Love Conkers All

I walked into town this morning, four and a half miles gently downhill into the bowl of London, the chalk basin where Soho, Mayfair, Bloomsbury, Marylebone and divers other of the villages that constitute the West End have their jostling, bumptious beings.

There’s that thing in the air. That thing. That thing that goes with the first yellowing of the leaf, the hint of chill in the air, the extra urgency of bicycles and the bright blue brand new George of Asda V-necks worn by schoolchildren on the pavements starting the new school year. That thing that stings the nostrils and fills the brain with an equal measure of dread and delight.

And the conkers. Conkers gleaming like jewels in their split pods. Conkers rolling into the road, splattered by four-by-fours late for the school gates. Conkers ready to be strung and swung in the playground.

Summer, spring and winter have their qualities, their affinities and associations (“Where are the songs of spring? Aye, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too” or words to that effect) but this time of year alone summons the terrors of termtime.

That thing is as delicious as it is dreadful. A terrible memory and a memory for which one yearns.

Or perhaps it’s just me.

stephen

This blog was posted in Miniblog

67 comments on “Love Conkers All”

  1. HiMyNameIsOften says:

    I love this time of year, although right now I have a cold :( I still think winter and autumn are wonderful. I want to go and play in the leave now

  2. Aurora says:

    Hy! I already written smtg on twitter,(AraViola) ..
    Well the air smells different in the “passage” months,I do smell the air, in the evening above all, and I understand the season is changing.
    The smell that upsets me more is that between Winter and Spring,I hate both Spring and Summer,but I get more tranquil smelling the Autumn.
    The thing you feel filling your mind are reminders from the past Autumns ecc.
    Haha! It’s strange how similar we are! :) As far we are…

  3. lizhurley says:

    Autumn holds no terrors for me – just pure relaxed joy. It’s the start of the summer holidays with all the tourists in their unfamiliar family units that strike fear in me. Bewildered fathers who don’t understand that a 4 year old can not do 5 miles of the coast path without disintegrating, wives who are astounded that one member of the group will not do as they are told. Families who take their frustrations of a less than perfect holiday out on all who surround them. I hope that they are all happy now back in their familiar roles and places, even if double french is the worst!

  4. Esme Montebank-Bliss says:

    My spirits soared this morning as I took to the lane and I too could breathe again. How different things were on that day I set out for my weekly presence with Mr Hornbill, my mesmerist. He restores me so, I should face all weathers, I must recover in time to be well for my beloved Gibney, for whom I have such “palpable devotion”.

    It is good to hear that you are thus restored, if in any doubt Mister Fry, let me recommend Mr Hornbill and his methods for on days when the weather is not so crisp and the memories less pleasant he is most certainly a saviour.

    One is always amused at the “international networking” and its ability to transcend time.

  5. blacknapkinsuk says:

    ..and there I was, thinking that I was the only person for whom the crisp morning air of the first week of September bought a knot of terror to the stomach at the thought of a new school term. 25 years have not made that memory any less vivid.

  6. Flapper_MK says:

    “Conkers ready to be strung and swung in the playground.”

    I think you’ll find in this modern hypocritical PC world that conkers are now banned from most playgrounds. Sad but true.

  7. joercarey says:

    I’ve always been fortunate enough to have my birthday perfectly placed between the beginning of term and the Christmas break, as such Autumn has always been, rather selfishly, MY season. The perfect temperatures and smattering of rain for MY temperament.
    A cellist once informed me that all the greatest Cello players have autumnal births, not sure how true that is but I think you’ll agree that no instrument feels quite as ‘Autumn’ as the Cello.

  8. MrChrisWrites says:

    I completely agree with you Mr Fry. A gloriously melancholy time of year.

  9. rtphoto says:

    Autumn is the most delicious time of year, in so many ways… but mostly memories of picking blackberries with granny and waiting for them to join with the apples under the crunchy crumble topping, oooh and the way the ice cream slid deliciously into the spoon off the hot, steaming fruit jumble, mmmmmm. I love autumn.

