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    Why the fuss about chemical weapons? The blowy-up ones kill you just as dead (April 22)

    If you believe the reports, Britain's contribution to the recent attack on Syria was a bit My Little Pony. While the French and the Americans were launching sophisticated missiles from a range of sleek warships and supersonic aircraft, we were lumbering about in our Sopwith Camels, shouting tally-ho and generally being a nuisance.

    One report said that our only warship, HMS Austerity, had to be moved out of the way of the USS Gut Buster because, to save money, it hadn't been fitted with any actual weapons. Another suggested our planes had been built in 1979. In other words, Biggles was flying around in an airborne Morris Marina and winding the windows down to drop gravity bombs on the target.

    My favourite story, though, was that the Rivet Joint, our top-secret spy plane, was monitored constantly by President Bashar al-Assad on his mobile phone's flight-tracking app.

    Indeed, it's said that all Britain did to support the raid was provide the maps. Yup, forgetting perhaps that most people now have pretty good maps on their phones, the Royal Geographical Society sent over its cartography, drawn up by TE Lawrence himself, so that the gung-ho Americans and lackadaisical French would not hit Persia or Mesopotamia by mistake.

    The message here is clear. We turned up with two 40-year-old biplanes, a ship with the armaments of a rowing boat, a spy plane that can be tracked by anyone with an iPhone and Sir Ernest Shackleton's map of South Georgia because Enid in the government's post room had got a bit muddled again.

    However, to try to convince everyone that Britain had been a valuable part of a massive international effort to punish an evil dictator, Mrs May made a serious-faced speech in the House of Commons. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth on all sides.

    Some said she should not have sent our maps without first consulting parliament. Others said she'd only sent them because Donald Trump had insisted. And Mr Corbyn said that he'd need irrefutable proof before making his mind up that Syria is a country, that President Assad is its leader and that there is such a thing as "nerve gas".

    Meanwhile, in America, Mr Trump was busy on Twitter telling Wilbur and Myrtle that the USA would prevail just like it had done at the Bay of Pigs and in Vietnam. And everyone was clutching their baseball caps to their chests and weeping while Billy Ray Cyrus belted out "The Star-Spangled Banner."

    I, however, was wondering what on earth just happened. Assad had launched a gas attack on his own people. I'm not Corbyn. I believe that. And to punish him, America and France had been given Dr Livingstone's maps to rain fire on a factory that they'd suddenly identified as a chemical weapons plant.

    But hang on a minute. When Russia launched a similar attack on Salisbury, the world didn't respond by firing sophisticated weapons at the facility where they'd been made. It simply sent a few Russian diplomats home. We seem to be saying that the punishment for using chemical weapons will be used only if you are weak.

    That's by the by, though. The main thrust of my concern is: why are chemical weapons treated differently from any other sort of weapon? Around the turn of the last century, two separate treaties were drawn up in the Hague, banning the use of "chemical agents". But within a matter of years Germany was lobbing chlorine at Tommy in the trenches. This caused the allies to respond in kind, and pretty soon everyone was wandering round Belgium coughing up their lungs.

    After the First World War was over, everyone had a meeting in Versailles and decided that, in future, Germany and, er, Bulgaria would never again be allowed to use chemical weapons.

    In June 1925 they decided that everyone should be covered by the ban, so they sat down in Switzerland and agreed that while it was perfectly acceptable to mow down thousands with sustained machine-gun fire, it was not acceptable to use gas of any kind.

    Everyone went home and began to make as much as possible, because everyone else was probably making it too. So in 1972 there was another meeting, where everyone agreed to stop producing, transporting or even storing it. Nuclear weapons? Yes, they're fine. As is napalm. And anyone can have a Daisy Cutter and an Apache gunship. But nerve agents? Still the big no-no.

    Why? We are told that, in the recent Syrian attack, many died, including children, but if you look at footage taken in the aftermath, it looks as if everyone is suffering from hay fever. Maybe that's what Assad did. Bomb them with pollen.

    And then there's Salisbury. Russia made a nerve agent and transported it secretly all the way from Moscow to Wiltshire, and yet despite this Herculean effort it made only three people a bit poorly for a while. If it'd simply used a pistol, Sergei Skripal would now be dead, there'd still be a full complement of spies in the embassy and Plod would still be sitting around wondering why someone had shot such a nice old man.

    Remember the ebola outbreak? We were told everyone in the world would be dead in a fortnight. But after it swept across six countries, the eventual death toll was just over 11,000. That's how many die on the roads every four days.

    This, then, is my suggestion. The world needs to sit down again and get rid of chemical weapons once and for all, because they don't work properly.

    And, in future, the good guys will break out John Blashford-Snell's maps and retaliate against anyone who's been an arse, no matter what sort of weapon they've chosen to use.

    ***

    The Sun column.

    Comment


      First world farmers' problems this week...

      ***

      If this farm-supplies store folds, my pigs - and the Hamster - will starve (April 28)

      My colleague from the television Richard Hammond is a rural halfwit. In my mind, he lives in a medieval village where there are maypoles and stocks and the street lights are lit each evening by a man in a three-pointed hat. When you die there, you go to the plague pit on a cart.

      Certainly, Richard doesn't like London. He finds it confusing and bossy and is never quite sure where he's going. The other day, he caused much merriment by announcing proudly that he'd finally swallowed his fear of going underground without being dead first, and come to work on "the tubes".

      Then he caused more merriment by saying that he likes to take his family out for their Sunday lunch to Countrywide. Countrywide, for those of you who have two eyes, is a chain of agricultural supply hypermarkets dotted around the southwest. It sells horse blankets and fence posts and work boots. And Richard Hammond has his Sunday lunch there at the in-store cafe. He says it's very cheap.

      I can't even begin to imagine what this lunch looks like. And how badly things must have gone for the chef so that he has ended up boiling vegetables for two hours, because that's the way his customers like them. I'm picturing the meat now. It's not something I'd want to put in my mouth. Unless the alternative was the chef 's tongue.

      "Don't tell me," I said to a bewildered-looking Hammond. "You also buy your wine there?" "Yes," he stammered, wondering where else you might buy it.

      He wasn't joking. Between the crossbow cabinet and the boxes of weed killer, the store had a fridge full of wine that had been created, by the Wurzels and Pfizer, solely to take away the taste of the pork you'd just ingested.

      Whatever, Richard came to work the other day with a long face because incredibly, to his mind, Countrywide had gone into administration. He was fearful that he and his family may have to start eating in confusing local pubs where the chefs cook the chips three times and write bits of their menu in French.

      I too was slightly incredulous, but for different reasons. Because I also use Countrywide. Not as an off licence or an alternative to the cafe at Daylesford but as the only place within a day's drive where I can get six padlocks, some baler twine and a pair of secateurs.

      Doubtless, the people who have piloted this fine institution into a hillside will argue that their customers were getting all their rural needs online but they are missing the point ... You may remember the British summer. It arrived suddenly 10 days ago, and despite no gardening knowledge whatsoever, I was consumed with an immediate need to go outside and plant the beautiful wisteria that my daughter had bought as presents for my birthday.

      This meant I needed six railway sleepers and a pile driver for creating a bed where they could grow. Not quite understanding what "administration" meant — I know less about accountancy than I do gardening — I went to Countrywide, where I've had an account for years. And while it was open for business, all it had for sale was washing powder. I doubt this is a strategy that will save the business, unless everyone suddenly falls over in the mud.

      Of course, I could have gone home and ordered what I needed from Amazon, who'd deliver it all within a day or two. But this was a British summer and by then it would be over. As indeed it was.

      If you live in the countryside and you have more than a garden, you need Countrywide. It'd sell you the LPG for your machinery, and half-ton sacks of horse muesli. It would then take what you'd bought to your pick-up truck in a forklift and there'd be someone on hand to mend anything that went wrong.

      I'm not Hammond. I can eat elsewhere and I can sure as hell buy my wine elsewhere, but on my farm I have more than 120 gates, all of which need to be maintained and painted, and how can I do that without Countrywide? My pigs also face an uncertain future now, that's for sure.

      I am aware, of course, that there are many shops in London that sell wellies but these are for Glastonbury or shooting weekends. If you need a pair of wellingtons for going into the woods and pulling a horse chestnut tree out of the pond, you need Countrywide. If you want to shoot squirrels or mend a wall that's been destroyed by one of Brian May's badgers, you need Countrywide.

      Losing it is like losing the police. Yes, it would be possible to hire private security and sit up all night, cradling a shotgun in your lap, and yes, it's possible to make a citizen's arrest. But that would require complicated planning, and all things considered, it's better to have Plod on the other end of a phone.

