Collecting Conkers

Have you ever seen a conker? Or, better still, played conkers as a kid? It’s a lot of fun.
The idea is to drill a hole through the conker and thread a piece of string, or a shoelace,
through it and tie a knot at one end so that the conker stays on the string.
Conkers is played in pairs. One player holds the string at the end so that the conker
hangs down as still as possible. The other player has to swing his conker at the dangling
one and try to hit it and break it. If he or she hits it, he or she can have another go. If
he or she misses, however, the turn goes to the other player. You win when you completely
destroy the other player’s conker.
There is technique in this game. You want to hit your opponent’s conker hard, but you
still need to be accurate. If you miss, you lose your advantage. Some players bake their
conkers in the oven to make them hard, others soak them in vinegar.
The game isn’t without its dangers. A bad aim could bring a conker down on your opponent’s
knuckles. This was a tactic I used to my advantage because if you gave your opponent
several painful hits on the knuckles, he was unable to hold his conker and you won the game.
I found this underhanded method quite easy to implement as most kids would hold out their
conkers with their eyes closed in anticipation of the hit.
A certain prestige and respect is attached to a conker that has destroyed many others. If you
win a game, you have a 1er. If you smash two conkers, you have a 2er. 3, a 3er, 4 a 4er etc. I
once had a 37er that I swapped for a model car.
By far the most enjoyable part of this schoolboy game (it was mainly boys who played conkers
when I was a child) is searching for and collecting your conkers in the autumn when they fell
from the chestnut trees. My mum used to take me conker hunting to parks and forests and it
remains one of my fondest childhood memories.

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