  10. Brymo says:

    Having lived my 40 years in California and raised to speak Western American, I enjoyed researching a new word in order to understand your post. Is the game of conkers still played or is the onomatopoeia just a relic carried over from another time?

  11. keeno says:

    Ah Autumn. The harbinger of death. Another summer shuffles off with it tails between it’s legs, ashamed that it was grey and dull most of the time. Again.
    Autumn fills me with dread, the sun will now only pop into the sky until the late afternoon, leaving me and countless others to go to work in the dark, and come home in it. With the rain making the roads treacherous for all those on 2 wheels. All around, the trees and the plants decide it’s time to pretend to die.
    And the cold starts to wait around corners, ready to cleft us in twain with a whistling wind blade.
    I don’t like Autumn. It scares something primeval in me… The notion of being tucked up in the warm with the orange glow of an open fire, whilst all outside is grim… It’s not my reality.
    Perhaps I’ll like Autumn more when I have a dog. And a house in the countryside, and an open fire. Until then, it can fuck right off.

  12. David Griffin says:

    Dear Mr Fry

    You truly surprise me, a man of your calibre and unadulterated wit; no, no, no: “Love Conkers All”, whereby you are using the word “Conkers” in place of the word “Conquers”? You must realise that “Conker” is a noun; always has been and always will be. A “Conker” is one who “Conks”.

    Kind regards

    David Griffin

  13. RenegadeArtisan says:

    It’s a modern tragedy that conkers, and the competitive fun which they bring, have been outlawed at my sons school, due to the potential of facial injury for players. Well, I have never witnessed a facial injury caused by conkers, rounders – yes, rugby – yes, but never conkers. Health and safety is a crazy mixed up world which seems determined to edit any aspect of fun we may still be able to glean from life, and, ironically perhaps, I observe that smoking (whoever knows what??) and watching porn on mobiles is still alive and flourishing, clearly undetected by the health & safety hounds, who are far too busy closing down conker rings! My oh My – you really do have to shake your head and sigh! I must be getting old!

  14. Hatster says:

    It has to be the season that heralds more mixed feelings than its siblings. On the one hand there’s the chance of catching sight of a harvest moon and the wonderful evening light that you get after a clear day. There’s a rush of fruit from the garden and with it, homemade jars of jam and chutneys begin to appear around the house. There might even be a last-gasp family barbecue. But then there’s the knowledge that we might need to revisit the boiler settings as it’s not too long before heating will be called for, alongside long-sleeved sweaters and the banishing of shorts to the ‘summer drawer’. Finally there’s the ongoing conflict of memories; childhood conker forays and bonfires, versus dull college tutorials when the late afternoon dusk made it harder to stay awake. And why does it seem to remind us of how old we are, more than any other time of the year?

  15. nbluckyduck says:

    I’ve been feeling just the same for the past few days, unable to work out exactly why, but you put it so well – the ‘equal measure of dread and delight’ sums up what Autumn means, even years after leaving education.

    For me, however, as a boat dweller moored on a windswept bit of rural Cambridgshire, Autumn brings the promise of lots of free electricity from my wind generator as well as the pleasure of lighting the wood-burning stove for the first time, and keeping it going until March!

    Amy
    www,nbluckyduck.blogspot.com

  16. knickerlusgirls says:

    Good Lord – five days of tweeting purdah and thats it ?

  17. firebird2110 says:

    The horror of school is now a distant enough memory that I’ve come to love Autumn, the season of harvest. The blackberries are almost finished now, the hazelnuts picked and eaten while rose hips are just starting to ripen. Jam and bottled fruit have been processed and stacked in the cellar and I’ve got several gallons of wine fermenting around the house.

    My daughter, spared school attendance, is out in the garden enjoying her freedom in the sunshine.

  18. williamtodd says:

    No, it’s not just you.

    I remember it well, be it some four score and twenty years on. I’m in New York right now but I can see and smell those raw conkers on pavements all over England and recall that some terms I even looked forward with that mix of dream and dread to the new school year and assembly and “once again assembled here” and all that.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  19. Love_Kingdom says:

    It’s not just you Stephen. I can feel it in the air too. Whenever the 1st of September arrives, it seems to happen. Even though I liked school, I’d never wanna go back to that.

