Andrea and I went out for a walk today through the Botanic Gardens here in Belfast, and found ourselves in the midst of a riot of colour - the expected mellow ochre and red of the leaves was punctuated here and there by the lavender of autumn crocuses, and in the rose garden there were some fiery blooms. Under a chestnut tree, a harvest of conkers, gleaming like mahogany doorknobs or the little toes of polished shoes. It's the first time I've picked up conkers since I was ten years old, and inexplicably I filled my pockets with handfuls of them and brought them home. They seemed so beautiful it was a shame to just leave them there in the grass, unappreciated. They shine in a basket on the kitchen table now - I like the idea of bringing something of each season indoors. I'm resisting the urge to hammer a nail through the middle and string them up with a shoelace for a quick game. I value these knuckles too much.