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"Conkers" are the seeds of the Horse Chestnut Tree. A conker is a hard brown nut that's encapsulated in a green, prickly shell which falls from the trees at the beginning of autumn.In contrast to the nuts produced by the Sweet Chestnut tree, conkers are NOT to be eaten by humans.
If you're serious about your game, choose your conkers wisely. The best ones are symmetrical in form, firm to the touch and should not be cracked.Make a hole through the middle of your conker, going from the dull area at the top and down through the bottom.Choose a sturdy bit of string as this adds to the power of your conker. Thread a length about 12 inches long through the hole and tie a knot at one end.The two players, each with a conker threaded on a piece of string or a shoelace, take it in turns to hit each other's conker, until there is only one left. If they miss, they are allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” or “snags” gets an extra shot. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout “stamps” and immediately stamps on the conker; but should its owner first shout “no stamps” then “stamps” are disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact. This can cause great pain to the loser and sheer joy for the winner...Conkers are an incredibly competitive and addictive game, friends will soon become enemies.If you manage to smash your opponent's conker to smithereens, your conker gets the score that your opponent's conker had, plus one for winning. So for example, if two none-ers play, the surviving conker will become a one-er. But if a two-er plays a three-er, the surviving conker will become a six-er.
Cunning conkerers know that the best way to win is to cheat. And there are many traditional ways of (illegally) hardening conkers before the battle. The first and most famous method is to soak it in vinegar, a dastardly deed that actually got ex-Python Michael Palin disqualified from the 1993 National Conker Championships. The cad.If you fancy this, then leave your conker soaking in vinegar for at least 8 hours, or try substituting paraffin or even salt water. The second method is the bake. Place your conker in the oven for no more than half an hour at over 200 degrees celcius (or gas mark 6) to harden it.If you're really keen you can try hollowing it out and filling it with glue – or just leaving it in the dark for a year so it ends up all shrivelled and gnarled. Or if you're really really keen – you can always try passing it through the belly of a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig's waste to find the conker.”
You may have prepared your conker to perfection, but you're going to get nowhere unless you know how to swing it. So we asked rugby heroes Leon Lloyd and Danny Grewcock MBE, champions of the NSPCC's city conkerer cup how it's done.
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