      There were plans to rescue at least some of the stricken chain's 48 stores but they were stymied by the announcement of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which used to be called the Office of Fair Trading. The suggestion was that if the takeover went ahead, there would be a monopoly on farming supplies, to which I scream: "So bloody what?" The fire brigade has a monopoly but no one is suggesting we should have a choice of whom to call when our deep-fat fryer bursts into flames.

      In my local town, Chipping Norton, many small shops have been squeezed into oblivion by the arrival of a hideous new Aldi supermarket. And no one from the CMA is moaning about that.

      Which is why, this morning, I'm urging them to back off. Because otherwise all my fences will rot and Richard Hammond will starve to death.

      ***

      This week's Sun column will raise some hackles stateside: "I’ve never really got American Football – it always seemed like rugby for cowards."

      Comment


        This week, the story behind Clarkson's new game show host gig...

        ***

        Here's the million-pound question: why have me instead of Stephen Fry? (May 6)

        It's 20 years since Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? first aired on British television, and to celebrate the anniversary, it's back for just one week with, er, me as question master. The first show was transmitted last night and I appreciate some of you will want to watch it on catch-up so I won't say what happens. Apart from the fact it didn't exactly go as I'd hoped.

        Everyone has their own ideas about why this brilliant show was canned back in 2014 but here's mine: people began to realise that if they could get into that chair, it was extremely easy to win a not inconsiderable £8,000.

        They had to answer five quick-fire questions that even a toddler could get right and then they had a guaranteed £1,000. That's £1,000 for knowing that Abba were Swedish and the first man on the moon was not Joe Pasquale.

        They could then use their three lifelines to get £8,000, and that meant they had enough to take the family on a nice cruise for two weeks. So then they'd jack it in, and the audience, I reckon, started to find this annoying. Certainly, I used to sit screaming at them for their lack of drive and empty nutsacks. And then later, after a wine or two, I'd tell anyone who'd listen that the problem was bound to be down to "diversity".

        They fiddled with the format to address the issue but I'd still wail: "It's the producers. They'd rather have a transgender person with a cute northern accent win small than a well-spoken woman from Fulham win a million.

        "It should be a show," I'd go on, "that celebrates the brainpower of the well-read and the bright. And maybe even the lucky. Stupid people who just want enough for a bit of decking in the garden should be told to get lost. You don't see hunchbacked greasy young women on Britain's Next Top Model, so why should numbskulls be allowed on Millionaire?" Chris Tarrant was brilliant at looking happy for someone who was going home with enough to buy a new fridge-freezer, whereas I used to figure that if they wanted to watch people winning money for no effort, they should film customers buying scratch cards in corner shops.

        I always said if I'd been in Tarrant's shoes, I'd snarl and snap at hopeless contestants for wasting everyone else's evening. And now I am. When the call first came, asking if I'd like to do it, I said yes immediately. I am a ginormous quiz-show fan and watch Pointless every day. So the idea of hosting the biggest game show of them all ... Later, after I'd signed the contract, they gave me the bad news. The show would be recorded over four days in Manchester. It takes a lot to get me to the northwest. But hosting Millionaire, I was there two hours early.

        Rehearsals were tricky because the Autocue — something we don't use on my car shows — was located about 500 yards from where I was standing. "Good morning," I said cheerily, "and we're comb to How Wants to He a Billionaire."

        It wasn't just the eyesight that was letting me down either. The contestants, softly spoken and mumbly through nerves, were seated 8ft from my ears, which meant I couldn't hear a word they were saying. Especially with that constant music track playing.

        So I couldn't hear the answers and I couldn't read the Autocue, and there was worse. To make the anniversary shows different, the producers came up with a fourth lifeline. Ask the host.

        I'm not quite sure why they thought this was a good idea. Maybe they reckoned at the time they could get Stephen Hawking to be the question master. Or Stephen Fry. But they didn't.

        They got me, and all I know about is the 1979 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Art, literature, chemistry, sport — I'm clueless about the lot.

        And that's a worry, because let's say someone has come to me for help with the £250,000 question. If I give them the wrong answer and they go for it, they'll lose a fortune. What if that happened? What face would I pull? It's something I've been practising in the mirror a lot.

        And then it was time for the dress rehearsal. A proper show with proper contestants on the actual set. And immediately I ran into a problem I simply hadn't thought about.

        On a quiz show, you can't just talk normally. You have to use trigger words, which instigate the lighting moves, the sound effects and the dramatic music. And when these are happening, you have to just sit there, not saying anything at all. This is not something I find easy.

        Eventually, though, with night falling and the cameramen starting to mutter stuff about how Phillip Schofield would have been a better choice — or his dog — I started to get the hang of it.

        The trouble is, I was concentrating on the sound effects so much, and straining my ears to the point they were giving themselves tinnitus, that I wasn't really looking at my screen. There's a lot of information on it — no, not the answers — but there is a little box telling me when to go to a commercial break.

        In 28 years on the electric fish tank, I've never had to worry about this before. It just didn't occur to me, and it kept on not occurring to me right up to the point when the message changed from a solid "break" in 4-point italics to a flashing 72-point missive saying: "Oi f***face. Go to the break NOW."

        I have flown an Apache helicopter and I have now hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and let me tell you: the chopper is much less complicated.

        And that's before we get to the promise I made to myself that I'd snarl and snap at contestants who shouldn't really be there. I tried it on the first show and afterwards my girlfriend was cross with me because I'd been "horrid".

        ***

        And here's the Sun column.

        Comment


          Clarkson falls for his latest workplace...

          ***

          Ich bin ein Mancunian: Britain's Berlin throbs with hot bars and fit bodies (May 13)

          Disastrous news, I'm afraid.

          Never mind the customs union or the Irish border; we have already been told by the EU that we can no longer submit candidates to become the European capital of culture. We will, from now on, have to rely on our own competition, the UK city of culture. The judges scoured the land looking for somewhere with a vast but underfunded cultural movement to assume the title from 2013, and alighted upon Londonderry, which wasn't a PC decision at all.

          When the time came to choose a city to take over the role four years later, competition was fierce. Leicester, which is very like Rome and Paris except on a cellular level, was up against Dundee, Swansea and Graham Norton, who reckoned the award should go to Bexhill-on-Sea. You get the impression that if Stuart Hall hadn't been banged up, they'd have got the contestants to wear big yellow shoes and fall over in a paddling pool.

          Hilariously, the title eventually went to Hull, where it resides now — a city famous for its weird phone boxes and Philip Larkin, who, shortly after he arrived on Humberside, wrote to a friend saying: "I'm settling down in Hull all right. Every day, I sink a little further."

          A third winner — Coventry — is already chosen for 2021, but I reckon we have a more pressing issue. Where exactly is Britain's second city? Historically the answer has always been Birmingham, but I wonder if that's the case any more, because while other cities in the UK have reinvented themselves in recent years, Birmingham seems to be stuck.

          My colleague Richard Hammond has an anecdote about a professor at Birmingham University — and before Noddy Holder calls to complain about this, I should explain both Hammond and his professor are local men — who said that there's a very good reason for this: "The problem with people from Birmingham is that they like crap."

          So if it's not Birmingham, where is it? Well, there's a case for making it Glasgow, but if that happens, we're going to have people from Belfast and Cardiff doing a palms-up shrug and feeling left out. This is always the problem with making politically correct decisions. You open a lavatory to transgenderists and immediately the feminists are waving placards outside your offices and there's dog dirt on your doormat.

          A number of years ago the BBC decided to survey the population on the matter and found that nearly half thought Britain's second city was Manchester. Ha-ha-ha, I thought.

          I guess that at around this time the corporation was in the process of moving many of its shows to the northwest and wanted to make staff feel better about having to up sticks. It didn't work very well, though, because even the man it put in charge of getting people up north remained resolutely in Richmond upon Thames.

          I'll be honest. I've never been a fan of Manchester. The much-missed AA Gill and I once wrote at some length about how we disliked the rich towns and villages around what we both agreed was a run-down, jumped-up, drizzle-soaked swamp. Imagine my despair, then, when I received the contract to host Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and noticed that it was to be filmed in Salford.

          On the first night I took two of my children to a very grand-looking Italian restaurant called Rosso. Being from London, where people go out for dinner because they can't be arsed to do the washing-up, and from a family who think that dining out on special occasions is odd, we were wearing ordinary clothes.

          And so, as we walked in, there was a marked drop in noise. People couldn't believe it. There were actual white people in the restaurant. Not orange.

          Everything on everyone else in there was extended. Lips, breasts, hair — you name it. And if you're planning on opening a bra shop in Manchester, forget it. Bras, plainly, are for the weak.

          Then there were the men, all of whom had Action Man bodies, Ken doll hair and shrink-wrap suits. Their shoes were pointy and their cheek bones chiselled.

