With great sadness in my heart I have to tell you about the decline of a great British tradition that has been around since the Romans were trundling their chariots up and down the A27.
The game of conkers, once played by every child in the land is now becoming a distant memory.
Playground legends of 27’ers and the time ‘Fleabag’ Philips painted a horse chestnut with his mum’s nail varnish will fade like the sands of time.
Maybe I’m getting a little sentimental for a game that I loved as a kid. At five, Molly is just the right age for me to pass on my many years of top class competition experience, so we headed out to grab a couple of handfuls.
It’s the first time in decades that I’ve even bothered looking for them and my my how the conker world has changed.
In the old days you’d have to fight tooth and nail to get a pocketful. We’d spend hours hurling sticks, tennis rackets and occasionally scrawny younger children into the boughs of the tree, in the mild hope that we’d get some form of nutty reward.
Now, Molly and I were stood there surrounded by hundreds of them that had just fallen from the tree. They were literally dropping around us and there wasn’t another child to be seen – except for the boy sat on a bench playing his Nintendo DS.
I genuinely felt sorry for the lad. We were about to head off home, drill out a few conkers, string them up and then spend an hour or two whacking each other over the knuckles, occasionally making contact, until decimation had taken place and the champion had been crowned.
Glory, disappointment, joy and pain, all within one hour. What would he have witnessed in the same time-frame, maybe making it to the next level? I’m sure there’s a geek in somewhere like Minnesota writing a code for a virtual version of the game right now.
Technology isn’t completely to blame – some schools have outlawed the game for health and safety reasons. The only injury I ever witnessed was a severe case of damaged pride after losing to a girl.
For the conker enthusiast, I have picked up a top tip that I am willing to share.
If you’ve tried, vinegar, baking and super glue, this could take you to the next level.
The World Conker Champion from 2006 recommends passing your conkers through a pig. The acids within the pig’s stomach somehow harden and coat the little nut, making it almost indestructible – it’s a sure fire way of winning.
I believe conkers is a team game, so if I feed them to our porcine friend, will you do the honourable thing and retrieve them in two days’ time?