Conker Press was established in the Autumn of 2017, with the aim of publishing beautifully illustrated books that celebrate life. ‘Conker’ seemed appropriate, partly and simply because we have a row of fine horse chestnut trees in the garden. The ground was littered with bright, burnished kernels, spilling from their prickly hulls. Each one with the potential for new life.
More significantly, when Anne Frank was in hiding during the second World War, her only glimpse of the outside world was through a single window, and through that window, she could see a single tree. It was a horse chestnut. She wrote about it in her diary. She saw freedom in its ever changing silhouette; branches that gave refuge to the birds and leaves that danced in the wind. A freedom that tragically, she never saw for herself again.
My mother Susanne, was a child at that time too. An eight-year-old, sent courageously by her parents Paul and Ruth Schlome, from Berlin to England, for her own safety. Like a sapling, transplanted away from the parent tree, she had to establish new roots. She was cared for and loved dearly by Ted and Maud Hanslip, in deepest rural Norfolk.
A self confessed ‘tomboy’, my mother adapted eagerly to country life, and has only ever expressed gratitude for her good fortune. Ted and Maud ran the village shop, and sold the vegetables that they grew on their small-holding. Opposite the shop, on the village green, stood a magnificent horse chestnut tree.
‘Anne Frank’s tree’, succumbed to disease, and was felled in a storm in 2010. Anticipating this, conkers had already been collected and saplings raised.
In Anne’s memory, these trees are now flourishing in locations all over the world.
Although I might curse the squirrels when I am forever digging up buried conkers in my own garden, I never take those shiny kernels for granted.