I want an old-fashioned shop with an old-fashioned sign — and a ban on newfangled billionaires (Oct. 20)
I wonder. Has anything ever been improved by having way too much money thrown at it? HS2, for example. Will it be dramatically better than what we have now? I suspect it probably won't. Then there's football. In the olden days, when Blackburn's Billy Harbuckle pulled on a stout pair of boots, sparked up a Woodbine and ran about in a quagmire, before adjourning to the pub with his fans, the game was played for fun. But along came Captain Cash, and now the only fun to be had is watching teams with too much of it fail.
In Formula One motor racing Mercedes has just won its sixth successive constructor's championship and the reason you don't know that is simple: money has made the sport unwatchable. And horsists can shut up, because what you do on a wet Tuesday at Lingfield isn't any better.
In the world of commerce, though, things are especially bad because, so far as I can see, absolutely everyone who starts a business these days is only thinking of one thing: when can I sell it? No one wants to provide a decent living for themselves and their family. They don't want to make 50 quid. They want to make £50bn and then move to Monaco with some bikinied-up boat meat.
When my mum started making tea cosies and draught excluders in the spare room, she didn't think: "Right. I shall sell four and then I shall sell the enterprise to a furniture conglomerate for millions." She just wanted enough money to buy my sister and me some new shoes.
It was the same story with me. In the mid-1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was extolling us all to go it alone, a friend and I started a business, selling road tests to local newspapers. The idea was that we'd have enough at the end of the week to buy some beer. Not a whole brewery.
Today it works very differently. You have an idea for a vegan drinks additive or an app that provides directions to that day's nearest eco-protest, and you then borrow a huge amount of money from someone whose job is to lend huge amounts of money to people like you.
One in a million of these businesses will succeed, and in order to turn the large fortune that results into an even larger fortune, the man who created it will pay people to lend his money to people who have a new idea for a clockwork dog.
This is what's become of capitalism, and if you do the maths, you will very quickly work out that one day, one man — or one woman — will own every single business in the world. And then it isn't capitalism any more. I don't even know what it is, because not even the Catholic Church managed to pull off such a feat.
Shows such as The Apprentice give us a graphic demonstration of all this.
Gelled-up wide boys and pouting Love Island cast-offs giving 10% more than is mathematically possible so that they, one day, can be like that Thomas Cook boss who trousered a couple of million as the business failed. He's their pin-up and it makes me feel sick.
There's talk that, after Brexit, Britain will become a low-tax haven for commerce — like Singapore — and we all nod as if we know what that means. But I reckon that we should have a reboot and go the other way, back to the days when you started a small business because you wanted enough to live on and fancied being your own boss.
I'm reminded at this point of a conversation AA Gill had with a bouncily keen young Thatcherite MP who was squeaking away about how everyone needed to invest the money they'd made from gas shares into an entrepreneur's wet dream.
Adrian piped up to say that he started a business shortly after leaving school. The MP beamed and bounced some more. "Good man," he said. Adrian went on to explain that he worked long hours, late into the night, until eventually the Tory boy asked excitedly: "And what was it you did?" "I was a drug dealer," he replied.
I read today about these so-called county line gangs that deliver spliff and charlie and horse around the shires. These are often run by young kids who, having been excluded from school, face a life on the dole, but instead they've helped create a £500m-a-year industry supplying drugs to middle-aged people who have no theatres and no cinemas to take their minds off the fact that, once again, there's nothing on television that night apart from a documentary on transgenderism.
I'm not advocating the use of drugs or the use of slavery to sell them. I am merely pointing out that large numbers of people in the provinces like to get high and someone has worked up a business plan to sate that demand.
I'm about to do pretty much the same sort of thing. Not drugs, obviously. Or slavery. Well, not much. I'm going to start a small shop. I do not need to borrow a penny to get it going, but, according to the business plan, it should generate about £20,000 in the first year and maybe treble that in the second. I have no intention of selling it, ever, because I want to pass it on to my children.
That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, knowing that one day, when I'm JR Hartley, I'll go outside with some Humbrol and paint some words on the sign outside my business premises that you rarely see any more: "and son". (Or "and daughter". I'm not bothered either way.)
If more of us did this — started a business for the long term — then the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn with his anticommerce and anti-inheritance policies would be far less scary.
But as things stand, practically the only people who will not be voting for him next time round are the hooded entrepreneurs who turn up on your doorstep with a bag of ecstasy on a Friday night.
Note: This small article ran in the same issue of the paper.
And on that bombshell: Clarkson sets up shop
By Nick Rufford
To Britain's legion of small shopkeepers, a familiar name will soon be added: Clarkson and Son.
