Friday 24 September 2021

Raining Conkers

 Yesterday, on my return from the 'city of philosophers'*, I went for a relaxing stroll in the park where, in my first autumn in the suburban demiparadise (sixty-plus years ago), I climbed trees and gathered conkers with my new friends. It was an Indian summer, I remember, very much like the one we're now enjoying.
  The horse chestnuts in the park, having fought off various recent afflictions, are again heavily laden with conkers. A dog walker warned me, as I strolled under the trees, to look out for falling conkers – a warning I didn't take too seriously until, nearing one of the older trees, I heard the sounds of what seemed to be a heavy aerial bombardment of conkers – they were falling  in their dozens and hundreds, hitting the ground like a nutty hailstorm, and indeed posing some danger of a painful bump on the head (it was a tall tree and the conkers seemed mostly to be coming from high up near the crown). I had never seen anything like this rain of conkers, and wondered what on earth had brought on such a sudden dramatic drop. I soon knew the answer: hearing a piercing squawk and looking up, I saw that high up in the tree a party of ring-necked parakeets were having a high old time, shaking the upper branches and letting loose fusillade after fusillade of conker artillery onto any unsuspecting passers-by. They are, I believe, the only birds who eat conkers, but yesterday they were clearly more intent on having fun than eating. I gave their tree a wide berth, and came away unscathed.
  This wouldn't have happened in my boyhood, when the only parakeets we saw were in cages. If it had, though, we would no doubt have returned fire with a will. 

* 'Sir, we are a city of philosophers: we work with our heads, and make the boobies of Birmingham work for us with their hands.'  Sam: Johnson.

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