Enough about plonkers, lets talk about the conker.
Today, in Alexandra Park—donated to Manchester by a local industrialist in Victorian times— which is just across the road from our house, there is wonderful avenue of huge specimen trees: Limes, Oaks, Sweet Chestnuts, and best of all in my opinion, the ‘Conker tree’.
From early spring to early autumn, it delivers pleasure; who remembers, in school having a sticky bud in a jar of water, changing colour before opening into leaf?
Then, that lovely sweet smell of the white or pink blossom on the tree, almost before winter has passed.
The velvety leaves, followed by the shiny brown conker in it’s shell; which brings me back to my walk in the park today, there were dozens of them, every one would be a prize for a child to pick up.
Playing conkers, was one of our delights as children, throwing sticks up into the tree to have that beauty that was just out of reach; the best trees in Chertsey, were in Mr Stanfords farm, next to the Pyrcroft House little stream. He never worried us while we climbed his fence and into his fields, as long as we didn’t scare his cows.
The most dangerous part of playing conkers—although some killjoys wanted to ban it—was pushing a meat skewer in the conker to thread the string.
The playground then became a battlefield, with always some boy claiming his conker had shattered at least a hundred others, never to be proved of course.
Science played its part; several ways of making the conker a champion was tried, among them, boiling in vinegar! It didn’t work, I tried it!
But the easiest way to win was simply to use last year’s conker, they were like a rock. But ruled out as cheating—we were all so fair as children.
I wonder if kids play conkers today? They are surely missing out if they don’t!