The game of conkers has no doubt gone the way of many other outdoor pursuits in this age of the video game (though I like to imagine that it still survives in some leafy, obscure corner of the countryside) but it was a wonderful feature of my childhood. Every year we would collect horse chestnuts, split open the green milky shells, and extract the shining russet sphere inside. Then we would bash holes in the chestnuts using nails and a hammer, and string them, and the conkers were ready for battle.
Some people never grow out of conkers. The World Conker Championships, held in Northamptonshire every year, attracts participants from all over the world: According to the website, "Thousands flock.... to watch this great spectacle as modern day gladiators fight for glory armed only with a nut and 12" of string." Appropriately enough, the champion is given a crown made of conkers. This year's championships take place on 11 October, and participants from as far afield as Latvia and Cyprus will be taking part.
Keeping the Faith on the Dance Floor
Finally, the imminent arrival of a film about Northern Soul promises to make the dance cult more widely known. Developed during the sixties and seventies, Northern Soul was (and is) a demanding, athletic style of dance infused with the emotion of its soundtrack, obscure American Soul records. Its favourite venues, notably Wigan Casino, have become sacred sites in Northern pop cultural memory, and you can watch an old but fascinating documentary about the scene here. Some years ago Moloko released a music video featuring (rather stylised) Northern Soul moves, and in it, Paddy Considine shows off his Soulie skills. For anyone trying to learn the style, I particularly recommend the Four Tops' more up-tempo records.