• Panufnik’s Mushrooms (1991)

I met Panufnik only once, and that was in odd circumstances.  Although I had been at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ in 1990 when he made his one and only return to Poland, I didn’t meet him then.  It was not until the following year that fate intervened, a month before he died.

At the end of September 1991, I called in at the ‘Warsaw Autumn’ temporary office on the first floor of the Europejski Hotel to thank the staff for once again hosting me as a guest of the festival.  There was a lady standing there, tenderly holding a package: “Do you know of anyone going to London after the festival?”, she was asking.  I replied that I was leaving at that moment.  “Ah, could you do me a great favour?  Andrzej Panufnik has expressed a wish to have wild mushroom soup, so I have been to the forest and picked these for him.  Do you think you could take them to Twickenham?”  I was only to happy to oblige.

I was living in London then, working at BBC Radio 3, so once I landed at Heathrow I hopped into a taxi and arrived at the Panufnik home mid-evening.  I knocked on the door.  Camilla Panufnik opened it and was puzzled by this stranger standing there, holding a dubious package.  “I’ve brought mushrooms for you from Warsaw”, I spluttered. “Oh, thank you!  You must come in and meet Andrzej.”

I was led upstairs to meet the composer, who was in a quietly cheery mood and thrilled to receive these fungal goodies from Poland.  Not wishing to tire him with any prolonged conversation, I quickly bid my farewells and got back into the taxi.  I gathered later that the soup was delicious and much appreciated.  I was just glad to have been one link in a chain that brought him some contentment in his last weeks.

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