From Devon author David Gilman, Viper’s Blood is the fourth…
The massive horse chestnut tree seemed so elusive as it stood snugly behind the ancient cob wall of the vicarage. Whether the vicar was in or out, we children knew that it was well worth running the risk for the chance of finding the conker that would beat all-comers in the school yard.
Our satchels full of round, brown beauties, we cycled down to the end of the vicarage lane where Nana Cuckoo’s old flint cottage stood. The smell of wood smoke made our nostrils twitch as we walked into her front parlour.
We all loved Nana Cuckoo who was the grandmother of my best friend Stephen. Sat, as she was, in her wooden rocker by the open fire that burned all year whatever the weather, her silver hair tied back in a tight bun, she was what she looked like, a survivor from another age.
As children do, we pushed our luck and a week later we were back throwing sticks and anything else we could find at the conkers still left on the vicar’s tree. This time he saw us and candescent with rage flew out of the vicarage intent on capturing at least one of us. We instantly dropped our bounty, tore through a side gate, jumped on our bikes and headed post haste for Nana cuckoo’s. Unfortunately, I hit the only large pothole in the lane and careered over my handlebars hitting also the rough stone of the road with my head. Nana Cuckoo’s face lit up as we children entered her quaint Victorian world. She did what she could to patch me up and sustained us all with tea and crumpets.
Over forty years later I still have a scar under my right arm to remind me of Nana Cuckoo and those long-off escapades.
© FCR Esgen