This afternoon I was on my daily walk, which as you know I do a couple of times a week, when I came upon a stretch of chestnut trees.
Now this part of the walk is like being on a cycle path as it is next to a road on the right and has rows of houses on the left, very close to the path. It’s also close to a school and several shops.
I say all this to let you know it’s a well travelled path, which is pertinent to what comes next.
So I was quite surprised to see a huge number of chestnuts on the ground, most lying on top of the tons of leaves that carpeted the grass around the trees. Most were free from their casings but many more were still intact and I spent a short time helping nature along.
Till my hands started hurting ! I know, i’m a big Jessie !
The following photo is not mine but I wanted to show the chestnuts in their casings and didn’t take a photo of that today.
Anyway the point I’m making is……why were there so many chestnuts lying there ?
Back in the day, my day, kids like me would be all over fallen chestnuts like acne on a teenager’s face. And when those were all taken away by the first comers, we’d throw sticks up into the branches to “encourage” more to fall ! Fights would break out; there would be pushing and shoving and the scene would take on the appearance of a rugby scrum.
Clearly the days of collecting chestnuts have gone the way of playing with skipping ropes, hula hoops, Barbi dolls and “My First Kitchen.” Ok so I mixed with rather odd boys but hell, it was fun.
We’d pick our best chestnut, or conker, and optimistically declare it a champion in waiting. After managing to drill a hole through it without it cracking, we’d thread it with a length of string or an old shoe lace, tie a knot in the end and we’d be set for battle.
In school yards all over the country, kids would face each other and while one would dangle his conker out in front (stop sniggering, Jones Minor) with some trepidation, the other would take aim and try and smash it to bits by hitting it with his……conker. If the swing missed, it would be the turn of the other kid to be the aggressor.
Of course it was just as likely that the aggressors’ conker would be the one to disintegrate but this unpredictability was all part of the fun.
I realise I’ve suggested here that this was a male pastime and in my experience, it was. I never ever saw girls playing conkers but then I went to an all boys boarding school so that may have been a factor ! It was also potentially dangerous as bits of shattered conkers could fly anywhere which might be why so many kids at school wore eye patches.
I just thought their parents came from Somalia !
Nowadays I’m sure that the influence of the all watching Health & Safety Executive might have a baring on the demise of kids playing conkers. Schools probably ban it now in case little Johnny might get “patched” and his parents would sue everyone from the other kid’s parents all the way up to the Education Minister.
So I stopped and picked up a load of conkers today with no thoughts about what to do with them. I just felt a basic urge to do so. It didn’t seem right that so many should be lying there, being totally ignored by this generation of kids who prefer to play “Grand Theft Auto” or text “what r u doing?” to their friends who are standing right next to them.
And here are those conkers……………
You’ll notice I’ve arranged them tastefully with a garnish of 2 leaves. The one on the top left came back from Montreal a couple of weeks ago courtesy of Daphne Franks and the other one came from the Boston area during my trip there to see the Fall colours in 1997.
Yes I’ve kept a leaf for 16 years. So ?
Every few years I turn it over just so I can state the obvious. It’s the way I roll.