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    Jeremy Clarkson: argue with today’s youth and they’ll call you a racist — then start blubbing

    Over a lovely lunch on my holiday this year, one of the “old people” around the table said that Britain’s super-slack immigration policy means we are letting an army onto our shores. Well, the mood couldn’t have changed more quickly if she’d said: “I’ve just murdered 14 tramps.”

    One of the young people began to sob. Actually sob. And another fixed the old person with a stare made from rage and bile, and explained that everyone from anywhere should be allowed to live wherever they like. And between mouthfuls of padron peppers, I agreed with this, saying that I’d love to live in George Clooney’s house on Lake Como.

    This went down badly, so, as the lovely lunch was turning into a bit of a disaster, I changed the subject and began to speak about the hot summer in England, which turned into a debate about global warming, or climate change or whatever it’s called these days. Only the other day, the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said that to deny man’s involvement in this should be a crime and it seems he has full support from those who are under 25.

    They certainly hadn’t got the science worked out, with many believing that the purply grey fog that sits over Los Angeles and Geneva has something to do with carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere and that everything would be better if people didn’t drive diesel cars.

    Like I said. Twaddle. But my attempts to provide some kind of enlightenment fell on deaf ears. They were right and that’s that. Cars are bad. Central heating is bad. Donald Trump is very bad. Kale is good. And I should shut up because it’s not my world any more. I’m simply a guest who’s outstayed his welcome.

    I agree with them on this. When I was sort of their age I’d had enough of old people banging on about the Goons and whippets and industrial action and warm beer and “bloody foreigners”. I knew they’d lived through rationing and bombing and rickets but I didn’t care. Yuppies, in my book, seemed to be having a much better time so I moved to Fulham and got a GTI. And I figured out quite quickly that if I worked hard and eschewed society in favour of individual effort, I could go to St Tropez for my holidays in future, and not St Austell.

    My generation came up with a whole new type of comedy and a whole new type of music. We had interesting hair and didn’t use braces simply to stop our trousers falling down. We loved Gordon Gekko. Asset stripping meant thousands would lose their jobs but that didn’t matter because, hey, it meant we could party harder that night in Annabel’s.

    Other people? They didn’t matter. You could laugh at the homeless and the weak, and if anyone was offended, you could laugh at them too. I used to make detours to laugh at the lesbians chained to a fence at Greenham Common and earned a living by thinking up similes for Arthur Scargill’s hair. It wasn’t hard.

    Our parents would explain, in much the same way that Martin Sheen explained in Wall Street, that we were building a house made from straw, but just like Charlie Sheen in the same movie, we paid no attention. We were convinced of our righteousness. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? It’s not like any of us were going to catch Aids.

    Of course, not all of us thought the same way. I had friends who reckoned Michael Foot’s jacket was an acceptable garment at the Cenotaph. And others who said that disco produced nothing of any value. Ben Elton and me? We were on different roads but we were going to the same place. And that, emphatically, doesn’t happen now.

    Maybe it’s because young people live in a social media world of cyber-bullies who do not allow anyone to stray from the party line, but whatever, people under 25 have become as different as milk bottles. They have a hive mentality about all things. They know that tramps should be called homeless people, that cycling is good and the NHS is better. Oh and of course, they all know for sure that everything anyone says is racist.

    In a debate about transgenderism the other day, I wondered out loud how sport would work if people were allowed to choose their sex before kick-off, and I was called a racist immediately. Then there’s Boris Johnson, who learnt to his cost while I was away that it’s racist to comment on how another culture dresses. Which means I can’t say that a German beer enthusiast in leather shorts looks idiotic. Because that’s racist too, and possibly homophobic.

    You are not allowed to disagree with any of this, obviously, because then you’re being judgmental, which means you are a racist, and that’s before we get to the concept of #MeToo, which means I can no longer ask the tea lady at work to get me a cup of tea.

    I’m as confused by it all as my dad was when I asked him to listen to Tubular Bells.

    But what does it matter what I think because I’ll be dead soon, and so will you, and our children will have the baton. If they choose to run off the course to lick Jeremy Corbyn, or free a hen or smash up a patio heater, that is their right. It is not our course and it is not our baton. We did not own Britain. We just lived here for a while.

