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BS: England - World Conker Champions

Arnie 11 Oct 05 - 03:50 PM
Clinton Hammond 11 Oct 05 - 04:00 PM
Den 11 Oct 05 - 04:02 PM
gnu 11 Oct 05 - 04:12 PM
Les from Hull 11 Oct 05 - 04:23 PM
Clinton Hammond 11 Oct 05 - 04:36 PM
TheBigPinkLad 11 Oct 05 - 04:53 PM
Les from Hull 11 Oct 05 - 04:59 PM
Seamus Kennedy 11 Oct 05 - 05:05 PM
Clinton Hammond 11 Oct 05 - 05:06 PM
Seamus Kennedy 12 Oct 05 - 02:43 AM
Les from Hull 12 Oct 05 - 03:18 PM
ard mhacha 12 Oct 05 - 05:00 PM
Inukshuk 12 Oct 05 - 06:39 PM
GUEST 12 Oct 05 - 07:22 PM
An Englishman Abroad 12 Oct 05 - 07:42 PM
open mike 12 Oct 05 - 11:16 PM
Cats at Work 13 Oct 05 - 06:00 AM
GUEST,Steve 13 Oct 05 - 08:38 AM
Tam the man 13 Oct 05 - 09:31 AM
Arnie 13 Oct 05 - 10:17 AM
Raedwulf 13 Oct 05 - 02:07 PM
GUEST 13 Oct 05 - 02:38 PM
gnu 13 Oct 05 - 03:57 PM
open mike 13 Oct 05 - 06:57 PM
Tam the man 14 Oct 05 - 07:31 AM
Arnie 14 Oct 05 - 11:56 AM

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Subject: BS: UK - World Conker Champions
From: Arnie
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 03:50 PM

A little-publicised fact, but at the weekend a Brit won the World Conker Championship! And unlike other so-called 'World' Championships, there were over a dozen different countries participating in this one, so it really was international. To prevent cheating, all conkers were prepared by the organisers, all similar sizes and with a leather bootlace through them - so the competitors had to use what they were given. When I was a kid we used to soak our conkers in vinegar overnight which toughened them up. Another technique was to bake them in the oven for a while. Last year it was reported that some schools in the UK banned conker fights in the playground on H&S grounds - what a sad indictment on modern society. So we may not be producing conker champions for much longer. Wonder what'll be next on the banned activities list - hopscotch??


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:00 PM

what's a Conker?


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Den
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:02 PM

Its a horse chessnut.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: gnu
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:12 PM

CH... I thought you grew up in Ontario ? You never played/saw conkers? I lived in Trenton for six years... it was all the rage every fall.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Les from Hull
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:23 PM

Ongcongs, we used to call em' (now there's a word I've never seen written down).

There was a suggestion by some comedian on the radio was that we English weren't any good at summer sports 'cos our summers don't last long enough (a couple of days at most). And we don't get enough snow in winter to be any good at winter sports. We need sports that are suitable for days with short sharp showers. So now we've got an Olympics we can introduce Olympic Bringing in the Washing. A certain gold medal for us!

And of course Conkers is nowt if not an autumn sport.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:36 PM

So... no straight answer?


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: TheBigPinkLad
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:53 PM

Maybe this will help, Clinton :o) ...

The Conker King

It was a one of those natural events that arrives so suddenly that it seemed magical. The late rains had filled the fruit in the orchards and apples were ready for picking. Nutty Wicker appeared at our back door one day asking if we'd like to buy a few pippins.

"Where are they from?" asked my dad. Nutty touched the side of his nose.

"Say nowt," he whispered. "A gift of Mother Nature." And he flashed that enormous smile that made other people smile with him. One of the things that endeared Nutty to the villagers was the way he was always in step with the seasons. In the spring, he waited for the first snowdrop to push through and defy the cold weather. Nothing was more important to him than how quickly new growth came; he timed everything by greenery and not by weather forecasts and calendars like other people. In summer, he was difficult to find as he spent a great deal of time wandering in the woods, along the river and up on the moors marking the position and progress of all the plants that he used to make a living. But Nutty really came into his own in the late summer and autumn when he gathered all his ingredients and turned them into jam, wine, soap, brooms, folk-medicines and pagan idols. When the wheat was harvested, Nutty made little corn dollies and tied them to bushes and trees all over the countryside and if you looked really carefully, you could find them nailed up around the village; in dark corners of hen houses, under the railway bridge, above the door of the pub and he always enraged Father McShame by pinning one to the parish notice board.

