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The time machine on the corner of Suez Road

12039703_10153181053393333_8749187284471477436_nThere are time machines everywhere. There’s one on the corner of Suez Road and Radegund Road. (If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, you will know that I’m not much of a sci-fi girl so you’ll be prepared for the trip into metaphorland that’s coming. Buckle up.)
My time machine for today is a horse chestnut tree, its leaves shriveling and turning autumn brown. Just a glance and – whoosh – I’m back to the September my son started school. There’s a back way into school that is only open in the morning and at the end of school. At the start of Reception, the kids did only half a day, so they’d leave at lunchtime when the back entrance was closed. This meant walking out of the front and back home via the horse chestnut – the conker tree. We’d pick up conkers, glossy and red-brown, sticky from their prickly shells. My boy seemed so small in his new school uniform and we’d talk about the grown up playground games that could be played with these big seeds.
Now I’m further back to the trees in the park where we first collected conkers. There were so many and always just one more that could be fitted into the bottom of the pushchair. We talked about the seasons and how summer turned through autumn to winter and living things died, and then how in spring they grew back. We were a long way still from the conversations about the type of dying that is more than a season.
Off again, this time to my own childhood. My father showing me how to play conkers, but just once. Would it have been different if I’d been a boy? Would we have pickled the nuts in vinegar, baked them and competed for the ‘best conker’? Who knows? Soon came all the Septembers when he wasn’t there.
Autumn is late this year. The horse chestnut is one of the first of the trees to turn, but the conkers are still hidden in their green jackets up among the browning leaves. This is my son’s last year at primary school. Next year he will be walking the opposite way, to a new school, on his own. Conkers will be for kids. The turning of the leaves will be part of some biology homework that he probably won’t even want my help with. He’ll be growing up and away from me.
So you see, here is the now and then and tomorrow, all accessible from one place. From my place on the corner of this road, I can rollercoaster back and forth in time without care for a beginning, a middle or an end. I am simultaneously here and there and linearity is irrelevant. But that’s not true of writing. It makes you choose. What comes first and next? What line do I follow? Where lies the cause and consequence? But I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today I’ll just take a breakneck ride through the thread veins of a tree on the corner near school.

PS The conkers are appearing now.

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