    Of course, the problem all the young people have is that next year we will leave the EU. I can’t see that working out very well. Maybe that’s why they all like an immigration free-for-all, so that they can move to Ibiza when the time comes.

    Sadly, of course, that won’t be possible. They’re stuck here, on their non-judgmental rock in the north Atlantic. And that’s their fault because on referendum day none of them could be bothered to go to the polling station.

    Comment


      Young people in the USA also tend not to vote.

      Natural gas is actually both a more potent and less lasting greenhouse gas than co2.

      NASA believes in man made climate change
      https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_res...ea-level-rise/

       

      Comment


        The next arrival at Heathrow's eco-haven is a million tons of concrete for the third runway (Sept. 02)

        Heathrow may be only the world's seventh-busiest airport these days, but it's still a gigantic stat fest. Almost 215,000 people pass through it on average every day and in a year they consume nearly 1,000 tons of chips and more than 300,000 bottles of champagne.

        Eighty-one airlines use this former Second World War airbase to fly to more than 200 destinations, with a plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds. And if you emptied all the perfume in its duty-free shops into one container, it'd be deep enough to drown everyone in the town of Loughborough.

        I may have made that last one up but, whatever, there are more than 76,000 people who work there and it's hard to decide which one has the most important job. Is it the person who's responsible for keeping it all profitable, or the person who must prevent any of "Jihadi John's" mates from getting through the passport booths? Or is it the sweaty kid in the control tower who must ensure that none of the planes bump into one another? Sadly, however, I fear that in this day and age the most important person at Heathrow is actually a chap called Adam Cheeseman because — mysteriously — he is the airport's biodiversity manager. Which, on the face of it, is like being in charge of health and safety at a Bangladesh shipbreaking yard. Noble but pointless.

        The problem is that boards of directors in Britain are obliged to adhere to a code called corporate governance. It was dreamt up by sensible people with side partings and intended to make sure that directors didn't deliberately crash a company to line their own pockets, or pay themselves more than was realistic.

        Today, though, someone who says "reach out" in his emails has decided that to meet the requirements of the code a company must also demonstrate that it's at least trying to be carbonneutral and organic and sustainable and all the other nonsense words that have come to pollute our lives.

        So, in order not to be sacked, Heathrow's board of directors has had to set aside some of its land for natural habitat schemes. And then it has had to employ Cheeseman to run them.

        He's been given a web page to explain what he's up to. Moths and fungus, mostly. Encouraging birds would clearly be a mistake. "Cheeseman, you idiot. You've filled your plot with pelicans."

        In the winter, however, everything is quiet, so he is free to review management plans and write updates on his Heathrow Wildlife page on Flickr. As of last Wednesday it had 30 followers.

        Now I want to make it plain that I have nothing against Cheeseman. He is necessary to keep Heathrow going, and if he wants to spend his life fitting his beetles with headphones to protect them from the roar of a departing Airbus A380, that's fine. His impact on you and me is no bigger than his impact on anything at all.

        But last week I went to Lyons, which has recently been classified as a carbon-neutral airport. By which they mean there are some flowerbeds on the roof.

        Sadly, though, it's fairly obvious that all the people who should be manning the passport booths and luggage trolleys are up there deadheading the roses. Because, my God, you wait a long time for your suitcases. Traveller's tip here: if you need to be in the Lyons area for whatever reason, fly to Prague and get a cab. It'd be quicker.

        I can understand why a small artisan bakery in Harrogate would want to boast about its commitment to the planet's well-being. Because people who like bread with bits of gravel in it are interested in carbon-neutrality and will be enticed through the door.

        It's the same story with footwear. We all know when we buy a new pair of training shoes that there's a very strong chance they were made by a six-year-old in the Far East. Some people will handle the guilt. Some won't. And they will buy a much more expensive pair of shade-grown, cardboard peace shoes next time they are in Islington.

        This is called choice and it's the cornerstone of all we hold dear. If we think that someone's running a mini-Bhopal on the outskirts of Dundee, we will vote with our wallets and buy from someone who isn't. If we think that a guesthouse is being run by the Ku Klux Klan, we will stay somewhere else. And if we discover the leader of a main political party is a screaming anti-semite, we will vote for ... actually, I'm not sure what we'd do on that one.

