A Balancing Corrective


As a former fat boy who was frequently "rolled in the shit" and who - according to Nat Front - learned lifelong lessons in the process, I wish to contest the rather anodyne account of childhood games offered in yesterday's edition of your excellent communicative organ. Clearly, Mr Front (aka to his gang members Nat Frontal Lobotomy) was one of those who "dished it out". I wonder how he would have faired had he been on the receiving end (though I imagine that experience came later when he was a trainee scout). I hope it was a hard one.

That said, I prefer to remember the positive things of childhood and wish to offer as a more typical example of Dorset's rich legacy of outdoor children's games the richly entertaining Todber Turdsmacking.

Lest anyone get hold of the wrong end of the stick, no real turds were involved in this marvellously rewarding (though sometimes fiercely competitive!) diversion which, had the monstrous Joao Havelange taken a different view, might now be an Olympic Sport. No. The idea was, rather, to fashion almost any substance (ear wax was good if in plentiful enough supply, otherwise a mixture of Ovaltine, soap and cascara) into a rounded turd-like ball and suspend it on a piece of chicken sinew which, when held aloft was used either to attack or defend against an opponent's similarly fashioned "turd". [The concept was not dissimilar to the Hampshire variation known as "conkers" - the "turd" in that case being constructed from carbonised chemico held together with toothpaste and virol)*

*The name "conker" almost certainly indicates that the game was originally Norman, and that it was brought into England by soldiers in the employ of William the Conkerer (Olde Englysh spellyng). [Ed]

Debate about the merits (and ethics!) of baking, roasting or coating the "turd" as well as the efficacy of adding vinegar, mustard, horseradish and (later humus) was fierce but never definitive. Readers of your popular organ will be intrigued to know that it is rumoured that Professor Thrupiece (whose uncle was once a Todber Turdsmacking regional finalist and who would, therefore, have been familiar with the game) once experimented on an advanced "turd" matrix which might well have revolutionised the game's technology had he not been drawn into other pursuits (see for example Professor Thrupiece and the Space Race [HERE]). Hopes that an improved "turd" might be a happy byproduct of his work in the USSR proved groundless and the game continued to be played with the extant and broadly proven materials.

It would be good to report that Todber Turdsmacking is alive and well and thriving in Dorset, though alas, a few society weddings and christenings apart, it has largely disappeared. Might I suggest that the excellent firm of Thrupini Stickers turns its attention to a Dorset Traditional Games Collection? I feel sure it would sell well and introduce a whole new generation to the delights of our long lost regional sports.

Hewett Allthepyes

Todber


A group of children gather in Todber to watch and to play the traditional "sport" of  Todber Turdsmacking.

A group of children gather in Todber to watch and to play the traditional "sport" of Todber Turdsmacking. Scoring three grints and a pike, though rarely achieved, was the ambition of every player each of whom hoped they had that special secret when it came to making a "turd" ball.


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