Conkers

Why, at my great age, do I still feel compelled to pick up conkers? When I was younger, I used to maintain that I filled my briefcase with them on the way to work for my young son to play with. But, to be honest, in retrospect, it was for my own benefit. They are such lovely things to look at – the colours, patterns, shapes – and are wonderful to touch – smooth, satiny, and cool. I have in the past filled my pockets with them – turning them around like rosary beads as I walk. I have stacked them in baskets and in bowls around the house to admire until the shine disappears and the shape wrinkles and crinkles. I met a man scrabbling around on the ground beneath the horse chestnut trees in Sherren Avenue the other day. He was a bit embarrassed to be found picking up conkers. He said he didn’t really know why he did it. But I know – because I will always find them one of the most attractive of fruits of autumn