        It's the same story with investors. If you are a right-on hand-wringer, it's very unlikely you will invest in a company that owns airports, no matter how many bits of interesting moss Cheeseman has grown. So his work is box-ticking for people who aren't interested.

        I have no idea who's decided that corporate good governance should include stuff about the upper atmosphere and weeds, but it just seems to be so unnecessary. And maybe even counterproductive.

        Think about it. If the bods running Heathrow were to adhere to the code and say, "No. We shall not expand. We shall ring-fence our award-winning environmental work and protect it for future generations", then they would not be able to build a third runway, which means they wouldn't be acting in their shareholders' best interests.

        Perhaps that's why the third runway will go straight through many of Cheeseman's weed beds, burying his moths and fungus under 2ft of concrete. And no one apart from his 30 followers will give a damn.

        Because what's the option? Fly out of Luton? I'd rather die.

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Here are the Sun columns for August 18 and Sept. 01. My thanks to Nanoflooder for posting the earlier Times column while I was on vacation.

        Comment


          The Very Old Bill — my pensioner police force will put the fear of God into baddies (Sept. 16)

          A friend announced last week that he is retiring and I was staggered. It feels like only 12 minutes since we were at journalism college together, listening to Harry Chapin on the pub jukebox and deciding that, yes, it would be better to have another pint than to go back to the classroom to do shorthand.

          We're only 58 now and that's no age to stop working. I mean, I can still go to a drinks party at seven and not get home till Thursday. And recently, at work, I ran down the roof of a moving Winnebago as it careered across a dried-up lakebed in Nevada. I feel young. I feel fit. And I'm not alone.

          Other people who are 58 are Simon Cowell and Bono and Jonathan Ross and Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Any of those ready for the corduroy trousers and gardening gloves yet? No. Then you have Liz Hurley and Elle Macpherson. They're both in their fifties now and there isn't a magazine editor in the world who wouldn't put either on the cover.

          The trouble is of course that there are some people in the country who do not earn a living from driving round corners while shouting, or hosting chat shows, or wearing a swimming costume on Instagram. Some of them earn a living being in a furnace, or a warehouse, or a genitourinary clinic in Rotherham. And they would like to retire tomorrow morning if possible.

          However, as we all know, this is going to become increasingly difficult as time goes by. At present, nearly 20% of the population is older than 65, and with better medicines and new laws making it illegal to have any sort of accident, that number is going to grow. Some reports say that soon 42% will be pensioners, and obviously that's unaffordable.

          B&Q — I'm not sure what it sells, but it has big superstores near ring roads — has had a policy of employing older people for some time. And Barclays Bank and National Express have more recently opened their doors to the elderly.

          This makes a deal of sense. I'd far rather drive a coach than sit in the garden all morning, arguing with myself and wondering if it's too early to go to the pub for a drink I can't really afford. I'd rather do anything than that.

          Sure, an old person cannot be a professional footballer, but they could work in a restaurant, that's for sure. In fact, if I owned a restaurant, I'd far rather employ a gentle old soul to show people to their tables than some uninterested thief who spends most of his time at work in the lavatories doing coke.

          Old people are less interested in chatting up colleagues and are less likely to arrive late with a hangover. They have lost the awkwardness of youth and will not suffer from the millennials' absurd notion that after a week in the job they should be chief executive. And, having grown up in a more enlightened time, they'll be less likely to sob and sue every time anyone says or does something that Twitter has deemed to be inappropriate these days.

          Last week a man with a big title and an important job said that old people should become fitness instructors. I'm not sure about that one. There is nothing so distressing as watching someone with creaking joints trying to hop about. I know this. I've seen a video of myself dancing.

          However, there was another idea from last week that makes a huge amount of sense: getting retired Metropolitan policemen and policemen women back into the force. Or the service. Or whatever it's called these days.

          Critics immediately branded the idea stupid and blamed the Tories and Margaret Thatcher and Brexit, but I reckon that it's brilliant and should be expanded so that anyone of good character can join up, even if they are 80. No, wait. Especially if they are 80.

          You may say that an 80-year-old policeman couldn't possibly chase down a youth who's off his head on disco biscuits, but I put it to you that a 25-year-old officer couldn't either. Because he hasn't had the correct ladder training and because he's back at the station, painting rainbow motifs on his squad car.

