Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut leaf today. On a sapling. The leaves are larger than a man’s hand, deeply segmented and split into seven sections. The tree will grow very large and when it starts to flower it will grow large white flowering bracts. Then in the autumn it develops nuts called Conkers. These are encased in a spikey shell that you have to peel off. This is the thing that children make holes through and then use to play the game conkers. Basically each person has one of them. They drill or pierce the nut with a skewer fron the top to the base. It is then threaded onto a string. Two children / people stand opposite each other. One holds up their conker and swings it at the other one. If it hits it can either knock the other conker or split it. If it doesn’t break the other person takes a turn. The conker is called a “one-er” if it survives. Each time it doesn’t break the number goes up, so “two-er” and so on. Some people bake conkers or soak them in vinegar to strengthen them.

So basically when you hear about a game of conkers that’s what it is. The trouble comes when you try and get them off the trees. We have a row of them on the main road. Children throw sticks and stones up at the branches to get them down which can be a hazard if you walk or drive underneath them.

Four eyes

When I was little I used to get called ‘four eyes’ because I was wearing glasses. It was hurtful and upsetting but I don’t think I really understood why other children were calling me that. It didn’t help having an unusual name. Kids would shout names at me like ‘blueband’ (a name of a margarine). I realise now I was being bullied. I was only about seven or eight and I hated it.