Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

Revelator

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Clarkson was away for a while (filming the second series of the Grand Tour?) but is now back, if not quite focused:

If Farron really wants votes, he must deal with our most grievous malaise: culottes (May 21)

So if Labour wins the general election, Jeremy Corbyn will reintroduce the Deltic railway locomotive, put Mungo Jerry back in the charts and make rich people in the south buy everyone in the north of England a brazier so they can be warm when they are picketing someone else's place of work.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat, who is called Timmy, says that if he wins a Commons majority he will lower the voting age to six and take us out of Europe by not taking us out at all.

This has annoyed the Green Party, which thought of these things first, so it's gone further by saying that if it wins 325 more seats than it got last time around, it will increase the number of bottle banks, issue free tampons to the poor and make prostitutes cheaper.

That leaves us with the strong and stable Conservative Party, which may look as though it's being run by the steering committee from Carshalton golf club but says that despite appearances it will provide strong and stable leadership to create a strong and stable country where the strong are stable and the stable are strong.

Don't you find all this a bit depressing? I mean, here they all are, all these parties, with the chance to say and promise whatever they like. And all they can come up with is more bottle banks and something about British Rail.

Seriously. Is that the limit of their imagination? What we want is someone with vision. Someone who really does want to make life better for as many people as possible. Someone who understands that the most important thing facing the nation right now is not the NHS or Brexit but the average-speed camera.

That's what we want to hear from a party. "If we are elected, we will immediately remove all speed cameras. And restrict bicycles to children's playgrounds, which is where they belong. Oh, and women will no longer be allowed to wear culottes." That would get our attention.

And how quickly would you vote for someone who said they'd introduce profiling at airport security so that people who are very obviously not terrorists ? because, for example, they are very obviously Andrew Lloyd Webber ? would be allowed to board the aircraft without being irradiated and sexually molested first? If you are standing for election, you have a clean piece of paper. You can fling whatever you like into the mix and see if it sticks. So why not say you will introduce the death penalty for people who drop litter? Maybe people would be appalled by that, in which case you'd lose. But maybe they wouldn't. Maybe they'd like to see the carcass of a fly-tipper hanging upside down from a lamppost. I know I would.

I think it'd also be a good idea to imprison anyone who's called the Jeremy Vine show, or written something on Mail Online's message boards. And while we are on the subject of prison, why not say that inmates will be locked up in an unheated cell and will only be able to survive if they become adept at sucking moisture from the moss on the walls? I'm on a roll now. So how about preventing newsreaders from saying, "The following report contains flash photography"? We know already. And freeing advertisers from the need to employ a shorthand speaker who has to read out the terms and conditions and caveats and complex financial implications extremely quickly at the end of every radio commercial? Gillette would be forced to stop selling razors in packaging so robust that you need dynamite to get through it; newspapers (this bit may be edited out) would not be allowed to put supplements in polythene bags; and foreign aid and intelligence-sharing would be denied to any country that refused to adopt the British plug.

At the moment you have the Labour Party saying it'd spend an extra ?37 billion on the NHS and the Tories thumbing their noses a day later and saying they'd spend ?38 billion. And we all roll our eyes, because we know this sort of stuff is important, like getting your tax return done on time and flossing regularly, but what really bothers you is that your wi-fi router keeps breaking down. That's what you really want the government to do. Something about that.

You have Corbyn dribbling on about how he'll introduce 42 more bank holidays and Theresa May saying she'll stop foreigners joining her golf club, and then you have Question Time, where all these things are discussed as though they are gravely important. Which they're not. Not when your husband has died and his bank account's been frozen and you don't know what probate means and you have to get a bus that's full of diseases to go to Citizens Advice, which is shut because the staff are on a two-day "equality in the workplace" course in Harpenden.

So you have to go back at the end of the week and you're cross that you've been made to wait, so you shout at the young woman behind the counter and she calls the security guard because abuse of staff is not tolerated, so you're back on the bus, which now smells of sick, and you still don't know what probate means and what you're supposed to do with the endless forms that keep slithering through your letterbox.

A person such as this is going to vote for any party that says it will encourage customers to abuse counter staff.

Especially if it goes on to say that all workplace courses will be banned.
 

