Saturday, 24 September 2011

What use is a conker?

Conkers are funny things, aren't they? What is it that makes them so appealing when they are completely useless? Why do children (big and small) love collecting them with such enthusiasm?

I have pondered these questions this past fortnight as I have sat on my usual spot on the bench in the park whilst my girls have proudly brought me their collected conkers to show me. They are undoubtedly beautiful things, especially when first released from their prickly shells, all shiny and with their grain still showing. They feel lovely in the hand too and if you hold two or three of them you can't help but rotate them round and round in your hands.

There is no question of course that the girls will want to take them home. But what then? What can you do with conkers? With my hazelnut tree producing such a bountiful harvest of edible nuts it strikes me as a shame that conkers are not edible. Indeed, even squirrels don't seem to bother with them. In fact, if it weren't for children collecting them all up, the footpaths would be awash with conkers at this time of year.

So inevitably the conkers accumulate in the corner of the garden, eventually to rot.

But then this week, one of my friends commented on the large numbers of spiders in her house at this time of year. It is the same here, as I imagine it is in everyone else's houses at this time of year - unless you have a cat, as I am told they enjoy these crunching snacks. Generally speaking I'm not that bothered by spiders. Having to remove their cobwebs is a nuisance but their fly catching abilities are useful, particularly in my household where the excessive amount of fruit and veg that passes through my kitchen leads to annoying fruit flies in the kitchen. They really are annoying actually. Within minutes of bringing in a punnet of raspberries from the allotment this afternoon, a cloud of fruit flies were circling above them. Then with the raspberries used up in a crumble, the fruit flies were left circling the kitchen for the rest of the afternoon. I have two sticky fly tapes up (not the most attractive addition to my kitchen, it has to be said) and one of those electric fly traps that kills flies with a satisfying zapping sound, yet still they circle. And right outside my kitchen window lives a big fat garden spider, getting bigger and fatter daily on a feast of flies. So I have a happy relationship with this spider but I'm not so keen on those great, big, enormous black things that suddenly appear from under the bookcase and scuttle across the living room carpet whilst we are watching TV of an evening. Steve has put 4 of them out this week and my eldest was somewhat alarmed to find a shed spider skin on the kitchen floor the other day as she was quick to realise that this merely meant that the spider was now BIGGER!!

So what has all this got to do with conkers? Well... in my friend's discussion about the spiders, I found out that there are quite a few people out there who firmly believe that scattering conkers around your house keeps spiders at bay. Apparently, they don't like the smell. Is this true? I don't know but it sounds like it is worth a try. So one of the jobs on my to-do list this weekend is to dust off the conker pile and scatter them under the book case, on the window sills and under my bed. An end to spiders in my house and a use for the conker - sounds good to me!

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