          There's more. If a young officer does corner a baddie, the chances are he will be stabbed. But no one would stab an officer if he looked like Godfrey from Dad's Army. It'd be like stabbing a seal.

          And while a young officer is happy to sit at the station, polishing his Taser, an old person would welcome the opportunity to go for a little walk. This would mean more bobbies on the beat.

          Solving crime? Well, let's think about that. Young people are far too busy sending pictures of their body parts to one another on Snapchat to concentrate for very long on any given task, whereas old people are perfectly happy to spend all day working on "7 down": "Weapons minister runs backwards in portfolio we hear perhaps." Let me put it this way. Inspector Morse had a limp, but you'd rather he was assigned the task of finding your stolen quad bike than, say, Harry Kane was.

          It's the same story with the emergency response. You're holed up in your cellar by an armed gang. A fast police interceptor has been dispatched and is on its way, sirens blaring. So. Who would you like the driver to be? The three-time Formula One world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, or your teenage son? The more I think about this, the more I think that the minimum age for becoming a policeperson should be 60. In fact, I think it should be compulsory for everyone to join when they retire. Of course, when you are stopped by one of these old bobbies and they say, "Do you know why you've been pulled over?", it's possible they have actually forgotten.

          But they have wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of experiences, they have patience, they are less easily distracted and they don't need to be trained how to use a ladder. Because they already know.

          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          And here's the Sun article: "Lefties’ sick Rees Mogg stunt shows they don’t have a decent Bone in their bodies."

          Comment


            In regard to The Sun article, Clarkson seems to have a total lack of comprehension for US politics.We may both have left leaning liberals and right leaning conservatives, but the similarities don't go very far beyond the shared nomenclature. Regarding the reference to Trump in that article, a large number of dyed in the wool right wing conservative Trump supporters will now argue that Putin and Russia should be seen in a positive light. I have yet to hear an American left wing liberal assert that idea. Most on the left here, and perhaps even some on the right, believe that Putin was instrumental in Trump's rise to power.

            While we do have some radical left wing socialists here, more left wingers are left wing democrats who support ideas like socialized medicine. Even Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent, and who once called, and still sometimes calls, himself a socialist, espouses many main stream and middle of the road ideas that could find, and have found, support from both democrats and republicans.
            Last edited by Mr. Nice; September 18th, 2018, 7:12 AM.

            Comment


              Lefties will love my West End blockbuster: Neil Armstrong — the Hip-Hop Musical (Sept. 23)

              There has been much discussion recently about who should replace Daniel Craig as James Bond. Some say that in these colour-blind times it should be someone who's black. Then there are those who say it should be a woman. Who knows? Perhaps it could be someone who's both. Thandie Newton, anyone? We have seen similar modern-day issues with the theatre production of Sylvia that closed last night after a disastrous week at London's Old Vic.

              Someone decided that in these #MeToo times of feminism and a woman's right to walk down the street without being talked to, looked at or admired in any way, it would be a good idea to stage a play about the Pankhursts and the suffragette movement.

              Absolutely. Emmeline Pankhurst was a full-on good person. Ruthless. Determined. And, because she helped earn women the right to vote, rightly hailed as one of the 20th century's most important people. I'd go for Neil Armstrong myself, but I get why Emmeline is on the list.

              However, for some reason the producers and the writers decided that the play should actually be about someone called Sylvia Pankhurst. Which is a bit like making a play about the birth of the Nazis and concentrating on Adolf Hitler's little-known brother, Ron.

              Sylvia — and I had to look this up — was Emmeline's communistical daughter, who contributed to the suffragette movement by designing the leaflets. She then encouraged men not to fight in the First World War, before eventually moving to Ethiopia, where she did nothing of any great consequence until her death in 1960.

              Why make a play about that? If you're going to do suffragism and female communists from the olden days, why not look at Emily Davison, who tried to bankrupt various hard-working butchers by not eating meat, and then cost thousands of working-class gamblers the chance to win enough to feed their children by hurling herself in front of the King's horse at some dreary race in Epsom? At least a play about that would have been quite funny. "Oops. Here comes clumsy Emily, fighting for the rights of the downtrodden by accidentally making them worse off."

