying that my biggest problem is keeping myself down to the forty five minutes that is usually required but going from that to filling a 10 am to 4 pm programme is just a little daunting. Luckily, there’s a lunch break so, if I’m in trouble for material, I can always stretch that out.

It may not be too bad in fact. The tentative plan is to begin with a talk of about an hour, or so and then go out into the venue’s garden to see just how many poisonous plants there are in a typical garden and tell their stories. Then there’ll be a prolonged Q & A session and, if there is still time, I’ll get onto the psychoactives.
 I’m actually looking forward to it. If you’re within reach of Lincolnshire why not come along? It’s £25 including a light lunch and you can get details on booking by visiting the website.


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