Thursday, 25 September 2014

Conkering

Conkering is one of my most favoured joys of autumn. 
The simple act of wandering casually down the street, where leaves are beginning to gather in the gutters, to that remembered spot, where the horse chestnut tree is tinted bronze in the afternoon sun. To discover beneath the shade of its branches and great hand-like leaves, the sought-for treasure. 
Some years, a dry season means the conkers do not swell or ripen, or strong winds will rip the branches and send the nuts crashing to ground prematurely. But sometimes, when weather and fortune collide, nestled in the damp grass that soaks through your shoes, beneath those breeze blown brown-blotched hand-leaves that stroke your hair, mahogany jewels will gleam. 
The light reflects off their fresh, perfect surface; a deep rich shade like polished brown furniture. Turn it over and over in your hands, relish the smooth coolness, checking for blemishes or splits that would render the prize imperfect. Upon finding any, that conker is unceremoniously tossed aside in search of a larger, shinier more impressive specimen. 
Soon pockets bulge with lumpy loot, a collection to be laid out on the garden or kitchen table upon the return home, to be counted like gold coins. The largest, the smallest, the one with the flat side where it grew together with its twin, the one with the blotch that looks like an eye, the one you broke free from its case with the heel of your boot, the one you rescued from where it had fallen in the road. 
But always, that largest, shiniest, most polished, deepest tigers-eye rippled brown conker, the best of them all, winks at you teasingly from the branches. Beyond outstretched fingers it dances just out of reach, waving in the wind yet never falling. Sometimes it is tempting to launch a stout stick into the branches to dislodge the prize, but invariably it stays, unmoved, hanging there safely, secure within its green spiky, velvet-lined case.  





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