Autumn, and the season of mellow fruitfulness. Indeed, our horse chestnut trees in the village are shedding conkers like there’s no tomorrow, but where are the little boys who used to pick them up? Our sons usually had carrier bags full of conkers sitting in our airing cupboard, ready for Sam to drill a hole through the best ones and thread a piece of string through in preparation to do battle with the vinegar-hardened conkers of their friends. My mother even used to pick them up to ward off hated spiders in her flat.
Now, discarded like yesterday’s news, the conkers lay where they fall, while the boys of today sit glued to their phones or their computer games. ‘Elf and Safety now decree that to drill a hole through a conker, one must don a hard hat, visor and gauntlets. Have you ever tried drilling a hole through a conker wearing gauntlets? Modern day fathers perhaps snort in derision, take off the gauntlets, and instead chuck the prized conker at next door’s cat as it squats in their flowerbed.
Fathers and grandfathers smile nostalgically when remembering their conker conquering days of yore. I only remember the bruises I used to get on the back of my hand as my conker was pounded into dust by somebody whose mother didn’t mind parting with a whole bottle of vinegar. Bullies used them to aim at somebody’s head when they thought they could get away with it, and don’t forget another use for conkers – they were always good for a snowman’s eyes when autumn turned to winter.
Not only do I never see any small boys picking up conkers anymore, I cannot remember the last time I saw groups of little boys playing out in the street, or little girls for that matter. So sad…
Did you play ‘Conkers’ as a child? Would today’s kids even know what to do with them?