Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

93Flareside

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What, an old enough person that isn't afraid of technology? I know clarksons not the most literate person when it comes to the latest thing but, he's not like others that either claim to know it all and are barely old enough to have a drivers license or so old that they don't even bother to learn new things.
 

Mr. Nice

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The US constitution guarantees in its first amendment the prohibition of any law infringing on the freedom of the press.

Trump is calling news outlets that have all the credibility of Clarkson's paper "fake news." This includes Jeff Bezos' Washington Post. At best, the president ranting about fake news is scary. At worst, it's despotic.

My ancestors fought in two wars (Revolution, War of 1812), which may have been against some of Clarkson's ancestors, to see to it that the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution became and remained a reality in this country.
 
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Revelator

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Some good and bad news. Bad: Jeremy is away this week. Good: his car column has been taken over by James May!

At first it was ecstasy ? now it's just itchy: The May Review: Rolls-Royce Corniche (March 5)

My relationship with old cars has worsened steadily over the past few years. Having made two series of Cars of the People for BBC2, I can state categorically that they don't work properly. Not even when they've been lent to you by Porsche's own museum.

As an idea, the car came good only circa 2005. Everything before that was a protracted research and development programme foisted on the unsuspecting public.We should probably keep one example of everything in a museum, as a warning from history, but the rest should start new lives as kettles and toasters.

My relationship with my own old car, a Rolls-Royce Corniche hard-top, is especially troublesome. I wanted one of these ever since, as a flu-faced youth, I dropped back in a line of slow-moving traffic to allow one to blend in from a slip road.

In those old days, as Tennyson might have it, one summer noon, an arm

Rose up from out the bosom of the car,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
Waving a thank-you to me.


I was besotted.

I eventually bought one 20 years later, in 2008, a lovely original and unmolested 1972 car in garnet with a rich-tea-biscuit interior. I fell for that old "Rolls-Royce for Mondeo money" chestnut and, on the whole, it's worked out quite well. A Corniche with a 1950s-era 6.75-litre V8 is not economical, spares for old Roycers are a little on the dear side, and I have been a bit neurotic about the whole business and made sure it's never wanted for anything. Not even an internal lightbulb. I paid ?20,000 for the car and I've probably spent more than half that on looking after it, so the big question is: has it depreciated? We'll find out in two weeks, as it's up for sale at the Bonhams Goodwood Members' Meeting auction. I simply can't drive it any more.

Here's why. I drive around in the Royce for a bit, put it back in the garage, go into the house and become aware that I feel a bit, as my grandmother would have said, queer. A bit itchy. A little like I'm coated in an invisible layer of something unsavoury.

If Sarah, my other half, approaches me after I've been in the Corniche, she recoils with horror and says: "Urgh. You've been in the Rolls-Royce." I then have a thorough shower with carbolic soap and a wire brush, and domestic harmony is restored.

Meanwhile, I've discarded whatever I was wearing into the laundry basket in the bedroom.

But then, come bedtime, I'm kept awake by it. Churchill was tormented by the black dog of his despair during the night; I am tyrannised by something horrible lurking in the wicker. So all the clothes have to go into the washing machine, along with the cotton liner of the basket itself. It's become that bad.

I'd be interested to know if anyone has experienced anything similar with an old car. My highly qualified and level-headed colleagues put it down to me being "weird", but I know I'm not imagining it. It has rendered the car fairly unusable, really, because I can't drive it to any sort of event. I can drive it only if I end up back at home for a damn good boil.

What I am describing here is not, I suspect, a true allergy. I don't come out in a rash, have difficulty breathing or anything like that. No one else who has ridden in the car has been affected; most people comment on how nice it smells in there. There's nothing wrong with it (just in case you're thinking of bidding). It's all about me and the way I react to it, and it has become partly psychological because I'm reluctant even to open the door.

What is it? I've talked to a few people who understand this sort of thing, and one compelling explanation is that it's the horsehair used to stuff the seats. Horsehair was known to cause illness among upholsterers in the olden days, not least because it could contain anthrax spores. But I have never had any problems with living horses, apart from a tendency to fall off them, so I'm not sure it's that.

I have noticed, however, that other old leather things ? jackets, antique suitcases, some other cars, Jeremy Clarkson's face ? can have a similar effect on me. I also know that tanneries in the past used processes and chemicals so horrible that modern legislation has in effect outlawed them. I've heard stories of visitors to tanneries vomiting.

This is what I think it is.

Something that was used in the preparation of the Corniche's leather is changing in some complex molecular way and drifting around in the car's interior. Cleaning it with expensive stuff seems only to excite whatever is going on in there. I'm fairly confident it's not a reaction to Bakelite or exquisite marquetry, so it must be something to do with the leather. I realise this must all sound a bit First World problem ? man can't drive his Rolls-Royce because it makes him feel funny ? but there it is. It doesn't happen in modern leather-trimmed cars, and shoes don't trouble my feet in the slightest. But the Rolls does, so it has to go. It's sad because it's a thing of great loveliness, but I was itching to own one for years and the problem should have gone away when I bought it, not gradually intensified.

What this (admittedly unusual) experience has done is fortify me in my growing belief that leather is a ridiculous material for car upholstery. I left for work this morning wearing my new coat, which is thermally insulated, lightweight, durable, wipe-down, waterproof yet breathable. Synthetics have come a long way since we turned our noses up at vinyl, leatherette and velour.

Yet as I drove I was sitting on something like a dead bullock's buttocks. How medieval is that? Leather is too hot in summer and too cold in winter; it dries out, cracks, scuffs and stains. Car makers charge a hefty premium for it, but it's nothing more than a by-product of cheeseburgers. Maybe it's time for us to move on.

Unless you fancy a very tidy 1972 Corniche, in which case don't move on just yet.
 
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Alkusoittow

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I must say, that is definitely in the top 3 articles I've read from him. Hilarious, true, and poignant.
 

Mitchi

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I like his idea of cars being only good since about a decade. He has a point.
 

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I like his idea of cars being only good since about a decade. He has a point.

Our MX5s would like a word about that. :tease:
 

Mitchi

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What he means is that old cars are shit ... and let's be honest, they are. Even my beloved little NA is pretty shit if you think about it. Cars since the 90s have come a long way. Just thinking about something like an E39 vs E34 - there are worlds between them. And another galaxy between this and an E28.

