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Going conkers…

It’s that time again…  today, the 2009 World Conker Championships will be held at New Lodge Fields, near Oundle, Northamptonshire.

For readers unfamiliar with the sport, the web site explains:

Choose one conker (a nice big round shiny horse chestnut) and then bore a hole through the middle of it. Be VERY careful as you do this! Most people use a skewer, but don’t hold it in your hand because you could end up skewering your hand (I remember using a metal compass when I was at school, but these days they all seem to be made of plastic and not strong enough for this job). Thread a piece of string through the hole and tie a knot at one end, so that it doesn’t pull through. The string should be long enough to wrap twice around your clenched hand and still have about 10 inches (25 cm) left.

A toss of the coin usually decides who starts first – but in the playground this is more often a matter of whoever shouts something like ‘Obli, obli oh, my first go.’

Each player has a their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns at hitting their opponent’s conker. If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped round your hand. A 10 inch (25 cm) drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses and you must hold it perfectly still.

Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponent’s conker with it. If he misses he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” or “snags” gets an extra shot. Players take alternate hits at their opponent’s conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other’s conker. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout “stamps” and immediately stamps on the conker; but should its owner first shout “no stamps” then “stamps” is disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact.

In playground tournaments a winning conker can then go on to do battle with other conkers, each victory adding to the conker’s score. A conker which has won one battle is called a “one-er”, two battles a “two-er” and so on. So for example, you might overhear a child saying “I beat his fiver with my twoer”. In this case, and depending on which rules you play by, the winning twoer might simply become a three-er or it might become an eighter (two previous victories plus the victory over the fiver plus the five-score of the fiver). In this way winning conkers can quickly accumulate quite large scores!

And for readers already experienced, there are handy tips; for instance, this from two-times World Conker Champion Charlie Bray:

There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig’s waste to find the conker.

As we wait for ESPN to ring, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that a relative unknown from Minneapolis burst onto the scene (and into the scale of venue he was born to haunt), as His Purpleness, Prince, opened for the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum.

source: Critical Junctions

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Written by LW

October 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

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