I Had that Aspergillus Thing, I think, and Everyone Laughed!

Aspergillus
Aspergillus

Recently in the news is the tale of a man that died from an aspergillus infection. I’m pretty sure I had the same thing about 20 years ago, except when I told people about it, they mostly sort of laughed that I was imagining it.

Wellisford Manor
Wellisford Manor showing the Ha-ha

One of the things I used to do was maintain large gardens. A particular one at Wellisford Manor had large lawns and beech trees, the clippings and dropped leaves of which I used to assemble into a series of large purpose designed compost heaps.

Compost Heap
Compost Heap

Other organic matter went in as well, but the bulk of the volume was the annual harvest of beech leaves and grass cuttings. Each heap was rectangular, encased in a proper box, and had a volume of about 4 cubic metres, say.

Typical Compost Heap on a Winter's Day
Typical Compost Heap on a Winter's Day

One late winter’s day, I turned the heaps and got enveloped in a large white cloud that looked like steam (the heap was hot anyway), but it left a bit of a taste in my mouth and throat and made me cough. The next day I could hardly breathe. I had a huge temperature and chest pains that got worse on day 2 and started being a bit delirious. This lasted for about 2 weeks and I can honestly say that, even though I didn’t feel I was going to die, I’ve never ever felt so ill either before or since. Much worse than flu.

Spore Cloud emanating from Ripe Fungus
Spore Cloud emanating from Ripe Fungus

Afterwards, I guessed it was fungal spores and took steps to take more care in future and have passed on my experience to anyone that may have to do a similar thing.

Beech Buds
Beech Buds

This experience and another one where I got poked in the eye by a needle-sharp beech bud, were life-changing turning points that made me change my plans (which at the time were to dramatically expand my business) because I decided that gardening was too dangerous!
I then moved into transport which led to computing.

Wellisford Inclined Plane
Wellisford Inclined Plane

Wellisford is also notable for the nearby Inclined Plane which was one of the engineering solutions in the plan to make a canal from Bridgwater to Exeter. This was an idea to cut shipping losses for the expanding coal trade from South Wales to London, as they kept bumping into the rugged Cornish coast and the Scilly Isles and sinking. I currently live near the canal in Bridgwater. It never made it to Exeter as Brunel’s railway made it first so that all canal traffic stopped and they ran out of money.

By Strangely

Founding member of the band Crawling Chaos from the North-East of England