Cars nowadays are fantastic. They can be driven by absolute tossers without knowing ANY single component in a car, or even how it works. Don't press a button to open it, just get near the car and open the door. Press a button and drive off. So quiet nowadays, with stereo systems that can blow a lot of home cinemas away, with levels of comfort you could only dream of in some older stuff (there are exceptions). No choke, no carburettors, everything electric, everything connected to your phone, everything touch or voice command, a small entertainment system in your car for you to google the nearest cinema while doing 220 on the Autobahn, speeds everyday as often as you want (or your pockets allow it), things which previous generations or people from a century ago could've only hoped to dream about.

Sometimes I think how awesome a brand new car would be, if I would be a person that isn't into cars.


But then again I remember I am a car person and love my little rattling, rusting, dirty NA to death.
 

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I'm guessing this week's column was occasioned by a Grand Tour visit to Africa:

Spaced out in Africa until I ditched the malaria pills (March 12)

If you study an 18th-century map of Africa, you will note that the northern half of the continent was charted in great detail. Every dune in the Sahara, every dried-up stream in what's now Sudan, every goat trail in the vast heat of Egypt: all of it had been explored and recorded by lantern-jawed ex-public-school boys with big shorts and stiff upper lips.

It was the same story in the south, but in the middle there were no details at all. It simply said "Uncharted Africa". And that's always puzzled me, because what was stopping them? The weather is usually lovely, there are no impenetrable mountain ranges, fresh water is plentiful and delicious food grows from every bush and every tree.

And yet somehow, despite the area being no more taxing than the Dordogne, explorers couldn't even find Lake Victoria. Which is a bit like saying: "Well, we've looked all over Hyde Park and we can't find the Serpentine." Lake Victoria is massive. It takes 18 hours to cross on a ferry. So how the bloody hell did they manage to miss it? If they were capable of saying to tribal leaders: "Hello, can we have some of your boys to carry our stuff, and some of your girls for other things?", then surely they would have had the ability to say: "Is there a big lake near here?" And yet they didn't. Instead, they'd get back to their mates at base camp on the sun-kissed beaches of Dar es Salaam and write to the Royal Geographical Society in London asking for more money so they could go back next year for another look. "It's very perilous here," they would say, "and we are very brave."

To prove how brave they were, they would commission artists to make sketches of them fighting lions and 8-foot cannibals. And then, to ram the peril home even more clearly, they came up with a brilliant idea: malaria. They claimed that the psychotic episodes they were having had nothing to do with the dodgy opium they'd ingested the previous night, but were in fact caused by, er, insect bites. "Bloody hell, Blashers that's a brilliant wheeze."

People are still employing this tactic today. Whenever you read about a celebrity who's caught "malaria" while doing important charity work in a remote African village, you just know it's a smokescreen to mask the fact they've overdone the charlie at the Firehouse.

Now, it's completely out of hand.

Whenever you go to a doctor to say you're going to the tropics, he doesn't say: "Ooh, you might break your arm or get run over." No. He says: "Ooh, you might get malaria" and gives you a course of pills that only slightly lessen the chances of you catching it. Frankly, I'm sure it's all a travel company ruse to make your holiday feel more exotic, but, whatever, we all fall for it.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, US soldiers were given Lariam, but quite soon the top brass realised this made everyone go stark staring bonkers. Which is not something you want to see in a man who has a fully loaded machine-gun slung over his shoulder. It's said that many of the people who were diagnosed with PTSD were actually suffering from the effects of the anti-malarial pills.

So, a new drug was introduced. You're supposed to take one every day, but what happens is, you take it for a couple of days and then you forget. As Richard Hammond once said: "If I were a girl, I'd be pregnant a lot."

If you do remember, they mess up your liver, which means the very doctor who prescribed them will pull a serious postmedical face six months later and say you've been drinking too much. And that's just the start of it.

For a trip to Mozambique last week, I started taking them as instructed, and that night I had some truly weird dreams. I'm not going to tell you what they were, because there is nothing more boring than listening to someone going on about something that didn't actually happen.

The next two nights I didn't sleep at all. So I consulted a doctor, who said he'd cure this by giving me an antihistamine, which put me into a coma so deep you could have removed my spleen for transplant. When I came round, many hours later, I was a zombie, wandering around with a silly smile on my face, being nice to James May. And so it continued until I threw my malaria pills in the sea and went back to being normal.

Later I spoke with a South African friend, who said I'd been stupid. Mozambique, he explained, in the wet season is a malarial cesspit and I'd surely die in screaming agony very soon. Yeah, yeah. This is just a trick Africans have picked up from Livingstone and Speke, making out that life there is harsh and unforgiving. When it's no such thing.

Almost all of Africa is fabulous, and Mozambique is one of its jewels, and you don't want it to pass you by in a foggy blur of sleepless nights, hallucinations and poor coordination.

If, for some reason, you can't accept that malaria is just a Victorian invention to screw the Royal Geographical Society out of more money, then fine. Take your holidays in Bridlington. Or write to Santa to see if he has any suggestions.

Alternatively, you could try to sleep while wrapped in Ena Sharples's curtains or buy repellent that will keep insects at bay but will also dissolve your clothes, your watch strap, your iPhone and your sleeping bag just as surely as dipping them in a vat of sulphuric acid.

The best solution is: take up smoking. Because if you hammer your way through 40 fags a day, every mosquito in the world is going to screw up its nose and feed instead from the lemon zesty buttocks of the fresh-air fanatic in the next tent.
 

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A warning for the middle-class this week:

The middle-class essentials: quills, candles and gruel (March 19)

An eagle-eyed shopper noticed last week that empty jam jars were being sold in his local supermarket for ?2. Whereas jam jars full of actual jam were on sale for ?1.71.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this. No 1: that I don't want to have dinner with someone who notices this sort of thing; and No 2: that the jam maker has done a very good deal with the supplier of his jars. However, there's another conclusion that is less obvious: that Britain's middle classes are starting to take leave of their senses.

According to the supermarket in question (it's bound to be Waitrose and let me check ... yup, it is) people who buy an empty jam jar for ?2 will use it as a holder in which they can mount a 200 quid candle.