The motoring presenter is to open a shop on his 1,000-acre farm in Oxfordshire, selling vegetables from his kitchen garden, honey from his hives and beer from his barley — licence permitting.
It will stock "anything I grow on the farm", said Clarkson, who may take turns behind the counter. "Bread from my wheat; vegetable oil.
"There are partridge and pheasant, and we could sell them. But that would require hosting a shoot day and hitting something, which I'm not very good at."
Clarkson never thought of himself as a shopkeeper, but says he has little choice. He bought seed he could not plant because of wet weather and diesel for machinery that has sat idle. Delays in planting 100 acres of winter barley have cost £18,000, while Brexit has put at risk his EU subsidies, erasing his profits.
"I'm so much in debt now you cannot believe. If you went on Dragons' Den and said, 'I've got this idea for a business. I'm going to spank a load of money upfront and I don't know if I'm going to be able to sell my products. I don't even know if I'll get any products. And I don't know what the price will be', they'd just say: 'Don't be stupid.'" The shop could throw his farm a lifeline...
He says his "tiny" shop is no threat to a nearby store, "which is the life and soul of the village", and promises not to sell similar goods.
Galloping good fun — when it's working: The Clarkson Review: Porsche 718 Cayman (Oct. 20)
How did we cope in the olden days when cars broke down all the time? Did we really walk to a phone box and stand up to our knees in a tramp's urine, desperately trying to push a 2p coin into the vandalised slot so we could summon help from someone on a work-to-rule?
And did we then call the person we were going to visit, to explain that we wouldn't be there because we were on the A38 and we were going to be sitting in the rain for the next two hours and then making merry with the driver of the tow lorry, who would take us to his workshop and explain that he'd need a new £200 part to get the car going again, but that it wouldn't be available for a month as the workers at the factory where it was made were on strike? I guess we did all those things, and we accepted it. We knew when we set off in our dismal Austin 1100 that, even though there were only six moving parts, one would definitely go wrong every two or three months. And that we'd be walking through the rain again.And spending some time later in the breakdown lorry with a man who might or might not be a murderer.
I guess we still have unreliability in our lives. Phones. Trains.
Holiday companies. And my laptop is capable of spectacular strops from time to time, but cars have become phenomenally bulletproof.
I drove a Toyota pick-up to the North Pole once, and long after the savage cold had laid waste to my camera, my phone and everything with an electrical circuit in it, the pick-up, and all its 15,000 parts, worked so perfectly that I began to suspect witchcraft.
Even brands with a poor reputation for reliability are now fine. My old Range Rover has a few aches and pains these days — the steering is getting very heavy — but that's because the old girl's getting on a bit. The new one, though: it bounces through fields all day long with a back seat full of drunk men in tweed shorts. It takes noisy kids on day-long thrashes through France. It does stop-start traffic in London and it never goes wrong at all. It hasn't even been stolen yet.
There was a time when the hard shoulder on a motorway was a place to park cars that had been hurriedly thrown together by communists. But now people don't even really get punctures any more.
Last week, however, the car I was testing came over all 1971 and did actually break down. It was a proper, old-fashioned, steam-and-noises breakdown, too, which surprised me enormously.And what surprised me even more was that the car in question was a Porsche — a 718 Cayman GT4.
Porsches do not break down.
Ever. A Porsche makes a Swiss watch look sloppy and haphazard. If you explained to a Porsche engineer that Japanese train drivers are punished if they arrive in the station more than seven seconds late, he would be staggered by the leniency.
And yet there I was, coming home from a short Sunday morning test drive, when I was told via a message on the dashboard that the coolant was so low, I needed to stop driving immediately. It didn't say "Achtung", and there was no imagery of a soldier in a greatcoat with a Schmeisser submachinegun, but the tone was similar. So even though it wasn't my car, I did as I was told.
There was a lot of gurgling and plenty of steam as well — so much, in fact, that a chap staying on a caravan site across the road came over to see if he could be of assistance. Though when I say "to see if he could be of assistance", what I mean is: he came over "for a bloody good laugh".
Having bitten off the inside of his cheeks trying not to openly cackle at the man from the telly with his steaming yellow Porsche, he went off to fetch some water while I attempted to find the engine. It wasn't in the front and it wasn't in the back. There are boots at either end. Big ones, too. But that was it.
Happily, because it is the 21st century, I didn't have to walk to a phone box, and because I live close to a former prime minister, the 4G signal is excellent, so I googled the issue and discovered that the car's engine is locked away in an impregnable metal box. When MG did the same thing on the MGF it was idiotic, but I guess Porsche didn't see a problem, as it knew it would never need attention.