              But no. They stuck with Sylvia, and to try to enliven what had been a dreary and unnoticed life, the play's writers decided it should be a musical set to hip-hop. I can't imagine where they got that idea from. And then they reckoned that Sylvia and her mum should be played by actresses who are black.

              I'm well aware, of course, that there are a number of people who would want to see this kind of politics used in this kind of story and set to this kind of music. But, sadly, the number in question is about four. And that's not enough to keep the lights on at the Old Vic.

              To make matters worse, the centenary of the act of parliament that gave women the vote was back in February, but the complications of organising various lefties to stage a musical and sell tickets and get stuff done meant they simply couldn't make it on time. That's the trouble with centenaries. You never get enough warning.

              Then there were illnesses, which meant that in some performances understudies were on stage reading their lines from a script. And even when things did run smoothly, the show was three hours long. And no one can sit in a theatre seat for that long without becoming suicidal. We're told that some walked out but that those who stuck it through to the end stood up and cheered. I bet they did.

              No story takes three hours to tell. Unless you fill it up with anti-Tory jokes and asides, which is exactly what happened in Sylvia. That's another problem with lefties. They couldn't even get through a rendition of Jack and Jill without making some spittle-infused reference to Margaret Thatcher.

              This is going to have a profound effect on the arts if they aren't careful. I've seen Hamilton and I enjoyed it, even though my arse had gangrene by the time it was over. But that was a one-off. You can't go around setting everything to hip-hop, because what's next? A biopic of Sir Frank Whittle set to grime? And then there's this business of colour-blindness. I'm well aware that Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles played Othello, and I can quite understand why black people might be a bit miffed by that sort of thing. Othello is black and should be played by a black actor. Fact. Definitely. One hundred per cent. So if you're doing a musical about RJ Mitchell, the inventor of the Spitfire, could he be played by Idris Elba? I honestly don't know the answer. I mean, for a kick-off, I have no idea whether Idris can sing.

              What I do know is that if you allow yourself to get worked up about this kind of issue, you lose sight of what you're there for. To provide entertainment for people in exchange for money.

              When I was at the BBC and the lefties had really got a grip on senior management, I spent 90% of the week thinking up new ways to annoy them and only 10% thinking about the actual audience. It showed in some episodes.

              I'm forever being told about "an excellent new play" that's just opened, but it's always about immigration or civil rights. Or it's a musical of some kind. And I can't help thinking I'd much rather go and see Ten Times Table or Noises Off. Which, so far as I could tell, had no political ambition at all. And no singing.

              It's idiotic to suggest that there should be no politics in the arts. There's almost nothing I like more than a protest song. And from what I can gather, Jez Butterworth's play The Ferryman — which was about the Troubles in Northern Ireland — was bloody brilliant.

              Perhaps because it wasn't set to techno. And because the cast was predominantly Irish, not French. Which wouldn't have made any sense.

              --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

              Actually there is still a debate over whether Othello is black or a genuine Moor (North African). In any case, Shakespeare wrote the role for a white actor and I am glad great talents like Olivier and Welles were able to play it. Barring a great actor from a Shakespearean role because of his race is wrong in any context.

              Here's the Sun column: "Picky about fruit? Then it’s time to eat what’s on our hedgerows as supermarket fruit ‘tastes like absolutely nothing at all’"

              Comment


                In my house we go by my rules, whether we're playing croquet, Scrabble or war (Sept. 30)

                The house in which I spent my summer holidays this year had a croquet lawn in the garden. And croquet is like buck's fizz. No one wakes up thinking, "What I'd like now is a glass of champagne and orange juice", but when it's presented to you, even if it's a Tuesday and it's raining and you're late for work, it's hard to say no.

                And so, after breakfast on the first day, while the women went off to search for holistic wellness by bending over on the terrace, I suggested to the men that we break out the mallets. This went down well because croquet is fundamentally cruel, and that makes it a man's game.

                You really can decide, when it's clear you're not going to win, that Dan isn't either. You can pick on the little guy, endlessly sending him into the flowerbeds a quarter of a mile away. And you can drink. In fact you should drink. Six beers makes the misfortune of others so much more hilarious.

                Unfortunately, however, at our idyllic summer retreat in Sri Lanka — go, by the way — there was a problem. The actual rules of croquet were lost long ago, probably by E.M. Forster, so everyone has developed their own. Some say you can put your foot on your ball while sending an opponent into the hydrangeas; some say you can't. Some say it's a team game; some say it isn't.

