About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

K is for Conker?

Do people play conkers elsewhere in the world or is it a peculiarly British thing? No matter - the second half of the post dictates that the post shall exist, so further assuming that at least some visitors to the blog may be interested, I will introduce you to the world of conkers!

We've had a bumper crop of conkers this autumn, although if harvesting them while they are dropping; the American 'fall' is probably more apt!

The conker is the fruiting body/seed-container (a nut) of the Horse Chestnut tree, and it comes packed in a spiked, hard-foam, shell which you don't want dropping on your head! You can also see clearly where the colour 'chestnut brown' comes from, although they lose the shine after a day or two.

My mother believes they keep spiders out of the house so my Brother or I dully get dispatched to collect enough for a small tray in every room! Whispers: It doesn't work - the fault of all belief systems!

Since god knows when, they have provided the oldest form of toy - the homemade, handmade, look-around-you toy! Using a skewer to pierce a hole, the conker is threaded with a piece of string, and these are then used to play 'conkers', a typically violent and sometimes painful game which teaches young Brit's about gain . . . and loss! Attachment . . . and loss, winning . . . and losing.

In the best traditions of modern sport - think: English football, World cycling or Russian athletics, cheating has reared its ugly head, with people found artificially hardening their conkers in a low-heat oven (which actually make them brittle), or applying various unguents and potions, oils or secret preparations handed down the generations by word of mouth; to hopefully extend the life of the conker.

Once you are happy with your conker, you take it out and challenge other conker-owners to a game which basically aims to destroy at least one of the conkers, by bashing them, with each other, until one fails! 'Accidentally' catching the opponent's knuckles, is not only accepted, but actively encouraged in some quarters.

Rules vary in different regions, with some having a turn-for-turn play, some having three shots in a row each, while others play hit gets another shot, miss passes the turn to the opponent.

The receiving conker is held at arm's-length, and arm/hand movement is hawkishly looked-out for (lower left pose). The hitter being flicked downward (lower right pose), the string tensed over the thumb for 'aiming' - one-eyed, binocular and temper-tantrum techniques are all employed!

Victorious conkers accrue points (again in some parts of the country this is made more rewarding by adding any points the conquered conker [there's a lot of wordplay in this post?] possessed to the winner's total), and the trick is to retire a beloved favorite conker before it is smashed to smithereens.

Some aficionados favour larger size; some believe in lumpy, misshapen conkers, while others - smooth, rounded ones; some think a small one is better . . . I chose a nice round one for the photo-session!

But why wait until the autumn? I give you (courtesy of Brian Berke) the Eagle Konka! See what they did there . . . with the spelling . . . very droll! In the 1950's polymers were going to take us to the next level of anthropological development; hover-boards, flying cars, interstellar space travel and year-round conker . . . sorry 'konka' tournaments!

Those familiar with British slang will realise there's a second play on words going-on here as another name for the nose is a conk, and the Konka, has a 'nose' as its primary mechanism.

A very solid lump of relatively indestructible plastic is actually almost a jig-toy, with an added spring release that's triggered by the hitting of the red conk, by the opposing Konka. Unlike conkers, where the aim is to get a solid top-hit; cracking the conker out from the string-hole, this design requires a glancing-blow to the side, which - if successful - presumably led to the blue 'hat' shooting up the string!

I've never seen these in action (although a vague memory of the odd one kicking around mate's houses when we were young was triggered by Brian's sending the shots), however, I see a built in flaw, if both conks come into contact with speed and vigor; then surly both Konka's will explode, releasing all accrued points from both Konkas to the realms of ghosts and the mythical 'ether'?

Presumably a mail-away offer/premium from Eagle comic or Eagle annual, and marked to an Eagle, so possibly connected to the whole Eagalwall thing in Dorking, Surrey? The red-yellow-blue thing, while being a common combination of primary colours is also similar to the Eaglewall Dan Dare figure packaging, ship kits and Design-a-plane set.

I wonder if the design isn't actually/originally from someone like Potter's Bar's Merit? I can't search the patent databases at the moment, but if someone would like to? Meanwhile; many thanks again to Brian for contributing another classic old toy to the blog.

Of course you need more - Wikipedia!


Paul´s Bods said...

Used a drill on mine to make the hole..the a soaking in vinegar and then slowly roasting it in the oven. Mind you..the real winner was created by making a mold and casting lead ones which got a realistic looking coat of matt gloss..they really took the Opposition out :-) :-)
Remeber any of the words like "slagsy" ? When you accidentally hit the opponents Hand..or "stamps!" when the undamaged conker fell off the string or out of the Hand and you could get to stamp on it.
So far I´ve met no-one here who knows the game

Paul´s Bods said...

ps..I remember some Kids at our school went on a trip to France and brought back some Monster conkers! I mean These were near on twice the size of the ones we were using. They got traded for some hefty Prices

Hugh Walter said...

Sounds like cheating to me?!!! Vinegar? Lead? Shocking!

H ;-)