The candle obsession is out of control. There are women out there who are incapable of having a bath until the entire room is bathed in Jo Malone's medieval flicker. And it is considered downright rude to turn up at a dinner party without handing the hostess an expensive-looking bag full of iffy wax.

It's madness. All of us are on the grid.

We have electrical lighting and many of us have dimmer switches as well. We can tailor the hue of the room to suit whatever mood happens to be prevailing at the time, but instead we turn the lights off and make like it's the 14th century.

It's not just lighting either. When it's your godson's birthday, you head immediately for a traditional toy shop, where you buy a wooden rocking horse or a hand-carved game of solitaire. Then you think he's a miserable little sod for not getting excited when he opens it. But he isn't a miserable little sod at all. He looks sad because he wanted a Nerf gun.

It's the same story with thank-you letters. You could send an email. That would be quick and efficient. But oh no. Instead, you have to use a quill and a sheet of vellum that's thicker and less foldable than your kitchen work surface. And why use a self-adhesive envelope when you could use a wax seal instead? We seem to have got it into our heads that modern living is for plebs. And that to demonstrate our wealth and our sophistication, we must be seen to be living like Baldrick. "Have you noticed, Rupert? The neighbours are still using a patio heater."

Of course they are. Patio heaters are brilliant. They need no maintenance and keep everyone within 30 feet toasty warm. Whereas a real fire in the cast-iron grate you found in that lovely shop in Stow-on-the-Wold last weekend makes you look like a badly barbecued sausage and will, in time, give you a debilitating lung disease.

This brings me on to the question of health. When I have an ailment of some sort, I go to Boots, where I am able to buy a pill or a potion that will clear everything up in a jiffy. This, however, is because I'm from the north and I went to a minor public school.

The proper middle classes have got it into their heads that Boots is for cleaning ladies. When they are suffering from a lung disease, or a bruise caused by walking into something they couldn't see because the lights were turned off, they go to a little Chinese shop on the edge of town, where they can buy a medicinal potpourri of bark and seeds for only ?300 a sachet.

Middle-class alternative healthcare is completely in the hands of lunatics, and out on the road things are even worse. You could easily afford to use a car but that's so working class these days. Much better to use a bicycle like the Victorians did. And to hammer the point home still further, best to go for a bicycle that actually looks Victorian, with a nice wicker basket on the front and sensible mudguards. And maybe, instead of lights, two Jo Malone jam jars.

Oh, and why not join a committee of residents to campaign for the streets in your area to be converted into car-free shared-space zones so your children can take a break from their rocking horses and go outside to play hopscotch in the road with their school friends? That's the sort of thing that would get Prince Charles all tingly and excited.

The good news from all this is that if you're astute, you could make a fortune from the millions of affluent nitwits who believe that to be truly middle class you must live like someone from the pages of Chaucer.

I was recently in Mozambique, not catching malaria, and on my travels I visited the sort of village you thought existed only on the cover of National Geographic magazines in your dentist's waiting room. Not that you go to the dentist, of course. Far better to use the ?500 wooden brace and bit you bought at the Conran shop last year.

Anyway, this village had an open zone where children could play football, and some thatched mud huts and nothing else. There was no electricity and, unusually for Africa, no mobile phone service either. It was as it had been for thousands and thousands of years.

They struggle for food, if I'm honest, and exist, as a result, on a dreary paste made from something we probably feed to cows in the UK. Making it involves a lot of thrashing about and a great deal of grinding in the sort of gigantic earthenware pestle and mortar that would cost a couple of thousand quid at Daylesford.

You could buy a couple of tons of the stuff for no more than 20p. And I just know that if you sold it in brown paper bags in Notting Hill, you'd get at least ?30 a gram. Real, organic, ethically sourced ethnic super-paste. That's what it'd say on the label. Pretty soon, you'd have enough money to turn all the lights off in your house and use candles instead.

And live on a diet of muddy stumps you grew in your own vegetable garden rather than the vivid orange carrots that the working classes can buy at Morrisons.
 

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Clarkson opens his potty-mouth:

Our inner ape is released in a most inconvenient way (March 26)

Disturbing news from the public lavatories of China. To prevent people from using too much lavatory paper or, worse, stealing the whole roll, the authorities in one of Beijing's parks have installed a system that dispenses just 75cm of paper at a time.

It works, rather distressingly, on facial recognition. So when you've finished your business you are asked to remove all of your facial furniture hat, sunglasses, smog mask and so on and then, after a photograph is taken, you get your paper. Nine minutes must elapse before the software allows the same person to receive more.

I'm not sure that's long enough. I can easily while away half an hour on the loo if I have access to Instagram and Twitter and MailOnline's sidebar of shame but, on the face of it, China's efforts to remind people of their responsibilities while visiting a lavatory are understandable.

I work in an office that's staffed by extremely bright, university-educated twentysomethings. They can sort out complicated customs forms, manage James May's constant demands for more beef Hula Hoops and arrange filming schedules at the drop of a hat, on the other side of the world.

You'd imagine, then, that they could manage a simple trip to the loo without any problems. But no. Every time I go in there, it's as though it has been used to house Bobby Sands for a year. And it was the same story at a firm of top lawyers that I visited the other day. The visual evidence suggested that all the partners were suffering from a bout of dysentery.

I used to go every summer to a school sports day and it was middle-class heaven. You'd have Jeremy Paxman lying in the long grass by the river, watching the punts go by, and you'd have Niall Ferguson holding court on important issues of the day. People had their pinkies raised and their hampers arranged just so.

Everyone was always on their absolute best behaviour. They would never, for instance, say they were going to the lavatory. They'd either slip away quietly or ask to be excused for a moment. But when they got into the portable loo and closed the door, they all turned into cavemen.

It was possible even 60 years ago to drop a bomb from 20,000ft in the sky and hit a target on the ground. But somehow, people in public conveniences can't even hit the target when they're sitting on it. And never mind 75cm of paper. Everyone at those sports days used all of it and then left it lying on the floor, before re-emerging to pour Paxman another glass of Whispering Angel.

At festivals, things are even more out of hand because everyone has to face the problem of doing their number twos and vomiting simultaneously. This gives them the opportunity to miss at both ends. And all of it makes me wonder ...

When you go to the lavatory in someone's house, it's always immaculate. There are amusing hunting-scene cartoons on the walls and some tastefully framed school photographs. There's a candle, of course, to mask any unpleasant odours, the lavatory paper is often folded into a neat V at the end, or it's in a little box tied up with a ribbon, and there's some soap made from the tears of actual angels.