          And it wasn't just in that restaurant either. It was everywhere. Manchester makes Marbella look like La Paz. It's bonkers and — whisper this — absolutely brilliant. Maybe it's the football or maybe it's the massive "media city", but something has turned Manchester into a British Berlin. And that, I assure you, is high praise.

          I was mostly stuck in a studio, but on the way I did see some magnificently restored Victorian warehouses jammed up against genuinely interesting modern architecture. Amazingly, the sun was shining — this happens about once every 14 years in Manchester — and, boy, were the townsfolk making the most of it. The men peeled off their hermetic suits and replaced them with Orlebar Brown shorts, the women slipped into some dental floss and everyone headed for the waterside bars to hang out and mate.

          Me? Well, I needed to get a haircut, so I found a nice Alsatian with a ponytail, who sat me down and insisted we chat before he broke out the scissors. "It's important I get to know your personality before I start," he said. I tried to explain that I have the sort of personality that wants my hair to be made shorter in the least possible time, but he was having none of it, and soon I was sobbing on the floor while talking about my mother.

          When I arrived back in London, it felt dowdy and monochromatic, and now I've made a decision. Manchester is not Britain's second city. It's the first. And it should be the next city of culture too, not because it was once home to Geoffrey Chaucer — it wasn't — but because it is the city that best represents the culture we have now. Fake breasts, Ferraris and football.

          ***

          And here's the Sun column.

          Comment


            I'm sure you'll be dying to hear about my plans for a population implosion (May 20)

            We are forever being told that to save the planet, we must forgo soap while showering, use soggy paper straws while drinking, eat like budgerigars and have our heads crushed under the wheels of an articulated lorry while cycling to work. And now there's a new thing: a racing driver in America called Leilani Münter has said we must not have children.

            Don't be cruel. She may be called Münter but she isn't one. In fact she earns some of her living as a Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike and is to be found on the internet in a selection of dresses that expose a great deal of flesh. Take it from me, her decision to not have children has nothing to do with the fact she can't get a suitor.

            A lot of people will be very cross with her for saying this — Mr Pope, for example. But also a great many couples whose bits don't work properly. I have many friends who have gone — sometimes literally — to the ends of the earth so they can have children. And I absolutely understand why.

            Yes, it's true, you can only be as happy as your least happy child and they are a constant font of worry and stress. But I cannot imagine what life would be without them or the fizz I get when I know I'm going to spend time with them. They are, quite literally, the point of my existence.

            I'll go further. We are all nothing more than life support systems for our genitals. We exist for only one reason; to pass the baton on to the next generation. And if we choose not to do that, then we are not being human. We are nothing more than furniture.

            However, the problem is that Ms Münter has a point. In the early 19th century, which isn't that long ago, the global population reached a billion. It is now more than 7.5bn and growing at the rate of at least 1.5m a week so that in just over 30 years it'll be up to about the 10bn mark. If we carry on doing what we are designed to do, therefore, we won't keep the species going. We will kill it off.

            Already, the world's farmers are struggling to keep up with demand and the simple fact is that this won't be possible when there are 10bn mouths to feed. Especially if those idiots from Greenpeace keep rolling around on experimental crops. There won't be enough water either. There won't be enough of anything, in fact.

            That's why it's not just Ms Münter who reckons that to keep the human race going she must sit there with her legs crossed. Her views are shared by Sir Attenborough and lots of scientists with bad hair and plastic shoes.

            But their thinking isn't practical. Asking for volunteers to remain childless is silly. You might get a few weirdos on Planet Corbyn to put their hands up, but not doing what you're designed to do requires a level of willpower that we just don't have. It'd be like asking a washing machine to mow the lawn.

            Of course Ms Münter will say, as she stands there pouting, that she is raising awareness, but when people say that, they mean they are doing nothing at all. It's like those "marine biologists" who announced last week that they are going to sail around the tropics, fishing plastic from the sea. This is raising awareness, for sure, but what they're actually doing is sailing around the tropics. If they were doing it in the Humber estuary, in November, we'd all have a bit more sympathy for their cause.

            Certainly, I'd have a bit of sympathy for the cause of Ms Münter and Sir Attenborough if only they'd look at other ways of controlling the population.

            Speed limits, for example. Now that we are all restricted to 20mph in cities and not much more than 50mph anywhere else, it's very hard to die in a car crash. Whereas in India, which has recently raised its speed limits, more than 150,000 died on the roads in 2016 alone.

            Then there's the issue of those signs in shopping centres that advise visitors the floor is slippery when it's wet. Without those, we could probably cull 20 or 30 people every year, and they'd be the stupid ones too, which is good for natural selection.

            To get population numbers down dramatically, though, we should think about invading Russia. At present, we are allowing Vladimir Putin to get away with blue murder. He's taken over parts of Ukraine and is dropping bombs all over Syria. Well, in one fell swoop we could put a halt to his antics and reduce the population by millions in months. I wonder if Ms Münter would like that? I notice that there's been an outbreak of ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a country with one of the top 30 birth rates in the world so how's this for a plan? Instead of sending aid, and doctors and hazmat suits, let's just sit back and enjoy the sunshine.

            Oh, and while we are at it, let's close down the Samaritans. If people want to jump off the Clifton suspension bridge, let them. In fact let's start a new charity that encourages people to top themselves. Maybe Sir Attenborough would be the patron.

            Or should we use tax to solve the problem, forcing couples who have more than two kids to pay for the privilege? They tried that in China, as I'm sure you know, and it meant a lot of dead baby girls were thrown into sewers.

            And that's the problem with population control. A voluntary system won't work and every other method requires a level of cruelty that no sane person has.

            It's possible you haven't seen the new Avengers film — Infinity War — in which the bad guy is obsessed with overpopulation in the universe and wants to kill half of all the living souls.

            The idea Sir Attenborough would be cheering him on seems faintly weird.

            ***

            Jeremy makes a rather bizarre faux-pas here, especially for an Englishman--the correct form of address is "Sir David" or "Sir David Attenborough," not "Sir Attenborough." "Sir" always precedes the first name of a knight.
            Anyway, here's the Sun column.

            Comment


              Comment


                Originally posted by Revelator View Post
                Jeremy makes a rather bizarre faux-pas here, especially for an Englishman--the correct form of address is "Sir David" or "Sir David Attenborough," not "Sir Attenborough." "Sir" always precedes the first name of a knight.
                I reckon he's well aware of that and he's just doing one of those little tweaks of the English vernacular he's known for. Like when he says 'lots of horsepowers', 'many torques', and 'clouds of CO2s'.
                Pete
                Adelaide
                Australia

                Comment


                  Happy Memorial Day! Some fuzzy logic this week, along with lots of rape.

                  ***

                  Puffins or seals? Easy: let's get clubbing the Labrador-faced swimming machines (May 27)

                  On my farm this year, 175 acres is being used to grow oilseed rape. Yes, the dust it gives off in the breeze drops my voice an octave or two and makes visitors look tearful but its beautiful yellow flowers are a welcome break in the endless patchwork of green, and as crops go, it is extremely versatile.

                  It can be used to make candles, food for cows, sexual lubricants, margarine, soap, plastic and green fuel for power stations. When mine is harvested, it will be taken to a factory in London and crushed to make cooking oil, which will fill 100,000 bottles on the supermarket shelves next year.

                  There's no money to be made from farming, but I quite like the idea that my land is being used to make the bread and the bacon needed to offset the effects of the beer I also grow. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

                  However, last week a man called Stephen Moss, who is the president of the Somerset Wildlife Trust, said that rape may be pretty but that if you ingest the oil it produces, your heart will become deformed and diseased. And that's just the start of it. He also says that no other arable crop requires so much help to grow and that the fertilisers used invariably get into the water supply, which produces many swollen babies.

                  I suppose I could point out that the long, cold winter this year killed off many of the bugs that would normally attack a field of oilseed rape, so much less spraying has been necessary. But this, of course, is a one-off.

                  Most years, as Mr Moss explained, rape must also be sprayed with chemical insecticides, and that, as we all know, will eventually kill all the world's bees. And without bees 70% of the world's crops could not grow, which would cause massive global food shortages, leading to looting, violence and, ultimately, a thermonuclear world war.

                  Mr Moss goes on and on about the evils of rape, saying that the herbicides it needs kill off wild flowers and that it's so dense, it forms an impenetrable barrier to ramblers. I was going to ask him what on earth a rambler would be doing walking through the middle of a field of crops, but there was no time — and no point either, because the cagoule enthusiasts are a law unto themselves. Legally speaking, you can't even shoot one. Mr Moss carried on, banging on about dead chaffinches and voles and how rapeseed oil used to fuel power stations isn't green at all.

