Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

MWF

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I'd be making the case for Vinnie Colaiuta and Stewart Copeland with an honourable mention to Jerry Marotta.
 

Revelator

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And here's The Sun column: "Just leave Greta Thunberg’s Extinction Rebellion groupies glued to the railings to cause a real stink"
 

Revelator

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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.

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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.

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And here's the Sun column: "Drones are seen as missiles from Satan himself these days but they are also very useful"
 

93Flareside

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The oct 27th story, bold thing to say by a man who’s made a living shouting on tv about things he doesn’t understand and being quite fat.
 

Revelator

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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.

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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.

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And here is the inflammatory Sun column: "Everyone says climate change is terrible… but what if it’s GOOD for mankind?"
 

MWF

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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.
 

Mr. Nice

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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:
 

Revelator

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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.
 

Revelator

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Life on the farm is really picking up
The Clarkson Review: Ford Ranger Raptor
(Nov. 17)

The new Land Rover Defender is a bit of a surprise. I imagined it would have steel bumpers and hose-down carpets, and differentials that you lock with levers. I reckoned it would be militaristic and straightforward, like the old Defender, only with room behind the wheel for both a driver and his shoulder. But, instead, it seems to be yet another high-riding option for the school-run mum.

In time, I understand, there will be many different variants, including a leather-lined and superfast alternative for the millions out there who say: "Yes, I'd like a Mercedes G-wagen, but actually prefer something a bit more Slovakian." Because that's where the Defender is being made.

I don't really understand what's going on. Land Rover already makes a vast array of extremely nice and very capable four-wheel-drive cars. So why did it make another one, rather than a tool for people who need their car to put in a shift every day? A workhorse. A tool.

Can you see Isis fighters unscrewing heavy machineguns from the backs of their pick-ups and fixing them to a fleet of new Defenders? Can you see the manager of a uranium mine in Australia replacing his underground fleet of Toyotas? Or, closer to home, can you see Britain's foresters and fencing contractors declaring over a pint of Old Scrotum that, yes, the fancy new Land Rover is exactly what's been missing from their lives? As I may have mentioned six thousand times, I'm trying to run a farm at the moment and the fact is that my vet, her boss, my shepherdess, my tractor driver, his brother and the guys mending the Victorian water supply all have pick-ups.

If I look out of the window and see one bouncing up the drive, I know someone with big wrists and a Viyella shirt is on his way to do a job of work. If I see someone coming up the drive in a Vauxhall, I know it's someone from the government coming along to stop him. And if I see someone arriving in a Range Rover, I know it's a school-run mum dropping round for some prosecco.

I have a Range Rover. I have two, in fact. And I have never wanted a pick-up. I'm aware of the tax advantages, of course.

Because HM Revenue & Customs largely classifies them as vans, you could buy an air-conditioned, leather-lined, five-seat Mercedes pick-up with all the stuff you get in a Mercedes car, and pay just £686 a year to the Treasury, if you are in the lower tax bracket. That's less than half what someone in the top tax bracket would pay for a Ford Fiesta.

But despite the fiscal advantages, I've always thought pick-ups were a bit Richard Hammond — for the sort of Donald Trump enthusiast who flies a Confederate flag above his house, even though he lives in Basildon. Plus, I've always figured if I put my shopping in the back, it would be stolen immediately when I pulled up at a set of red lights.

But then the car I was due to test recently was crashed on its way here, so Ford sent round a Ranger Raptor. This is not to be confused with the US Ford F-150 Raptor, which is nearly 20ft long and about 7ft wide. It's hilarious, but you couldn't possibly drive such a thing here. It just wouldn't fit.

The Ranger is a scaled-down version, especially under the bonnet, where, instead of a gigantic V8 that runs on dead grizzly bears and granite, there's a 2-litre EcoBlue engine. This did not excite me, and I figured the test drive would be once round the block and that would be that.

However, it had been raining constantly for six weeks and the summer tyres on my old Range Rover were making life in the fields a bit Bambi-ish, so I went out to do some chainsawing in the Ford, which had proper off-road, Canadian-winter-spec tyres. And it got stuck — immediately.