If a Martian were forced to guess what goes on in such a room, he'd say it was used for heart transplants. We are all like this at home: fastidious, clean, tidy. And we are all like this when we are out in public. We behave ourselves. We don't shoplift, we don't push homeless people over for fun and we don't set fire to municipal flower displays on roundabouts, no matter how much we hate them.

We are able to keep ourselves in check because we know we are being watched. And now we hear that drones will soon replace what some newspapers still refer to as "bobbies on the beat".

This means we will know for sure that if we decide to abandon our clothes and run naked through the park, the moment will definitely be witnessed. And I fear this may cause the freedom streak that lives in us all to become squeezed to breaking point.

My grandmother, in her later years, would often spend a whole day sitting in her local dress shop laughing openly at anyone who came out of the changing room. "Oh no," she'd say, "that's terrible." Or she would sweep into a room full of pompous women having tea, while their husbands were at the lodge, and push a cream cake into someone's face.

I dream of being able to do that sort of thing and I'm sure you do too. Every time you walk past some neatly stacked tins of beans at your supermarket, you must occasionally feel a need to push them over. And when you are presented with someone's new baby, there's always a piece of you that says: "Go on. Say it's a bit ugly."

But we never do any of this. We can't. We don't like to be judged. And that's why, when we are finally given a moment of absolute privacy in a public lavatory, we revert to being what we actually are. Apes.

We know we are not being watched. We know we can get away with doing whatever comes into our heads. And that's why so many bright, normal, sensible people suddenly feel the need to leave a right mess.

I worry what will happen in China now the authorities are using what they say is "science and technology to control behaviour" in the public loos. I fear it won't be good. People have to let off steam somewhere and if they are forced to behave while having a poo, the country could slide into anarchy, which would almost certainly precipitate a nuclear war.
 

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Animal rights (and human ones) this week:

Moove over, ye huddled masses. Militant vegans have claustrophobic cows to save (April 2)

Not long ago, after being accused of abusing its powers, the RSPCA decided it would stop bringing trumped-up prosecutions against children who fail to clean out their rabbit hutches properly and concentrate instead on the real villains.

There are plenty of targets, it seems. Last year one woman was successfully prosecuted for cutting the heads off her two pet snakes with a pair of scissors. And that's only right and proper, because while they may only be snakes, you have to be fairly weird to think: "Right. I need to kill them, so I shall go through my sewing kit to find the right weapon."

Certainly, it would only be a matter of time before a person like this were pushing babies into a waste disposal unit.

Then there was a man who kept a golden eagle in his kitchen, and two brothers convicted of head-butting their bulldog. Why would you do that? Bulldogs have already had their snouts head-butted into a concertina by the cruelty of deranged selective breeding. So all of them already look as if they've run into a wall while travelling at a thousand miles an hour.

I applaud the RSPCA for its new stance. It's sensible to leave averagely lazy pet owners alone and go after the people who are plainly mad, and possibly quite dangerous.

However, there are other animal welfare enthusiasts who it appears are not quite so sensible. That brings us to a pro-vegan organisation called Animal Equality, which believes that fish can be sad, that an egg is an abortion and that milk is murder. I don't doubt that some of its supporters spend their evenings sending dog poo to scientists who make beagles smoke pipes.

Last week it released photographs and video of some cows living in sheltered accommodation on a farm in Dorset. It pointed out that the hutches in which the animals took cover when it was raining were too small and that many had open sores on their backs from trying to get inside. And it said that Marks & Spencer, which prides itself on the ethical nature of the food it sells, is still selling milk from the farm in question. M&S? S&M, more like.

The law ? there's a law for everything these days, it seems ? says that cows can be kept in individual hutches only until they are eight weeks old, after which they must be allowed to stand in the rain in a field doing absolutely nothing until they die of boredom. And there seems little doubt that the cows in the pictures are more than eight weeks old.

However, M&S says it dispatched a team of experts immediately and that after an investigation and assurances from the farmer, it will continue to buy his milk. The farmer says spot audits have been done and all were passed. Dorset council's trading standards people have also paid a visit and did not detect any breaches. So the farmer, the council and M&S say everything's fine, but the animal rights people still argue it isn't. And the photographic evidence appears to back them up.

Hmmm. Who knows? Dairy farming is a tricky business these days. You need a gigantic herd to make more than ?2.75 a year, and one tiny blip in the weather or one punctured tyre on a milk tanker can wipe out any profit in an instant. So maybe for a short while cows that were more than eight weeks old were kept in hutches that were a bit on the tight side.

Maybe, then, the book should be thrown at Farmer Giles. Maybe he should be imprisoned and fined so heavily, he is forced to sell his farm to property developers. Or maybe, instead, we should seek out the lawmakers who decided how much space a veal calf needs to be happy and ask them: "What were you thinking of, you imbeciles?"

Near where I live in the countryside there are fields that, at this time of year, fill up with tin boxes that are, in some cases, no more than 14ft long. They are called "caravans", and whole families sleep and eat in them for weeks at a time.

Others are even less fortunate and have to live in a plastic triangle with nothing to protect them from the elements other than a jammed zip and a small stove that they use to keep warm and heat what they call "food". Often this amounts to nothing more than a thin gruel with some beans in it. And do we have legislation to prevent this kind of cruelty? No. We do not.

You could argue that people are not forced to live in these "caravans" and plastic triangles, but that's not so. If they'd had a decent education and had earned more money, you can be sure they'd rent a villa in St Tropez instead.

And anyway, what about the people who live in the refugee camps of Jordan or South Sudan? They are trudging through a mind-numbing existence of acute hunger, disease and devastating loss and they don't even have the privilege of being milked twice a day. No one comes with clean bedding every morning. No one mucks them out. No one supplies food or clean water or shelter when it's cold.

Occasionally a big-hearted volunteer will arrive with a few sacks of grain and a bagful of aspirin, but these visits are few and far between. Because, I'm sorry to say, most people are too busy hiding in the bushes in Dorset, filming cows that may or may not be too large for the sturdy and clean accommodation with which they've been provided.