                  After I had finished reading his spittle-drenched rant, I looked out of the window at my fields of rape and was filled with guilt and shame. I'm a warmongering baby-killer and I should immediately put on a hazmat suit and roll around on my fields, Greenpeace-style, until everything is dead.

                  But then what? The world uses soya oil instead? Doubtless, at this point, the nation's ramblers and tofu enthusiasts will be bouncing up and down, shouting: "Yes, yes, yes." Soya beans are about as Shoreditch as food gets. It's not just nourishment. It's a statement of political intent.

                  Unfortunately, soya bean production needs a lot of land. In 1940, before Jeremy Corbyn had been invented, 1,700 acres of Brazil were needed to grow it.

                  But today there are so many vegetablists in the world that about 74m acres of Brazil are used to keep them healthy.

                  What's more, most of the world's soya beans are treated with hexane, which you get from crude oil. Oh, and then there's the problem with soil erosion and the loss of habitat for millions of species around the world. Remember that next time you have a bit of tofu. Yes, you've declared solidarity with Diane Abbott, but you have also killed a panda.

                  So what about palm oil? Same sort of thing, really, only this time it's the orangutan that's at risk as farmers chop down more and more trees to keep up with demand from Britain's ramblers. The problem is acute, but, happily, I have a solution.

                  You may have read last week that the gorgeous little puffin has become an endangered species. This is saddening news for me, as I like puffins very much. So much so that it's one of the few things I haven't ever eaten. Once, a restaurateur in Iceland offered to grate some onto my whale steak, but I had the guillemot instead.

                  When they are six weeks old, puffins drag themselves into the sea and don't see dry land again for five years. They just bob about, helping themselves to little fishes that swim by and preening their feathers to keep them oily and waterproof.

                  Naturally, the little bird's decline is blamed, by those who said diesel was good and then said it wasn't, on global warming. But that's nonsense. Then you've got the other fall-back excuses: oil spills and plastic in the sea.

                  But I fear everyone is skirting around the real culprit. Johnny Seal. Ever since some supermodel or other decided not to wear fur, people who clubbed seals for a living became more ostracised than paedophiles. The Labrador-faced swimming machines were regarded as deities, and all sorts of laws were drawn up to make sure they thrived.

                  Which they have done, and then some. Since 1978 the seal population has risen by 500%, and it's said that by 2030 we will be able to walk on a bed of seal from Cork to New York.

                  And here's the thing. Seals eat puffins. And ruin the habitat where they breed. So how's this for a plan: we stop getting our oil from rape and palms and soya plants and get it instead from omega-3-rich seals. That's good for pandas, puffins, orangutans, ramblers, trawlermen, babies and world peace.

                  ***

                  And here's the Sun column.

                  Comment


                    The site was down yesterday, hence the delay in posting this week's column.

                    ***

                    Real diamonds are clearly designed to ruin men. Give me a Didcot knock-off any day (June 03)

                    As we know, it is completely impossible for a normal human man to buy jewellery for his wife or girlfriend. And soon it's going to be harder still. In the run-up to last Christmas I was given a subtle hint that I should buy some drop earrings. And when someone says, "I don't have any drop earrings and I would like some", even I'm able to work out the hidden meaning.

                    So I went online to see what a drop earring was and then went to London, where I reckoned I'd be able to buy some.

                    There were many on show, but after 20 minutes of staring at them, with the same level of interest as I use on red traffic lights, I was fighting back the urge to curl up on the pavement and die of boredom. But then one pair caught my eye. They were blue, and as I like the colour blue, I went into the shop and asked the orange lady behind the counter if she would get them out of the locked glass case.

                    There was a lot of pomp that went into granting this simple request, and as the door swung open, I half expected to be serenaded by Beethoven's Ode to Joy. But eventually the earrings were laid out on a cushion for me to inspect. This was like asking my mother to inspect a ship's boiler. I had no idea what I was supposed to notice, so I said: "Mmmm. Yes. They're lovely. I'll take them."

                    There was then more pomp, and I was offered a glass of champagne while the earrings were wrapped, and then I was presented with the bill, which was, and there's no other way of saying this, £67,000.

                    It was hard to work out what I should do at this point. My mind was spinning and my eyes were suddenly full of sweat. "Hmmm," I said. And then, "Hmmm," I said again, buying some time until a solution presented itself.

                    Eventually, I'm delighted to say, it did. I turned and fled.

                    Why don't jewellery shops put prices on the jewellery they're selling? Do they like humiliating their customers? Or are they practising for some kind of world smirking championship? And, while we are at it, why don't they also provide a handy guide next to each piece explaining why it is worth £67,000 more than the stuff you get in seaside trinket shops? Bridegrooms in Britain spend around £500 less on engagement rings than brides would expect. But, apart from in Yorkshire, where the figure is lower, they still blow around £1,500. You could get a pretty good car for that. Certainly it'd buy you a very stylish oven. Whereas all you get from a ring is some metal and a rock.

                    To me all jewellery looks exactly the same. A gold bracelet that you win if you are good at hooking a fairground duck is identical in every way to a bracelet that you buy from one of those Bond Street shops that are guarded by former soldiers with curly ear pieces.

                    And diamonds? You can tell a good one from a bad one only if you have 30 years of training and a very powerful microscope. Or if you are a shallow woman in Monte Carlo. To me they are all sort of silvery and see-through and small. Carats, in my book, are like Def Con numbers. Are the higher ones better, or is it the other way round? I'd be as useless at being a billionaire as I would at being a president of America.

                    And now things are about to get even tougher, because in a U-turn in policy on synthetic diamonds, De Beers has decided that it's silly to wait 4 billion years for a diamond to form and has announced that it's to start a production line in its factory in Oxfordshire that can make them in three weeks. Now I happen to know that in Namibia, once every so often, mining companies use hundreds of bulldozers to push the beach out to sea at low tide. This creates a flimsy sea wall, which holds the incoming tide at bay while thousands of workers scamper onto the sea bed with toothbrushes to look for diamonds stuck in the cracks of the rock.

                    Of course, I can see that something that needs this level of danger and expense to recover is going to be a bit pricy. Whereas something made in Oxfordshire by squeezing and heating a small honeycomb of carbon isn't. Yes, the squeezing is quite intense — the same pressure as the Eiffel Tower sitting on a fizzy drinks can, in fact. And the heating is more than you can get from a Primus stove. But we are not talking about kryptonite here. Carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. So charging big money for it would be as daft as charging big money for hydrogen and oxygen. Actually, strike that — Evian does.

                    Whatever, when De Beers is up and running with its new diamond factories, I shall be presented by an orange shop lady with two diamonds. One has taken billions of years to form under Africa and has been recovered by the performance of dental work on the sea bed, and the other has been made, like a pencil, in Didcot. And to my eye they will appear to be identical. Which is because they are identical. Because they are both diamonds.

                    De Beers itself has spent millions over the years on machines that can tell laboratory diamonds from the real thing. So why, it must be asked, bother with the real thing at all? Giving me the choice in a shop of spending £2,000 on the real thing or £600 on something that is also real, but that will get me a slap should the receipt ever surface, is just another unnecessary burden of difficulty for the human male.

                    Still, at least we don't have to buy wedding dresses. Because — and I will take absolutely no argument on this — they are all identical as well.

                    ***

                    And the Sun column.
                    Last edited by Revelator; June 11th, 2018, 6:40 PM.

                    Comment


                      Clarkson took a week-long break but is now back and reporting from Michigan.

                      ***

                      See the ruins of a lost civilisation before the tourist hordes arrive ... in Detroit (June 17)

                      I was recently in a bare-brick-and-zinc-type restaurant in Detroit, enjoying a bowl of duck dumplings in a light broth, when I noticed I was only a couple of hundred yards from the city's derelict railway station. It was in there, just 20 years earlier, that an angry drug addict had held a semi-automatic shotgun to my head.

                      The next night I was in a Shoreditchy-type bar, sipping an excellent Chilean rosé, when I realised it was located on Michigan Avenue, and that back in the 1990s you would not even think about going there unless you were in a tank.

                      Most of us know the story of Detroit. It was the Motor City. Motown. It made a lot of cars that are now made in Mexico and music that is now made in Los Angeles. So the city withered, went bankrupt and died. Except my recent visit there demonstrated that it didn't die. And that now it is far and away the best tourist destination in the whole of North America.

                      Yes, according to the FBI, it is still the most violent city in America. Most people there are killed at least three times a day. But that means very few foreigners pay it a visit, which in turn means there are no queues at passport control. And, what's more, you don't get a surly official who knows for sure you're a terrorist and is determined to prove it. You get a guy who stands up, hugs you and thanks you profusely for coming.

