Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Conkers for Kelli

a tutorial
(I've been longing to do one of these, they seem to be
obligatory on blogs)

This seven fingered leaf is scarred by a leaf miner moth

and many of our trees are threatened
by a condition known as bleeding canker,
(what a difference an 'a' makes)

but for the moment they are still producing the iconic
conker crop, so beloved of children.

The spiny husk splits into three sections
when it falls from the tree,

revealing one large shiny brown conker,
(the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree)

or sometimes, two,
often resulting in one flat sided conker,
commonly called a cheese cutter in these parts.

This invaluable book,
Something to Do
300 games, hobbies and pastimes for all the year round
tells you how to make furniture from conkers,

and most importantly,
how to play conkers.

More of which,

As you see, conkers come into the October chapter
because everything used to arrive more slowly in the olden days
but before September closes,
here is what Something to Do

celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of autumn,(there is information about saint's days), bowl your hoop with a stick, collect fungi - older children only, care for your sports equipment, collect stamps, make an Indian head-dress, decorate polythene pots, make wax pictures, a parachute man, orange balls (for Christmas), paper butterflies, doll's house furniture out of cork, musical instruments, toffee apples, plant conkers and acorns, dry flowers for Christmas bunches, try invisible writing, play battleships, have a scavenger hunt, make up a cardboard code game,
play a card game called donkey and
make a magic cotton reel.

First published in 1966,
the book is described as every mother's vade mecum
(literally go with me)
or a reference book that you carry with you at all times
and it answers the question 'What can I do?'
with numerous suggestions for things children can do at home,
indoors and outside, 'without spending much money or being a terrible nuisance'.
Each month has a separate chapter so that games and ideas will fit with the proper season.

So no time to lose then.
Pack away that Playstation,
turn the TV to the wall,
put the computer to sleep.

I can hardly wait to share October with you.


  1. I love conkers, they're so glossy and tactile. And conker furniture, what a bonus! I've got a horse chestnut tree seedling in a pot, dug up from a surrey garden. Two leaves on a spindly stick and as yet disease free - potential there for a new dining room table and chairs!
    I think I vaguely remember the book but I've no idea where it went - it makes me want to get another copy. I'm looking forward to reading your October chapter.

  2. Oh, Lucille!!!

    Thank you, thank you! My girls and I had so much fun reading this and seeing your pictures! And many cries of "I want a conker! Can we find some?" were heard all round. What a beautiful tutorial you wrote:) I hope you'll do more!

    Conkers remind a bit of sea beans (at least from what I can tell), and I definitely see the resemblance to our chestnuts here in the States, though ours are much smaller and just plain ole' brown.

    And that book...I'll be searching for it, be assured!

    This put a huge smile on my face, Lucille:) thanks!!!

  3. I remember that book - although I am not sure that I had it as a child. Perhaps it is the sort of book that you pick up in second hand book-shops and browse with every intention of making conkerr furniture and suchlike.