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Time for small talk:

Um ... let me break the ice, Mrs May. Have you ever been to a lap-dancing club? (May 28)

As you may know, Donald Trump has been on a tour of various places the folks back home have heard of: Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and, of course, Sicily, which was made famous by The Godfather. Naturally his progress has been mocked mercilessly by most intelligent people.

Many thought he would get Palestine muddled up with Palmyra and that in Rome he'd refer to the Pope as Mr Hanks. But I reckoned he'd do OK because these meetings, really, are just a chance for two people to do small talk and Americans are good at that. They speak to one another at the urinals. They're open and interested.

Mr Trump will have breezed into the Saudi royal palace and said: "Hey, Mr King. Nice hat." And they'll have talked about hats for a while, and how much gold leaf you can get away with on a chair, and then they'll have called in the photographers and signed the arms deal and promised to stay in touch.

Look at it this way: after you've shared a lift with an American, he will get out and say: "Good to know you." Whereas we'll say: "Good to meet you." Because we understand that after a minute or two in someone's company, we don't know them. Knowing someone, if you're British, takes years.

I was speaking about this with Richard Hammond the other day. He is famously useless at passing the time with a stranger, so I said: "You just have to be interested in other people." To which he replied: "But that's it, you see I'm not." This is why, if you meet Hammond, he will just stand there looking at you.

My problem is subtly different. I never know when to switch from small talk to something more meaty. Knowing when to change from the weather to body fluids is second nature to an American, but for me it's like knowing when to move in for the first kiss. And I'm completely useless at that as well.

Once, I was dropping a girl back at her flat just as Hazel O'Connor's "Will You?" came on the radio. She reclined her seat and said, "Oh, I love this song", and yet I continued to sit there, talking about how warm it was for the time of year, until the song finished and she said a rather puzzled goodnight.

This is why I'm hopeless at drinks parties. I recently made the mistake of sitting down and talking to a stranger, which meant I was stuck. I couldn't get up and walk off and neither could they. We didn't know each other well enough to talk about genital warts or politics or anything like that, so we just went round and round the politeness bush.

I once met Nelson Mandela, and for two days I had sweated buckets about how I'd break the ice. Being British, I have only two fallback positions--school fees and property prices--and neither seemed appropriate. So in a panic I opened with: "So, Mr Mandela. Have you ever been to a lap-dancing club?" This meant I spent the next hour sweating and stuttering through the wreckage of our meeting, knowing that I'd committed a social faux pas and that if I'd been there to sign an arms deal it would have fallen through. Yet the truth is that "Have you ever been to a lapdancing club?" is a bloody good opener.

It bypasses the need for small talk completely. Which has to be a good idea.

A couple of weeks ago my TV colleagues and I needed to hire a pretty young woman for the film we were making. And because we were in Croatia, it didn't take long to find one. She arrived as Hammond and I were waiting for the clouds to be the right shape and didn't bother with an introduction or any of that unnecessary nonsense. She simply squatted down and said: "When I got the text asking me to do this, I was at doctor's with a pipe up--how you say?--my back ass."

There was a pause, which Hammond broke by saying: "I got nothing." And the truth is, I had nothing either. I was in a state of shock. But pretty soon we were talking about polyps and colon cancer and why the French insist on ingesting everything medicinal up their anuses, and this was far better than sitting there talking about property prices and school fees and how nippy it was for early May.

Actually, Hammond did bring the conversation on to the unseasonal coldness, but she was having none of it. "I know," she said, flattening her T-shirt over her breasts. "Look."

This east European directness probably explains the impeccable state of Croatia's roads. Their guy turns up at the EU, says: "Give us some money immediately because we want to make our infrastructure better," and walks out five minutes later with a cheque.

Whereas the Britisher arrives and spends an hour talking about the speed of the train he's used, and the weather, and how Marlborough is probably better than Heathfield because property prices are lower in Wiltshire, and soon he's forgotten what he went there for. That's why Croatia is on the up and up and we are heading for the 1950s. Because we're imprisoned by our own good manners.

They cause problems in other ways too. Because if you spend an hour swapping conversational amuse-bouches with someone, you never really work out whether you like them or not. Which means ending up with an address book full of charlatans and bores.