This was because I wasn't wearing my spectacles, so I hadn't spotted the knob that engages drive to the front wheels. Switchable four-wheel drive? I haven't encountered that since the Daihatsu Fourtrak went west. The only blessed relief was that I didn't have to get out to engage the front hubs.

Getting out of the Raptor is annoying for two reasons. In order to swing your trousers clear of the muddy step that allows short-arses into the cabin, you will need to adopt a body position that causes the horn to sound. This irritates people. And then there's the rear armrest. If you use it to rest your arm, you will lower the window. That is irritating too.

So is the cover that's fitted to shield the contents of the load bed from prying eyes. I'm pretty tall but the Raptor is so high off the ground I simply couldn't reach it to pull it shut. This meant I had to climb into the back, and that is manual labour, to which I am allergic.

I vowed, then, after my chainsawing expedition, to put the Ford in the barn and leave it there. But then my girlfriend went to Holland for no reason I could see and decided there wasn't enough grass in the field for her horse. Which meant I had to take it a bale of hay. So out came the Ford again.

And then I had to deliver a sheep-handling system to a distant field, and then three of the sheep had to be separated from the main herd — is that the right word? And then I had to create a beetle bank. And, to be honest, I needed the pick-up for every single one of these things.

It's gone back to Ford now and I'm bereft. I simply do not know how I managed without it. It's a bit like trying a knife and fork for the first time and then having to go back to chopsticks. That's fine some of the time, but not when you are faced with a lychee or a fried egg or a lamb chop.

It wasn't even that bad on the road. The ride was especially good, and it had all the fixtures and fittings you could reasonably expect and some you reasonably wouldn't. Such as the strip of red leather on the steering wheel to tell you, when you're in a rally, where the "straight ahead" position is. I didn't need that even once. But despite this flimflam, the Raptor was an honest car for honest people doing an honest day's work.

However, if I were ever to buy a proper working vehicle, I'd balk at the £47,874 price tag and quickly become annoyed by the height of that load bed and the step needed to get inside. I suspect this model is for townies who want to look like they're Kate Humble.

The ordinary cooking version is not bad, though, and if you go for the two-seater, you can have one for £22,914. That said, the Volkswagen Amarok is also worth a look, as is the countryman's favourite, the Mitsubishi L200. Then you have options from Fiat, Nissan, Mercedes and Isuzu. Not Land Rover, though. It has simply abandoned the market it created, and I think that's a bit mad.
 

93Flareside

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Life on the farm is really picking up
The Clarkson Review: Ford Ranger Raptor
(Nov. 17)

*Snip*
Interesting as the Ranger review I saw here didn't take well. Mostly the interior. I imagine if Clarkson had any truck for the tasks he used it for, he'd like it as he had such complaints for getting into the thing. Didn't he have an Amarok on The Grand Tour?
 

Revelator

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(Note: this week's motoring column was written by Abbie Eaton)

This is my Schuey dream come true

The Abbie Eaton Review: Ferrari F8 Tributo
(Sunday Times, Nov. 24)

Growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, I would see friends swoon over posters of Kurt Cobain, binge-watch DVD box sets of the Harry Potter films and spend weekends petting ponies at gymkhanas. I'd have to feign interest because my mind was elsewhere. My world was all about an altogether different sort of prancing horse: the bright-red Ferrari of Michael Schumacher.

Schuey and his Ferrari were the fastest thing in Formula One. He was the one I looked up to, the one who inspired me to follow my motor racing dreams. He is part of the reason why the artist formerly known as Top Gear's Stig underwent something of a sex change for The Grand Tour — the show that Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond went on to make with Amazon — evolving into, well, me.

When I accepted the job of being the show's tame racing driver, I knew it wasn't going to be your average nine-to-five role. The first time I met Jeremy I was a bundle of nerves. What tough questions would I have to answer to prove my car knowledge? Would he want to see proof of my results on British racetracks? None of these things happened.

