Knobfield is a street and hamlet in Abinger Hammer in Surrey that Bailey and Hurst saw fit to include in Rude UK. Laetitia and her group did some hikes in the surrounding countryside before going there. As they approached the hamlet, they saw a field of curious mushrooms next to the sign signaling Knobfield’s presence. Laetitia asked about the field at the pub of the inn where they were staying and received a rather lengthy explanation from the bartender.
“A lot of elderly spinsters and widows live in this hamlet. They have little to do except gardening and gossip, and they tend to make everything that goes on in town their business. A few years ago, a middle-aged woman named Alice moved here, and they descended on her like vultures on roadkill. She is a perfect target for gossip. She is spunky and flamboyant, dresses in garish clothes, and has a vocabulary like a British tar. Her husband is the exact opposite. He’s a retired professor of mycology who wears wire-rim spectacles and tweeds and has hobbies like watching birds and culturing mushrooms.
“Gossip tends to build on itself, and soon unfounded rumors about Alice were flying around. The prevailing view was that Alice had been a prostitute and later a madam in London who had made lots of money and then retired to Knobfield to gain respectability. There were other rumors that her husband—if they were in fact married—was one of her former clients. None of these stories were true, but the upshot was that everyone in town began to refer to her as Madam Alice. Far from being upset by all this, Alice relished the notoriety.
“When the field beside one of the approaches to town went up for sale, Alice bought it. With the assistance of her husband, the field soon began to sprout mushrooms of the ‘stinkhorn’ variety. These mushrooms resemble the male reproductive organ, and are so named because of a stinky exudate that comes from the tip. Early taxonomists gave these mushrooms the genus name Phallus, and are said to have chosen the trivial name for each species after some colleague that they didn’t like.”
This story was the source of Laetitia’s limerick of the day.
When they saw the field of Madame Alice
Knobfield folks claimed it had to be malice
“That would drive,” said one vulture,
“Such a horticulture—
Mushrooms that are in genus Phallus.”