I'd like to close with a message to the friends and supporters of Animal Equality. Why don't you go to a small coastal village in Africa one day and tell the people there that the fish they've just hauled from the sea are sad as a result? And let's see how far you get.
 

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On TV and its discontents:

It'll be the kiss-off for Blind Date 2.0 now we all swipe right and watch SnapTube (April 09)

I was cheered when I heard that Blind Date was to return to our television screens after a 14-year gap. But having sucked pensively on the end of a Biro for a few minutes, I'm now a bit nervous that the new version will be rubbish.

I used to like this show a lot. It was fun to watch people's faces when they realised they'd picked the munter and deliciously squirmy when couples were forced to come back after their date to say how they'd got on. Apart from Cilla Black's endless mocking of university-educated people who spoke properly, it was the very definition of good, clean, wholesome, Daily Mail-friendly, Saturday evening, family entertainment.

Times, however, have changed.

Today, people simply swipe right or left on their phones if they fancy a date and the idea of actually asking questions and talking before leaping into bed may seem a bit nostalgic and old-fashioned.

And then there's the problem of being right-on. Very occasionally, in its heyday, Blind Date would feature old people whose wives or husbands had died. This gave Cilla an opportunity to look into her close-up camera while wearing a sad face. But at home we were sad for different reasons, chief among which was: we didn't want to think of Fred and Maureen doing, well, you know, that.

Today, however, it won't just be old people. There will be gay men, and transgenderists and lesbians, and I suspect they won't be real lesbians like you see on the internet. They'll be the other sort, the ones that wear boiler suits and Birkenstocks. Weeks when the show has good-looking heterosexual couples will be few and far between.

I'd be hauled over the coals if I complained about this, so I shall move on to what will certainly be an issue. Twenty years ago, people went on the show for a giggle. They were mostly normal people ? apart from Amanda Holden, obviously ? who simply wanted a laugh and the chance to win a holiday.

But everyone who appears on television these days has far bigger aspirations. They want to be famous. They want to go on holiday to Dubai with a wronged Spice Girl and be photographed by the tabloids in a small bikini. So they are going to grab their 15 minutes of fame and wring its neck.

They will have stupid hair, stupid make-up and stupid opinions. They will wear stupid clothes and say stupid things, and the audience will whoop and holler and egg them on to eat a centipede and shower naked.

We saw this with Wife Swap. It began as a good show in which couples were made to change partners for a week or two. But then it became idiotic as the producers put a sex-crazed prostitute with a fondness for absinthe under the same roof as a Methodist lay preacher. "What will happen?" inquired the voiceover, as though we couldn't guess.

And then there was The Apprentice.

A nice idea. People would attempt to convince Sir Sugar they had a sound head for business, and the prize was a life of anonymity in the soldering iron department at Amstrad. Not any more. Now the women are all bright orange and the men turn up with enough hair gel to lubricate every nun in Italy and they talk absolute twaddle in their bid to become the next Katie Hopkins.

The whole thing has been ruined by producers who think "wacky" is the way forward. And don't get me started on Big Brother. Because if an alien were to catch an episode of that, he'd assume we were a species that put all our lunatics in a prison full of primary colours and crayons. You see less madness on a tropical reef.

New figures show that the average age of people who watch BBC1 is now 61. For BBC2, it's 62, and there's no doubt that if you removed Top Gear from that, it'd be into the thousands. I don't know how ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 fare but I bet it's the same story. People who are not called Enid simply don't watch ordinary terrestrial television any more. They are too busy Snapchatting pictures of their poo to one another or standing in front of a mirror wearing nothing but a bikini and a pout.

If you are 15 and happily ensconced in your bedroom watching YouTube clips of cats falling into waste disposal units, then I'm sorry, but there's no way you'll be tempted to run downstairs, two at a time, to watch Judi Dench talking about her latest play on The One Show. Or Matt Baker helping to make a dreary mud oven on Countryfile.

And in addition to the wonders to be found on a phone or a laptop, you have the new phenomenon of the box set. I can't remember the last time I went out and someone didn't say: "Oooh, have you watched ... ?" More worryingly for the BBC and its commercial rivals, I can't remember the last time the recommendation wasn't brilliant. Dexter. Billions. Game of Thrones. Ray Donovan. The Man in the High Castle. The list of drama available on channels that didn't even exist 14 years ago, and which are far better than Matt Baker's mud oven, boggles the mind.

I know the company working on the reboot of Blind Date and it is run by extremely clever people. But they are selling their wares to commissioners who think they can fight off the threat from Amazon, Netflix, Snapchat, YouTube and Sky Atlantic if the contestants on their shows have green hair and some leather nipple tassels.

It won't work if they go down that route. But if they stick to the idea of normal people trying to choose a partner and then going on a blind date, it will appeal very much to middle-aged, middle-class people. In other words, the only people who are actually watching ordinary television these days.
 

Cowboy

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The man is bang on as usual....

The man also works for Amazon, last time I checked this was very much a non traditional way of watching television :p
 
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Revelator

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This makes me wonder if Clarkson recently won something:

Make your award speech sing: add a poor aunt, a bleeding heart and a jailbird father (April 16)

In the olden days, when actors received awards, they'd climb onto the stage wearing a big beam, thank a lot of people called Harvey and Marvin, and then, after some polite applause, return to their seat. Since then we've had the era of the tear: Halle Berry sobbing so uncontrollably she was in danger of drowning in her own snot and Gwyneth Paltrow, who had to be supported by the host as she explained, while convulsing with sadness, how she missed her dead cousin Keith.

In an earlier era, it had been thought that standing on stage in front of what is always claimed to be a television audience of a billion, and simply crying, was a wasted opportunity. Far better, surely, to use the time to right some political wrongs.

It's hard to say who popularised this trend, but it was almost certainly the luvvie-in-chief, Sir Attenborough, who, when receiving his Oscar for Gandhi, decided to talk about how much better the world would be if everyone stopped blowing everyone else's head off. On and on he went, until long after they'd turned off his microphone and ushered him backstage to a small padded room full of crayons.

Another early adopter was Marlon Brando, who dispatched an American Indian to deliver his Oscar speech, which, in summary, said it was inappropriate to give or receive awards until the Native American was given something or other. I can't be bothered to remember what.

