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Wednesday, 16 September 2009


As this is (hopefully) my last Autumn in England, at least for some time to come, I am taking more notice of the changes of season than usual. Certainly it hasn't escaped my notice, especially on my cycle rides, that it's conker season again.

Conkers are the seeds of the Horse Chestnut tree, of which we have a large number in Ealing. They grow on the tree in a spiky yellow ball, and around this time of year they drop down like shrapnel. The seed plus spiky ball weighs several ounces, so it's wise to wear a hat while out and about. The seed itself is chestnut-coloured (suprise) with a white patch on one side, and used to be much prized by schoolboys for conker fights. These are probably now banned for health and safety reasons.

Once when I was about 11 I went round with a friend collecting conkers, with a vague idea of having a massive conker battle later. We packed the biggest, shiniest conkers into my bicycle saddlebag, and off home we went. The conkers then laid forgotten in the dark until I next had need of the bag, when I discovered a grey mould had enveloped them, rendering both the conkers and the saddlebag no longer fit for their intended purposes.

I'm sure there's some lesson to be learnt there, if only by squirrels.

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