However, it turned out that what appeared to be suspension turrets are the filler nozzles for topping up the water and oil. So when my new best friend came back from the caravan site's lavatory block with a watering can, we were able to effect a repair.
Except we didn't. The water was now cascading from the bottom of the car. But as I was only a couple of miles from home, I thought I'd make it before it all came out again. Wrong. Because a hundred yards later, the electronic sentry flashed up a new message. "Achtung!" it said. "For you, Tommy, ze drive is over."
This time, there was an alternator fault, and the advice was to park in a safe place as soon as possible. I had a quick think and reckoned that the nearest really safe place was outside my house, so I got there as soon as possible and later that afternoon the car was hoisted onto a tow vehicle and taken away to be punished for its insubordination.
The next day, Porsche called to say the water pump had gone wonky and dumped coolant all over the alternator. Plainly, Porsche finds the modern, and possibly left-wing, system of using water, as opposed to air, to cool an engine a bit complicated.
Pity, because just before it came over all British Leyland, I'd decided the 718 Cayman GT4 was a very good car. I've always thought that the Boxster and the Cayman were bought exclusively by people who could not afford a 911, and that view didn't change when the 718 came along. Buy one, and all you're doing is saying that you haven't achieved your life goals.
In recent years, though, the 911 has got a bit ahead of itself. It's still fabulous,if you like that sort of thing, but it no longer feels like the sports car it's supposed to be. It feels a bit unnecessary.
And that's where the 718 comes in, especially if you go for the GT4, because that doesn't feel unnecessary at all. This is a real, genuine, 100%, undiluted sporting thoroughbred. It's what the 911 is supposed to be.
It's not fast enough to be scary. It's got bundles of grip from its noisy tyres. The seats are spectacular. The driving position is perfect. It's practical and small, and before I get to a conclusion that Porsche would like, I've decided to break down. Steam. Hiss. Gurgle, gurgle.
Keep a stiff upper lip when all about you are losing theirs, and you won't be a Yank, my son (Oct. 27)
When Obama Barrack came to Londonshire in 2016, he put on a serious face and told us that we'd better stay in the EU or else. And I remember being so incensed that my nose swelled up and my teeth moved about. Because how dare he come here and lecture us on what we should and shouldn't do.
Last week, it happened again. Meghan, Prince Harry's wife, went on television to tell us that instead of keeping a stiff upper lip and bottling up our feelings, we should vomit them out in a torrent of snot and tear-stained, shoulder-heaving sobs.
Well now, look, Meghan. That might work for you, because you are an American and programmed to weep and wail at every little thing, but we are programmed to do the exact opposite.
This was evidenced at Wimbledon in 1981, when John McEnroe had his famous "You cannot be serious" meltdown. American viewers heard nothing of the tantrum because they had five excitable commentators, all shouting over one another as they speculated on what kind of punishment the emerging champion was likely to receive. British viewers, on the other hand, heard everything McEnroe had to say. And only when he told officials they were the "pits of the world" did our commentators see fit to interject with a quiet harrumph.
Dan Maskell was a master of this. All sorts of mayhem could be happening around him and all we ever got was, "Oh, I say". He had the stiff upper lip.
His son died in a plane crash. His wife drowned. But he did not bleat about these things. He filed them away in his head and got on with his life, best foot forward. Because he was British and that's what we do.
A year after the McEnroe match, a British Airways jumbo jet on a night flight over the Indian Ocean roared at 500mph into a cloud of volcanic ash that wasn't visible on radar. Moments later, all four engines stopped.
Now we all know, of course, about Captain Sully — Chesley Sullenberger — and his Hudson River landing, and all those Mercury astronauts with the right stuff, so I'm not going to say a US pilot would have run up and down the aisle, screaming: "We're all doing to die."
But I'm willing to bet he wouldn't have been quite as calm as Eric Moody, the BA chap, who announced to passengers: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress."
Think about that. He's doing maths in his head and working out that a fully laden Boeing 747-200 has a glide ratio of 15 to one, meaning it can cover 15 miles for every mile it drops. So, at 37,000ft, he had 105 miles to work out why the engines had stopped and how best to restart them. But despite all this, he didn't panic and, crucially, he didn't forget his manners. I'm willing to bet, in fact, that if Alan Sugar had been on board, Moody would even have started his announcement by saying: "My lord, ladies and gentlemen ..."