                      Hotels. This is a new concept in modern Detroit, which means none of the staff have been infected with that overbearing American niceness. Most days at the converted fire station where I stayed they ran out of orange juice at breakfast and made it very plain that this wouldn't have been an issue if I'd ordered something else.

                      If this doesn't appeal, you could buy a house. Many are on the market for about $10, but these are a bit run-down and some smelt of crystal meth. However, further up the scale I found an absolute gem for £40,000.

                      This, said the particulars, came with "multiple ballrooms". And that raises a question. How many ballrooms must a house have before the estate agent gets bored counting them? These low prices are attracting lots of young people, who are starting up tech companies and microbreweries and cool restaurants. In my experience only New York can match Detroit for food these days. Only in New York it isn't actually growing in the streets, whereas in Detroit it is.

                      The urban farming initiative is nowhere near as big as you might have been led to believe. We've been told that huge swathes of the city have been turned into allotments, but the fact is that of the million or so available acres, only three are being used to grow organic peace vegetables.

                      The other 999,997 acres beggar belief.

                      You drive for mile after mile and every building is either burnt out or boarded up. Many have gone altogether and have been replaced with hay. It's like Chernobyl, only bigger and more empty. You'll do more Instagramming here than anywhere else in the world.

                      Occasionally you come across a giant factory, which back in the day made Packards or Cadillacs but is now just a creaking, groaning shell full of nothing but drips and the faint whiff of asbestosis. People travel for thousands of miles to see the ruins of Siem Reap in Cambodia and none is as eerie or as impressive as those in Detroit.

                      And when you've looked round, and it's evening time, you can visit one of the city centre's many lap-dancing bars, all of which take equal opportunities so seriously that even the cleaning ladies are encouraged to get up on stage and give it a go.

                      There are also some shops. I counted three. And that's good, because no one wants to waste their time buying stuff they don't need from exactly the same retail cathedrals we have at home. What we do not have at home, however, is the very beautiful Detroit Institute of Arts.

                      Built and filled when Detroit was pretty much the richest city in the world, it's enough to cross the eyes of even a philistine like me. In one room there's a Picasso just hanging there. No guards. No alarms. No bulletproof screen like the one they use to protect that cracked stamp known as the Mona Lisa in Paris. And this is the best bit: it wasn't even straight. Who has a Picasso and puts it on the wall cock-eyed? Then there's a Rodin you can stroke and countless other priceless pieces that are displayed like the trinkets in a Stow-on-the-Wold junk shop. You can forget all the world's other museums; if you want to get up close and personal with a Monet, Detroit's where you need to be.

                      Further up the road, there's the Henry Ford museum, where you can lean on the actual car in which John Kennedy was shot, and there's also the financial district, where the grit-and-grind four-square skyscrapers now sit cheek by jowl with little greenhouses selling more kale and artisan T-shirts.

                      Many bore the encouraging slogan "Say nice things about Detroit", which is what I'm doing here. Even though I do slightly miss the attitude on the shirt I bought last time I was there. It said simply: "Detroit. Where the weak are killed and eaten."

                      I spoke to one waiter who said that without noticing it he'd walked home the other night. "For the first time in my life, it didn't occur to me not to," he said. So, yes. Detroit is still a cracked and unused car park, but now there's a rose growing out of it. A sense that life will prevail.

                      Which raises an interesting point. If Detroit can go to the brink, peer over the precipice of doom and then stage a comeback, maybe we shouldn't worry quite so much about those industrial towns in the north of England that seem these days to have no real point either.

                      ***

                      And here's the Sun column.

                      Comment


                        Clarkson is out for blood this week...

                        ***

                        A little gift I'd love to give the man who stole my TV: extreme police brutality (June 24)

                        A report in The Sunday Times last week revealed that in England and Wales only 4% of robberies and a mere 3% of burglaries are solved by the nation's policemen and policemen women. Things aren't much better when it comes to knife attacks, sexual assault and moped-related thefts. And Plod still hasn't found the man who nicked my television, even though I published a pin-sharp photograph of him leaving my flat in The Sun.

                        Naturally, every commentator in the land spent all of last week trying to work out why the figures are so lamentable, with many blaming the parents. I'm not sure this is relevant, though, as the man who nicked my television was in his thirties, and with someone that age, his mum and dad aren't really responsible for his whereabouts. It's the same story with the kid riding round on a small motorcycle with a large knife in his coat pocket. Chances are his parents are not around.

                        If you've just arrived in Britain, it doesn't take long to work out that you can make a safe and pretty decent living here by breaking into people's houses and stealing their things.

                        You know that the police are busy closing motorways and checking on foxes and ensuring school-run mums are not smoking in their cars, and that after the homeowners report the burglary, they will be given the offer of some counselling, and that will be the end of that.

                        You know, therefore, that there's a 97% chance you'll get away scot-free and that even if you're caught red-handed by the homeowner and hit over the head with a pickaxe handle, he'll be arrested and Jeremy Corbyn will bring you flowers in the free hospital.

                        And if you are one of the unlucky 3% who are caught after the event, the arresting officers will make sure you don't bang your head when you get into the police car and will give you some nice soup at the station while they wait for a translator to turn up. Maybe a chicken sandwich as well.

                        If you are subsequently convicted, you will be given a short spell in a prison that is better than most of the hotels in the country from which you came. And while you're in there, a hand-wringing member of the shadow cabinet will make lots of speeches about you and how you were driven to crime by bankers and members of the Conservative Party.

                        All of this makes us — you and me — cross. So when we are apprehended by the police for doing 24mph, we tend to say things such as: "Have you caught the man who stole my television yet?" This always makes Plod cross, but the truth is, it's a good question.

                        So the vast majority of law-abiding people have no respect for the police because we only ever encounter them when they are being pedantic and because they don't do anything about our stolen televisions. And they treat us like Fred West when we dip momentarily into a bus lane.

                        And then you have criminals who actually quite like the police because they're so much kinder than the forces of law and order back home.

                        And this is where I think the politicians can make a difference. If you are caught breaking the law in the more benighted countries of the world, you will be taken into a cell and kicked repeatedly in the testes.

                        That's what we need here, really, if we are to deal with the knife crime and burglary issues: extreme police brutality.

                        Obviously this would cause those of a criminal persuasion to think twice before climbing onto the moped that night. They'd know that there was only a slim chance they'd be caught, but that if they were, they would be attached to the mains through holes in their nipples until a week next Tuesday. Many, if they knew this, would get straight off their mopeds and start up a small business instead.

                        There's another advantage too. We, the good guys, would know that if the police caught the man who had stolen our television, he would not be given a sandwich and then sent home with an ankle bracelet. He'd be taken to where they keep the police dogs and treated as food.

                        Many of us would prefer that. I know I would. We've had to fill in insurance forms and deal with assessors, and then we've had to go online and buy another television and then wait for the delivery driver to stick a note through the letterbox saying: "While you were in, I tiptoed up to your door and posted this because it's easier for me if you come to the depot and pick up the television yourself."

                        It'd be satisfying to think that bits of the man or woman who caused all this nuisance were in a dog. Certainly, it would help restore our faith in the police if, when we popped round to the station to see if they'd found the man who stole our phone last night, the desk sergeant asked for a moment of silence so we could better hear the culprit trying to pull the fluorescent light tube out of his bottom without breaking it.

                        Also, we might be a little more understanding if, when we were pulled over for checking text messages while sitting in a traffic jam, we knew that the man who stabbed our son last month was not playing ping pong while deciding what TV dinner he'd like but was in an unheated, damp cell, trying to suck moisture and nutrients from the moss on the walls.

                        None of this would improve the clear-up rate. But it would dramatically cut the number of people who wake up in the morning and think: "Hmmm. I'm going to be a burglar."

                        ***

                        And the Sun column.

                        Comment


                          Quite some time ago, Clarkson wrote something about attack dogs in South Africa. Since there are people in the UK who raise slightly less violent/aggressive dogs for personal protection dogs, I find myself asking "why doesn't Clarkson have two or three of these to guard his television?".
                          Trained Protection Dogs and Family Personal Protection Dogs. Professionally trained protection dogs for sale by K9 Protector. Our highly trained protection dogs protect you, your home and family.
                          Last edited by Mr. Nice; July 6th, 2018, 3:26 AM.

                          Comment


                            Originally posted by Revelator View Post
                            Clarkson took a week-long break but is now back and reporting from Michigan.

                            ***

                            See the ruins of a lost civilisation before the tourist hordes arrive ... in Detroit (June 17)

                            I was recently in a bare-brick-and-zinc-type restaurant in Detroit, enjoying a bowl of duck dumplings in a light broth, when I noticed I was only a couple of hundred yards from the city's derelict railway station. It was in there, just 20 years earlier, that an angry drug addict had held a semi-automatic shotgun to my head.

