Saturday, October 14, 2006

So familiar and yet so strange

Where were they when I wanted them? As a child I spent hours searching, and there never seemed to be very many, perhaps because the big boys had knocked them down and strung them on strings.

Now they're everywhere suddenly. Conkers: aren't they great?

Each with its shining roundness and its little flat face on the other side.

I didn't really want them to play with: I just enjoyed collecting them and looking at them. Even now the sight of a horse chestnut tree with its leaves beginning to turn orange and gold fills me with joyful expectation.

Others played ferocious games in the playground, with their conkers dipped in vinegar and other old remedies supposed to make the conkers harder and more resilient. You drill a hole in the conker (I know it's tricky, so I must have done it a few times at least) and then put string through, knotting it at the bottom, and throw it at your rival's conker as hard as possible. The last conker to crack wins.

They were excellent classroom currency: a good conker could be swapped for sweets or marbles.

Now they seem to be mostly left on the ground, because playing conkers is far too unsophisticated for modern tastes, and anyway, Health and Safety has either banned conkers from school playgrounds or insisted that the game cannot be played without goggles, a helmet and full body armour.

They're worth a close look though: every one a little miracle and still one of the best things about autumn.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last weekend there was an official conker playing tournament at the shopping centre near where I live. It was sponsored by the local commercial radio station, Fox FM, and was advertised as being open to all ages and was due to run from (I think) 11am until 4pm. I was in said shopping centre at about 2pm and two boys were up on the radio stage duly trying to hit each other's conkers. A few, very few, people were stood round watching and barely raised a cheer when one of the boys succeeded in smashing the other's conker right off its string. Not long after this the bored looking Fox FM "crew" were dismantling the signs, stage etc. If I had arrived at the shopping centre at about 2.30pm with my carefully drilled, vinegar soaked conker on its no doubt superior string it would all have been over and I would not have been able to enter the tournament. I would probably have been very unhappy. Especially if I had been about 10 years old. Fortunately I did not have a conker and am not 10 years old but if someone advertises something as going on until 4pm I don't expect it to be over hour and half before that. I don't remember playing conkers, although I did also collect them, as a child so this could have been my last chance and I missed it.

11:51 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

I've always loved conkers, but I've never conked one. Linnea likes them because they're shiny and fit in her pocket.

9:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah.. that's why Emily likes them too...

I remember when I was young, I went out with my dad and collected conkers.... lots of conkers, definitely hundreds, possibly thousands. We brought them back home and put them in the large plastic paddling pool that we had... then over the winter they started to rot, and we had nothing that we could do with them... multiple hundred rotting conkers stank all through the following year and beyond, even when we piled them at the bottom of the garden and buried them, they still smelled.

It is a BAD smell

10:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose the reason that we don't have a horse chestnut now is the same reason as the eucalyptus got the chop, it would have damaged the foundations.... but think about it... conkers in our garden!!

9:45 am  

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