I arrived back from London at Castle Cary station on an October afternoon. Autumn was on its way, it was blowing a bit and none too warm; what turned out to be an excellent Summer was certainly in the past so I picked up the pace to get to the car and get a bit of warmth going.
On arriving at the car I heard a distinct ‘plink’, ‘plonk’ on the roof. I listened about and similar faint, hollow noises were all around. I quick glace upwards revealed that the cars and I were beneath the vast canopy of an ancient conker tree, and the October winds were pulling the prickly bounty from the branches and raining them down on all below.
Looking about I noticed the whole car park was peppered with conkers, some bright green, some half open, and many crushed by the passing cars. I have always loved conkers. I much preferred to look at them than to play ‘conkers’. They always seem valuable for some reason; no human polisher could get such a sheen. A mahogany nut in an emerald and ivory case.
For nostalgia’s sake I decided to paint a few of them. I roamed around the car park for likely specimens among the many crushed ones. I came across a few likely candidates and stuffed them in my pockets and in the process received the odd sharp and unwanted reminder that handling conkers is a delicate business.
Once home I decided to paint them right away or the flesh will begin to discolour and loose that delicious creamy white and those sharp greens.
I generally paint still lives on a chopping board and fashion a hood from three large books in a sort of arch. I then get and angle poised lamp and generally mess about with it until the light looks more or less ok.
I have always promised myself to get something more professional set up but I have never got around to it. The idea is to get a dark background so the object pushed forward, the technique known as Tenebrism mastered by the mad genius that was Caravaggio.
Well what I had looked ‘conkery’ enough so I got going right away and finished the conkers in one sitting. The chopping board and general tidying up I have recently completed and overall I’m pretty pleased. Nice shiny conkers!
I came back from London by train recently and on arrival at Castle Cary I discovered that the great conker tree and six of its mighty companions have been reduced to thick, sick stumps.
Apparently the ‘plink’, ‘plonk’ on the roof of my car which I found so endearing others found annoying. A bunch of people complained about the ‘mess’ the 300 year old trees were making and had them all cut down.
I know there are far more important things on the planet though I honestly feel the world is a slightly lesser place without their presence. I’m so disappointed.