Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Conkers Were Currency: Red Indians' used Wampum beads, made from whelk and / or clam shells. Other civilisations used the exchange and bartering of goods; and then it was decided that a common currency seemed like a much better idea.
But school kids, or at least we did when we used to go, still tended to use the exchange and bartering method, probably because we didn't have any money. So a rare or "I only need that one for the complete set" tea or cigarette card might have changed hands for half a dozen Bell Boy bubble gums, or perhaps twenty Fruit Salads or Black Jacks.
So the school playground was a place where those early methods of two people striking a bargain and exchanging items for a mutually agreed price, with no actual money changing hands, still happened.
Then, during the Autumn months of late September to early October; the schoolboy currency changed, and patient souls would wait for them to drop when Mother Nature so decreed they would, or impatient hooligans who didn't want to would throw sticks up into the trees to get - their conkers.
And inside that hard, spikey case, which looks something like a close relation of the wartime sea-going mine, those beautifully polished brown skins would be protected; until we opened them up to drill a hole and poke an old shoelace through them, and then beat them to death in an extremely hostile playtime game.
What a thoroughly rotten fate!
And the schoolboy does it with such glee and relish, doesn't he!
But the name 'conkers' seems to have been derived from the game itself, where the winner is 'the conqueror' who shatters his opponent's horse chestnut tree seed, which is, after all, what they really are.
But in these more recent years in which Law suits have become beyond ridiculous, schools have tried banning conkers by saying the kids might get a nut allergy, or that safety goggles should be worn during play. Thankfully, this spoil-sport stupidity has not prevailed, but for a few brief Autumnal weeks, conkers were not only for playing the game, but also for playground trading; and a lad could be King, as long as he had plenty of conkers in the Bank.