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Heads up: Canonbury Tavern supplies hard hats to save customers from ‘trauma’ of being hit by conkers

PUBLISHED: 12:18 24 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:51 24 September 2019

Customers sporting colourful hard hats to protect themselves from falling conkers at the Canonbury Tavern. Picture: Supplied

Customers sporting colourful hard hats to protect themselves from falling conkers at the Canonbury Tavern. Picture: Supplied

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Was George Orwell’s “room 101” worst fear being hit on the head by a falling conker when he was trying to get his writing done?

The Canonbury Tavern and one of the offending trees of heaven pictured in 2016. Picture: Des Blenkinsopp/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0The Canonbury Tavern and one of the offending trees of heaven pictured in 2016. Picture: Des Blenkinsopp/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0

Probably not. But the Canonbury Tavern is handing out hard hats to shield customers from falling conkers beneath the chestnut tree where the writer and journalist is said have penned some of his classic 1984 novel.

Pub-goers claim the true dystopia is a world where you can't knock back a beer without fear of being struck by a coin-sized seed, so the management has invested in 12 hats to match the number of conker-related complaints it received last year.

General manager Martyn Huntley told the Gazette: "Last year we got 12 to 14 complaints. We didn't want people getting hit on the head with conkers - it's more of a fun awareness.

"There's a funny story about someone sneezing as they walked past a table and a conker fell down and hit a lady on the head - she wasn't very happy. That was one of our complaints.

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"Sometimes we've had complaint about the noise stilettos make on the pavement from our beloved neighbours, but obviously conkers make more noise."

Martyn has yet to be struck by a conker but says team mates have while working in the garden. One said: "Being hit by a conker from a great height is at least rather annoying, at worst quite traumatic."

The colourful hard hats have been available for customers to use for four or five weeks. Martin thinks they're "a bit of fun" but complainants have previously asked him to do something about the falling missiles.

He added: "We've got a dozen hats of the back of a dozen complaints. We are not allowed to touch the Orwell tree, it's a conservation area tree. There is nothing [else] we can do. The conkers are here to stay [until the end of the season]."

Martyn reports the hats have become "incredible popular" with customers, who enjoy larking about with them on in the pub garden.

Mr Orwell lived in Canonbury Square from 1944 to 1947 and has a green plaque outside his old house.


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