  20. Meersy says:

    Hi,

    This is my first comment on this site and I love it, keep up the good work.

    My only fear with your recent blog relates to this line:

    “Conkers ready to be strung and swung in the playground”…..Unfortunately, “health and safety computer says no”

    Unless wearing goggles or accompanied by an adult, conkers on a string are prohibited from schools.

    CRAZINESS

  21. adam_clements says:

    Winter is a ‘low’. Spring and Summer are ‘highs’. Autumn is bittersweet – and such is life. Being bipolar (and of course, Stephen, I know you are too) I find Autumn comforting. It’s pathetic fallacy, up and down!

    That said, you can never count on consistency in British weather, can you?! So there my argument crumbles. But nonetheless, there’s something in the air which feels appropriate.

  22. look says:

    Autumn came, soared and conkered. My favourite season. It rises above the others with its cacophony of coulours, reverberations of warmth and cool promises.

  23. Hermione Parsnip says:

    Summer passed me by, I barely saw,
    As the clouds wept tearful puddles around my door,
    The fun we’d miss, waiting, for that elusive sunny day….
    So we’ll don our boots and coats,
    Build Soggy castles, with rain filled moats..
    And the sun will shine frome the child’s face at play…

    Here comes Autumn!

    Andrea

  24. Rick Beenham says:

    I felt it on my bicycle this morning as I began my journey across Wimbledon Common towards the A3 and work. Not so yesterday – the heat and humidity saw to that – but there was a touch of it last week, as if September had put an abrupt end to any trace of summer. It’s a ten mile journey from Roehampton to Holborn, and I relish it. I fear the unflattering lycra longs will soon have to be pulled out of hibernation again. They don’t have a padded inlay, unlike my shorts, which will take some getting used to.

    For me, though, autumn will always carry with it the powerful memories of when I started university in 1995. I was 24 and it was a fresh start in life for me. My room in my Halls of Residence had a beautiful view of the Yorkshire countryside and I loved it. I studied at Bretton Hall, a college of Leeds University, now very sadly closed, and those first few weeks of my being there were full of exciting new things and people. I had the best three years of my life there, and the onset of autumn always brings the memories of those first few weeks flooding back very vividly. It inevitably brings with it a slight air of melancholy for happy past times. Ah well.

    Those conkers don’t half play havoc with my tyres though.

  25. beeline says:

    I still get the same combination of fear and joy at the smell of cut grass in May – it’s summer and cricket and lounging around, but it’s also exams and the guilt of shoddy revision discipline.

    But autumnal smells – including the spectacularly emotive burning of leaves – just make my pulse quicken at the thought of wonderful new things to learn, and the exquisite construction of plausibly interlinked excuses that delivered me from the football field…

  26. Elifant71 says:

    Autumn is my favorite time of year! Nature is getting ready for its winter sleep to spring up fresh for summer. So much to love about autumn.

  27. Cora Devine says:

    Autunm is indeed a deliciously melancholy time, but unlike yourself I am always inspired by September; the memory of returning to school with newly sharpened pencils and socks that still stayed up always suggested a new beginning; or more pertinently a new chance… Forget the misdemeanours of the last school year; the fights and fall-outs; the terrors that lurked in the corridors at break and in my heart; the work that went from ‘excellent’ to ‘erratic’ to ‘must try harder’. The new school year was a chance to start again. In fact I now hold a secret personal’New Year’ in September as I find it much more conducive to new starts than the traditional 1st Jan, which is probably the worst of all times to start again.

  28. Momgoth says:

    I’ve always loved autumn. The leaves changing colors, warm-ish days and cool nights, the joy of going back to school (yes, really), and at least where we live now the bitter, mouthwatering smell of roasting green chiles – autumn is my very favorite season.

    We don’t have conkers here, but my daughter and her friends play similar games with pine cones. That usually lasts until a teacher comes around to see what they’re up to.