                            The next night I was in a Shoreditchy-type bar, sipping an excellent Chilean rosé, when I realised it was located on Michigan Avenue, and that back in the 1990s you would not even think about going there unless you were in a tank.

                            Most of us know the story of Detroit. It was the Motor City. Motown. It made a lot of cars that are now made in Mexico and music that is now made in Los Angeles. So the city withered, went bankrupt and died. Except my recent visit there demonstrated that it didn't die. And that now it is far and away the best tourist destination in the whole of North America.

                            Yes, according to the FBI, it is still the most violent city in America. Most people there are killed at least three times a day. But that means very few foreigners pay it a visit, which in turn means there are no queues at passport control. And, what's more, you don't get a surly official who knows for sure you're a terrorist and is determined to prove it. You get a guy who stands up, hugs you and thanks you profusely for coming.

                            Hotels. This is a new concept in modern Detroit, which means none of the staff have been infected with that overbearing American niceness. Most days at the converted fire station where I stayed they ran out of orange juice at breakfast and made it very plain that this wouldn't have been an issue if I'd ordered something else.

                            If this doesn't appeal, you could buy a house. Many are on the market for about $10, but these are a bit run-down and some smelt of crystal meth. However, further up the scale I found an absolute gem for £40,000.

                            This, said the particulars, came with "multiple ballrooms". And that raises a question. How many ballrooms must a house have before the estate agent gets bored counting them? These low prices are attracting lots of young people, who are starting up tech companies and microbreweries and cool restaurants. In my experience only New York can match Detroit for food these days. Only in New York it isn't actually growing in the streets, whereas in Detroit it is.

                            The urban farming initiative is nowhere near as big as you might have been led to believe. We've been told that huge swathes of the city have been turned into allotments, but the fact is that of the million or so available acres, only three are being used to grow organic peace vegetables.

                            The other 999,997 acres beggar belief.

                            You drive for mile after mile and every building is either burnt out or boarded up. Many have gone altogether and have been replaced with hay. It's like Chernobyl, only bigger and more empty. You'll do more Instagramming here than anywhere else in the world.

                            Occasionally you come across a giant factory, which back in the day made Packards or Cadillacs but is now just a creaking, groaning shell full of nothing but drips and the faint whiff of asbestosis. People travel for thousands of miles to see the ruins of Siem Reap in Cambodia and none is as eerie or as impressive as those in Detroit.

                            And when you've looked round, and it's evening time, you can visit one of the city centre's many lap-dancing bars, all of which take equal opportunities so seriously that even the cleaning ladies are encouraged to get up on stage and give it a go.

                            There are also some shops. I counted three. And that's good, because no one wants to waste their time buying stuff they don't need from exactly the same retail cathedrals we have at home. What we do not have at home, however, is the very beautiful Detroit Institute of Arts.

                            Built and filled when Detroit was pretty much the richest city in the world, it's enough to cross the eyes of even a philistine like me. In one room there's a Picasso just hanging there. No guards. No alarms. No bulletproof screen like the one they use to protect that cracked stamp known as the Mona Lisa in Paris. And this is the best bit: it wasn't even straight. Who has a Picasso and puts it on the wall cock-eyed? Then there's a Rodin you can stroke and countless other priceless pieces that are displayed like the trinkets in a Stow-on-the-Wold junk shop. You can forget all the world's other museums; if you want to get up close and personal with a Monet, Detroit's where you need to be.

                            Further up the road, there's the Henry Ford museum, where you can lean on the actual car in which John Kennedy was shot, and there's also the financial district, where the grit-and-grind four-square skyscrapers now sit cheek by jowl with little greenhouses selling more kale and artisan T-shirts.

                            Many bore the encouraging slogan "Say nice things about Detroit", which is what I'm doing here. Even though I do slightly miss the attitude on the shirt I bought last time I was there. It said simply: "Detroit. Where the weak are killed and eaten."

                            I spoke to one waiter who said that without noticing it he'd walked home the other night. "For the first time in my life, it didn't occur to me not to," he said. So, yes. Detroit is still a cracked and unused car park, but now there's a rose growing out of it. A sense that life will prevail.

                            Which raises an interesting point. If Detroit can go to the brink, peer over the precipice of doom and then stage a comeback, maybe we shouldn't worry quite so much about those industrial towns in the north of England that seem these days to have no real point either.

                            ***

                            And here's the Sun column.
                            Still sad I did't go looking for them while they were here.

                            And some thoughts on the city. When I moved to the metro Detroit area in 2012, I would not have believed what 6 short years could do to the city. At the time, all the hipsters and news outlets across the country were proudly saying "Detroit is on the rise", but as a local resident I didn't see it. It certainly wasn't getting worse, but it was flatlining at the bottom with no sign of recovery. I went into the city once a year, for the Detroit Auto Show, and thats it. I would not have dreamed of going there any other time. Then something happened. In late 2016, I started hearing about new restaurants, seemingly a different hip new place every month. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Quicken Loans, Penske started dumping big money into the city, the Red Wings built a massive new arena, the city broke ground on a street car system. And suddenly, there was an area of downtown teeming with life. There's a rather sizable portion of downtown where you can walk around at night without being afraid. The foodie scene is incredible, as well as the beer scene. To Jezza's point, the city certainly is showing promise for the first time in decades, but there still is a lot of work to be done.

                            1997 Audi A6 Avant 2.8 quattro - 12/2006-04/2007 - Totaled
                            2005 Audi TT 1.8T quattro - 07/2012-11/2012 - Traded
                            2013 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 - 11/2012-
                            1992 Mazda Miata 1.6 - 03/2013-07/2017 - Sold
                            1996 Jeep Cherokee 4.0 - 12/2014-



                            Twitter/Instagram: @SeenOnWoodward

                            Comment


                              We've been nurturing the idea of a trip to Prypyat and Chernobyl in the coming years, but in all seriousness having read the article I can't help thinking that for a music-loving, gearhead perhaps Detroit might be a better option.

                              Does OCP still run the police force?
                              WillDAQ: To use the technical terms: "the Mustang is to aerodynamics what horse shit is to fine dining"

                              Dr Grip: Brilliant!

                              EyeMWing Because what fun is a silicone dick if you don't try putting it in somebody's backside at least once.

                              Jay IKEA now ranks up in my awesome list, quite near bacon and blowjobs.

                              Cowboy I've never gotten so drunk I wanted to rub one out while shoving a fire extinguisher up my ass.



                              Remind me never to have him round to dinner!

                              www.mattonmotors.com/ @MattOnMotors

                              Comment


                                I'd rather take another six-day battering in Mongolia than a World Cup penalty (July 8)

                                On Wednesday I woke up in a tent, in a field, in Mongolia, and as I sat on the aluminium bucket that had been provided for my morning ablutions I ruminated on how I could possibly survive the coming day. It was just past six in the morning and after I'd eaten a boil-in-the-bag army breakfast, it was time to adopt that camper-man stoop and thrash about in my tent, huffing and puffing as I squeezed all my mysteriously damp things into a suitcase. And then the day began.

                                First up, we had to film the sort of scene that would cause most American actors to demand three weeks off in the Bahamas, but because we were against the clock we had it done by nine and were ready to film a river crossing. It was a big river and it was fed by melting snow, so it was what people who've just dived into an unheated pool and want you to follow suit call "very refreshing".

                                Sadly, the car got stuck after about six inches so I had to get into the water, which wasn't refreshing at all. It was bloody freezing, and it was travelling so quickly that by the time I surfaced I was about a mile from the action. Happily, though, I was soon caught up in some shallow rapids, which meant that after a lot of light bruising I was back where I'd started. Only with one shoe instead of two.

                                By eleven I had stumbled and swum and sworn my way over the boulderstrewn river and was faced with a cliff that I'd have to climb. Until this point, my six-day camping trip across Mongolia had been lovely. There had been no noticeable temperature, the whole place smelt of a herb garden and there hadn't been a single insect of any kind.

                                This is because they were all on that cliff face. And they were the sorts of insect that are only really bothered about getting into your ear. So you're clinging on to a rock, and you're thinking that you're nearly 60 and you're frozen from the river and hurting, and all of a sudden you have a panicky fly in your ear and you can't dig it out because you'd fall to your death.

                                But eventually I was at the top, in what looked like Julie Andrews country, and the herb fragrance was back and all I had to do was drive 70 miles to the town of Moron. Unfortunately, there was no road of any kind. So it was 70 miles of absolute violence. At one point, after I'd hit a particularly enormous marmot hole, I really did think my spine was sticking out of the top of my head.

