Twenty-five ways to conker all

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The Independent Online
YES, it's nearly autumn again, and boys and girls everywhere are throwing heavy sticks into chestnut trees in order to ruin the branches, land heavy blows on the heads of passers-by and, as a sort of extra bonus, bring conkers to the ground. But then what? Do they take the conkers away and pierce them, string them up and play conkers?

Not from my observations, they don't. I still see children gathering conkers but it's years since I saw any conkers being played. If this is really so, I think I know why. Looking back to my own boyhood, I can remember playing conkers and thinking to myself even then: 'Blimey, this is boring. There must be something more interesting to do with conkers than play this ridiculous game, which seems to involve tangling strings more than anything else. Hasn't someone the nous to come up with a better idea?'

Little did I think that I would be the one, many decades later, to come up with a better idea. In fact, I've come up with 40 ideas. Not all of them are very good, but they all seem better than the idea of stringing them up and then destroying them.

So here, for all ages, are 25 interesting things to do with conkers]

1. String them up as usual, but then use them as ear-rings.

2. When playing cricket or table tennis, give your opponent a good laugh by substituting a conker for the ball as you bowl or serve.

3. Strip off the beautiful antique-wood-type skin and turn it into a charming veneer for doll's furniture.

4. Use them as marbles. If anyone points out that they do not roll smoothly, say: 'Yes, but I'm into chaos theory in a big way.'

5. Drop them from a bridge on to the roof of InterCity trains, and see if you can catch them as they bounce back up.

6. Stuff them into your hand luggage when going through customs, so that they show up on the X-ray machine as small hand grenades.

7. Wrap them up in sweetie paper and give a bagful to someone you don't like - even better, suck them yourself if you are on a diet.

8. Throw them at the referee.

9. Mark them 'Hand carved and painted in the Third World' and sell them at craft fairs.

10. Use the soft inside as ammunition for potato guns.

11. Put them in the car engines of people you don't like, in order to create a mysterious rattle.

12. Slice very thin and fry crisply, as a mystery accompaniment to small game birds.

13. Keep for 12 months till dried and wrinkled, and use as next year's kindling.

14. Suspend a circle of conkers by string around the brim of a large hat - explain that it is an Australian hat from the teetotal forest areas, where corks are hard to come by.

15. Place conkers on piano strings to enliven otherwise boring avant-garde recitals.

16. Wedge a conker in neck of bottle when drinking Canadian lager - explain to mocking friends that lumberjacks always do this, and see the custom catch on.

17. Put them in yoghurt marked 'Fruits of the Forest Floor'.

18. Ask your children (or friends, if you are a child) why conkers do not float - after all, they are wood, aren't they? And they come from a tree, don't they? So they should float, shouldn't they? Offer a prize for the best answer.

19. Send a small bag of conkers to the makers of your favourite morning cereal, or tinned savoury, claiming that you actually found them inside their product. You should get a free replacement by return of post.

20. Take a small bag of conkers when out on a bicycle, so that you can use them as handy ammunition with which to pelt the cars of motorists who have transgressed the traffic laws, or at least severely annoyed you.

21. If a motorist, take conkers with which to bombard cyclists.

22. Use a small conker secreted in the hand to surprise superiors and VIP guests when shaking their hands.

23. Put some conkers on a tray and go round your neighbours, knocking on their doors and saying: 'I'm collecting for the Green Party.'

24. Keep conkers underneath heavy telephone directories, suitcases, etc, so that you can get your hands underneath in order to lift them.

25. Use conkers for golf practice instead of golf balls, especially if you have recently developed a bad hook or slice and tend to lose each ball you hit.

Free Extra Hint: Use them to grow chestnut trees]