Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I've Got a Nut on a String



I should have known something was brewing.  The usually mild Chumley had made a habit out of scouring the grounds under horse chestnut trees lately, looking for conkers (buckeyes in American.)  Like a large child, he would silently sidle up to me and hand me a conker, smile wryly, and then carry on his business.  "But we have nuts at home," I protested.  "No, you're here with me at the moment," he would reply.  I was thoroughly confused.  Did he want me to put it in my purse?  Was it mine, or was I merely the custodian?  Were we to keep these as offerings to the mystical killer squirrels that might cross our path later?

All was made clear when we attended the World Conker Championships in a miniscule village called Ashton last weekend.  It was held in a large field, and the first thing we saw upon arrival was a massive conker on a string, suspended from a crane.  Conkers is actually a game, where the participants select nuts that have been drilled and strung through out of a nutbag.  The object of the game is to take turns wailing on your opponent's stationary nut on a string.  The first person to crack the other person's nut wins.

Conkers fans are not a subdued bunch, by any means.  It's common to coalesce conker talent into teams, and to dress your team members in the most unusual costumes possible.  One team came as the many looks of Michael Jackson.  I watched Michael from the "Bad" album go to town on some poor kid in neon yellow leggings.  Despite the chilly autumn weather, I spied one team of men in thin capes and stripey Speedo underwear.  As the competition wore on, their nuts were devastated.

In this safety-first country, I am sometimes surprised at what passes for a good idea.  They had a miniature mechanical bull meant for children to be flung from.  A succession of children lined up for the privilege, only to be tossed off and reduced to tears afterwards.  Had they not just seen the precedent set by their fellow youth?  Luckily, they were located very nearby the hot chocolate booth.  One sugary drink and a trip to the bouncy castle later, they were back in the saddle.

We have a small collection of conkers on our dining room table, thanks to Chumley's trolling efforts.  We might have enough to launch our own miniature tournament.  If you ask Chumley, there's no need to adjudicate who is the nuttiest. 

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