                Every aspect has its own interpretation, which means several hours can elapse between deciding to have a game and the game actually beginning. Once, many years ago, a friend — you know who you are, Matthew — threw his mallet down and went home rather than play by someone else's rules.

                We see a similar problem these days with Scrabble. Last week American enthusiasts of the game listed 300 new words in their bible, including "zomboid", "botnet", "sheeple", "puggle" and "nubber". This has enraged British fans, because here these words are not allowed.

                One day that may change, but it won't make any difference in my house, where visitors face a simple choice: my way or the highway. I have my own very simple set of extra rules, which are: the word must be in common usage and you must be able to explain its meaning.

                So, while Rachel Johnson — who loves the game, to judge by her Instagram feed — may know that "qi" is a life force that governs a lot of Chinese medicine, she can't use it because — and I don't care what she says — she hasn't actually spoken it out loud, ever. So it's not in common usage.

                And even if she did say it out loud at the greengrocer's that morning, and he's on the phone verifying the fact, she still can't have it, because it's not in common usage in my house. And it's the same story, while I'm at it, with "jo" and "za" and "ob". Having in your head a list of useful little two-letter words doesn't make you clever. It makes you a parrot. And they crap on their own legs.

                The other problem with Scrabble is that it's been completely ruined by technology, because now, when you are staring at a set of letters that won't join up in your head, you can quietly tap them into your phone and a cheat app will come up with the best solution.

                Obviously this doesn't work for me, because I almost always pick up an "I", followed by another, and then five more. Occasionally, if I'm having a good day, I'll get an "O", and once I had a "V". But usually it's seven "I"s. And there's no interpretation of the rules or app that can solve that one.

                Then there's rugby. There are now so many new rules that the players need a man on the pitch to remind them — constantly and out loud — what they are.

                And that brings me on to the taxman. I'm dimly aware that many years ago a man in a suit put some of my savings into a film production scheme and afterwards he said that two of the movies I'd invested in had done quite well. I was very pleased until years later the taxman said that while this scheme had been legal at the time, he'd had a think and decided that now he'd actually like to put his foot on his ball and send me into the flowerbeds. So I ended up giving him enough to buy one of the navy's new aircraft carriers. That was a bit annoying, if I'm honest.

                Mind you, it's nowhere near as annoying as it must be for soldiers who have to abide by the rules of engagement. Rules that, so far as I can tell, aren't written until after the conflict is over.

                In Iraq you couldn't shoot someone unless they'd shot at you first. But if they shot at you and then put the gun down, you couldn't shoot them either. You could, however, arrest them and put their head in a bag.

                Or could you? Well, yes, you could at the time, but then afterwards the international criminal court said that putting a man in a bag is inhumane and therefore illegal. Which means squaddies who'd done nothing wrong could have found themselves in court.

                It's weird. Genghis Khan waged war by invading a city and then building a pyramid at its centre from the heads of the children who had lived there. That's definitely not allowed now. Nor can you use the gas that was commonplace in warfare just a hundred years ago.

                In the Second World War many Germans were shot after they'd surrendered, and a blind eye was turned, and then in Vietnam people looked the other way if unpopular officers were hand-grenaded by their men as they slept.

                The rules of war, then, have always changed as a reaction to the conflict that's just been fought. But after the last bout of serious fisticuffs and the lawsuits that followed, it's now possible that war cannot be waged at all.

                And, after watching the harrowing and brilliant Vietnam War series on Netflix last week, I find that doesn't sadden me at all.
                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                And the Sun column: "Lord Sugar’s new Apprentices are saucier but make me feel a bit sick."

                Comment


                  For a petrolhead, bathing in crude oil was a must. But, ooh, it gave me the willies (Oct. 14)

                  Every week the vain and the underemployed are invited to try out a new type of diet involving nothing but cucumber sandwiches, or a new kind of yoga-based exercise routine developed by monks in China. Gimmickry is the key. No one's going to try something they've tried before. Because if it had worked, they wouldn't be back.

                  In fact, no one's going to try anything anyone's tried before. Everything needs to be the next big thing.

                  Spas are particularly susceptible to this. You can't just ask customers to eat lettuce and go for a long walk. They need to get their nourishment by nicking the rear end of an organic cow and sucking the blood that spurts out.

