A Byegone Tradition

When I was a girl one of the most exciting things at this time of year was collecting conkers! My route home from school was through a park with big, old, Horse Chestnut trees, and the big boys always got the first go. They would throw sticks high up into the branches, in the hope of knocking down some of the prickly cases. Boys being boys they were often just too impatient, and instead of waiting until they were ripe, succeeded in felling pale soft conkers that would’nt do the job. I would wait around until they were bored, and hunt in the rustling leaves until a found my shiny brown treasure.

Do you remember the game? If you grew up in England before the 1980’s you probably do. Conkers were more effective if you kept them to harden a little. Then you would make a hole with a meat skewer – do they still exist?  Shove a piece of string through, knot it and then fight!

It’s the fighting that eventually called a halt to the free fun that had gone on for centuries. Apparently, when you aimed your conker weapon at your friends, there was a high chance you would do some serious damage, eyes would be knocked from their sockets, someone might choke, and there would be severe bruises causing agony all over your body. So health and safety required that conkers be banned from schools, and a whole generation has grown up barely  noticing the September bounty.

Conkers were never really a weapon for me, I couldn’t hit my opponents to save my life, I was much more likely to hit myself. Strange though, I have no memory of any pain from those injuries, just lots of giggles and fun. Fact is I just loved the feel of them, their polished shine and rubbing my thumb over the pale bit. I still do and had to stop myself from bundling dozens into my pockets today. Let me know if lost an eye or bear the scars.

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