"He might get away with this with the Anglicans but I will not stand for it!" McShame told my dad. But it never stopped while I lived there.

"Listen," said my dad. "These apples aren't nicked are they? I mean I've had the priest around complaining about you again and I don't want to offend him." I sat quietly down on the upturned rain barrel and eavesdropped. I enjoyed conversations between my dad and Nutty. There was always something under the surface of them that I could not understand, but it was always amusing.

"George," said Nutty. "I don't steal things, you know that." My father raised an eyebrow.

"Maybe you and I have different views on what stealing is ... I know you don't mind helping yourself to holly and mistletoe when the time's right." I looked back to Nutty as though I were watching a tennis match.

"I get my Yule greenery from the same trees every year. It wasn't me that built a wall around them and called it private land." He had a point there as the owner of the property - Zebedee Scott, the absentee landlord whose family had owned the failed local mine - fenced in the trees solely to keep us kids from scrumping his apples which I too felt was an injustice. Scrumping was our word for, well, stealing, but it's sort of traditional isn't it?

My dad wasn't convinced and refused to buy the apples.

"If it's because of the father you won't have to put up with it much longer," said Nutty. "He's been posted to New Town with the rest of the sheep." My dad's mouth fell open.

"Sorry if you didn't know George, A little bird told me. Anyway, I'll be off. See you later." And before he left he pointed to my chest and said, "What's that?" When I looked down he ran his finger up to my nose, tweaked it and we both laughed.

"Have a pippin," he said lifted the sneck on the back gate and disappeared through it.

It seemed that Father McShame had been given permission from the Bishop to move to New Town with his parishioners and had done an about-face. Even as I made an awful noise eating the apple, he busied himself convincing his flock that things would be better in the Promised Land. Dad was wearing his worried look. I knew that his campaign to keep us in the village would be in big trouble if the priest left. What would a church family do without a leader? He pushed his hands deep into his trouser pockets and looked down at the ground. I decided to leave him to it.

"I'm off to get some conkers, Dad."

"Right," he said. "Just be careful and stay out of trouble."

I walked up the bank to the top of King Street and crossed Black Road. Outside the top shop I met up with Danny Bligh and Monty McBain. They already had a two dozen or more horse chestnuts and were busy poking holes through them with a knitting needle.

"Now, kid," said Danny. "We've got conkers! If you gimme a hand to get the string threaded I'll give you a couple." No need to ask twice. I put my brain to work immediately and suggested we put the conkers on the floor so we could really lean on the knitting needle and shove it through. The nut-brown chestnuts slithered through our fingers as we planted them in the grass. Danny leaned on the needle and it bent double with no effect at all on the conker.

"Bloody Nora," said Danny. "Your mother will go mad when she sees this needle." Monty McBain shrugged his shoulders and we straightened it out and tried again.

"Turn the conker over and see if it goes in any easier from the other side," I suggested. It did just that and we were in business. Danny pulled lots of string from the same paper bag the conkers were in and took a few minutes to bite it off at appropriate lengths. Then he knotted the ends and threaded a conker onto each string. This took a while as the ends of the string were very frayed and wouldn't go through the rough-edged holes without a good deal of swearing and threats. Danny had one eye closed and his tongue poked out of the right side of his mouth through the whole operation.

Once we each had strung conkers, we drew straws to see who played first. As Danny drew the short straw, he reversed the traditional rules and went first against me. I held out my conker and he took an enormous swipe at it, missing by at least a hand's width.

"Tipped it!" he said quickly. I dared not argue. He swung again, missed and caught me hard on the back of the hand. As I howled in pain he said I'd moved on purpose and drew my hand into the ready position once again. A purple bruise was already glowing on my skin. This time Danny gritted his teeth and I was fearful he'd break a bone.

"Skinchies," I said, withdrawing the outstretched conker. "I'll just let out a bit more string." And I loosed another few coils so that the conker swung well away from my body and, more importantly, my hand. There was a mighty rush of wind as Danny thrashed his conker against mine, a loud crack and bits of horse chestnut flew everywhere. We had all closed our eyes for a second, but upon opening them I was delighted to see my conker still intact and Danny's string hanging limp in his hand.

