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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I came, I saw, I conkered

Sir Bowie's lovely paean to Fall, or Autumn as it is in England, ( KMSA blog Sept 26th 2008 ) brought to my mind the word Conkers, a word guaranteed to put a glint in the eye of any schoolboy in the UK. For this is the time of year that the nuts of the Horse Chestnut tree are to be found, shaken down, and split open, by the rough north winds, amongst the ochre carpets of the huge hand-like leaves, or in times of breezeless Indian Summers, forced down by well aimed thick sticks, snapped from tumbled branches.

Generation apon generation of boys have bolted through the school gates as soon as the bell has rung to end the days learning.. rush off to the nearest ranks of the mighty trees ( called Horse Chestnuts because the stem of the leaves where is joins the tree is U shaped and leaves a mark like a horseshoe when it falls away ) to be first to shuffle through the crisp bed of leaves for the prize "conker" that could make them King of the Playground, in the time honoured game of Conkers
Conkers is a game traditionally played by children in Britain. The game is played by two players, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of string: they take turns to strike each other's conker until one breaks.

The name comes from the dialect word conker, meaning snail-shell (related to French conque meaning a conch), as the game was originally played using snail shells.
  • A hole is drilled in a large, hard conker using a nail, gimlet, or small screwdriver. A piece of string is threaded through it about 25 cm (10 inches) long (often a shoelace is used). A large knot at one or both ends of the string secures the conker.
  • The game is played between two people, each with a conker.
  • They take turns hitting each other's conker using their own. One player lets the conker dangle on the full length of the string while the other player swings their conker and hits.


  • The conker eventually breaking the other's conker gains a point. This may be either the attacking conker or (more often) the defending one.
  • A new conker is a none-er meaning that it has conquered none yet.
  • If a none-er breaks another none-er then it becomes a one-er, if it was a one-er then it becomes a two-er etc. In some areas of Scotland, conker victories are counted using the terms bully-one, bully-two, etc.
  • The winning conker assimilates the previous score of the losing conker, as well gaining the score from that particular game. For example, if a two-er plays a three-er, the surviving conker will become a six-er.
As we grow up and get'll be hard pushed not to find any man in the streets of England who can resist walking through a park of these trees in a town or countryside and not still look for Conkers for old times sake... and then surreptitiously pick them up and put them in their pockets... to fondle them with rose-tinted memories as they go on their way...and to find them months later when cleaning out their coat pockets, and to crazily sit them on shelves at home till the wife or partner throws them away. ( I know this as I have two of this years crop sat with me this minute by my computer. )

Of course things always move on and get serious...and indeed there is a World Conker Championship held every year in the UK, where people, who are far too grown up and strong take things far too seriously, and harden their conkers in a hundred different ways, and cheat and argue and Japanese TV turns up to film all this Tweedy Eccentric Englishness..

But for me the real business of Conkers, is that halcyon time between 7 years of age till 11... at your first school... where the echoes of Knights and Jousting and becoming a warrior, are first given their head, and with a simple nut, given freely by nature you learn all about winning and losing.

Sir Dayvd ( still playing with his nuts after all these years ) of Oxfordshire


  1. We used to go out collecting Buckeyes to save for good luck, but never heard of conkers. This I have to try.

    Yes, children will find a way to make sport of anything.

    May we all learn that less and fall back to our childhood from time to time.

    Sir Bowie "with a buckeye in my pocket" of Greenbriar

  2. Swinging nuts in a schoolyard will start a few rumors around here. Like Sir Bowie, I come from a line of Buckeye carrying men. My father and uncles always carried one in their pocket, not only for good luck, but they also said it would keep arthritis at bay. When my father passed away I received a bag full of buckeyes that had been polished in his pants for years. I'm starring at one right now, which belonged to my Uncle Dellos. My Aunt Short gave it to me along with his 40 year old hammer, which he still used as a carpenter. So, perhaps I'll dig in my dad's bag of nuts to produce a "sixer" Conker to swing away in "smashing" fashion!

    Sir Hook I'm Still Nuts of Warrick

  3. Okay you bunch of drunken colonials.....what the hell is a Buckeye.

    I await to be enlightened, while i bid a fond farewell to the American Economy

    Sir Drinkalot of Oxfordshire

  4. Sir Drinkalot,

    A Buckeye is the American phrase for what you drunken overlords of a colony gone bad call a Conker.

    Sir Hook the Buckeye Patriot of Warrick