Sunday, 23 September 2012

Obbly, obbly onker, my first conker!

I have been trying to type a new post for my blog but my brain is rather sluggish. 

I have a cold. 

Or maybe it is an allergy.

However things cheered up considerably when we went for a walk this morning, because I picked up my first conker of the season.  For me this means that Autumn is well and truly on the way. 

This photograph of our village horse chestnut trees was taken today by Kirk Dale
When I was a child we would make a hole through the biggest ones and thread them with string.  Then we would play 'conkers’, trying to smash our opponent’s conker so that our one could become a champion. 
There was a rhyme to sing when playing conkers: 

Obbly obbly onker, my first conker, 
Ack ack ack my first crack."

When my family moved to Melbourne there were very few conker trees and so I only ever got them when I was back in England and staying with my uncle and aunt.  They had two huge old conker trees at the bottom of the garden.  My aunt would collect lots of them in buckets and when neighbouring children came she would allow them to reach in a take a huge handful: a conker lucky dip.  I of course being a favoured nephew,  was always presented with the biggest one when I arrived – even as an adult!
This photograph of today's small conker haul was taken by Kirk Dale.

Now we are living in Europe and conkers are plentiful at this time of year.  Technically they are horse chestnuts but to me they are conkers.  Shiny, dark brown ones are the best.   Now that I am approaching fifty I do not grab a bucket and rush out madly looking for the biggest and the best ones and hording them all for myself.  Instead, I walk sedately and look as if I do not care about them, but once I spy a nice big, dark brown, shiny one with clear champion tendencies, I cannot help myself: I have to pick it up.  I must pick it up!
I hold it in my hand and feel its glossy smoothness.   Then I slip it into my pocket, occasionally putting my hand inside to make sure it is still there. 
This photograph of the my first conker was taken by Kirk Dale
When we get back home I put it in pride of place on my bedside table.  As the season progresses the conker is joined by various others that I find.  Some may be bigger or browner or glossier but my first conker will retain its place as ‘premier’ conker in the collection – and when winter comes and  there are no more conkers to be had, it will go and join the various others that sit dotted around the house until they shrivel up and are then tossed into the old dike, there among the bushes and grass to gradually return to the earth that produced them.

Another good thing about the arrival of Autumn is the fact that we eat ‘marzipan hornchen’.  This is a croissant with marzipan inside.  It is extremely addictive!  The local baker makes them and they are very nice with a cup of tea or coffee on a cool day.

This photograph of a Marzipan Hornchen was taken by Kirk Dale.

I hope that you, dear reader, have had a pleasant weekend!


  1. Hello Kirk:
    Such a post as this immediately brings back memories of collecting and playing 'conkers', something which we have not actually done for more years than we wish to remember. But we are inspired to go out into the City Park to see what we can find!

    Anything made with marzipan becomes an absolute favourite with us so we are sure that we should enjoy a Marzipan Hornchen which, in the picture, looks very delicious.

    On Saturday our young Jack o' Lantern [from our previous post] invited us to join him at a street where the antique shops were having an Open House Day. And what fun it was - plenty of 'stuff' which we think you and AGA would have found of interest.

    We do hope your cold disappears NOW!!

  2. Dear Jane and Lance,

    Yes! Go and find a lovely glossy conker! A wonderful memory filled with innocence. if ever there was one.

    An antique open house day? That sounds like our kind of fun! I think I will be in Budapest for a couple of days in late October (a work conference) and if I get free time I want to explore streets like that!

  3. I can see the attraction to conkers, they have such a beautiful sheen and I'm sure they feel good to the touch. I imagine that for you, they are almost in the class of good luck pieces. It's just as well that I don't have martzipan hornchens in my neck of the woods; I wouldn't be able to show any self-control! I hope you're feeling better soon!

    1. I have to tell you Mark that there was a time when we first discovered marzipan hornchen when we eating them twice a day, every weekend!

  4. why not play conkers? who says it's only for people of a certain age?????

    1. True, catmint. And I happen to know that the British conker group will be having its annual conker playing games next month. . .

  5. I was a rather nervous conker player. I dreaded getting my knuckles hit by the opposing player.

  6. Hello Kirk!
    I couldn't resist this post-- nor can I resist collecting conkers/ chesnuts at this time of year... I happen to have a conker that I picked up and carried in my pocket like a jewel all through graduate school some(too many) years ago, and it still retains its beautiful gloss and shape, somehow preserved by overhandling, perhaps? And those marzipan hornchens--how I envy you!

  7. Hello Erika,
    Welcome to my blog, oh fellow conker collector!
    I have to tell you that those marzipan hornchen are extremely moorish. Occasionally I wonder if I should try my hand at making them for myself but then I think we would be eating them all the time!