A lot of this calmness has to do with the classical education boys received in the public-school system. Pupils were taught that if they took a lead from the Spartans, who loved a bit of discipline and self-sacrifice, they'd be able to cope more easily with freezing dormitories, the unwanted attentions of slobberymouthed geography teachers and the regular beatings from sixth-formers.
Then, after chapel, they learnt about the Hellenistic philosophy of stoicism and how it could be found in Hamlet, Rudyard Kipling, the teachings of Marcus Aurelius and, best of all, in the short poem "Invictus": "In the fell clutch of circumstance / I have not winced nor cried aloud. / Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbow'd."
To be honest, we liked the Boy's Own sound of all that. If your best foot is blown off in a battle, you promote the other one and hop on. And you most definitely do not finish a game of bowls early just because the Spanish have sent an armada. That would be poor form.
Put it like this. If Captain "Titus" Oates had been an American rather than an Old Etonian, we can be fairly certain he would not have left the tent saying he "may be some time". He'd have laid there, screaming and begging for his mother and some counselling. He'd have told his tent-mates not to judge him and written in his diary how he'd bravely sobbed and drooled to the bitter end.
Of course, the British are capable of shedding a tear or two. We cried at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Well, I did. We cried when Winston Churchill died. And we cried when they buried Lord Nelson. But we don't cry when our neighbour's dog dies or because of something on the news. We may be upset, but we then employ a phrase not used anywhere else in the world. We "get a grip". Not being able to get a grip is like being really fat. It's the sign of a weak mind. It's an indicator that you aren't able to control yourself and that you may be French.
I don't mind Meghan having the need to open a window to her soul every five minutes. But she can't tell me to do the same thing, because I'm not made that way. It'd be like going to Germany and ordering them to be funny. Or telling the Japanese that blondes have more fun. Or insisting that bees stop making a buzzing noise when they fly.
Let's not forget what happened when Morgan Piers went to America and lectured them on gun ownership. They put a flea in his ear and sent him packing, and now he has to earn a living from behind a veil of orange make-up on breakfast TV. If Ms Meghan doesn't learn a lesson from that sorry tale, she may well end up in exactly the same boat.
My new squeeze is a bit short on spice -- The Clarkson Review: Toyota GR Supra (Oct. 27)
I know some short people and, by and large, they're weird. Mainly, this is because they have it in their heads that tall people spend every waking moment thinking up new and interesting ways of making their lives a bit less pleasant.
At social events where the guests stand up, short people feel lost and abandoned in the forest of nipples and chest hair. They feel excluded from the gossip and the chit and chat, and think that tall people have done this on purpose.
In the cinema, they think that tall people scan the auditorium, searching out the shorty, and then sit in front of them on purpose. On the roads, they assume that every single move made by everyone else is an act of ridicule.
And in bars, they imagine every barman is trained to serve the tall first. Holland, home to officially the tallest people on Earth, is seen as a cruel plot to make the short feel pathetic and unwelcome on a stag night.
None of this, however, is true. I'm tall and when I look at a room, everyone is, broadly speaking, the same height. Tom Cruise and Gerard Butler. Richard Hammond and James May. Elle Macpherson and Kylie Minogue. They're all just "down there somewhere".
And, if I were made to think about it, I'd suggest that the world is actually geared up to make life a little bit better for the gonks. Clothes shops, for instance. Every jacket is tailored to suit a toy and every pair of trousers for a jockey's stunted brother.
Tall people are never comfortable at the theatre, and on an aeroplane we are forced to pay thousands of pounds for business-class seats, because if we sit among the straw and dead dogs in economy, the blood supply to our legs is cut off and we get gangrene.
Oh, and then there are houses.
You, with your Ken-doll measurements, can live wherever you please. I cannot. I know this because I grew up in an Elizabethan farmhouse, where, because of the beams, I could only ever walk east and west in a room. Never diagonally, or north or south.
And this of course brings me onto cars. I yearned, when I was a small boy, to drive a Ford GT40, and when, by a series of miraculous events, the day arrived when I actually could, I found that I couldn't because I simply didn't fit behind the wheel.
Then there was a time when Paul Stewart built a Formula One car that could actually accommodate a normal-sized driver. Jos Verstappen, probably. He is Dutch. And I was offered a drive in it. So I immediately zoomed up to Silverstone and slithered inside, wiggling my toes onto the pedals and getting comfy.
Then along came a health-and-safety man with a plank of wood. He rested one end on the top of the roll-over hoop and the other on the front tyre and worked out that my head breached the imaginary line that had been drawn. So I got out and sloped back to London in a huff.