                                We stopped for lunch in a thunderstorm and I had a boil-in-the-bag army curry before taking on the last leg of what had been a six-day orgy of exhaustion, animal lavatory facilities, discomfort, dirty fingernails, damp camping trip clothes, army food and James May's spinnaker-sized sinuses.

                                At eight in the evening, though, it was all over ... except it wasn't. Because after a glass of wine — the first for a week — it was time to make for Moron's airport and a flight to Ulan Bator, or, if you prefer, Ulaanbaatar, which would be a very handy bad-Scrabble-hand clear-out if only proper nouns were allowed. Here I checked into an airport hotel, where the receptionist showed me to my room and spent half an hour explaining to me how the door to the minibar worked and what I might find inside.

                                I just wanted a shower. So, having interrupted her spiel on what Heineken tastes like and ushered her out of the door, I put on my broken spectacles to examine the plumbing setup. It turned out that the shower had two settings: off and scalding.

                                Even though my head was burnt off and my lips were cracked and bleeding, I selected scalding and stood in the jets for a full 10 minutes, soaping away at all my small, delicate places until I was clean. Except, after drying myself off and examining the now grey towel, I realised I wasn't. So I went back into the lava and tried again. And after that I turned another towel grey, so I tried again. But the water had run out. So now there were still two settings but both of them were off.

                                No matter. I put on clean clothes, went downstairs and, after explaining to the disappointed receptionist that I hadn't touched the minibar, checked out and went into town to find the Moustache bar, where the film crew was meeting up to listen to a Russian commentator talk us through the England match.

                                It was two in the morning when that started and getting light when Colombia equalised. Watching the half an hour of extra time would have meant missing the flight to Beijing, so off we went to the airport, where we arrived just in time to see Eric Dier do his thing.

                                Two hours later I was in China, using the three-hour stopover to write a script for the film we are making in Switzerland on Tuesday. And then it was time for the 10-hour flight to London, where I reflected on what I'd done in the past 24 sleep-free hours.

                                Climbed. Swum. Wrapped a show. Driven. Flown. Drunk. Watched a football match. Flown again. Written a script and then flown some more. And all of this after a week that would have flattened Sir Fiennes.

                                It had been the busiest day of my life and I was so tired that some people in the plane stopped to ask if I was all right. I wasn't, if I'm honest. I was broken.

                                But I'll tell you what. I'd do that every day for the rest of my life rather than stand in front of a billion people thinking: "Right. Half the people in this stadium hate me, and if I can't make this ball go past that man and into that net, everyone will."

                                That is the definition of pressure. And let's not forget, shall we, that those World Cup footballers give their international earnings to charity.

                                ***

                                And the Sun column.

                                Comment


                                  Originally posted by MWF View Post
                                  We've been nurturing the idea of a trip to Prypyat and Chernobyl in the coming years, but in all seriousness having read the article I can't help thinking that for a music-loving, gearhead perhaps Detroit might be a better option.

                                  Does OCP still run the police force?

                                  Only in the movies.
                                  "I don't care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating" -Boss Tweed

                                  We’ve gone from 'Hope and Change' to 'Hope and Change Your Story.' -Bill Maher

                                  Comment


                                    We don't need no condescension — so, hey tweeters, leave that Trump alone (July 15)

                                    The Dark Side of the Moon was very much the soundtrack of my youth and the track Time was entirely behind setting me on the road to where I am now. "No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun." And so on.

                                    As a result I was very much looking forward to seeing former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters perform in Hyde Park at the start of last weekend. Especially as the sun was shining, and I had backstage passes and I was going with friends who are fans, rather than the sort of non-Seventies people who stand there with long faces wondering why the song "is still going on".

                                    It all began well enough but pretty soon old Rog was prancing about the stage with a banner saying "F*** the pigs". The pigs? This might have had some relevance in the US race riots in the Sixties and even here in Britain, in Orgreave, in the Eighties. But people don't call policemen pigs any more.

                                    As I was digesting all of this, the giant screen at the back of the stage started to depict Donald Trump, with a micropenis, vomiting, and then we had something about how black lives matter and Grenfell Tower, and then Roger committed the cardinal sin of playing a song from his latest album — Is This the Life We Really Want? — which has a sixthform common room vibe about the awfulness of everything.

                                    Well, I had a good look at the crowd and the fact is that they all had Volvos and they were all drinking rosé wine in the sunshine and not a single one of them could find much to moan about. Except perhaps the £150 they'd paid for a ticket to this Barclay card-sponsored event. And how, owing to safety and health regulations, it was being played at about 40 decibels, which meant that the only vocals you could really hear were those of the stockbroker standing next to you.

                                    Roger hadn't finished. Not by a long way. Because now he was wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and quoting lines from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At this point, I decided I'd heard enough, and having circumnavigated the locked gates to make sure everyone stayed to the bitter end, I went to the Dorchester where I bumped into Julian Fellowes, who was a refreshing tonic.

                                    Naturally, we spoke about London mayor Sadiq Khan's decision to allow various squatters and unemployed people to fly a weird Donald Trump balloon over Parliament Square while the president visits Oxfordshire — and Scotland.

                                    Even my leftie friends reckon this is poor form. Yes, it poses no threat to public safety and, yes, peaceful demonstrations are enshrined in the spirit of Britain but, I dunno, it seems to fly in the face of something else that's enshrined in our spirit: good manners.

                                    I mean, I don't like what Jeremy Corbyn says, or does, or thinks, or is. But I wouldn't fly an effigy of him, naked and shrivelled and under-endowed above my apartment, partly because that would be insulting but mostly because someone would come round and set fire to me.

                                    It's the same story with Waters. He can stand on a stage and tell 65,000 solicitors they should adopt a Somalian but if I went to Speakers' Corner and told a collection of bewildered Chinese tourists that Rog had a Lexus and membership of one of the most exclusive golf clubs in the Hamptons the thought police would arrive and put me in a van.

                                    I'm not sure how this has happened but we've reached a point where Waters can say what he thinks, and that's fine. But Trump cannot. Because unseen forces in the ether have decided that Roger is right and Donald is wrong.

                                    We see this all the time on Twitter. If someone of a Theresa May disposition says something, they are threatened and forced to back down and apologise and then eat rat poison. Whereas if Gary Lineker says something nice about refugees and Diane Abbott he is held aloft as some kind of suntanned god.

                                    Last week the RAF managed to creak a few of its planes into the air and stage a flypast over Buckingham Palace. It gave many people an opportunity to put pictures on social media, with a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in the foreground and a Spitfire overhead. Some chose to caption their work with the line about how so much was owed by so many.

                                    Big mistake. Because straight away the forces of good were on their high horses, saying that the very people flying those planes had spent the past few years murdering women and children with their wayward bombs in Syria.

                                    There's no point arguing or talking about the defence of the realm, because you're wrong. The armed forces are wrong. War is wrong. The people who fight it are wrong.

                                    Throughout the World Cup, we've been told by these same people that the tournament was a joyous celebration of the world working together as one. Well, it wasn't on my social media feeds, which — every morning — were filled with pictures and captions that could have come straight from an episode of Till Death Us Do Part.

                                    Even the one-time Labour luvvie Lord Sugar, who almost certainly campaigns in public to kick racism out of football, was caught out, reckoning the Senegal team looked like lads flogging sunglasses on a beach in Marbella. Whoops.

                                    The problem is that social media, which is seen as the pulse of the nation, is actually nothing of the sort. It's the pulse of the young and the idealistic.

                                    Waters will have looked at Twitter after his gig and seen that what he had done was good. Even though most of his actual fans will have walked back to their Volvos with a line from the last song echoing in their heads. "Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying."

                                    ***

                                    I wish to reassure Jeremy "Snowflake" Clarkson that Trump has no problem saying what he thinks, there is no need to fall on the fainting couch because the most powerful man in the world wasn't treated with "good manners" (not a subject Clarkson has practiced enough to preach), and anyone who attends a Roger Waters concert gets what he deserves.

                                    Here's the Sun column.

                                    Comment


                                      Revelator, I applaud you. Let's let Mr. Trump dismantle NATO and then allow Russia to retake the Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union. But really, why stop there? England would be better off as part of Russia, right?

                                      Comment


                                        Thunderbirds are go, but Elon 'Brains' Musk needs rescuing from himself (July 22)

                                        When you are a famous person you can never be rude to someone who isn't. Being famous is like being a banker. You are wrong. Always and in all things. It's like driving a Porsche. If you are sitting in a lay-by, eating a sandwich, when a little old lady drives into your rear end, it's your fault. You will be called a "Porsche driver" in the newspaper and we all know that's code for banker.

