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Sandy the Conkeror wins conker contest

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

A second invasion of England, led not by William the Conqueror but by Sandy the Conkeror, succeeded at the World Conker Championship in Aston, Northamptonshire, last month.

Sandy Gardner, 36, a British-born member of the French National Conker team, was crowned Conker Queen for 2006. Her Chestnut Majesty beat 63 other women contenders for the throne.

Britain maintained its long-held possession of the over-all world championship title when Chris Jones, a 48-year-old computer worker from Kennington, South London, defeated (or deconkered) his opponents, proving he was the best of 256 male contestants from the UK, France, Germany, Austria and 11 other countries.

A report of the historic event published in The Yorkshire Post said: "Wearing 4in. black platform boots, black and red tights, and chewing gum, Mrs Gardner claimed the ladies' World Conker Champion title... three years after first lacing a horse chestnut on a string."

It quoted Queen Sandy as saying "The village where we live is where they hold the French conker championships. On the day we moved in three years ago, they were holding the tournament, and I played.

"For a bit of fun, we decided to come and play here as well with some friends. We call ourselves The French National Conker Team - but I'm not actually sure that I technically qualify to represent France.

"I'm not sporty at all. Maybe a bit of cross-country when I was young. I don't suppose many world champions play in high heels and Dennis The Menace tights."

A Reuters report in The Scotsman said:

To avoid the schoolboy tricks of either baking or pickling their conkers to make them harder, or using elastic string to absorb some of the shock of impact, the organisers dole out the ammunition to each competitor.

Whereas last year's prize was a year's supply of a brand of ice cream supplied by the sponsor, this year the new Conker King and Queen received just a trophy for their pains.

Struggling with the English language, the French Conkers Federation website said:

The French Conkers federation was born 15 years ago in the Dordogne in Green Périgord to Abjar-sur-Bandiat It counts more than hundred of members today.

To return at the origin of this game, two versions were found. The first, is that this game was created by English children at the 11th century. Second theory, is that William the Conqueror, during a battle won against England in 1066 took along this game with him from where the similarity enters the words “Conkers” and “Conqueror.”

Conkers means chestnut in English. Conkers is simply fruits of the chestnut tree. Chestnuts fall at the end of September, it is for that reason that the game of the conkers deceives only at the beginning of the autumn.

It is thus the game, that is practised with chestnuts. Content holds a thread at the end of which is hung a chestnut beforehand leaky carefully.

Frappeur has to by means of an almost identical chestnut strike the chestnut of its opponent. At the end of 3 successive strikings, content becomes in his turn the frappeur and vice versa.

It is naturally to break and to destroy completely the chestnut of his (her) opponent within 5 minutes. Every year, competitions are organized. The most important are the French championships and the World championship.

This game of English origin begins seriously to reach whole Europe thanks to an enormous mediatization for some years.

FOOTNOTE. In Scotland, three conkerors aged nine, seven and four, threaded hundreds of conkers into a chain 163ft. (49.68m.) long. And, in a weird chain of coincidences, in the United States, in that very same week, a Pennsylvanian girl named Kaelin Chain was crowned homecoming queen of her Mt. Pleasant high school during a football game in which she was a kicker. Which has nothing whatever to do with chestnuts, but it's a great kicker for this story.

The citizen reporters' journal, OhmyNews International in South Korea has published an edited version of this story.

Story first posted November 2006

Copyright © 2006

Eric Shackle

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