Since then, I've had a few problems in a couple of supercars but, in the main, car interiors are designed these days to accommodate just about everyone: from that freak on Pointless to Mr Amoeba. In a modern Mercedes, I don't even have to push the seat all the way back to get comfortable.
But then, last week, the new Toyota GR Supra arrived. I'd been looking forward to driving it very much because it's exactly the sort of car I like. Front-engined. Two seats in the middle. And drive to the back. All put together by Japanese robots so it will never, ever go wrong.
Straight away, though, there was a problem. They may have fitted the roof with a "double-bubble" arrangement to give taller occupants enough headroom, and I thank them for that. But the doors simply aren't high enough to allow these tall people to get inside. Not with any dignity.
I had to adopt all sorts of horrific yoga positions to get on board, and then I was actually quite scared I might not be able to get out again. Perhaps I'd have to drive lightly into a tree so the fire brigade would cut the roof off and I could get out that way. But, for now, I was in and the engine was on, so off I went for a drive.
Now, the old Supra was unashamedly aimed at the American market. It was big and lazy and handled as if it was on its way home from a hard night at the pub. I quite liked it. But this one is unashamedly aimed at the European market and for the switchback mountain roads we all use on our way to work. Short wheelbase, wide track, BMW engine.
Yup. BMW. Because there aren't that many people these days who drive to work over Alpine passes, there aren't that many people who want to buy small, light, whizzy sports cars. So if car-makers want to design and build one — and they all do because designing and building hybrid boxes is emphatically not what gets people up in a morning — it makes sound financial sense to team up and share the costs.
That's what BMW and Toyota did and, for half the cost, they ended up with a Supra and a new Z4. Which, we are told, are completely different. Course they are … I can tell you that the new Supra uses a straight-six BMW engine and BMW running gear, and when you sit in it, you'll notice that the gear-lever and most of the dash are from BMW as well.
I don't mind about that. What I do mind is that somehow it doesn't really work. It's not underwhelming, by any means, but neither is it overwhelming. It's just whelming and I was expecting, I dunno, a bit of chilli and lemongrass in the mix. And maybe something a bit more aurally exciting than tyre noise.
I liked the speed and I liked the handling. It's the honest-to-God, meat-and-two-veg stuff that causes hairy-backed motoring enthusiasts to drool slightly, but somehow everything is delivered as though the car's mind is elsewhere. Maybe it's wondering what its point is when people can buy a Toyota GT86 — which does broadly the same sort of thing — for about £25,000 less. Or a much prettier BMW Z4 that has no roof.
Eventually, my drive was over and I shuffled downwards, pushing my feet into the bottom-left corner of the footwell and my knees into the top-right corner so I could emerge head first into the light. And when I finally got to my feet, I couldn't help wondering … With each passing year, and in every country except America, the average human being becomes taller and more intelligent. Which means that the Supra is designed specfically for people who are smaller than average. Which means they're not that bright.
Lose the leccy and hit the Swede spot
The Clarkson Review: Volvo XC90 (Nov. 03)
We all know that people in Sweden sit beside lakes all day in chunky jumpers, solving crimes by staring into the middle distance. And then they go home to wooden houses and spend the evening sending all the money they've earned to the government.
This, however, is true only in the sense that all British people carry rolled-up umbrellas and all Italian people are in bed with your wife. So while there are some Swedish people who earn a living by staring at things, most are not like that at all.
I once went to a town called Kiruna in the north of the country and, I'm not sure, but I think it's the worst place … in the world. Built around an iron-ore mine, which makes the snow a sort of mottled dark grey, it is filled almost exclusively with miners, who are very large and are in the pub, looking for someone to punch in the face. Only after they've done this, and thrown a bar-stool through a window, do they go home to give all their money to the government. It's a long way from Abba, that place.
It's also a long way from Greta Thunberg, who, in turn, is a long way from the corporate giant that is Ikea, which is miles and miles from the archipelago of Gothenburg, which is one of the most mystical and peaceful places I know. Sit me on one of those smooth islets, let me stare into the mist, in the silence, and within an hour I reckon I could pinpoint the location of Lord Lucan. And make cold fusion work.
Sweden, then, is known for one thing, but, actually, it's lots of things. And so it goes with Volvo. In the late 1970s, my dad decided, for reasons that are not clear, to buy a Volvo 265, which had been styled, on an Etch a Sketch, by someone who despaired at the Romans' inability to go in a properly straight line.
As an impressionable young man, I should have hated that wilfully practical estate car, but Volvos were all right in my book because, as a small boy, pride of place on my bedroom wall went to a poster of the drool-inducing P1800ES. And let's not forget that Mr Eyebrows himself, Roger Moore, used a Volvo when he was playing the part of Roger Moore in The Saint. Before he went off to be Roger Moore in the 007 films.