                                        You should certainly bear this in mind if you are thinking of becoming famous. Yes, you will never have to wait for a table at your local Harvester and you will be able to sleep with people who are orange, but do please remember before sending off your application to sing in front of Simon Cowell, or have sex in a televised house, that once you have appeared in the sidebar of shame, people will immediately express a fervent hope that cancerous things happen to your family and your lungs.

                                        And you cannot fight back, because if you do, everyone will say that you used your talent show voters to become Uttoxeter's most famous export, so you can hardly turn round now and call the internet trollist "spotty" or "fat" or "poor" . And you certainly cannot — ever — call him a child molester.

                                        This brings us on to Elon Musk, who got into a Twitter spat over a British caver who helped rescue the boys in Thailand and called him a "pedo". When it was pointed out to Musk he hadn't even got the spelling right, he went on to tweet: "Bet ya a signed dollar it's true."

                                        Now it is true to say, unfortunately, that southeast Asia is something of a mecca for fifty and sixtysomething single men. You see them milling about, and you know it's possible that they're there, as they claim, for the interesting monasteries, but in your head you're sneering and singing the lyrics: "D'you wanna be in my gang, my gang?" Unfortunately for Musk, however, the caver who helped rescue those children is not a paedophile. It's unclear why he moved to Thailand, but he's married to a local lady who is said to be in her forties.

                                        So old Elon, despite deleting the tweets and making a mealy-mouthed apology, is now in a spot of bother.

                                        You'd imagine I'd be happy about that, as the South African-born weirdo and I have history. He sued me after I said firm but fair things about one of his Teslas. He lost the case, appealed and lost that too. But if you go online, there he still is, banging on about how I'd cheated and decided not to like his car before I'd even sat in it. The man's a walking litigation magnet and, by rights, I should be hoping that he really does come a cropper.

                                        However, I do have a bit of sympathy for him over this cave rescue malarkey. As you know, 12 boys and their coach decided after a bit of football practice that they were all male, and males are programmed to look in caves. We can't help it.

                                        Unfortunately, when they were looking about, they were cut off from the outside world by flood water, and that, in my book, is as bad as things can be. Last year, while holidaying in Mallorca, I was told of a secret lagoon that could be reached only by swimming under a boulder for about two seconds.

                                        The water was calm and clear and warm, but I simply couldn't do it. So the idea of swimming through a cave, for miles, in the darkness, wiggling through cracks and getting wedged? I just cannot imagine anything I'd rather do less.

                                        But thank God there are people who do enjoy being cold and frightened and blinded by impenetrable blackness, because they sure as hell were going to be needed to get those boys out. They had many plans and many ideas, and before any of them could be executed, Elon arrived from his own personal Tracy Island, where there are space rockets and electric cars and, he said, an underwater rescue torpedo that could be taken to Thailand by Thunderbird 2. It's possible, of course, that this was — as our British hero caver said afterwards — a gigantic PR stunt. And that his rescue torpedo was nothing more than a kitchen swing-top bin filled with cancelled orders for the new Tesla hatchback.

                                        But let's just say it wasn't. Let's give Brains the benefit of the doubt. He'd seen the plight of the boys and felt moved to help. He had the resources, he had the facilities and, who knows, he maybe even had some folding palm trees.

                                        So he got the dimensions of the cave and the dimensions of the boys and he got the go-ahead from on-the-scene rescuers and he got to work. I like to think that if I'd been in his shoes, I'd have done the same thing.

                                        And if I had, I'd be jolly cross if someone had said afterwards I should push my torpedo into my bottom. Of course, Musk must have known he could not go after the little guy who said this, because he is the celebrity banker in the Porsche. But he obviously decided that enough was enough.

                                        And I was right with him when he said he would take his rescue torpedo to Thailand anyway to prove it could have got round all the corners. I felt his indignation. I was rooting for the way he was standing up for big guys everywhere.

                                        He was the new James Blunt. The only famous person who can belittle the trolls on Twitter and get away with it.

                                        But then Elon called the hero Brit little guy a paedophile. Which means he blew it. And now, like everyone else, I hope that he's sued so hard, he ends up like that other great puppet hero, the goodlooking actor in Team America: World Police who becomes a vomiting drunk in a back alley.

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                                          Our holiday on the canals was a blast, but at one hotel my dad caused a stink (August 05)

                                          I have argued quite a lot over the years, usually with idiotic tax exiles, that home is where your friends are. I really do believe that. You can be surrounded by all your things, and close to your parents, in a house you love, but if your friends are elsewhere, it'll never be home.

                                          At this time of year, however, all my friends are in Mallorca or Corfu. I scroll through Instagram every morning, and there they all are, miles away, in the sunshine, pretending that they're not bothered about the exchange rate, which has caused a plate of calamari at lunchtime to cost more than a BMW M5.

                                          Many will be using social media to contact people they barely know, and don't like, so they can spend the afternoon together, because it's better on Instagram to be gurning and drinking with other people than it is to be with your bored kids, looking round some ruins.

                                          By the time you read this, I will be abroad too, trying desperately to find someone I know, rather than saying to the kids that a look round the colonial hill fort will be very interesting. There is nothing interesting about a rusty cannon. I know that, and they know that too. Or a bird sanctuary.

                                          I could go on about drunken greengrocers from Luton and Entero-Vioform tablets and Watneys Red Barrel, but Monty Python has done this already, so I shall move on to the second-worst word in the English language (chillax has the top spot) — staycation.

                                          According to mutterings in the travel industry, England's better-than-expected performance in the World Cup caused many families to abandon the idea of a foreign holiday and stay at home watching television. Then came the heatwave, which turned the germ of an idea into a family fist bump of agreement.

                                          I don't believe any of this. I think it's just the PR agency for a guesthouse in Blackpool trying to drum up business by taking advantage of the slow-news silly season. The sun can shine, the pound can collapse and Cornwall's beaches can top as many polls as they like for beauty and cleanliness. But people would still rather spend a week up to their knees in sewage in Portugal because it's exotic.

                                          But is it? Because if home is where your friends are, and all your friends are also up to their knees in foreign faeces, then surely the truly exotic thing to do is to be the black sheep and stay at home.

                                          Cornwall is the obvious spot, because the sea is slightly above freezing and the restaurants are rather good these days. But you do run the risk of being debagged by a drunken Etonian whose Brexiteer parents have jumped the gun and come on holiday with the FitzTightlys, whose equally drunken son will then vomit on you. Before giving your daughter the clap.

                                          Devon? Absolutely beautiful, no doubt about that, but there's literally nothing to do. And it's much the same story right along the south coast until you get to the New Forest. This has a motor museum and some horses. Then there's nothing all the way to Dover.

                                          The Cotswolds? Nope. Ghastly. You'd hate it here. Don't come. It's hideous.

                                          Take your caravan and your rambler's sense of entitlement somewhere else, please. Somewhere like the lighter shade of grey that you get in Norfolk. There are a couple of drawbacks, of course. It's further away than Helsinki, and the staff at petrol stations will look in a toothless, confused way at your credit card, and then put it in the till.

                                          The Lake District sounds appealing, but even during the deepest heatwave I can pretty much guarantee it won't stop raining. Speaking of which ... Scotland. As I said in this column only recently, it's fabulous, particularly way up past Ullapool on the northwest coast, but it makes Devon look like Las Vegas when it comes to entertainment. Which means that sooner or later someone's going to suggest you go for a walk. Possibly to a ruined castle of some kind. This will make your children, who wanted to go on holiday to Ibiza, or with the FitzTightlys to Cornwall, even more sullen than usual.

                                          It all sounds too impossible, but there is one person I follow on Instagram who's taken her kids on a narrowboat holiday. It looks ghastly and sounds worse. There are pictures of the kids sheltering from the rain under a road bridge and shots of bicycles being retrieved from the canal after being swept overboard by low-hanging branches. And that's before we get to the interior, which is like a caravan, but flimsier, and which you know will smell lightly of leaking Calor gas.

                                          The thing is, though, that as a teenager I went on a couple of narrowboat holidays and they were brilliant. We stood at the front and let off the fire extinguishers at the person who was 50ft away, doing the driving. We crashed into every lock gate at full speed (4mph) to see if it would open. And there was never any worry about finding stuff to do, because the only option on a narrowboat holiday is "going to the pub". Which was fine by us.

                                          It's not glamorous. It's not even close. And it's hard in September when people ask where you've been and you have to say "Uttoxeter". But you will see Britain in a way you didn't think was possible and you won't get burnt and you won't get a funny tummy.

                                          And if you do, you can do what my dad did and take the overflowing chemi-lav into the reception of the poncy Compleat Angler in Marlow and ask if they had anywhere for him to empty it out. I laughed so hard at their pained faces, I haven't quite stopped even today.

                                          ***
                                          And here's the Sun column.

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