A 50`s Boy`s Autumn

 ConkerSeptember 1st and we fall into Autumn like the leaves off the trees, too cold for shorts now and the worst for us was it was getting much darker much earlier.

It seems last week was summer, still in short sleeved T shirts and playing out after tea, but the night comes around 8.00 now.

Today its colder, much colder, long sleeved shirt and even a tank top my Aunty knit and by the end of the week it was too dark to play out by half seven.

When the nights start drawing in we are ruled by the streetlights, when they come on, the younger end have to go in.

Apart from the dark playing out became less and less as the months began to roll by because of the change in the weather, mainly rain.

But on a fine night or by a full moon we’d all be out.

No need to call for anyone we all felt and heard the buzz.

Our favourite winter game was called “Night Riding”.

We all mounted our pretend horses with its pretend name, the stupid ones carried a garden cane and used it as a crop, on there own bottoms, see what I mean about stupid?

We then raced over the hedges and fences of the neighbours, stopping to make camp in someone’s back garden, not just anyone, they had to have something to eat.

Perhaps an apple tree or some root crops, we even used to take out some sugar wrapped in newspaper to use with the rhubarb, hell it was sour stuff even then, but a man on a long ride had to eat.

Plenty of rain now and the odd flurry of hail and sleet, but most importantly it heralded the start of the soccer season and soccer sports lessons at school.

I was a Burnley fan, the reason for this was I saw a Milestone outside the football field which said, Burnley 18 miles and thought wow, 18 mile, I`d probably only ever been to Bradford, except holidays to Bridlington.

The trees on the avenue took on new hues and positions, green to yellow to brown to being on the ground.

This was the signal to go conkering, or as we called them, “Cheggies” no idea why.

They begin to fall off the tree towards the end of September.

We used to go up Woodside Road to the gate at the top of the lane leading to Jackson’s, where all the new houses are now, then right to “Fairy Dell” and the conker tree lined avenue of Horse Chestnuts.

We’d pick up the fallen ones and of course you could help them by throwing whatever you could find up into the tree, stones, sticks, other younger kids shoes, anything you could physically throw.

More kids had more bumps on the head at conker time than any other, it was easy throwing things up but really hard to see them coming down.

So, you take your conkers to a path and break them open. The hard spiky outer shell not wanting to give easily its prize, but conker time was conker time and the will of a knife or the heel of your shoe soon had the brown conker out.

Now different families dealt with their conkers in their own way, no rules but I remember Billy Tosh`s dad used to soak his in vinegar over night and Brian Warns dad used to put his in the oven to dry. We dealt with them just as they were.

Now came the dangerous part, the holing. Each needed a hole from top to bottom to be able to thread onto your piece of conker holding string.

Again different families had different ways, posh dads had a drill, others a sharp screwdriver thing, but most like us, a hammer and nail, and hope you never got a glue`ee, just as it sounds, a conker full of a glue`ee substance. Glue on your school pants was not thought very impressive by mums I can tell you.

Ok, gathered, husked, holed and strung, what next?

Best was take off your shoe and remove your shoelace, or when you got into a higher year at school, remove one of the younger kids shoes and remove his shoelace.

Knot one end with a triple knot and thread a conker off your holding string onto it.

Agree who went first and the other stood with his arm out holding the top of his conker string.

You took aim and hit his conker as hard as you could; it was then your opponents turn. If your conker strings entwined, whoever shouted stringer first took the next turn. This was done in turns until a conker was smashed.

The surviving conker then took on a number, if it was the first it had smashed it was a one`r, it followed until it was a two`er, three`er etc. It also took on the numbers of its opponent, so if a one`r beat a five`r, it became a sixer, technical stuff when you’re a kid.

What great fun conkering was, so do my grandsons play, no is the answer, the school are not allowed to permit it for health and safety reasons, political correctness gone wrong, again.

Was that snow……..

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