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Conker sketch Hannah Longmuir

[This year I have decided to study two big Horse Chestnut trees near our house.  This is Part 7 of my sketchbook-learnings.]

I’m a little behind with my update on the chestnuts.  Things have been really very busy in my little business.  It has been so hard for brick & mortar shops this year, and my heart goes out to all my lovely stockists, but the result has been that my online shops have been extraordinarily busy.  It is so exciting sending cards and calendars and sketchbooks and stickers out to people all over the world.  That also means, though, that I haven’t had a chance to write about how autumn went for the chestnut trees.

Well, before the leaves got a chance to get going with their golden-to-dark-gold-to-orange-to-brown journey, there were conkers.  I had forgotten how completely bizarre conkers and their shells are, really.  The green protective casings are much spikier than I remember.  Really quite aggressive.  And then the white soft padding contrasts boldly against the shiny, mahogany brown conker inside.  It is a luxurious thing, so glossy and rich.  I thought Pig was still a bit young to play a game of conkers so we just filled my pockets with them to bring them home to the house.  I then completely forgot they were there.  I hung my jacket on the end of the stairs and it stayed there for a good few days.  Ross asked to borrow my keys and I told him they were in the pocket of my denim jacket.  Well, he got quite the fright when he stuck his hand in and was met by a pocketful of jaggy jabby spiky conker shells.  Poor Ross.  The keys were in the other pocket.  I was also amazed that in the dark of my jacket pocket the shells went from bright green to dark almost-black in just a few days and the chesnuts themselves had lost all their shine.  We had to go back out and find another one so that I could draw a fresh version.

Conker sketch Hannah Longmuir

The conkers after a few days in my pocket

Here’s a little bit of a poem called Conker from Robert MacFarlane from the Lost Spells book:

“Realise this [said the cabinet maker, the king and the engineer together].  Conker cannot be made, however you ask it, whatever word or tool you use,

regardless of decree.  Only one thing can conjure conker – and that thing is tree.”

Pig has been really interested in autumn this year.  It has been lovely.  He carries a handful of leaves around with him on walks, he has become proficient at spotting fungi, and he likes to point at bright red berries.  Autumn is a season made for toddlers: piles of leaves to kick and a good crop of puddles to stamp in.

Here’s a record I made of the changes in colours the chestnut tree that hangs over the south drive made.  All the changes went from top down.

This past week all but the most stubborn of the leaves have left the chestnut trees.  Winter is within sight now.  Quite a strange feeling to be heading into a winter, lockdowns lurking around, uncertain plans to see family at Christmas.  I’ve been listening to the podcast “The Stubborn Light of Things” by Melissa Harrison a lot.  She recorded it during the first lockdown and into the summer and autumn.  It is a weekly nature podcast.  I’ve been enjoying remembering bright spring days and long summer evenings through her diary.  I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling a little blue at the thought of the long, dark winter ahead.

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