It’s that time of year again where the pavements are covered in leaves (despite the best efforts of an army of municipal staff whose sole purpose in life seems to be to hoover/sweep/blow them away) and I am obliged to bring the pushchair to a halt every few seconds to pick up a particularly shiny conker for the Tadpole to inspect.
Conkers. I have finally got around to googling them and am no longer confused about how to translate conker into French. The horse chestnut tree is a marronnier. But what the French refer to as a marron is not the fruit of the marronnier at all (those are apparently marrons d’inde), it’s actually a type of edible chestnut. The marron is used to manufacture a 1 part nut to 20 parts sugar, sickly sweet chestnut paste (often found in crèpes), and is also sold in boxes of marrons glacés around Christmas time. There was me thinking that French people ate conkers – but this is apparently not the case.
What they certainly do not do, is thread conkers onto pieces of string and have duels to the ‘death’ with them. At least not according to the Frog (an unreliable source, but the only French person I feel able to bore with all my stupid questions).
of years ago we were invited to stay with a friend in Hertfordshire who was hosting the annual “Redbourn Conker Tournament” in her back garden. It was a very grand affair, with free-flowing lager and coloured rosettes for the winners in each category.
The categories were:
- natural conkers (untampered with, the current year’s vintage)
- steroid conkers (pertaining to conkers which had been kept from the previous year, baked, pickled in vinegar, varnished or otherwise treated)
- largest conker
- smallest conker
- best fancy dress conker
As I recall I was swaying too much from the lager to distinguish myself in the the first two categories, but I did win a rosette for my conker dressed as Kylie Minogue (sporting a fetching pair of gold hotpants). The Frog gamely gave it a go, but no amount of enthusiasm could overcome his opponents’ accumulated years of playground experience.
There’s one thing can be said for us Brits. We don’t half know how to have fun.