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.


This blog was posted in Miniblog

67 comments on “Love Conkers All”

  1. Kali7 says:

    Thank every conjured god and goddess and whatever…. spring is here… the miserable season is over.

    Oh so sorry… no conkers in Australia.

  2. smu95rp says:

    Ah yes. That time of year where I am overcome with the urge to go shopping in WH Smiths for my year’s supply of ruled notepads, pens, pencils and protractors.

  3. jackiefoy says:

    Definitely not just you. I can feel sick to the stomach, yet deliciously excited by the crispness of it all, and it’s years since I was a teacher or indeed an actual student…certainly a yearning and a dreading all-in-one – you have hit the conker on the head!!

    I am a brand-new follower, both of your tweets and your web-page and looking forward to catching up on your sparkling observations, both previous and fresh ones. Keep up your brilliant work.

  4. elvene says:

    As the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ approaches, there is always something edifying about the way that the game of conkers takes me back to my childhood – especially my school days. Though not an entirely pleasant experience (school that is) they (conkers) do fill me with an oozing excitement; as I remember the hours spent meticulously preparing them in vinegar and baking them in my mother’s oven – in an attempt to battle harden them.

    I still recall the euphoric effect a single brown reddish tinged fuit of nature had on my friends and I as we stood in the playground – our warm breathes puncturing holes in the cold morning air – waiting to cross swords (or strings mainly) and to be filled with a loftiness of spirit as your opponent’s cherished conker was sent crashing into oblivion – a wailful choir of small voices mourning their champions defeat.

  5. MollyPrewett says:

    “That thing is as delicious as it is dreadful.”

    Unless, of course, you are a teacher, and then it’s just dreadful.

  6. DasNest says:

    and again it feels so good to read all your comments! I had a very creative but stressfull weekend planning and recording a 4-hour-broadcast for our little webradio “”. It’s about Bruce springsteen having his 60. Birthday on September 23d, and I did it together with a very competent but somehow energy draining friend of mine. so my head was quite full of things and I felt quite tired. to read your comments about autumn, my most favourite season, calmed me down so much and makes me feel as if I walked through leaves. thank you! Lingering hiere I feel that this ist not only Steven’s side but also very much ours. I never had such a feeling reading a weblog.
    By the way: I am also reading the harry-Potter-Series again at the moment. Stephen: your voice is really grate, and what I like most about your reading ist that you do it so concentrated and awake. you’re in it, and I think one can hear it. but as I recently said to a friend: you could even read phonebooks to me and I would like to listen :-) (I know this is the sign for a smile. I actually serched one for a loud laugh but don’t know one).
    this brings me to a question: Are there any audio versions of “the Hippopotamus” or “making history”? I read them both, but because I am blind I let my speech synthesizer do it vor me, an this hadn’t been a great pleasure as you can emagine. Can somebody help and tell me where I can get audio versions of those books and also of other books written by Stephen?
    “audible” only has books read by him and radio broadcasts. sorry if questions like this in a blog might be against nettiquette. I wish you the best and enjoy autumn.


  7. rpotter says:

    two small whinges: Firstly where on the website is a link to the two paintings referred to in Trefussis 2? and secondly, episode 3 is advertised on the website but not yet on Itunes (not in Australia anyway) rather frustrating as Im really enjoying it!

    COMMENT FROM PRODUCER: Thank you for bring the URLS to my attention. You can view them here: and Also, I can assure you that the 3rd episode is available in the Australian iTunes Store. It’s the second thing I check, as I’m also Australian.

  8. Rachel_Stone says:

    Stephen – if you ever happen to read this, I just want you to know that I’ve just looked at my bookshelf and found no fewer than seven books with quotes from you on the back (and that’s only one small bookshelf!)
    Also, I just want you to know that I have long ago lost count of the number of times I have produced random pieces of information that nobody else knows and then, in the stunned silence that follows, have said “I know that from QI…” I have learned more from QI and the Book of General Ignorance than from my twelve years at school put together! So I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks! :)

  9. arisztidoltz says:

    Have fun filming Bones! Cheers!

  10. haroldbeaumont says:

    Those loutish trees have begun carelessly littering leaves all over the dutifully manicured lawns on our street.

    Loyal officers of the lawn will soon strap on rattling gas-powered leaf blowers and blast them away from unhealthily short and regularly poisoned patches of pale grass.

    Not us. We share our front yard with a wise old Sycamore and he may do what he likes.

  11. lynnduffy says:

    My favourite example of someone refusing to make a false choice such as you describe is when Bart Simpson asks Homer “Do you wear boxers or shorts?” “No” replies Homer.

  12. R J Moody says:

    Having grown up next door to two giant chestnut trees that were invariably filled each fall with a bounty of prize conkers, I must say that I want to put on my coat right now and run outdoors to begin the gathering. The white eyed shiny brown treasures hiding in their spiny green cloaks from those of us with throwing sticks who would seek to knock them from their branches before there time. Those of us who knew that a conker who let’s go it’s branch voluntarily is already days past it’s prime, and would be a sorry combatant on the mean street below. Ah, memories as crisp as autumn leaves.

    …and at the end of the day the best of the best are drilled and strung together. We receive our annual warning that “only the other kind that are edible. Those ones are poisonous,” which just adds to their appeal.

    I visited the “gathering spot” just weeks ago, only to find that the trees had been replaced by sod, and the smell of baked goods and butterscotch that once wafted down the porch steps of our dear old Lithuanian neighbor was forever gone as well. Dissipated like the foggy breath of a child throwing sticks on a cold September morning 40 years ago.

    …I could however still hear the sounds of chestnuts bouncing on the walk and well aimed sticks tearing through the branches above.

    Thank you Stephen, for however brief, a trip back to Verde Street.

  13. haymee says:

    Oh no Stephen, it’s not just you

  14. Amanda C Cox says:

    I love London in the Autumn. The colours of the trees in Hyde Park, the reflections in the canal in Little Venice, the warm afternoons melting goldenly into the early evenings, and best of all, its not so hot that the whole of Soho smells like warm piss!

  15. Christine Pennock says:

    I think it’s mad that you can’t like more that one thing,places etc. Why is this need to like only one? Having never been to LA or New York I couldn’t say which I’d prefere only that I’d vist the Guggenheim museum in LA and the MOMA and the National Photo Gallery in New York. They both got their own merits.

    As for conkers I’d better not metion there is a chestnut tree in one of our neighbour’s garden! There again there’s no conkers on it this year as there’s been no candles. Anyway does Health & Safety still allow the playing of conkers surely it is classed as dangerous as you might get hurt by a conker!!!

  16. MichelleFrost says:

    I’m from Rhodesia. We started a new year in January. To me the thrill of a new year comes from fresh mown grass… just as Christmas eve makes me years for soft warm rain.

    Oh and new book smells. :-) Is there any better smell in the world than a brand new never-read book?

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