I've had a few queries from the States, about conkers. So if you don't know what I'm on about, this is just to clarify. I just had a long walk around one of my local parks, where although there are plenty of horse chestnut trees, I could not find a single conker. I think I am a bit late, or maybe the kids had got there first. Lots of very pretty horse chestnut leaves though. So you will have to make do with my knitted conkers.
Conkers are the fruit of the horse chestnut tree. Finding a spikey green case, slightly split open, and removing a shiny conker from its white cushion, is one of the pleasures of autumn.
(Conkers are very similar, but not the same, as the fruit of the sweet chestnut tree, which is a bit flatter in shape, and can be eaten. Hence we sing "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire ....". Conkers aren't edible by humans, although I think horses enjoy them.)
In Britain the conker is the fruit, and the game played with them is conkers.
The game conkers is played between two people. A hole is made in the conkers, and they are threaded on a piece of string. They take turns hitting each others conker with their own. Each player holds their conker out in front of themselves, and the other player takes a swing at it with their conker. The conker that breaks the other one is the victor. The dangers are that you can be hit by swinging conkers, which are quite hard, or being hit by flying shards of conkers when the hit is successful. Hard conkers usually win, but it is considered cheating to harden your conker artificially. Apparently Michael Palin of Monty Python was disqualified from a conkers competition for baking his conker and soaking it in vinegar.
Then there is the whole business of scoring. A conker that defeats another is a oner, etc. But if a conker beats another conker, it also takes on that conker's score. So if a twoer beats a threer, it would become a fiver. It is that conker that takes the title, not the human swinging it!
|Avenue with Horse Chestnut Trees on Left in Bushy Park|