Instead, the first thing he asked me to do was say "toast". I'm from Hull, and he must have taken joy from the fact that finally there was someone on the show other than him with Yorkshire roots. (In case you're wondering, it's pronounced "turst" .) The call may have come about after The Grand Tour's producer, Andy Wilman, heard how I'd worked wonders for the driving skills of the rapper Professor Green. In the ITV series Drive, a bunch of hopeless celebrities — hopeless at driving, that is — were put through a series of extreme, track-based motoring challenges.

I was relieved not to be coaching The X Factor's Louis Walsh, because he was beyond help, frankly. Green, on the other hand, had the nerve and skill but needed some finessing to get the best out of him. Sure enough, he beat the lot of them and I confess I felt proud of him.

In upcoming episodes of The Grand Tour, I won't be as involved as I have been for the past two years. Some people have joked that it's because I keep showing up the boys with my scorching lap times, but the show's focus is switching to road-trip specials.

Naturally, the question I get asked the most is: who's the best driver — Clarkson, Hammond or May? I can honestly say it's Jeremy, and not because I'm guesting for him here. He's decisive, not scared of going sideways and is quite assertive. And we agree on things.

For example, we agree that the scariest car we've tested is the reborn Stratos, from Manifattura Automobili Torino, while the best we've driven is the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, which is probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It's so loud and shouty and totally theatrical, and it makes you smile, which reminds me of someone… So when I was offered the chance to test-drive the new Ferrari F8 Tributo at the famed Fiorano track in the heart of Ferrariland, near Maranello in northern Italy, I jumped at the chance. This is where every Ferrari road car and race car is driven, and to this day Schuey holds the lap record, driving a 2004 F1 car.

It was proper bucket-list stuff.

This mid-engined, two-seater sports car, a replacement for the 488 GTB, takes engineering and performance elements from two cars I already know and love: the 488 Pista — a supercar designed primarily for the track — and the 488 Challenge, an out-and-out track car. The F8 Tributo's vital statistics are up there with the Pista's: at 710bhp, it is 50bhp more powerful than the 488 GTB, plus 40kg lighter; it has a top speed of 211mph and it hurtles from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds.

Yet this is a car designed to take the raw aggression of the Pista and the Challenge and tame it for the road. If you like, this is the comfy and affordable (it's all relative) 488 GTB. On the more track-focused cars, all you have to do is breathe on the accelerator and you're in the Adriatic (we're in Maranello, remember — keep up). On the F8, the accelerator is just that little bit less hyperactive, and the undoubtedly jaw-dropping acceleration feels manageable. Exhilarating, yes, but never scary.

At the heart of the F8 is Ferrari's 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. The company won't hesitate to remind you that it not only won the international engine of the year award four years in a row, but was last year crowned best engine of the past two decades. The F8 Tributo is a tribute — hence the name — to it. Now I'd have to be pretty pigheaded, given the weight of evidence in its favour, to say anything against this engine and, to be honest, I can't, but truth be told, there is so much more to this car than just its engine.

For a start, it looks great. My favourite bit is the louvred engine cover, which harks back to the F40. In some cars, features are added to improve performance and look a bit out of place, but in the F8 everything seems to fit and have a purpose.

Before we could get started, there was a lesson with a Ferrari test driver. Not about how to drive, but about the car's various gadgets and gizmos. The F8 is seemingly half car, half HAL 9000, and it always seems to be one step ahead of its driver.

For example, there is a "Wet" setting that could even function as a good starter mode for some of Ferrari's wealthy clientele who are more interested in parading along Monaco's harbour front than driving around Silverstone. In this setting, the car's stability aids are switched on, the suspension is a little bit softer and the throttle response is slightly less hectic.

Then there are "Sport" and "Race" modes, with added options to remove or retain some driver aids.

Ferrari has updated its "side slip angle control" system and its dynamic enhancer . They're far too complicated to describe in detail here, but in a nutshell these systems exist to help anyone drive like me. And, thinking about it, does that mean Ferrari is trying to put racing drivers out of work?

The new software allows more drivers to experience the car's full performance, while reducing the risks of having to call your insurer and ask how soon it could arrange for a temporary replacement car while your precious Ferrari pays a costly visit to the bodyshop.

