‘October and my pockets are stuffed with irresistible treasure: conkers.’ Elevate artist Stephanie Jalland would normally be taking conkers onto the wards and leaving folk with a little comforting gift from the chestnut trees. People’s faces light up with delight as they stroke the smooth shell, measure its weight in the palm of their hand and chuckle over how long it is since they last held one. When did you last hold one in your hand? Memories of childhood conker fights lead Stephanie on to other autumn rituals and traditions.
Nottingham Goose Fair
October for me means Nottingham Goose Fair and even though I haven’t been for years the start of the month always takes me back to the smells, sights and sounds I grew up with. Traditionally held on the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday, originally geese were driven into the city centre to be sold on the Market Square, but now a large goose statue is displayed there to herald its arrival.
“You cannot go to the fair without eating mushy peas served with mint sauce on a small china saucer eaten with a little spoon.”
Extra ‘Goose Fair’ buses packed with excitement, winter coats, chatter and anticipation transport everyone from the city centre out to the site at Forest Recreation Ground, transformed into a vast glittering fairground. Returning buses are squeezed full of fairground prizes, candy floss in bags, balloons and sleepy young children.
The ‘Cake Walk’, the Hall of Mirrors and Helter Skelters are as popular as the stomach churning, gravity defying rides that are added to each year. At secondary school we were envious of who got to go first and report back what this year’s ‘must have’ thing was to come away with: a glowing necklace that never really kept glowing when you stored it in the fridge, k-nockers that bruised your wrists, tubes of plastic to whirr over your head hooting into the air.
One year in the midst of the clamouring noise, music, whirring sirens and flashing lights, one side show held a huge and constant crowd: ‘The Man who could Guess Your Age.’ You paid £1 to stand on a box under a bare lightbulb hanging from a cable to be stared at by the man and the crowd. If he guessed your age correctly he kept your £1. If he was wrong you got your money back.
Again and again people of all shapes and sizes and undefinable age to me took the challenge and again and again he guessed correctly to the delight of the crowd, who whooped and cheered each time. In that October night light through heavy coats, hats and scarves, this man could see through us all. He noticed. He took notice of the passing of time and how we all weather, and even though we think we are unique we are somehow all the same at heart.
Under the chestnut tree,
There waits for me, A sight so marvellous to behold.
Amidst the autumn leaves, it gleams at me. A conker, beautiful and bold.
More from Stephanie and the Elevate artists
During the spring and summer 2020 Stephanie Jalland recorded her monthly reflections, sharing the sights and sounds around her home in Downton. You can listen to all of Stephanie’s monthly recordings here.
Send us your contribution
We love to include some of your own reflections in future posts and in our print edition ‘Elevate your mood’. Why not write a few lines, try a poem or send us picture on the general theme of winter traditions? Email to ArtCare or send to ArtCare, Block 29, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury SP2 8BJ.