It’s Conkers season, grab a chestnut and start swinging


While walking through a local park yesterday and trying to avoid the mashed crab apples that are strewn on the pathways and cause havoc with both my shoes and my carpets, I noticed I had moved from a crab apple tree area to a chestnut tree zone as evidenced by the appearance of a grand specimen. Bending down to retrieve this beauty of a chestnut I was immediately transported back to the school yards of my childhood.

… no doubt those who employed this tactic went on to create and promote, if not use, performance enhancing drugs …

Autumn may well signal the return of NCAA and NFL football, and no doubt the best baseball is played in October and here in Canada we look forward to fall as it brings with it NHL hockey, but of course the really important sport at this time of year is Conkers.

DCMontreal
DCMontreal

The game is simple: take a chestnut, bore a hole right down the middle and insert a bootlace. Tie a knot at the end of the lace so the chestnut won’t come off, and another knot just above the chestnut and voila, you have a Conker! The game is played mano a mano, one participant holds up his or her chestnut by the end of the lace, leaving the nut suspended and susceptible while the other person swings his or her nut in an attempt to break the opponent’s chestnut.

Alternating turns, the contest is pretty much 100% offence; once one player is left with just a knotted bootlace and shards of chestnut all about the match is done. Most important are the bragging rights. The winner does not just claim one “kinger”, but also inherits all the losing chestnut’s kingers. For example, if I have a chestnut that has beaten four others, and each of those had two kingers to their credit, then my chestnut becomes a 12-kinger, one for each actual victory and the eight inherited.

… often having to hurl objects up into the trees in an effort to knock down the nuts (those on the ground were usually well picked over by other kids or, of course, squirrels)

In the fall we would scour the local chestnut trees, often having to hurl objects up into the trees in an effort to knock down the nuts (those on the ground were usually well picked over by other kids or, of course, squirrels). Some people had secret methods of allegedly making their chestnuts harder, including baking them and soaking them in various solutions (these were mostly dismissed as myth). The only illegal means that I ever encountered was the use of clear nail polish or varnish to form an invisible coat of armor; no doubt those who employed this tactic went on to create and promote, if not use, performance enhancing drugs or perhaps rigged the electronics used in fencing to mask a touch.

The person with the most kingers on his or her chestnut could boast about it, but just for a short time as soon it was hockey card tossing season and our attention shifted,

Alas, Conkers never received the okay from the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the games. I imagine this is due to fresh chestnuts not being readily available in many countries. But then the thought of the Jamaican bobsleigh team gives me hope that maybe one day that will change!

MeDCMontreal is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that. a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and Freans and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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