Thursday, September 23, 2010

He stoops to conker

Walking through an on it's way to becoming autumnal Regent's Park this morning I saw some horse chestnut shells lying on the path. And best of all, they were unopened.

Remember the thrill of conkers? As a shiny, bunny rabbit-brown nut popped out of its case I was transported back to a time when going to get conkers was a really big deal. Though I wasn't acutely aware of it at the time, it meant autumn as upon us and lots of fun was to be had boring holes in them, attaching them to bits of string and seeing how long they'd last against your equally vicious and single-minded opponent.

 Dad would drive us miles to find horse chestnut trees, and often we'd find ourselves on private land. There was no point going to parks or any trees we new of - they'd already been totally decimated but others in similar pursuit. Once we'd found our quarry we'd bake them in the oven, pickle them in vinegar, coat them in clear varnish - anything to make a champion. None of this really worked of course. One smart smash from another one and it'd be in bits. The playground was littered with mulched conkers.

I noticed the park's trees this morning were more or less untouched, with the pods just dropping naturally to the ground. This either means kids don't do conkers anymore or there's a super-efficient parkie on the look out for boys with long sticks.

Anyway, my one conker is sitting here by my side so I can admire it's rich patina and pretend it's still the Seventies. Just like a normal day.

9 comments:

Cocktails said...

I thought small boys only smashed conquers in Enid Blyton books!

Matthew Rudd said...

"A finger of Fudge is just enough..."

I wasn't a conker player but I was an avid conker collector. This seemed to be the case with a lot of lads of my age - maybe it was an 80s thing - who would scour every bit of land under horse-chestnut trees in the countryside and collect every conker they could find. In the end, they just rotted in their box and got thrown away.

I remember one beautiful looking conker still attached gamely to its branch on the main horse-chestnut tree in my home village and I spent literally hours throwing stuff at it to try to release it, determined as I was that it would be mine, as it would match some of the humdingers acquired elsewhere by friends. I got it in the end and it was a beauty.

Then, upon acquiring it, I turned into Fletcher at the moment he nicks the bike bell in the Porridge film - I didn't what I was going to do with it, but someone else had got one and I hadn't...

John Medd said...

In the playground you'd hear talk of some lad or other with a '28er' about to do battle with a mere '19er' - a foreign language now.

Five-Centres said...

I think a 3er was as good as it ever got for me.

Bright Ambassador said...

Living near loads of horse chestnuts as a kid, you'd see children go to some extremely dangerous lengths trying to get conkers. They never interested me, I was far too cool.

Five-Centres said...

But conkers are cool, BA. Always have been, always will be. That said, we're talking under the age of 12 here. *coughs*

Mondo said...

Wasn't a flat bottomed type called a 'cheeser or similar. I hated the mis-judged swings that ended with a sharp crack on the knuckles..

Werther's original anyone?

Ishouldbeworking said...

'Cheeser' is definitely right, Mondo. A kid at my junior school lost a front tooth to a (deliberately?) mis-aimed cheeser.

That was in the days before Health and Safety Gone Mad, of course.

Lee Slator said...

I never got past a 4er myself. Did anyone else try the method of putting a drop of vinegar on a conker and leaving it in an old sock to mature?

A colleague at work is currently on the lookout for conkers on behalf of his three year old son. It is the first time in years that I've known someone wanting them and it brought back the memories of getting beat by the massive 13er in the school playground

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