Wednesday is our inaugural office conker championships. Since I possess a vice and a drill, I have volunteered to prepare them for stringing, so today grown adults have been turning up to my desk clutching shiny brown horse chestnut seeds, each one with their initials neatly painted on in Tipp-Ex for later identification.
It’s interesting to see that, in their selections, everyone has thus far selected rather rounder conkers, rather than the slightly deformed flat ones with the sharper edge that I always reckoned were better. I have a feeling that Roald Dahl thought the same in My Year, but I can’t find a copy of this to check it. Does the sharper edge give you more chance of breaking your opponent’s shell? Or is it more likely to get chipped itself? Somewhere among my acquaintances there must be a physicist who can answer this.
The organisers have also taken steps to ban artificial hardening, including baking, soaking in vinegar, and that most wicked of crimes, varnishing. Really none of these things are a substitute for a vintage conker (at home we used to have a stack of ones from the previous year in the porch), and sometimes over-zealous baking or vinegar-soaking could even make your conker go brittle.
More controversially, there is also a blanket rule of not playing stamps. Is this over-regulation? Of course some people lack the steely nerves and shoe-proof hands necessary for this rule (I think I was one such delicate little soul, back in the day), but if both parties agree then stamps can add an extra anarchic element to an aready excellent game.
Though it might not be ideal if everyone returned to their computers after lunch unable to operate a keyboard.