Perspective: Going bonkers over conkers

BACK in a simpler age, among the childhood pleasures were games in the school playground.

After school dinners had been wolfed down, kids dashed outside to spend the rest of the lunch break playing a wide variety of games.

My favourite was conkers. Much preparation was required if one wanted to be a horse chestnut champion.

It began with the collection and selection of potential winning conkers. These were usually harvested by the lobbing of sticks into the out-of-reach branches.

Careful inspection of the crop was crucial to future success. Those misshapen or with flaws were quickly rejected.

Hopefully, one was left with a large, nicely rounded specimen which then needed a hole being bored through with a skewer to take the string. And then it was ready to take on challengers.

Some unscrupulous souls tried to cheat by soaking their conkers in vinegar or baking them in the oven but these methods were fraught with danger as they could go horribly wrong (so I was told).

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I depended on the natural approach to conker stardom – and relied on skill and luck when playing the game.

My memories of conker capers were brought back to me this week when I read that traditional playground games are disappearing from a host of England’s schools.

Nearly a third of 650 teachers quizzed in a survey said chasing game British bulldog had been banned from their school. One said it was “because of the number of broken bones it generates”. But surely that’s just one of the chances one takes in life.

Some 14 per cent of teachers said pupils were banned from playing conkers. One said that apparently the main problem with conkers is that nut allergy sufferers are increasingly allergic to them. Oh come on, they are just being smashed together, not eaten.

One in ten teachers said leapfrog was another victim of the nanny state. What harm did that ever do, apart from scraped knees and elbows?

More than half the teachers questioned said that schools were becoming increasingly risk averse. And of those who felt that way, 90 per cent said it constrained activities both in and out of school, many of them saying it put a brake on pupils’ preparation for life.

It is going to be much tougher for them in the adult world so a bit of rough and tumble in their childhood years won’t do them any harm. But try telling that to the people rushing around with armfuls of cotton wool.

What will you be sinking your teeth into over the Easter weekend? The chances are it is a chocolate egg.

Research shows that three in five of us expect friends or family to buy us an Easter egg.

Some 14 per cent of us think we will get through at least five eggs but the average person will eat nearly three eggs.

I wonder how many of he guzzlers will justify the feast by saying they are just making up for Lent which finished last Saturday.