Autumn is my favourite season. First blackberrying, now wooding for the cool evenings. There is a damp feeling to the air. Chertsey has its own smell. A mixture of peat and wood smoke. Then the three huge horse chestnut trees in Stanford’s Farm give us another treat. If you could throw a big stick high up you could have a nice big conker.
For the children the war is forgotten, we have our own battles now. To have a conker on a string that could break six other conkers would be called a sixer, and so on. A Stanford conker was pretty good, it would last quite a few conker tournaments.
But one boy came into the playground with a non-Stanford conker. It was shattering even the biggest challenger. It was said he used to soak it in vinegar to make it harder, but this maybe just a rumour put about by his victims, but this year I was confident that I would be the one to beat.
In the car park of ‘The Carpenters Arms’ there was this poor spindly tree. It never produced a single conker, until one year I found a lovely unopened conker beneath it, I opened it and there was the darkest, shiniest conker that I had ever seen. It seemed as if this poor tree had used all its energy to produce at least one super conker.
My friend David Mawford, who lived opposite the pub, told me that the reason the tree had never given any conkers before, was because the men would come out of the pub and have a Pee against the tree every night. Without putting too fine a point on this, it is sufficient to say that this poor spindly conker tree used this —shall we say ‘vinegary’ substance to enhance the single conker that it had ever produced, and I had it on the end of my piece of string.
I couldn’t wait to start swinging my conker in the playground—if you pardon the expression. I was beating everyone and was attracting quite a crowd when I was challenged by the boy with his twenty-fiver conker, it was jet black and even the string was thick. We had more strikes than any other conker in the playground.
He had found his match, my conker was hardly marked but his was looking very sad, the bell went, and we all had to go into the school, we would have to finish the fight in the dinner hour.
We met in the playground at dinner time, but he was almost in tears, he had tried to thread a new piece of string though his conker and it had split in two.
The worst part this story though, is that I could not say that I had broken his twenty-fiver, and therefore could add his twenty-five to my seven wins to be the undisputed champion of the year. That’s life as they say.