There was a blip in 1999, when Roberto Benigni took the award for his role in Life is Beautiful by saying: "I would like to be Jupiter and kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody." Perhaps it was a message about the dangers of using drugs. Who knows? What we do know is that today every single person connected with the world of film and theatre must make a speech that champions an underdog of their choosing. You may have a poster of Mrs Thatcher above your bed, you may be a Ukip voter and you may harbour dark thoughts from time to time of setting fire to a homeless person, but when you get on that stage, you must stand there with a quivery bottom lip and talk about something vomitously right-on.

This, of course, is not that hard for an actor. If Ben Affleck is capable of convincing an audience that he won the Battle of Britain single-handedly, then it is no bother at all for him to play the bleeding-heart liberal on stage. Maybe he is behind the mask, or maybe he isn't. We would never be able to tell.

Perhaps Michael Moore spends his evenings sewing up Ku Klux Klan hats while chewing the fat about the good old pre-abolition days with George and Amal Clooney. It doesn't matter. Just so long as they come over all Linekerish on stage and speak tearfully but with a steely firmness about water shortages in Malawi, the audience is going to rise to its feet and applaud until everyone's hands have eroded to smooth stumps.

The problem is that it's not just people who can act who get awards. Doubleglazing salesmen have double-glazing salesmen awards. Account managers have account manager awards. All of us, at some point, are going to be nominated for something or other, which means all of us run the risk of one day being on stage at the Grosvenor hotel, in a frilly dinner shirt, clearing our throat as we embark on an acceptance speech.

To help you out, I've come up with a few pointers. First, explain you come from nothing. It doesn't matter if you were brought up in a 17th-century farmhouse and went to a top 10 public school; you must find someone in your family tree who had an outside bog and maybe did some prison time. Audiences love a self-made man.

At the Olivier awards last weekend the woman who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter stage adaptation could have thanked JK Rowling or its audiences. But instead she told everyone she was a refugee child. This was a masterstroke, and the audience clapped for so long, people had time to go to the bar and order drinks before it was over.

Next, talk disparagingly about Donald Trump. Don't use humour ? audiences don't find any part of him funny, not even his hair. They hate him, and you must hate him too, even if you don't. Say, apropos of nothing at all: "I hate Donald Trump," and you'll not be able to start speaking again until Christmas.

When you do, look at your award and say: "It's never been more important in these troubled times to give our money to theatre arts workshops in Salford." Then scream, with spittle if you can manage it: "Are you listening, Mrs May?" That's a guaranteed ovation.

Time now for a short anecdote in which it's important to hit a number of targets to do with race, disability and the evils of capitalism. So say that you went to war with your boss over a discount you gave to a family for their new uPVC windows. Explain how you were touched when their child ? give him a name; N'boto would work ? said he was so cold in his room he couldn't get out of his wheelchair. And then pause, because the audience will be in spasms by this stage, before saying, in a whisper, "I adopted that child." And then make like you are too emotional to go on.

You know the family who bought your windows are benefits scroungers and that you spent your commission on a set of alloys for your Beemer. But the audience doesn't need to know that.

In fact, you should say you don't have a car at all because you are so passionate about global warming. Then smile, say "thank you" and go back to your seat, where you will spend the night doing what the actors do: playing footsie with the girl from the typing pool, who now, all of a sudden, wants sex with you.

This week we have a bonus:
The Sunday Times also ran an article about a new meatless burger from Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley-based bioengineering company. Its burgers are made from protein and synthetic blood produced by genetically engineered yeast, with fibre from wheat and potatoes substituting for muscle fibre, coconut oil in place of animal fat, and konjac (an east Asian plant) instead of gelatin. The result is a burger that supposedly has more protein than the real thing, but with less fat and no cholesterol. The company's backers--who have contributed $200 million--include Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, Larry Page of Google and Li Ka-shing, the Hong Kong-based billionaire. They hope this pseudo-meat will reduce or replace cattle. The burgers will be coming to Britain and a restaurant chain with UK branches is in discussions to put them on its menu. But...

Impossible Foods hasn't bargained for Jeremy Clarkson. A scourge of "vegetabalists", he wrote in The Sunday Times his own suggestion for tackling the global problems caused by livestock: instead of eating cattle, eat a vegetarian. So how would he react to the Impossible burger? The Sunday Times arranged a blind trial (unofficially ? Impossible Foods prefers its products to be tested under scientific conditions) at one of Clarkson's favourite restaurants. For impartiality, it should be pointed out that the burger looked distinctly jet-lagged by the time it arrived in London after an unrefrigerated 10-hour flight from Los Angeles. Chefs at the diner did their best to restore its original texture and shape, but it was clear it had seen better days.

Clarkson began the test with a series of excuses, explaining that his taste buds might trick him into making the wrong choice because of damage caused by years of smoking. The Impossible burger and a meat burger were served side by side, each in a bun with garnish. Clarkson sampled both. After some deliberation, he chose correctly. Characteristically magnanimous in victory ? not ? he then launched into a diatribe against "vegetabalists". "Beef farmers of the world, relax," he said, triumphantly. "If you're going to be a vegetarian, you can't say, 'I want my vegetables to look like meat.' You just have to accept that you've got to eat like a budgerigar. If there's some other commercial reason for doing it [making burgers from plants], then fair enough. But just for vegetarianism ? pah! Go and eat seeds, sit on a perch and crap on sandpaper. If that's how you want to live life, that's fine. Just don't come crying to me."

Yet when pressed on his verdict, he admitted that the Impossible burger tasted "OK". "I mean, there's nothing wrong with it," he conceded. By Clarkson's standards, that's high praise. Gates and Google, you may be onto something.
 

Revelator

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Americans like me will recognize much of what Clarkson rages against in this week's column:

Far from being beaten up by US airlines, I received a delightful intimate massage (April 23)

Montrose is like every other small city in America. There's a Walmart and a Home Depot and a few terrible-looking restaurants where you can get fat. All the men drive huge cars and pick-ups that aren't but should be called the Ford Dreadful and the Chevrolet Rural Halfwit, and all the women have enormous hair.

But it does have a regional airport, which means it's connected to the worldwide web of travel, and it's in Colorado, which is a forward-thinking state, so you'd imagine it would be easy, in 2017, to get home. In fact it took 22 hours.

To begin with, all was normal. I handed over my passport, and the check-in woman with Star Wars hair wrote War and Peace on her computer before issuing me with a boarding pass. But then it was time to face security, and in Montrose this is something they take very seriously.