Should you wish to live life on the edge, you can turn off all driver aids. That's OK on a track, but doing it on the road is as silly as peering down the barrel of a loaded gun. I think it's wise to get your kicks on the track and cruise comfortably on the road.

The Grand Tour might have opened doors for me, but some things seem slower to change. I was the only woman on the trip, something that's not uncommon.

It's all right, though. I played up to every silly-girly-racing-driver stereotype there is and pretended I couldn't keep count of how many laps I drove the Ferrari for. It was meant to be four, but by the time it came to seven I gave up counting and waited for them to red-flag me. I'm sure Schuey would have approved.
 

Revelator

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Private jet on the runway. Sweaty hand on your back. Say ciao to Andrew's entitled Eurotrashers (Nov. 24)

By Jeremy Clarkson

Shortly after Prince Andrew claimed he didn't indulge in public displays of affection, we were bombarded with a million photographs of him doing just that. There were so many, it started to look as though he'd had his hand on the arse of everyone in London and had even gone into battle in the Falklands with his tongue in his co-pilot's ear.

The problem is, however, that in the world he inhabits, this is the done thing. When you are introduced to a woman, you don't shake hands. You run your fingers delicately up her exposed back and she responds by resting her head on your shoulder. And then, later, you mate.

The first person I met from this weird world was a translator we once used in Italy. She was idiotically pretty, all freckles and blue eyes — like a Cadbury's Flake girl who'd washed up, under a mane of just-out-of-bed hair, in a Timotei waterfall. And she spoke about 17 languages. "Where are you from?" I asked squeakily. "Er ..." she replied.

That's the thing about these people.

They're not ever from anywhere. Her mum was an American diplomat in Buenos Aires, her dad was an Italian architect and she'd been born in France and educated in England, and lived mostly these days in Switzerland.

This is why most of her friends would have a "de" or a "von" in the middle of their name. To give them some kind of anchor. It's why Andrew fits, because the man he calls Dad is Greek and his mum is German. But he's the Duke of York. I'd be Jeremy of Doncaster. I actually call these people the "ofs and froms". But everyone else has a different name for them: Eurotrash. And you can spot them at parties because they all have wandering Eurohands.

They emerge from their mother's birth canal on water-skis, with a golden suntan. By the age of four, they are fully qualified helicopter pilots, and by six they've won several motor races. They never double-fault on the tennis court, never ski on a piste and, like Andrew, have no discernible source of income. The odd one may have an art gallery in Zurich or a private equity operation in Mayfair, but, by and large, they live an impossible life on invisible means.

It's a carbon-heavy life of parties, mostly. They alight in Rome for Alain de Biarritz's wedding to Alexandra von München and then, after a day of recovery by the pool, they all share a secret signal and whizz off to Moscow for Hugo von Duesenberg's 40th. In many ways, they're like starlings. And, like starlings, they socialise and travel only with their own kind — people who are in the same boat. Or on the same boat, usually.

Sitting at a dining table with these guys involves a lot of shouting, because each has such a long name that the place card is 3ft wide. Which means you are always miles away from the person sitting next to you. Not that they will talk to you, anyway, because of your miserably short name. And because you're an insect in a room full of antelopes.

The men never wear socks. The women never wear much of anything at all. And while they are all able to converse fluently with waiters in any country on Earth, they all communicate with one another in English, but with an accent that sociolinguistic professors would place halfway between Milan and Kentucky. The word they use for "party", for instance, has a "d" in it. And when we say "PJs", we mean pyjamas, but to them PJs are private jets, which is what they all use when the lead starling suddenly decides everyone needs to be in St Moritz. Or Juan-les-Pins. These people, who are only ever photographed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a woman's arse in the other, are all basically beholden to Peter Sarstedt.

You might think they'd never allow a girl from the back streets of Naples to join their gang, but that's not true. Yes, the men must have private means, but they also need boat meat for the summers in St Tropez. And anyone will do, as long as she is visually striking and 7ft tall. Her only job is to appear at the dock in a bikini that's two sizes too small. And to not suffer from heat rash. These are the mystery women who appear in the James Bond casino scenes. And in the background of all those Andrew pictures.

