It’s officially the end of British summertime on 27th October, so until then we can continue to enjoy the balmy days in the park playing with frisbees and lapping up the odd poke (local vernacular for an ice cream cone). Nature’s parade of autumnal colours marching towards us without a care, as leaves hurl themselves from branches, is a wonder to behold. The word numinous springs to mind so I’d better look it up…spiritually awesome? Maybe – impressive certainly.
Anyone for a game of conkers? Safety goggles will be provided and protective gloves. The rules have been adapted to modern concerns about competitive sports. Gone is the winner takes all objective, replaced by everyone’s a winner just by virtue of holding a threaded conker in the traditional arm stretched, take a swing at it style we are all so familiar with.
Obviously there will be smashed conkers and those that have done the smashing will be rewarded with horse chestnut leaves weaved into a garland. The smashees will receive a bag of roast chestnuts (cooled to room temperature) to share with all participants.
A call of “strings” will herald the arrival of violinists who will play Stephane Grapelli tunes until the tangled strings have been separated. ‘Flinching’ or moving the conker out of harm’s way is not permitted, although this infringement carries no penalty, except for an intervention by the safety monitor, who will suspend play for 5 minutes in order to discuss the virtues of dangling without flinching.
Artificially hardening conkers in the oven, or soaking in various substances to improve the conker’s durability is strictly prohibited. Anyone caught with a non natural conker by the safety monitor will be brought before the Committee for Public Safety and publicly admonished to within an inch of their embarrassment.
Monsieur Danton’s marvellous book on public safety in 18th century France is to be recommended. The ironic use La Terreur by his chum Robespierre is jolly funny (unless you’re a bit bourgeois, of course). Tumbrils are such handy forms of transportation in our crowded city streets. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…