Saturday, September 29, 2007

Grabbing Your Nuts

No I'm not highlighting some dubious video title - although, of course, I have no knowledge what titles are on the market these days. Or any days. Oh heavens no. Never never, not even once.
Phew. Close call there.

The nuts in question are those to be found all over the place at this time of year and they got me thinking as I walked to my doctor's a few days ago. I'd put an audio book on my MP3 player for the first time (Peter Kay - The Sound Of Laughter) and it wasn't working for me. It wasn't funny at all and I had quickly lost interest and the voice in my ears (not Peter's by the way and I so wish it had been) had become a sort of soft background drone.

Then I came upon a load of fallen chestnuts on the pavement and at the side of the road and I drifted off to a land before time, when kids still played outside and when being sent to your room meant you sat on the bed till the time was up.

Back then, in Sepia World, we kids loved playing with our....well, with.......ah .......ok I can see where this is headed. Lets try it another way. Kids enjoyed conkers. There. That's got be safe enough.

I used to love finding a large slightly split shell (I don't know what the name is for the whole thing, prickly shell and all) and get all excited by the potential within. Remember these were the days of wired remote controls and when Minnie Caldwell was regarded as a sex kitten. Shivvvvver. I think my memories may just be playing tricks on me but, if so, I can blame my low HDL.

Anyway, a split chestnut shell,with the possibility of a champion nut inside, was a real high point in the week. I'd gently prise it open and hope that a HUGE gleaming chestnut would appear and I could finally try and defeat the conker of Sammy Murphy who had held the record for 2 years with his suspiciously named 'Metal Mickey' monster, which was a fifteensie.

For those of a younger disposition, the idea was to carefully drill through the chestnut, thread a piece of string through the resulting hole and tie and knot it to stop the chestnut falling off. With your chestnut now ready for action, you'd challenge another owner and take turns to try and smash the other nut to pieces or even have it come off the string. If you were both first timers, the winner could call his conker a 'onesie' and if you defeated someone else, it became a twosie' and so on. I think if you beat someone with a conker that was, say, a 'twosie', then you gained his number as well and so you REALLY wanted to meet a champion and defeat him and so gain a bucket load of numbers with one victory.

Who needed an X-Box ??

Of course a whole subculture of "nut preparation" existed and many were the tales of how champion conkers came to be. All sorts of wonderful methods were discussed in the school yards, from gently cooking the nuts to dipping them in homemade concoctions - recipes that went to the grave with their inventors. Cheating during the contests was almost obligatory and modern day Health & Safety inspectors would have stepped in and declared all bets off after the first swing.

But we were tough and fearless kids in those days and fended off chestnut splinters with battle hardened faces. Many kids wore eyepatches as a result of past contests and several went on to play small roles in cheap British pirate movies as they had their own prop and only had to say 'yarrrrr' every so often. In fact Sammy Murphy himself was signed up for a few such epics and made his name in the notorious "Blackbeard And The Treasure Of Bognor Regis" before sex, drugs and a conker splinter which moved down to his heart brought an end to his life in 1978 and thus adversely affected his movie career. Rent it on Betamax now.

Sadly I never DID find my own champion conker but it never stopped me looking. Back to the present and I saw that most of the chestnuts on the ground were still in their shells and I realised that we now have a generation of kids who either don't know about them or don't care about them. This was doubly upsetting as the tree was right outside a school and if ever there should have been a match made in heaven, this was it. Sadly not though. Now if something isn't plugged into the mains or takes enough batteries to power the Mars Lander, then it isn't worth bothering about.

"A nut on a string ? You must be joking, mister".

"No, it's fun; you try and smash your friends nut and that MUST be cool" ?

"Eh ? Get real. You could lose an eye that way"

"Yes but still, a whole new career could open up for you".



Daphne said...

People these days don't recognise sweet chestnuts either. Back in Sepia World they used to collect them and roast them and eat them. In Daphne's World, in fact, there are always some excellent ones around the far side of the small lake in Roundhay Park. I tend to eat them raw, but perhaps that's just me.

Jennyta said...

The reason children don't play conkers any more, at school anyway, is that some head teachers have taken Health and Safety a conker too far and have either banned them or insisted that safety goggles must be worn. Yes, really! The ultra-safe, cotton wool cocooned world today's children live in is a cause for great concern in my book.

Silverback said...

A book, Jenny ? You've written a book ? About conkers ?

Seriously, I had a feeling H&S might have had a hand in this but it still doesn't explain why the little dears don't play with them outside of school hours - but then I guess that's when the electronic 'fun' (or something worse) kicks in.


Jennyta said...

Yes I have written a book, but not about conkers!

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