From little conkers

Something very peculiar happened this autumn – there were conkers on the ground. Yes I know that gravity ensures they drop every year, but this year they stayed there. No greedy little hands scooped them up to stuff in pockets, carry to school or boil in vinegar to produce unbeatable champions. No this year they lay unmolested until they were crushed underfoot.

What had happened? Had aliens abducted all the neighbourhood children? Had someone found a connection between horse chestnuts and acne? I decided to put on my hard-nosed journalist’s hat and get investigating: I asked a couple of friends who have kids.

And.. conkers are for geeks apparently.

So what isn’t geeky? TV, videos, computer games in fact anything that takes imagination out of the equation.

A recent TV programme investigated the pros and cons of starting kids at school too early. The evidence suggested that formal learning too early hammers imagination and the desire to learn out of children. The late starters, at six, tended to be more confident balanced and imaginative children.

Imagination is fundamental in a good engineer – thinking outside the box, innovating, inventing. If children are not encouraged to develop their imagination we are potentially depriving ourselves of great ideas and inventors of the future.

Flair seems very hard to come by and a quick whirl around the Motor Show convinced me. The new S-series Jaguar has been much applauded and is already the winner of British Steel’s car of the show. In my eyes it looks like a sports car run to fat. Now it might be a great drive but shouldn’t a great new car look like a great new car.

In search of innovation I visited the concept car area. Yes there was innovation – solar powered vehicles battery run vehicles – some of which will actually make it into production – but those don’t look very exciting. Nissan’s Hypermini, for example, described in the show guide as ‘Nissan’s clever take on the kind of electric car we could all be clamouring for in the near future.’ I’m sorry but drive this vehicle at your peril – your partner would leave you and your children would put themselves up for adoption. The so-called futuristic cars are ugly and everything else has retro styling.

So what did this hyper-critical editor like – the new Saab Griffin. Why – because it’s got all the charm of the original 99 and all the options as standard – and plenty of space in the boot for my conker collection.