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CONKERS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Still bonkers about conkers.

Byline: BY JACK McGRINDER

AN eye-popping look at a dirty magazine with your pals behind the coal shed, sucking on your first fag till your head spun and a sneaky dab of the old man's after shave.

Those were just some of the rites of passage when living was one big lucky bag - but then you grow up and it's a downhill skid all the way on life's greasy path.

However, there's one last bastion of boyhood that some of us will never let go, even when we have enough candles on our birthday cake to represent a fire hazard.

Conkers. Remember them? If not then you've never played the worthy old game. How sad is that?

But it's never too late to give it a go. And it's that time of the year again when the horse chestnut trees are dropping their conkers to satisfy our competitive needs.

It's also fast approaching the time when big weans from various walks of life gather on the village green at Ashton in Northamptonshire for the World Conker Championships.

I said championships because women have their own event. And I'll say again, how sad is that?

Personally I take exception since we never encroached on their world of peever.

Come to think of it I know one boy from down our street who did. The last I heard of him he was working as an air steward. But that's by the by.

Anyhow, Brian Stewart, a forklift truck driver from Corby, will be defending his title on the village green on December 10 and Debbie Oats will be defending hers. She's a crime analyst from London who likes to crack her opponents' conkers when she's not cracking crimes.

From all over the world doctors, joiners, lawyers and bricklayers to name but a few occupations will soon be shouting things like 'stringsies' and 'stampsies' in the heat of the moment.

Well that's what we used to shout. To enlighten you, when two players' strings get entwined, first to shout stringsies gets an extra shot.

We shouted stampsies when our opponent dropped his conker and we got to stamp on his nut. Sounds painful, doesn't it?

But conkers can be a fiercely competitive business, especially when world titles are up for grabs.

And the world championships have raked in a pretty penny for charity in the past 40 years.

John Hadman of the Ashton Conker Club explains: 'Since we've been going we've collected something like a quarter of a million pounds for charities, mainly for the visually impaired.

'Last year the sweltering summer meant the conkers dropped too early and weren't quite ready but we soldiered on.'

It can't be easy to soldier on when your nuts have dropped early. But a good way to get round it is bake them in an oven at 120 degrees centigrade for two hours.

Then you can smear them with Oil of Olay to make them more malleable.

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BOYS KEEP SWINGING: But game's not just for kids
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:502
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