So there are two queues: one for prechecked people, who do not have to remove their shoes and laptops, and one for the British. Interestingly, they lead to the same man, who is 400 years old and not sure whether he's a surgeon or a scaffolder, so he's dressed up as both, with rubber gloves and a hi-vis jacket.

He looks at the picture in your passport and then at your face. Then he looks again at the passport and then again at you. Then he looks at your boarding pass and then your passport and then your face, and then he too writes War and Peace on his computer and you are allowed to pass.

Any exasperation shown by anyone in the fast-track queue about how long they are waiting for Ethelred the Unready to do his job is of course met with immediate and brutal arrest.

In the actual security area, my gapyear bracelets set off the x-ray machine, which everywhere else in the world results in a pointless pat-down ? but not in Montrose. No, sir. Here, a very serious man also dressed up as a scaffolder and a surgeon took several minutes explaining what he was going to do, which was basically to search me in the way a 1920s nanny would search her charges for nits. I was told to think of it as a free massage ? an intimate one, by the sounds of it.

Eventually the search began and ? holy cow ? he wasn't joking. I shall not go into detail, but he really did search every single bit of me, carefully and repeatedly, until finally he put the gloves he'd been wearing into a machine that would check I wasn't going to explode.

By the time he'd finished with the serious sexual assault, the airport announcer was explaining that because Montrose supports its troops, military personnel should board first. Then everyone else. Then the British. And then the numpty in bracelets.

A couple of hours later I landed in Dallas, where I was met by someone with one of those golf carts that beep as they go along to let everyone else know they have a bastard on board. This took me on a 1.3-mile drive to the airline lounge, where I was issued with a ticket to the "international first-class lounge". Sounded promising, especially as there would be a four-hour wait for the flight to London. Inside, there was some plastic cheese and a tureen of what looked like Heinz tomato soup. And for that international flavour some breadsticks, which were a bit damp.

To pass the time, I watched the television, which like all televisions in America was showing an unfathomable sport as a means of passing the time between commercials for products that cure one problem while giving you another. "Take Ziroform XG to cure your diarrhoea." We then see a happy man with greying hair on a golf course before a serious voiceover says: "Warning. Side effects may include Aids."

Bored, I went shopping. But as I didn't want a Dallas Cowboys shirt or a Jo Malone candle and I'm up to my elbow in watches already, this proved to be a fruitless pursuit. So I returned to the lounge to watch another grey-haired happy man explaining that his flatulence had gone, thanks to a daily dose of Zontol P3, before being issued with a warning that some users may develop tuberculosis.

I nibbled on a damp breadstick and licked the cheese while I waited for the army to go first, and then I boarded the 777 for the flight home. Brilliant. Film. Dinner. Sleep. I'd be at work by 11am.

I wasn't. After I'd finished my dinner of what the big-haired stewardess said was a "Scottish egg" and settled down for the night, a serious-sounding man came on the Tannoy to ask if there were any trained medical personnel on board.

A long period of silence followed, after which the captain announced that there was an emergency and he'd have to land in New York.

It turned out the emergency was an elderly man at the back of the plane who'd decided he didn't like flying. To deal with the situation, and calm him down, he'd been cable-tied to his seat.

Once on the ground, the staff had a problem. A passenger who didn't want to get off a United Airlines plane had been beaten up by security. And then the carrier had made things worse by putting out a statement saying he'd had it coming because he was "disruptive and belligerent".

The crew on my plane didn't want that sort of publicity, so they had to remove the man using nothing but kindness. This does not come naturally to any US airline worker, and it was three hours before we were back in the air.

People say travel broadens the mind, but as I stood in the electronic milking shed at Heathrow, fruitlessly trying to get the machine to read my electronic passport, I pondered on that, and I've decided it's wrong. Travel actually makes you cross.
 

skylock

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He is right, esp about the cheese.

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
 

Revelator

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Time to be rude:

Oi, fatty! Join me in a little act of rudeness and we'll make Britain normal again (April 30)

Now that we have Mr Trump in the White House, and Mrs Hitler on course to take France out of the EU through a hole in the fence made by the elderly folk of northern England, many people are wondering what has gone wrong with the world.

Well, for an answer we should look no further than an announcement made during the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley last weekend. The gist of it was: if you are offended by someone's behaviour, you can text the person's seat number to God-knows-who and he or she will be given the full United Airlines treatment as security men hurl him bodily from the stadium.

This worried me greatly because I know that over the years I have caused a great deal of offence to a great many people: vegetablists, socialists, the French, the Americans, short people, fat people, bicyclists, football referees, public sector workers, the Koreans, people who drive Peugeots, people who are left-handed, people who wear stupid shoes, traffic wardens, Highways England traffic officers ... The list is endless, and so there was a good chance my seat number would be texted to the thought police, and shortly afterwards I'd end up in a skip with a loose tooth.

Causing offence has somehow become the nation's No 1 crime. Which means that if you live in the public eye, your No 1 rule must be: grin and be medium.

The result of this on television is Matt Baker, who hosts The One Show and Countryfile. He would host everything else if they could clone him in some way, because Matt is the sort of man you'd want your daughter to marry. Matt has never looked at pornography on the internet or put a stickleback down a waste disposal unit. Matt has great teeth and a range of jumpers that are lovely. Also, he speaks with one of the regional accents that we find cute (not Birmingham) and, I bet, writes long and brilliant thank-you letters.

On Newsnight we see that the acerbic Jeremy Paxman has gone and in his stead there's a small, bald man who smiles a lot. At home the small, bald man wears weird clothes, but at work he wears a suit and an open-necked shirt and is polite to his interviewees, all of whom wear burqas and turbans, so they don't offend anyone who's watching.

And it's not just on television. You may not be noisy any more when leaving a pub, in case you cause offence to the neighbours. You may not smoke within half a mile of a child. You may not roll your eyes at the post office counter girl, no matter how stupid she has been, because abuse of staff will not be tolerated.

Only last week we were told in an Oxford University newsletter that if you avoided eye contact with someone, you could be guilty of racism. But that's OK, because these days everything is racist, except all the stuff that is sexist as well.

All this makes life virtually impossible for politicians. Because if they don't establish eye contact with Emily Maitlis when they are being interviewed, they are being racist, and if they do, they are being misogynistic bastards.