"Right then," I said. "Mine's a one-er. Are you ready?" And I turned to Monty McBain who looked on in disbelief. He held out his conker and I gave it a really good whack but it didn't break. He smiled and looked at Danny. I held out my conker. Now, that conker was nearer to him than it was to me but he managed to hit me on exactly the same spot Danny had. They laughed like hyenas as I jumped around holding my hand to my mouth and easing a stifled cry through clenched teeth.

"Did you do that on purpose?" I demanded, but Monty McBain just shrugged his shoulders and held out his conker. I took a good, long wind up and swung. Crack! His conker exploded into a dozen fragments and I became the proud owner of a two-er. I couldn't help but smile and the pain from my growing bruise subsided just a little. Danny produced a second conker from the bag. He fixed me with a mean stare and held out the shiny brown target. Just as I swung he moved ever so slightly backwards and the conkers didn't connect.

"Ha! Missed!" he cried in delight.

"You moved!"

"Did not," he said matter-of-factly. "Hold it out." I duly obliged. The first swing entangled the strings and Danny cried 'slings' before I could claim 'no slings.' He swung again. This time there was a resounding crack and we examined our conkers. Neither seemed any worse for wear. He swung again and a tiny split appeared on his. The next swing missed and it was my turn.

"Skinchies," said Danny, and turning away he dipped into the bag and produced yet another conker.

"That's not the same one," I protested. "You can't switch in the middle of a match, Danny. It's not fair."

"Yes it is the same one," he said. "I was just wiping something off it." The new conker was at least twice the size of the one he'd first held out and I knew there wasn't much point in arguing. I took a swipe at it and again he moved it away.

"Danny ..."

"Yes?" he said, planting his feet wide apart and glaring at me fiercely.

"Nothing."

I held out my conker and he swung. Double delight! He not only managed to miss my hand this time, but his new conker lay on the floor cleanly split in two. This time I held back the smile and just said, "Oh, bad luck."

"Give me another," he said to Monty McBain. After half-an-hour I had smashed all of Danny's conkers, all of Monty McBain's and even my own spares which Danny had commandeered. I was packing a twenty-seven-er. Danny stepped up to me when the last of his cache bit the dust and I half expected him to lay claim to my champion. Instead, he smiled and suggested we go scrumping.

"Right," I said, not wanting to annoy him. "Skeet's?"

"Of course."


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Les from Hull
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 04:59 PM

Sorry Clinton, rather remiss of us. It's a game we all played in the UK when we were kids. It's been replaced by the Sony/Nintendo thing these days.

Horse chesnut

One thing not mentioned was that when your 'conker' had won one victory it became a 'oneer' then a 'twoer' and so on. If you had anything beyond a 'fiftyer' you would be quite a celebrity in your neighbourhood.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 05:05 PM

We called them 'Cheesers' in Belfast and they were a seasonal fad each autumn.
A hole was punched in the cheeser and a length of string or shoelace threaded through and knotted on the end.
Then we'd pair off and try to break each others cheeser.
One person would hold his cheeser dangling by the string while the other would swing at it with his.
If you made contact, you got to go again, and again until the opponent's cheeser was broken.
If you missed, your opponent got to go.
I consider cheesers right up there with marbles - or 'marlies,' as we called 'em.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 11 Oct 05 - 05:06 PM

Thanks Les... I've seen it played in movies...

I'll stick to Sony/Nintendo thanks...


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 02:43 AM

Les, when we played, we had the one'r an the two'er, but we also got credited with the number of victories our opponent had if we defeated him, or rather, his cheeser.
So if my two'er broke a fifty'er, then my champion cheeser became a fifty-twoer.
Got it?

Seamus


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Les from Hull
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 03:18 PM

Yes we had that rule as well. I thought it was complicated enough already - I've tried to explain some of the finer points of cricket on this forum and failed, though.

I remember being near Paris and seeing conkers lying on the ground, unwanted by anyone. We could never wait for them to fall and would bombard the trees with logs, stones, halfbricks. Nobody parked their car anywhere near a horse chesnut tree in October.

And somehow only a leather bootlace was the right sort of conker string. I don't suppose you can get them these days. Even today's modern nostalgia isn't as good as the stuff we used have!


