Do you remember that Cadbury’s Fudge advert from years back where the kid is holding up a conker on a shoe lace but get’s distracted by his mum and a Cadbury’s Fudge bar? Ah, good times, right? I mean, yeah, the kid who the young cherub was holding his conker up against looked like the school bully, but apart from that, it was a cracking ad. The tune! The hazy, days-gone-by atmosphere! The big, fat school ties!
Conkers, see, then was all the rage. Back in school, at break and lunch, we’d hide somewhere away from the eagle eye of the dinner ladies and their tabards (love that word – tabard) and when they weren’t looking, we’d embark on a game of conkers and hope we didn’t lose a finger. Or an eye.
I loved playing conkers, me, I mean really, really loved it. It was like dicing with death. Ok, not really, but it felt like that at the age of seven – the dinner lady threat, the fear of a loss of limb – it had it all going on. We used to put them in the oven, my brother and me. Yup, the night before, in they’d go, those nut-brown shiny conkers, to come out harder than ever. One stolen shoe lace later from my sisters shoes and hey presto, we were fight ready.
This, you see, was
the early 80s, when we were still a whisper from the seventies and its hangover of no health and safety, yet still an ocean of time away before even the slightest ripple of smart phones and iPads these school kids have today. Heck, we didn’t even have a land line, just an emergency 10p in my Brownie belt purse for the phone box down the road. It was the one next to the mobile chip van.
So I am troubled, yes troubled, to hear that this autumn there exist school children who do not know how to play conkers. A recent survey revealed that most school children in the UK don’t play conkers, with many not even knowing how to. And why? Because schools are banning the game due to fears of health and safety. So what, conkers is dangerous but an anonymous pedophile sashaying as a 11-year-old boy on Moshi Monsters is safe? And that’s the thing, that irony. It’s not just health and safety that’s driven the nail into the conker coffin – it’s technology, it’s phones, it’s iPads and gaming and social media obsession. Kids today play on their devices more than they even speak to each other face to face. Surely the consequences of that, the long-term social problems it will create, is far more dangerous than the threat of getting a bruise on the cheek from a swinging conker on the end of a frayed shoe lace?
The mighty good news is that adults are on the conker case. This week saw the Conker Champion (who knew?) crowned in Northampton and, according to Nicola Hunt, the Scottish championship judge (yes, there really is one), ‘In the 7 years we have been running the championship, we have seen more and more adults taking part – they’re just big kids.’ Well said, Nicola,
So, it’s time we told these kids what conkers is really about. Get those autumn limbs ready because my oven’s on, a lace has been nabbed from the nearest unsuspecting shoe, and I mean business. Finger nails, watch out.
By the way, for a trip down memory lane, here’s that Cadbury’s Fudge conker advert. All together now…
What do you think? Post your thoughts below…