My Raleigh Burner clatters down the steps to a long concrete path flanked by gorse and wild grasses. Ahead, the opening to the Winston Avenue tunnel, pre-graffiti and puddle-splashed, and at the other end, horse chestnuts standing like ents ready to drop their tiny spiked packages into welcoming hobbit hands.
I leap from the saddle still in motion and my BMX thunks to the ground, handlebars flipping unceremoniously backward. I give it no second thought. I have work to do.
I quickly find a stick with some heft and pitch it with all my strength into the branches above (the mightiest conkers rest on the highest limbs). Ineffectual, and causing only the slightest stir among the tree’s dewdrop leaves, my stick falls back to the ground.
I try again and STRIKE and leap back as two, three, four pods tumble down. I gather my prizes quickly and toss them in my scrunched up Waitrose bag, their gleaming mahogany hearts peeking through their husks in rascal smiles.
Minutes pass fast and slow and my bag is finally full. Happy and slightly breathless, I rifle through until I find the largest one, seams bursting. I peel back it’s fat, pithy jacket and empty the conker into my hand. It is smooth, hard, and shining brown, the lovechild of long winter and wild wood.
I toss the conker back into the bag and scramble back onto my BMX and peddle furiously for home, certain I’ll be a champion tomorrow, a ruthless and indomitable breaker of shells, my glory unknown to all but a few in a small cul-de-sac in a far corner of nowhere important.
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