So I just got home and turned out my pockets, and discovered that – alongside the more usual pocket detritus like a pen and a tissue and a trolley-token and an emergency 20p – I also have an extraordinary number of conkers.
Some additional observations on the subject:
1. These are not all the conkers I have collected this autumn. These are just conkers I have collected today.
2. These are not all the conkers I have collected today. These are just the conkers I collected today and didn’t instantly regift to someone more appropriate, i.e. my son, my daughter, or anyone else’s son or daughter who I happened to pass on the school run.
3. I have no plan for any of these conkers. I just want them. I see them; I stop; I pick them up. Because they are shiny and pretty and I can.
4. This must be what it’s like to be a magpie.
Look at this conker. It’s one of my current favourites. It’s all lovely and round and fat, and as I walk along scuffing up leaves and stamping on empty beech-nut shells, I can turn it round and round inside my pocket and enjoy its asymmetrical nobbliness. It’s like stamping on bubble-wrap while twirling a stress-ball, only with all-natural materials. Yummy.
I also really love this conker. In fact this conker might be the nicest conker I’ve found today. It’s an especially dark glossy colour, and the non-shiny part is so new and fresh it’s still a lovely clean white.
These conkers are twins. They came together in a massive fat uber-case, and I had to peel the spiny outside off to get them out, and it hurt a bit, but that made me feel a bit more justified in keeping the conkers afterwards. They have round tops and flat bottoms. They’re very tactile.
When I collect conkers, I like to imagine I’m taking part in the annual harvest of Nature’s glorious autumn bounty, but of course this isn’t true. Nothing I do with this conker will have any real value for either me or the tree. The proper thing to happen to a conker is for a squirrel to take it away and bury it, and then either a) go and dig it up later and eat it, thus contributing to the planet’s average mass of Squirrel or b) grow into a new tree, thus contributing to the planet’s average mass of Tree. “Spend up to a year in a coat pocket, then get thrown in a bin” does not form part of any rational food and / or reproductive cycle. If anything, I’m fucking up the annual harvest of Nature’s glorious autumn bounty. I am a horrid vampire scavenger in a stripey scarf and kick-ass Doctor Marten boots.
Here’s a conker I don’t love any more. I don’t love it so much that I couldn’t even be bothered to centre it properly to take this photo. It’s dried out and the shell has cracked a bit.
I took a photograph of this conker, but I don’t feel anything for it other than vague puzzlement over why I still have it. Once I loved it, but not any more. Now it’s old and ruined. Soon I will throw it away.
The shameful truth is that I am a shallow, fickle person who ignores the fertile mysteries hidden within, focusing only on the exterior. I only love the conkers as long as they are new and shiny and beautiful. Once they dry out, I lose interest. I suspect that my attitude to conkers means I am not a good person.
The only way I can redeem myself is to save all the conkers I pick up and hoard, take them to a beautiful field somewhere with light sandy soil and just the right kind of drainage, and plant an entire grove of horse-chestnut trees to gladden the hearts of everyone and feed all the squirrels in the area with as many conkers as their adorably fat little middles can hold.
Like that’s ever going to happen.