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: ard mhacha
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 05:00 PM

Seamus ditto for Armagh, we also used the same terms, what about the sore knuckles?.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Inukshuk
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 06:39 PM

Ah, such memories. The longevity of champion conker depended a lot on how its inner integrity was preserved. The hole had to be carefully drilled out, or burned through with a red hot meat skewer. The knot in the lace had to be very large. Of course, nothing could beat a year old dried and hard conker, but who among us had such foresight at that age.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 07:22 PM

My foresight extended to an overnight dunk in a cup of vinegar and a short stint in the icebox . But not only did the physique of the conker determine the likely winner, but the bigger kid had more welly to whack it harder.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: An Englishman Abroad
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 07:42 PM

I remember the first time I came to the USA, I was in a house and on a table were some conkers. "You've got some conkers" I said. They all wanted to know what the hell I was talking about.

I was then told they were Buckeye's. For you Americans I am in Ohio so as you will know it is the Buckeye State. I was amazed to find out they did nothing with them. I am now in the process of introducing conker fights to the US.

My wife (American) could not beleive the number of conker trees in the UK.

all the best John


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: open mike
Date: 12 Oct 05 - 11:16 PM

i am glad these are HORSE chestnuts and not "regular" ones
i picked a few of these (as in ----roasting on a open fire)
as yo can see by this picture http://www.chestnutsonline.com/
the outer cover is very prickly...one fell on me and scratched
my face...these would make dangerous weapons...
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/forestry/Education/buckeyetrees.htm
buckeyes were used by the natives here to stun fish and
make them float up to the surface where they would scoop them up.
the blossoms are poisonois to bees and cattle..and presumabley
other critters, too.http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~herb/buckeye.htm
my uncle used to live on Buckeye ranch in a small town in Nebraska
called Buckeye.
--the buckeye in California has a shiny mohagany colored outer skin
which is quite woody, and smoothe.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Cats at Work
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 06:00 AM

If any of you are going to be around, there is a conker competition as part of the Baring Gould Festival, Okehampton, Devon on 22 & 23 October. The conkers are prepared by the organisers and it's always a hard fought battle. The competition is usually on the Sunday lunchtime and well worth going to... I still have the scars to prove it!


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: GUEST,Steve
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 08:38 AM

We also had "stampsies" - where if you knocked the conker out of the hand of your opponent you could (as long as you said "stampsies") jump on his conker - usually until you destroyed it.

Likewise "windmills" let the person saying "windmills" have another go where the conker was hit 360 degrees; and "tanglies" where the string got tangled between the two players.

Soaking in vinegar and baking in the oven were regarded as very bad form!


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Tam the man
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 09:31 AM

great


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Arnie
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 10:17 AM

For the many conker aficionados, I've now found the details I should have added at the start of this thread. The new World Conker Champion is Calum Owen, who despite his Welsh sounding name is in fact a Yorkshireman from Selby N.Yorks. There were 256 competitors from various countries inc. Russia, Australia, Ukraine, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. The competition was held at Ashton in Northants and they got through 2,500 conkers! So that's another record held by Yorkshire - not that I'm biased but it just so happens to be where I started out....


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Raedwulf
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 02:07 PM

If I remember correctly, a "cheeser" in our neck of the woods was a conker that hadn't developed properly, leaving it with a flat side & (usually) a sharp edge on the shell, which was considered to give an advantage in terms of dealing out damage for as long as it lasted. Plus they were usually smaller & therefore more difficult to hit...

Vinegar & baking were out, as was stampsies (& I've never heard of 'windmills'). As for adding your vanquished foe's victories, I thought that was standard practice? I find it difficult to believe you could get a "fifty-er" without using illegal "performance enhancing" techniques! Only nacheral conkers roun' our way, mate!


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 02:38 PM

And even though they tasted like s**t and dried up every last drop of saliva in your mouth, you just had to have a nibble didn't you?


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: gnu
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 03:57 PM

I knew a kid who used a braided sting. He inserted a piece of a galvaized nail into the end of the string. And, after drying them in the oven, he soaked his nuts in shellac. Used to win most of the time.


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: open mike
Date: 13 Oct 05 - 06:57 PM

is this for children or are adults competing in this?


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Tam the man
Date: 14 Oct 05 - 07:31 AM

his name is Alex Callan and he's from York so the title for this thread is right.

Tam


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Subject: RE: BS: England - World Conker Champions
From: Arnie
Date: 14 Oct 05 - 11:56 AM

Tam - whose is this Alex Callan from York? This sounds a bit like the name I've put in my thread above, Calum Owen from Selby (nr. York). Have the papers been giving me duff information? Surely not......


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