Conkers. A traditional British and Irish children’s game using the seeds of Horse Chestnut trees. The seeds are large, hard and look like a crumpled squashed wooden sphere. The game is played with two players, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of string. Each player takes turns to strike the other’s conker until it breaks. If you think this sounds incredibly dangerous, you’d be right. Many hundreds of schools in the UK have banned the game of conkers from being played due to health and safety concerns. Some schools banned the game because of a fear of anaphylactic shock for those with nut allergies, caused by handling the conkers. Experts were adamant that there was no connection. This was later proven. Did the schools reverse the ban? No. Fun Childhood Activities: 0 – Overly Protective Arseholes: 1…
This is a British invention, with the first recorded game in 1848 on The Isle of Wight. The game spread across the rest of the British Isles and remained here until the early 20th century when it exploded in popularity around the world.
A good game of conkers can last a while. I played the game now and then when I was a wee laddy, and believe me, I lost count the number of times my opponent’s conker hit my knuckles. What you were then supposed to do, as an act of revenge, was hit your opponent over the head with your conker. And then they would retaliate with a similar gesture until one submitted. Sort of like what kids do these days with Wii remotes when the electricity goes off. And God help you if your opponent’s knot wasn’t fastened tightly. This often caused his conker to come flying off, smacking you right in the face. I’m starting to see why some schools have banned it…
One can harden a conker, and that’s certainly something I remember doing. Vinegar works best. Conker Championships consider this cheating and many don’t allow contestants to bring their own conkers. When news of this first broke, the group ‘Campaign for Real Conkers’ argued this was an example of over-regulation, whilst others were left speechless over the existence of a group named ‘Campaign for Real Conkers’.
There are three main championships. The World Championships, the North American Championships and the Irish Conker Championship. A contestant in the last one holds the world record for the most conkers smashed in one hour. 306! Some would argue these championships are pointless and silly, but if there’s one thing I’ve always admired about the human race, it’s its quirky devotion to wonderful gibberish.
But conkers aren’t only used for games. Some believe carrying them in one’s pocket prevents rheumatism and piles. Others believe that placing them in wardrobes keeps moths away. And a common belief is that placing them in the corners of a room reduces the number of spiders venturing into said room. But despite all this, their most enduring legacy is that of the game of conkers.
I left conkers behind in childhood. I still like conkers, there’s something lovely and charming about them, but playing that famous old game with them – no, that ship has sailed. If it hadn’t, I would be ‘bonkers for conkers’, like those who play in the championships.
They are people I respect, for keeping the fun and eccentric spirit of conkers alive…
But are you bonkers for conkers, readers?
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