Volvos, in those days, were cool.
They were square and the scourge of motorcyclists, and then, in the 1990s, the firm went bonkers and entered a brace of estates in the British touring car championship.
They used to come down the main straights like a massive blue-and-white Swedish tidal wave, washing away the ghosts of Roger Moore, my dad's brown box and everything else as well. Yes, it was a marketing ploy. But it worked. Everyone loved those cars.
In just 20 years, Volvo had gone from being as cool as Alicia Vikander's icy stare, to being the last word in safety and practicality, to being a full-on racing team. And now, in 2019, it is the Arctic division of a huge Chinese conglomerate making some of the most stylish 4x4s the world has ever seen. Not even John Hurt was as versatile as that. And this was a man who had been an elephant, a rabbit and an alien transportation system.
I like Volvo's range a lot. It seems completely in tune with the times. And that's why, when Volvo announced it had updated the twin-engine XC90 hybrid, I was keen to give it a whirl.
The updates, it must be said, are not significant. In fact, as far as I can see, they amount to nothing more than a new bag in which to keep the charging cables you'll never use. Because while you may be fully Greta on the outside, no one can be bothered to charge up a car that is capable of charging itself. I don't even like the bag.
No matter. I liked this car when I drove it three years ago, so, obviously, I'd like it now, yes? No. Because although it hasn't changed much, I have. Back then I was mildly curious about hybrid drive systems, but now they send me into a cold rage.
I'm not going to trot out the numbers again but the fact is that hybrids don't travel as far on a gallon as is claimed, they run on electric only for a few miles before the batteries are flat and they are phenomenally power-hungry to make. Clubbing baby seals is more environmentally acceptable.
So what do you get in exchange for not doing much for the planet? A car that's a bit of a nuisance a lot of the time. You get into the Volvo, turn the diamond-cut starter button and nothing happens. Confused, you pull the sex-toy gear lever back into the "D" position and try to set off. And nothing happens again, because you've got to pull the lever back twice before you engage Drive. I don't know why.
If you are on a loose surface, the wheels at the front, which are being driven by the clever petrol engine, set off normally, but those at the back, which are driven by electricity, can't handle the enormous torque and spin. Which makes holes in your lawn.
Then, when you get home, you turn the key to shut everything down — but have you? Or is the car simply sitting there in electric mode? Or has it engaged the stop-start system and is waiting for you to take your foot off the brake so it can set off again? Silence in a car that's fully awake is unnerving and I don't trust it.
I also didn't like the wipers, which decided when to be on, no matter what I did, or the head-up display, which wouldn't move up or down the windscreen even though I was doing everything right. Oh, and then there was an occasion when the car thought I was going to reverse into a bush and jammed on the brakes all by itself, making yet more skid marks on my lawn. Maybe the answer is not to drive this car on your lawn.
Make no mistake, the XC90 is still an absolutely brilliant car. It's good-looking; it's practical; it remains by far the best seven-seater; it works to a certain extent off-road; it's a lovely, light and airy place to sit; and, above all, it's safe. Really safe. So safe that since it was originally launched in the UK in 2002, nobody has died in one in a collision with another car.
I've had four of them over the years and if I still had children who needed ferrying about with 600 of their closest personal friends, I'd buy another without a moment's hesitation. But it wouldn't be the version with two engines. One engine is much more environmentally friendly and thus much more Swedish. Because you have to give more of your money to the government.
It gets birdbrains in a flutter that wildlife is booming on my green and pheasant land (Nov. 03)
I was up early the other day because I was keen to write about the Britannia Hotels group's incredible achievement of being voted the UK's worst chain for the seventh year running. Imagine. You're told you're rubbish once and then you keep on being rubbish for six straight years. I wanted to comment about such an extraordinary level of commitment to slack-jawed slovenliness.
But then I noticed that the survey had been done by Which?, an organisation that is really only interested in reaching adenoidal people in action trousers and sandals who contribute to TripAdvisor and run the neighbourhood watch scheme. As a general rule, I've always reckoned that if something does badly in Which?, it's probably pretty good.
As I sat, deciding which side to take in the great hotel debate, I was distracted by an annoying man on Radio 4's Farming Today show. He was from the airborne wing of the Labour Party — also known as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds — and he was talking about how he thought shooting game birds might be a bad thing.
