Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bonkers for Conkers

Growing up in North America, the months of September and October were always characterized by going back to school and dressing up for Halloween. Here in the UK, I've learned that kids look forward to these months for a different reason entirely: Conkers. If you're anything like I was a week ago, you're probably wondering what the heck a conker even is. Allow me to enlighten you...

A 'conker' in all of its glory

Conkers is a traditional British game played with seeds of Horse Chesnut trees (the seeds are also called conkers). Dating as far back as 1848, the game of Conkers is played by two people at a time, each with a seed/conker threaded onto a piece of string (you have to drill to get the string though it). Taking turns, the players strike each other's conkers until one breaks. If you are so inclined, you can increase your chances of winning/breaking your opponent's hand by hardening your conkers by baking them in the oven or soaking them in vinegar (apparently this does not classify as cheating). Whoever's conker remains intact, wins!

Ben's family was beyond horrified when I admitted my ignorance to a game that had been such a big part of their childhood and that they all have such fond memories of. To find out just what exactly I had been missing out on, I decided I had to have a go at Conkers.

Ben drilling holes in the conkers

Conker hunting

Finding all the best conkers

And then the game began!

Ben's conker on some string and ready to go

Ben winding up...

And he strikes!

I can't say I'm quite as 'bonkers for conkers' as Ben and his family but it's a lot harder than it looks, I will say that! (I may or may not have gotten a little impatient at one point and thrown my conker across the yard). Unfortunately, much like Disney movies or Tamagotchis, Conkers will probably never be as awesome for people like me who didn't experience it growing up. Still, I can't say I'm not getting a cultural immersion - and that's really what being in a foreign country is all about, right?

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