And things are even worse when it comes to answering an actual question. Last weekend Jeremy Corbyn, who leads the Labour Party, was asked if he'd drop a bomb on the head of the man who runs Isis. Well, that's impossible for the old goat, because if he says no, he will offend the Daily Mail, and if he says yes, he will offend everyone in Isis.

It's the same for the Tories. When asked about the NHS, they can't say, "We really should shut the bloody thing down", because that will cause offence. So they have to pull a serious face and make noises until the reporter is bored, or reports them for being racist.

This means no politician can say what he or she is thinking. And neither can they tell the truth. They know, without a shadow of doubt, that badgers transmit tuberculosis to cattle. But if you say, "Do badgers transmit tuberculosis to cattle?", I guarantee that not a single one will say yes.

At home we know this. We know, as they waffle on while staring at the bridge of the reporter's nose so as not to be thought either racist or sexist, that they are lying, that they are spinning a yarn designed to keep Paul Dacre and Gary Lineker and the Twitter hordes off their back, and we are fed up with it.

Nigel Farage, by contrast, offended vast swathes of the population with his red-telephone-box, Morris Minor, Love Thy Neighbour vision of Britain. But people liked him because they could see he was talking from the heart. And it was the same story with Trump. And it's the same story with that mad Frenchwoman whose name I can't be bothered to spellcheck.

Sensible, centrist politicians must start taking note. They've got to stop trying to please everyone, which is impossible, and say what they think. And we can help them by agreeing not to be offended quite so easily.

We can start at the FA Cup final next month. When the announcer comes on the loudspeakers asking you to report anyone who's being offensive, report him to the number on the screens. Because unless we clamp down on this sort of nonsense, we are going to see the rise of a new Hitler.
 

Revelator

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Clarkson banging on about badgers again...

A licence to cull could be a lifeline for Prince Philip ? and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle (May 7)

Most people seem to agree that after nearly 70 years of pretending to be interested in tribal dancing and civic arts centres the Duke of Edinburgh is entitled to put his feet up and enjoy what little time he has left.

Hmmm. At present my diary is a hilarious collection of parties I'll have to cancel because I'll be out of the country, flights I'll miss because I'm too hung over, scripting days that will get forgotten and newspaper deadlines that won't be met.

And in among it all there's the horror of next Sunday. I get back from Croatia late on Saturday night, and the next thing I must do is get to a filming location in Berkshire by 7am on Monday. This means I have a whole day with nothing to do, nowhere to be and nobody to see. It frightens me.

Because when you get into bed at night knowing that you have done nothing that day apart from looking in the fridge every half-hour to see if there are any cold sausages that you didn't spot last time, you know you have wasted what is a significant portion of your life. You have drained the world's resources and given nothing back. You've been a human sponge. A wastrel.

This is what will happen to Prince Philip. When he doesn't have to get up and put on a suit so he can listen to stuttering bores who've set up a jam festival, he will lie in bed thinking: "What's the point of getting up at all?" Eventually, at about 10, he will start to think about having a small whisky, and at 10 past he will succumb. After a short while, the combination of alcohol and inactivity will be fatal and he will die.

The facts bear this out. Studies have found that people who work beyond the age of 65 tend to die about 10% later than those who put their feet up. Except if you're German, in which case it's the other way around. This is bad news for Mrs Queen, who is from that neck of the woods. But good for Philip, who, as we know, is Greek.

Actually, I'm only guessing that it's good news for the Greeks. No one knows for sure what happens there, because the concept of "stopping work" doesn't apply in a country where no one ever really starts.

Whatever, it's bad news for you and me because it means that if we retire when we are 65, we get about 10 minutes before the Grim Reaper comes up the drive in his beige people carrier.

The only way to deal with the problem is to retire from your normal job and then keep busy in some other way. Not exercising, obviously, because there's nothing as tragic as an old wrinkly person in an Ali G outfit dragging their arthritis round the park. And not golf. Everyone dies on the golf course. And not bridge, which is just blackjack for the incontinent.

No. It needs to be something with a point, and that brings me neatly on to what's happening in the small village of Burton Fleming in East Yorkshire. A couple of years ago terrible floods drowned every hedgehog in the region, and now a 72-year-old called Kate Mercer has decided that she and her friends from the village hall should do something about it.

Taking advice from a genial-looking 78-year-old hedgehog enthusiast in the next county, she has transformed the village, drilling holes in fences, installing little ladders in ponds and erecting feeding stations. Her work has been described as "the best thing that's ever happened" to the community.

I was, at this point, going to say that beating Hitler was probably even better, but the truth is, I quite like the idea of old people staging a hedgehog reintroduction. It's gentle and everyone wins, because hedgehogs are like ice cream and David Attenborough and Rome. Everyone likes them.

Put it like this. When I drive past a road sign saying: "Thank you for driving slowly through our village", I always think: "But I didn't." However, if there were a sign saying: "Please slow down for our hedgehogs", I'd crawl along at 2mph, straining my eyes like the tail gunner in a Halifax.

Cars, however, are only one of the threats that hedgehogs face in these difficult times. Another is habitat loss. Replace your lawn with decking and you are robbing Spiny Norman of his insect-rich feeding ground. Put up a fence and you are imprisoning him.

And then there's Tyson Fury, who, to strengthen his gypsy credentials, said recently that he'd eaten a hedgehog. He's unusual, though. Most travellers these days prefer a party seven of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

That still leaves us with the badger, though. This is the real menace. When he's not marauding about the place, knocking over walls and killing cows with his arsenal of vindictive diseases, he likes to eat as many hedgehogs as possible.

One of the main prerequisites, in fact, for turning your village into a hedgehog-friendly zone like Burton Fleming is that the area is not infested with an army of Brian May's flea-ridden mates.

Which brings me neatly back to Prince Philip. When he stops walking around with his hands behind his back later this year, he could very easily keep his mind fresh and his body active by joining a hedgehog reintroduction scheme near one of his castles.

Obviously, I can't see him drilling holes in a fence or erecting a small ladder. Nor can I see him running a bring-and-buy stall in Sandringham's village hall. However, I can see him doing his bit by pouring himself a nice glass of red and sitting at his bedroom window with a brace of Purdeys, waiting for a badger to heave into view.
 
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