                  And they need to exercise at absolute zero while humming excerpts from Tubular Bells. And everything has to have a Tibetan name. "Tara. It's time for your Vajrayana bath."

                  Bathing used to happen in water, but that's no good any more. Unless it's piped directly from Lhasa. You need to bathe in honey, or liquefied yak's cheese. In Georgia there's a spa where you can bathe in wine. And I don't buy into any of it.

                  However, on a trip last week to Azerbaijan I was told of a clinic where customers could bathe in oil. And I don't mean olive oil or the oil you get from an orangutan's house.

                  I mean crude oil. The raw material that's used to make everything that matters: balloons, skis, crash helmets, pens, speedboats, elderly film stars' faces, doors, coffee machines, bottles and, of course, at the top of the list, petrol.

                  I had to try it. It would be like baptising myself in the church of speed.

                  So it was off to the back streets of Baku, where I found the clinic. It's not like the sort of thing you see in the Emmanuelle films. There was no steam or pebbles or whale song played on pan pipes.

                  It was, as you'd probably expect in this former Soviet colony, a bit Russian. Wipe-down walls, furniture from the People's Chair Factory No 45 and an ECG machine that you felt could monitor electrical activity in the body and, at the flick of a switch, increase it dramatically.

                  A nurse ordered me into a room with flickery fluorescent lighting and asked: "How old you are?" I replied: "Twenty-four." So she wrote "24" on her form. "I was joking," I said. "I'm 117." She fixed me with the exact same look as the fake general got from his nurse in Where Eagles Dare.

                  Later a doctor explained that I needed to be checked because bathing in crude oil is not for the weak. More than 10 minutes in there, for example, and you get cancer.

                  That's a downside, for sure, but the upsides seemed immense. "It is good", said the doctor, "for your kidneys, your liver, your skin, your circulation, your heart and your, how you say, penis." With that I was taken into what was easily the most disgusting room I'd ever seen in my whole life. And this is a man who went to the lavatory once on a Chinese steam train in the Eighties.

                  They'd tried to enliven things with a pot of fake flowers and some battery-powered candles — the real thing might have been a bit risky — but the walls looked as though they'd been decorated by Bobby Sands, and the ancient bath from the People's Bath Factory No 12 was full of what looked like hot sewage.

                  I climbed in and at first it was nice. I can see why seabirds are so happy to take the plunge whenever a tanker crashes into Alaska. But then it was time to get out, and that led to the most humiliating and revolting episode of my entire life.

                  You'll be able to see the bathing scene on The Grand Tour next year, but what happened afterwards? No. Not a chance.

                  The first problem was getting out. Oil is skiddy, which means you simply cannot stand up in the bath, leave alone lift a leg over the side, which means you need assistance.

                  This comes in the shape of a small Azerbaijani man, whose face, when he's finally got you standing, is level with your gentleman sausage.

                  Hanging on to him for dear life, I'm eventually out of the bath and clinging desperately to a coat hook, while mateyboy reaches for a shoehorn. He uses this to scrape the oil off my back and thighs, but even I can see he's getting nowhere. As guillemots know, oil clings.

                  It is also entirely unbothered by water, a point that becomes obvious as he slithers me across the tiled floor to the tiny shower. Here, I look down to see what benefits have been bestowed on my penis, but other than the fact it's now black, there appear to be none.

                  Someone is going to have to make it white again. And I can't see how that might be me. The floor is now coated in a thick veneer of soap and crude oil, and that means I need both hands to hold on to the shower-head mounting, and ... oh my God, he's washing it. And now he's on his knees and he's washing it quite quickly and I'm worried that, unless he stops, this could result in a very unhappy happy ending. And then we had to get it out of the cavities.

                  It took half an hour to get enough oil off and out of my body that I could walk past a naked flame without exploding, and an hour in a bubble bath before my toenails became visible. And did I feel any better? No. All the organic Tibetan downward dogs and all the whale song bathing are just anecdotes to keep the dinner party going until everyone gets talking about what box sets they're watching. If you want to get thin and healthy, eat less and walk more. The end.

                  ***

                  And from the Sun: "Women will have to compete on level terms with men if they want Formula W to be anything like Formula One"

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