  29. ozalba says:

    Ahh, is there any better sight than the rich colour and patina on a fresh conker? Perhaps a large Macallan, but the colour of a new conker lasts slightly longer than a poured Macallan.

    However, a more significant indicator of the changing season for me as a night-sky-watching Scot, was always the Glorious Twelfth, when the Perseid meteor shower might grace us with its presence and hammer home that the summer twilight had finally gone.

  30. Fryphile says:

    Ah, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, to continue with Keats.

    Sod Winter, sod Spring, sod Summer. It’s the sod of Autumn that delivers the ripest pleasures. The earth is earthier, the air is drinkable, the moon can be served ala mode. Autumn whips, purees, smoothies, my heart into a squishy, gooey, gluey blob of love and hope and expectation. Tennyson may think that in spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, but my heart fancies autumn. Heavily.

    Anyway, I look better wearing the most amount of clothing possible.

  31. leybricknell says:

    I always read Ted Hugh’s poem The Seven Sorrows about this time of year, it’s just what you are talking about – that ‘sad’ time of the year.

  32. exoskeleton says:

    Well I got my arboreal-cultural lesson for this morning. I’ve never heard on conkers, besides someone hitting his head, but I do know about buckeyes, although those don’t grow near me either. I can make an analogy to your seasonal seed using vague memories of another. I want to investigate whether or not Americans play with buckeyes, and I’ll make the inquiring family phone call later today.

    I’m pleased it isn’t quite feeling like autumn to me yet, although it’s past Labor Day and most children are back to school. You could still convince me that my university is some big summer camp experience. I know exactly the atmosphere that’s going to turn up soon, though. It reminds me of spending all day at giant cross country races.

  33. hob says:

    Autumn for me means no longer being able to wake up in the mornings… and the start of an anxiety which will lead me to get very creative during the winter months…

  34. hob says:

    (so I look forward to being fired from the 9-5, and to making some nice things!)

  35. SilvanaFe says:

    I love your town ! I visited it last October and May. I’d like to come back again. I like the people, the weather, the lifestyle and others things. Where I live, Catania (Sicily), the weather is often hot and I can’t stand it anymore. I miss London and Londoners. You are the kindest people that I’ve ever met.
    Kisses

  36. Scapigliata says:

    Here in sweden the autumn is a depressing time since its the prelude to winter. A time when the skies are tinted grey and all of stockholm turns pitch black before we so much as step foot outside the doors of our school. The saddening thing is we never really get to see much of the sun during the winter since its almost nighttime by the time we wake up. The rest if the day is spent in doors,listening intently as teachers lecture on about maps and scales and so forth. We simply take solace in watching the white pebbles of snow falling from the sky as a reminder that the winter holidays are closing in. all we can do in the meanwhile is wait it out.

    Can’t wait to read of more things that are on your mind, mr fry
    love, scapigliata

    ps: no its not just you

  37. Gaina says:

    I absolutely love the Autumn because Winter is not far behind. I’m a snow baby and cannot stand Summer or the associated heat and humidity, it gives me ‘the glums’.

    I am looking out of my window and the sky is that particular shade of blue that tells you the seasons are shifting but you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what it is.

    I can’t wait to see the first Fieldfare, then I’ll be really content :).

  38. Gertrude Susanne says:

    Wie berührend schön Sie das formuliert haben… GSx

  39. PurestGreen says:

    Autumn is the best time of year. Summer is a fleeting time, weeks when life juggles madly to do it all, to ram youth and lust in a bag together and let friction do the work. Autumn is the wry, matronly smile, that “I told you so” that judges and forgives in one instant before turning back to the stove.

    Throughout the summer I undertook a task to listen to all the Harry Potter books in succession. I am nearing the end. It has been gloriously pleasurable. Thank you.

  40. daibev says:

    Snow baby – yes indeed. Winter is beyond comparison. Wet cold muddy rugby pitches, being half-forced to train in the half-light of cheap floodlights. The pain of hitting a frozen ground…. masochism and companionship and a bloody good time. September – the start of a new season.
    AND when I was a bit younger, the madness of conkers. The “castanwydden” in the garden woukld give up fab welsh conkers, and I would launch into a frenzy of pickling, roasting and drilling to get them ready for the fray. Insanity.