And it all sounds very idyllic for everyone concerned. The women just have to be pretty and they get a racehorse for Christmas, which they keep for a laugh. And the guys never have to mate with anyone who's fat.

No one ever has to buy a washing-up bowl or fill a car with petrol. Which all sounds great, but none of them owns a dog — it'd be too much of a nuisance dealing with it when Air Starling decided to head to pastures new. They don't have jobs for the same reason. And this means they have no concept of responsibility.

Marriages, in their world, are like houses. You move in and then you move out again. They do the wedding thing because they fancy hosting a party, but at the reception the bride will get a lot of Eurohand action, and the only reason the groom doesn't notice is that he's upstairs, snorting coke off the back of the girl from the back streets of Naples.

They never really had much of a connection with their parents, either, because they were sent off to boarding school four minutes after their umbilical cord was cut. And they only ever met Mum subsequently when they passed in the general aviation terminal in Nice.

All of which means that, while their lives are glamorous and exciting and filled with sunshine and princes, they contribute nothing and achieve even less.

Plus, they never experience the most important thing of all: love. It's why so many of them are such enormous bell-ends.


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Clarkson's Sun column can be read here, but I couldn't resist quoting this Grand Tour-related section:

Tooth be told it's fine

I visited Reunion island in the Indian Ocean a couple of weeks ago and here’s how the conversation went with the man running the beach-side dive shop.

Me: “Please can I borrow a snorkel and a face mask?”

Him: “Oui.”

Weirdly, he never mentioned the poor man from Scotland who the day before, on that very beach, had been eaten by a shark.

Nor did he tell me that nearly HALF of all the world’s fatal shark attacks happen in the waters off Reunion.

But then I’m no better, because when Richard Hammond appeared on the beach later and asked how the snorkelling had been, I replied saying: “Pretty good, actually. You should give it a whirl.”
 

Revelator

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Mozzies, heat, upset tummies and all-day drinking — even Corbyn's taxes are better than life abroad (Dec. 01)

After Mr Corbyn wins the coming election — and he will, because all your children are going to vote for that weird Lib Dem hamster woman — a great many rich people will decide to emigrate. If the top 1% of taxpayers do that, then Corbyn will have 30% less income tax revenue to spend. If the top 5% go, then he will lose half of what HMRC gets now. Half. The country will go bankrupt, simple as that.

And this time we can't send Princess Margaret to the White House to borrow some dollars, because she's no longer with us. And because that bit of The Crown wasn't true. We can't send Prince Andrew, because the FBI will probably arrest him at the airport. And we can't send Harry, because he will probably have emigrated as well.

I've certainly considered it, and so have many of my friends. But where would we go? Portugal seems to be a popular option because it is offering disaffected Brits extremely good tax arrangements. So is northern Spain. And so is Italy. But the problem with these destinations is: they're hot. And if you have been brought up in the Tupperware box that is Britain, you will not be able to cope.

Think back to your last summer holiday. Think of the faff of getting your children to put on sun cream after breakfast. Think of the heartache it caused you and the pain it caused them when they won the argument. And then imagine doing that every single day, for the rest of your lives.

Then think how much work you'd get done. You'd open the shutters every morning to reveal another endless blue sky, so you'd walk straight past your laptop and go to the beach. This is why the economies of hot countries such as Greece and Spain and Italy are failing: faced with the choice of going to the office or going for a swim, everyone pulls on a swimming costume.

And, of course, shortly after pulling on a swimming costume and sploshing about in the sea, you will want a beer. At first you may impose a midday curfew on that, but within a week you'll relax it to 11, and within a month you'll be pouring vodka on your cornflakes.

Not that you can buy cornflakes when you are abroad. Or HP Sauce. And when you have the craving for a chicken madras with some pilau rice, you will be sorely disappointed by the cherry tomatoes and bread that are produced instead. We all think we want to live on a healthy Italian diet but the truth is: we don't.