The RSPB has always been prevented by its royal charter from campaigning against the shooting industry — Mrs Queen likes to strangle a pheasant or two at Christmas time, as we know — but it has worked out that it can comment if it reckons shooting is done by rich bastards in Range Rovers.
Now, the columnist Charles Moore said recently that the actress Olivia Colman had a "left-wing face". I won't comment on that, but I will say that Martin Harper, the man the RSPB sent to Radio 4, had a left-wing voice. Chris Packham has both a left-wing voice and a left-wing face, and he wants us all to stop using fly spray.
Anyway, Martin reckoned that if you release 50m non-native game birds into the British countryside every year, it's bound to have an effect. When pressed by the interviewer for a specific effect, he said: "Er, climate change." That was lucky for the Britannia Hotels chain, because I immediately abandoned my original plan and decided to write about shooting instead.
The first thing I did when I started a small shoot was plant several acres of so-called cover crops. Maize, sunflowers and something called kale, which can be eaten by humans if they are very deranged. These crops provide warmth, food and a place to hide from Johnny Fox, not just for my pheasants but a whole squadron of other birds too.
We keep reading about how endangered the yellowhammer is these days; well, not on my farm it isn't. Since I started my shoot, the skies are black with them. And goldcrests. And wrens. And skylarks. The dawn chorus used to be nothing but the occasional squawk of a murderous crow, whereas now it's positively philharmonic.
Research has shown that if you run through a field of crops planted by a shootist, you are 340 times more likely to encounter a songbird than if you do a Theresa May and run through a field of grass.
So, Martin, if the RSPB does manage to ban shooting, then, yes, you will be championed as a class hero throughout the vegan strongholds of Islington and Shoreditch, but you will also be responsible for the deaths of a million linnets. Which, as far as I know, isn't why the RSPB was founded.
And then there are the woods, where the pheasants are held until they are old enough to forage on their own. Woods are beautiful and still. They're places to shelter from the endless drone of light-aircraft enthusiasts. Mine are full of roe deer and muntjac and squirrels and badgers, and at this time of year there are many mushrooms too. I love to spend an evening down there as the leaves turn golden, giggling. Everyone likes woods, except if you are in a horror film.
But they generate no income. So if shooting were banned, I'd have to get Brazilian on their arses and turn them into farmland. Is that what you want, Martin? Because I fear that would create a damn sight more climate change than my Range Rover.
Of course, I'm well aware that some people might bridle at the sight and sound of eight hedge-fund managers in tweed shorts, braying their way through a pint of sloe gin while brandishing a pair of £20,000 shotguns, but what good comes from making them take up golf instead? There are many hobbies that inflict far more pain and misery on others: light aircraft — I'm not giving up on that — the violin, motorcycling, strimming, morris dancing and so on, so why pick on one that's good for nature and good for the way the countryside looks? Pointedly, it's good for birds too. Not just songbirds, but the kind of stuff that makes kids point at the sky and squeak with joy. Birds of prey. Since I started a shoot, I have seen a huge increase in the number of kestrels and buzzards over my farm. I even think I spotted a peregrine falcon the other day, and that made my heart soar.
Was it here because it likes eating my pheasants and partridges? There's some debate about that, but the truth is I don't really care if it does take a few. Because I like having it around.
So stop persecuting me, Martin, and concentrate instead on the people who do real damage to these magnificent creatures. Seriously. If you put down your Jeremy Corbyn picture book for a moment and do some actual work, you'll learn that peregrines like to hang out on top of churches and cathedrals. Because the height gives them the ability to reach the speed they need in an attack dive.
But, because of bell-ringers, it's noisy and scary up there. So if you really want to help these birds, don't target the shooting community, which is doing its bit already. Target the real villains: the nation's campanologists. That's what I want to see — the RSPB and the country's bell-ringers at war.
That is one of the most reasonable and sensible Clarkson pieces I've read in years.
The problem I've had with him quite a lot recently is that while his ability to shoot down bullshit and lampoon idiocy are, deservedly, legendary, the majority of his targets have been chosen to appease the rabid prejudices of his target audience in the right wing press.
Here he makes a valid argument from the standpoint of someone standing very much and firmly on the moral high ground.
In 9th grade earth science, I was taught that an engine must do work. Here is a link that seems to explain this better https://jakubmarian.com/difference-between-engine-and-motor/ Based on that knowledge, I made an engine out of a couple of small pieces of copper pipe, a grill ignitor, a spark plug, and some WD-40.