  41. TheStraightLesbian says:

    Trust me, you only miss it if you have good memories. The sheer terror of waiting for exam results is… mentally damaging. Thank God I’m a nerd, otherwise I might have to face it!

  42. TossTheParadox says:

    Autumn is the most beautiful season of the year, it’s the one with the utmost moderate atmosphere. The best season the year could shove down our throats.
    A lot of rain, a hint of sunlight very often, and indeed occasionally, a mixture of them both and a little else besides… like clouds.
    Summer is too much of heat. Wintery things conjur depression: I’m used to them being long.
    Autumn is moderate – however drippy it may sound. I can drag myself up in the closest armchair, fold my legs and turn up the 1st side of a book. Summer-y white-shine is changed, replaced by a mellow Autumn-ish glow. Pleasantness cubed!
    I agree with you completely. Nicely phrased – but what else could I expect?

  43. DaoLore says:

    autumn is wonderful time ,Autumn is beautiful…but so colds are not desirable !
    in the morning is cold, but this so you do not want more

  44. jshorobin says:

    Its true about conkers been baned in play grounds, although at the school I work at, there are conker trees all round the playing field,so how do you stop them from throwing them? mainly at my head, arms etc. and I’m not too fond of Frisbee’s either. its a terrible life been a dinner supervisor.
    I love autumn, just spent the morning round Cannock chase taking my two dogs, so peaceful , till one dog caught a rabbit and didn’t kill it properly and the other dog, a jack Russel started to groom it. it must of died of shock, she then decided to carry it all the way back to the car, lovely!

  45. leannich says:

    It’s not just you.

    For many years after I left school I threw a party every September to celebrate the fact that I didn’t have to go back. Now I just taste the freedom quietly – and there is a freedom in that chill air, that gathering in of the light. Summer’s gone. Work to be done.

  46. LindaH1956 says:

    In York, every September heralded the beginning of the ‘sugar beet’ season, lorries trundling up to the factory spilling beets onto the road, and the distinctive aroma once production was underway. Once nostrils caught the smell we knew that Autumn was following close behind. Unfortunately progress means that we no longer have the factory in York, nor the jobs on which many locals depended. So Autumn now comes in slowly and almost imperceptively, but still welcomed.

  47. ladyfromhamburg says:

    Autumn and conkers, they belong together like pot a lid or more poetically like spring and daffodils. And yes, when conkers are around us, the winter isn’t far away. I saw one lonely conker at a tree limb today and thought:

    A conker on a tree once sat
    and hardly could decide,
    to fall down like the other friends
    or stay another night.
    The others went and children came
    To pick up his best mate
    the conker felt :” it’s not a game!
    I’m really, really late!”
    And when he looked along the way
    a tall man reached the place -
    the conker said: Oh, Stephen Fry
    I recognise his face
    I’m jumping down and I will try
    to land just at his feet
    I always had this urgent wish
    and cannot wait to meet.
    He shall pick up me shiny thing
    shall see the life of autumn
    and if he still prefers the spring
    at least I’m not an orphan.

  48. DasNest says:

    It nearly sounds like a very beautifull poem to me. I’ll copy it down I think. to me autumn holds no terror. It’s my fafourite time of year though it’s really sometimes quite melancholic – or because…

    but What a very friendly and personal weblog this is! Most german blogs I visited are much cooler. Seems to be a good place to linger here. Even the mail I recieved after (again) losing a password was very kind :-)

    Well: for all who fear autumn: always keep a warm fire burning for yourself and those you love. So long!

  49. TheGumballFactory says:

    Beautiful, I love the Autumn.

    Stephen, if you have time have a look at my blog and see what you think to my words. thegumballfactory.blogspot.com/

    Keep up the good work Sir

  50. Ghost Code says:

    Urgency of chill being delicious
    Jewels of leaf, splattered into delight
    Starting gleam effect
    Hint of bumptious beings

    Songs of the road, perhaps
    Measure new morning
    Ready to summon music
    Delight of strung terror

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