Then there are the wasps. You tend to dial them out of your Mediterranean memories in the same way your head uses time to dial out pain, but think how many lunches were ruined because someone in your family has insect panic and rushes about screaming every time a wasp comes within 3ft. Which is constantly.

It's hard to enjoy mealtimes with your children here because of their addiction to social media. So imagine how difficult it would be if they were on Instagram with one hand, and creating a waspincinerating flamethrower from your deodorant and a lighter with the other.

I was in Madagascar last month, and it is, without any doubt, the most beautiful place on earth. I didn't know what the colour green was until I saw its jungles, and I didn't have any concept of what a deserted white beach looked like until I saw its northeastern coastline. The Seychelles are lovely but this was better still.

However, five minutes after our 70-strong crew arrived, all of the under-25s took to their beds with upset tummies. I mocked them, of course, for their millennial frailty, but two days later I too was struck with an urgent need to visit what passed on our campsite for a lavatory. I have a cast-iron constitution. I could lick a Turkish urinal dry and not suffer any ill effects, but there I became a human hosepipe.

And then there were the mosquitoes. All around the world they tend to avoid beautiful people — you never see a supermodel coming out of the sea with red welts on her legs — but everyone in Madagascar is fair game. The Guy Gibson of mozzies got James May on the end of his nose, and then, a day later, one climbed into my shirt and, having broken out its best cutlery, began to eat my back. It's two weeks since I got back but it still looks as though I've been at the wrong end of a firing squad.

And I can't scratch the wounds as much as I'd like because my fingernails are constantly employed dealing with the heat rash on my arms.

So, yes, if you move to a hot country to escape the wrath and idiocy of Corbyn, you will save a great deal of money and that's tremendous. But on the downside you will be eaten by insects, you will do no work, you will become an alcoholic, your children will be in agony, you will have loose stools and when you go out at night everyone will think you are Joseph Merrick because of the constant scratching.

My current thinking is that it's better to stay here. But I do have a plan to make that work. The well-off should form a sort of trade union, and if the tax demands become too bonkers, we will simply go on strike. We will refuse to pay our taxes. We will have picket lines. We will point out that we are paying for half the country's services already. We will light braziers and we shall throw stones at the policemen who are sent to make us repent.

That'd blow a fuse in his head. He can say no to a millionaire in a suit, but if that same man put on a donkey jacket and waved a placard in his face? I bet he'd back down in a heartbeat.

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Impractical. Fun. Guilty as charged
The Clarkson Review: Mercedes EQC
(Dec. 01)

According to new figures, Sadiq Khan's war on pollution is so successful that otters are now frolicking on the banks of the Thames, small boys are playing tag in the streets and an osprey is nesting in Berkeley Square.

Yup. What they're saying is that, since April, when the London mayor made it even more expensive to bring diesel cars into the centre of the capital, people with enormous Porsches and Range Rovers have decided to leave them at home and hop to work instead. While not breathing out in case they upset Greta Thunberg.

Of course, it is possible there were, as is claimed, 13,500 fewer cars on the streets of central London in September than in March. But this, I reckon, has more to do with the fact that all the roads were blocked by people called Tarquin, dressed up as fruit and vegetables.

Or maybe people don't want to come into London any more because the mayor is obsessed by the composition of gases in the upper atmosphere but not obsessed in the slightest by the number of stabbed boys that are cluttering up the city's parks and mortuaries.

But whether it's because of the higher charge or the stabbings or the fact all the roads were shut by spoilt teenagers in peace-and-love hazmat suits, levels of NO2 have indeed fallen to a point where they are still massively above the legal limit.

Why is that? Well, naturally the people who worry about this sort of stuff have an immediate answer. It's because of all the filthy right-wing Brexit bastards in their diesel-powered black cabs, which are exempt from the charge. And because of selfish tossers like me who continue to drive their Range Rovers to Jermyn Street for a haircut. Tories. Yes. They're to blame and they must be destroyed as soon as possible.

