have always loved September, As a schoolboy I loved it, because it is
the Month of the Conker. It is no good knocking down conkers from the
branches in August because they are still soft and white. However, in
September, they are a deep rich brown colour and shine as though they
have been-polished. That is the time to gather them by the bucketful.|
I recently wrote to The Times newspaper bemoaning the fact that children were not playing conkers with the same fervour as when I was young. This caused an explosion of angry letters from young enthusiasts all over the country. Nearly one thousand people wrote to me, boys and girls, telling of their love for the sport and of the great contests that were taking place all over the country in the autumn. I received press clippings about the World Conker Championships held at Ashton in Cambridgeshire and about the All England Conker Championships that were held in Henley. From these letters I learnt that the whole of Britain is still alive with ardent conker players. Many girls wrote to me saying they were just as good as the boys and I was delighted to hear it.
We all know, of course, that a great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore very formidable. We also know about the short cuts that less dedicated players take to harden their conkers. Some soak them in vinegar for a week. Others bake them in the oven at a low temperature for six hours. However, such methods are not for the true conker player. No world-champion conker has ever been produced by short cuts.
I could go on for hours about the best shape to select for a fighting conker. The flat sharp-edged one, never the big round fellow. I could talk about the relative merits of using thin and thick string. I could write several pages on the various aiming methods to use, the best swing to adopt when delivering the blow, the importance of keeping your head still throughout the stroke and the necessity of a correct stance; but there is no space for all of that here. Suffice to say that it is a splendid game to play during the winter months and one that requires a cool head and a keen eye.
When I was nine, I made myself a Conker Practising machine on which I would string up six conkers in a row and work at busting them one after the other. Let's face it, you do not become top class at any sport, be it golf, tennis, snooker or conkers, unless you practise long and hard. The best conker I ever had was a conker 109. I can still remember that frosty morning in the school playground when my 109 was finally shattered by Perkins' conker 74 in an epic contest that lasted over half an hour. After it, I felt even more shattered than my conker.
Adapted from Conkers! by Roald Dahl
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