For nearly 18 years, I haven't been able to eat anything green. Kale may taste awful, but I'd honestly love to be able to eat some. It's also supposedly good for you:
This is watts thrilling me: James May reveals why he has gone electric
(Sunday Times, Nov. 10)
By James May
I've bought a Tesla. "Boo," cries every true petrolhead on earth, because electric cars are boring. In some ways they are. It's true that Tesla owners converge at superchargers and talk about, well, Teslas, and where once we car types met to boast of peak-power outputs and 0-62mph times, there is now a motoring subculture that discusses energy consumption, range and charging times on new 32-amp domestic spurs. It's not very heroic, and Steve McQueen wouldn't have approved — although I reckon he would have loved my electric motorcycle.
I'm convinced, however, that cars ought by right to be driven by electric motors. I'm painfully aware of the argument for internal combustion and the protestations of those who would declare that a car without pistons and a manual gearbox has no soul.
But we've known since we have had the word "car" that the electric motor (which, by the way, predates the internal combustion engine) makes more sense. It's light, compact, smooth-running, famously reliable, has excellent power and torque characteristics, is easy to produce and is virtually maintenance-free. It's a bit of a 19th-century no-brainer.
The only thing that's held the electric car back for so long is the thorny issue of how to store the electricity. Yet now we have the lithium-ion battery, effectively a giant version of the thing in your smartphone. So my Model S will do 300 real-world miles on a charge, and charges in my garage while I'm at the pub or in bed.
But what if the battery electric vehicle, or BEV, isn't the answer? What if the answer is the HFCEV — the hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle? In case it is, I thought I'd better have one of those as well.
So I've leased a Toyota Mirai, one of only three passenger HFCEVs to have so far been made available to the public (the others are by Honda and Hyundai).
Instead of a battery, the fuel-cell car has an on-board power station that combines compressed hydrogen from a tank with oxygen from the air to generate electricity on demand. The debate raging among engineers, physicists and chemists is whether it's better to store our clean, renewable power as chemical or electrical energy — that is, in the form of hydrogen molecules (H2) or electrons (the charge in a battery).
Charging batteries is still a slow process, even when granted access to Tesla's superchargers. But if all else fails, I can plug the car into a feeble domestic socket and sit around for a couple of days while it juices up. It's a bit of an exercise in forward planning.
The Mirai refuels from a pump, like any other car, in a few minutes, and has a range similar to that of the Tesla. But there is only a tiny handful of hydrogen stations in the whole country, and if you run out, you're well and truly shafted. So driving the Mirai is an exercise in trepidation and pure brinkmanship.
Why subject myself to this? Because finding out the right way to go requires a massive experiment, and I felt I should take part. I'm a car enthusiast, I'm interested in the future of my hobby and I'm in the fortunate position of being able to do a tiny bit of the research. I sort of feel obliged to, to be honest.
The car has never been under such scrutiny as it is now, except perhaps when it was invented. But then there was only one and it had broken down somewhere between Mannheim and Pforzheim.
With what seems like incredible suddenness, everything about the car — as both a vehicle and a proposition — is being questioned: how and where it's used; how it's made; who or what should actually be in charge of driving it; and whether it should be allowed at all. But, most pressingly, how it's powered.
I like cars, and like driving them.
I want to be allowed to continue to indulge myself. So I can either embrace the experiment or dig a foxhole and man an archaic weapon, under a flag emblazoned with a Jaguar straight six. The future is uncertain, but I'm pretty sure I know how that would end.
Inside James May's electric garage
BMW i3 from £34,445; range 188 miles. Six years after the electric and hybrid versions were launched, the i3 has lost its petrol engine and gained a larger battery, giving it a greater driving range. BMW recently said it may not build a successor, so take this innovative model for a test drive now, before it is brushed under the carpet.
ZERO MOTORCYCLES SR/F on test from £16,990; range 70-150 miles. Today's wannabe Peter Fondas don't lust after a bike whose engine can set of f car alarms; they'd rather boast about silent power (108bhp) and speed (three seconds to 60). The SR/F's range nudges 150 miles if you don't ride like Evel Knievel, but a four-hour charging time is more Stand by Me than Easy Rider.
TESLA MODEL S LONG RANGE from £78,690; range 379 miles. At seven years old, Tesla's first mainstream electric car still sets the standard by which every electric car is judged — driving range. It can travel for nearly 380 miles on a single change, thanks mainly to the sophisticated management of its 100kWh battery.
TOYOTA MIRAI on lease £66,000; range 300 miles. At the heart of this family car is a fuel cell that uses hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity that drives a motor. With a range of 300 miles and a tank that can be filled with hydrogen in a matter of minutes, the only thing holding back the technology is the UK's non-existent refuelling infrastructure.