At no point does anyone even think to say that public transport maybe responsible for a fair whack of the problem. According to the latest figures, there are 3,669 hybrid buses on the streets of the capital, 155 that are pure electric and 10 that have hydrogen fuel cells. Subtract those from the total number in the fleet and it means there are 5,308 buses out there running on diesel alone.

That's 5,308 London buses, usually with one confused old lady on board, doing 5.3mpg. And just in case you think the hybrid buses run on spring water and dew droplets from freshly picked daffodils, they are using a gallon of diesel to do just 6.1 miles. That, then, is an improvement of not even 1mpg.

Then you have the fine particles being produced by their brakes and their tyres and the road surface, which is turned to dust by the passage of these behemoths. And the congestion caused by the special lanes they need. And the noise. That awful, pulsating noise. It's worse than Radio 1. So here's a tip for those in power in London, and all the other big cities that are looking to the capital for a lead. Forget your relentless attacks on private motorists and black cabs — many of which are hybrids anyway these days — and concentrate your firepower on the really big problem.

At present, cyclists, cars and buses are fighting for their own lanes on the road, and it's not possible to fit them all in.

Something has to give and it makes sense that it should be the Dickensian distributors of disease and global warming. Of course, many eco-loons will object, but they need to be told that the world has moved on since the days of Flanders and Swann. And that they now face a choice. Get a bike. Or work harder and get a car.

While it may sound like some kind of VIP package on a cruise liner, the Mercedes EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus is a car, and it would suit them down to the ground as it's all-electric. But I fear they will have to work very hard, because, although it's a five-door hatchback, the version I tested costs an enormous £74,610 before the plug-in grant. I have never been so amazed by a price tag. It's almost exactly twice what I'd guessed.

Unlike Jaguar's I-Pace, this car was not designed to be electric from day one. Instead, it was adapted from an existing platform, which means it weighs exactly the same as Nottinghamshire. That's probably why it can't go as far on a charge as the Jag.

And that was my first problem. For a while, I used it for pottering around the farm. It has four-wheel drive, so I figured it would cope. But it was wet and it had road tyres, so it didn't really.

And then I had to go to London. Now, I can't charge an electric car at home in the Cotswolds because it blows all the fuses, and I can't charge one in London because I live on the top floor of a tower block. So I'd have to make it there and back on one charge, which is doable. But only just. And as I didn't want to spend the last 30 miles of the return leg panicking, I thought I'd take the bus. But as that would hurt our precious and fragile planet, I used my Range Rover instead.

There's another issue. The EQC's sat nav has a facility that will direct you to the nearest charge point. But it didn't know about the one at my local farm shop. Or at the Soho Farmhouse.

As a car, then, the Mercedes is fairly useless. But as an electric car it's not bad. A few things puzzled me. Why does it have a radiator grille when it has no radiator? Why does it have flappy-paddle gearshifters when it has no gears? And why has the electric motor been made to look like an engine when it isn't one? I should also ask why the range readout is so small that I needed spectacles to read it, because in an electric car this is all you need to know: how far have I got left? It's quick, though. Really quick. Four-hundred-horsepower quick. And it feels planted too, probably because of that airliner weight. I liked driving it. And I liked being in it.

A lot of it is standard Mercedes, but the central command unit comes up with all sorts of graphics that, at first, make no sense. You may well have been driving for 30 years, but don't for a minute think you could get into this car and just set off. Because if you do that, I guarantee that the first time you want to turn left, you'll put it into neutral.

Imagine having a private pilot's licence. You're entirely familiar with many of Piper's dentistkillers and could fly any of them in your sleep. Right. Now imagine you suddenly find yourself at the controls of an F-35 fighter jet and it's time for some midair refuelling. You're going to need to spend a little time with the instruction book, that's for sure.

Is it worth it? Well, if your lifestyle could accommodate electric propulsion, then yes. As battery-powered cars go, it's pretty good. But I don't think it's quite as good — and it definitely isn't as good-looking — as Jaguar's cleverer, purpose-built I-Pace.

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And here's the Sun column: "This week I was outed as a climate change enthusiast and everyone is expecting me to turn off my central heating"
 
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