And that brings me on to a clever test dreamt up by a friend. She makes a point, whenever she's introduced to a new person, of using the c-word straight away. If they shy away like a frightened horse, she knows they will have nothing in common and moves on.

It's a better filter than sniffing one another's bottoms for half an hour and learning nothing more than what the weather is like on their side of town.

I must be an exception to the rule, because I'm an American and I abhor small talk.
 

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And that brings me on to a clever test dreamt up by a friend. She makes a point, whenever she's introduced to a new person, of using the c-word straight away. If they shy away like a frightened horse, she knows they will have nothing in common and moves on.

I swear the last time I saw this quote in a Clarkson context it was said about his now ex-wife. I wonder if this is a clever way to not draw attention to the fact that he's divorced while also subtly noting that they still get along.
 

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Time for some hot flashes!

Honestly, ladies, I do sympathise with you about the menopause, men get it too (June 4)

It's fairly safe to say that most men don't really understand anything about the menopause. Except that we can't make jokes about it. It's profound and important and life-changing. It causes hot women to become hot in other ways. It makes them behave strangely. In parts of Europe it causes brain surgeons and rocket scientists to come home from work one day and decide to spend the rest of their lives in shapeless black dresses, cleaning the front step with an old scrubbing brush and sobbing.

Here bright, clever women who've been in love with their husband for 20 years suddenly decide they'd like to stab him in the back with a pair of scissors. And then go shoplifting. Many become obsessed for no obvious reason with keeping fit, and some discreet research last week revealed that more than you might think try their hand at a spot of afternoon lesbianism.

Men recognise these symptoms because when we say to our wives, "Why are you trying to strangle me with a flex?" they use a very loud voice to reply: "Because I'm going through the menopause, you hopeless bastard."

What causes these behavioural abnormalities isn't clear, because it's only spoken about behind conspiratorial hands, in whispers and never when there's a man round the table. As a result, we only know that something is going on in the ovaries, or is it the womb? Whatever, we know it's called "the change" for a reason. Even if we are a bit blurry about what's changing. What we do know, as I said at the outset, is that we have to sympathise or die.

I've always been good at that. When I was a reporter on a local newspaper I'd often spend mornings in the magistrates' court where a succession of weeping middle-aged women of previously good character were wheeled out to be fined ?10 for helping themselves to a bar of soap at the chemist. It was then my job to put their name in the newspaper. Which naturally was a punishment a thousand times worse than the fine.

The trouble is that sometimes I'd pop to the lavatory and miss a case. Which meant that 10 women would be publicly humiliated and one, because of my bladder, got off with a light raid on the contents of her purse. I reckoned this was unfair and raised it with my editor. "Either we cover them all, or we stop covering them altogether." This resulted in me being switched to cover parish council meetings.

A few months later the wonderful Lady Isobel Barnett, a regular contestant on What's My Line? and a woman I admired greatly, appeared in the newspapers having been convicted of stealing items worth 87p from her grocer. Just four days later, she electrocuted herself in the bath.

Everyone was saddened by that because we all knew that she was menopausal at the time of the crime. And we all thought she should have been treated with more dignity and kindness.

Which brings me on to the male equivalent of the menopause. It's called the midlife crisis and for some reason anyone who goes through it is always labelled as pathetic. And you can put your eyebrows down now, please, because I'm being serious.

When a man who has spent 20 years being the perfect husband and father suddenly gets a tattoo and a Harley-Davidson he is mocked and ostracised by his friends and family. How is that fair? We don't mock women of 50 for losing their decent waist so why can they mock men for suddenly deciding, after years of sedentary box-set living, to get one? A man doesn't decide when he gets to 60 that he wants to spend the next few years on the pull. It's not rational. It's not sensible. He doesn't want a pair of tight white trousers; they're uncomfortable. And he doesn't want a motorcycle either because he thinks they're silly and dangerous. And yet, led by a peculiar drive from deep within his underpants, he suddenly decides to buy both things. And for some reason we find this tragic.

A boss who's spent all of his working life treating his secretaries with good manners and kindness is suddenly consumed with a need to take one to a Premier Inn one Thursday afternoon for a spot of rumpy-pumpy. He's read books. He's travelled. He's run a business. He's wise. And yet now he's become stupid. That cannot be something coming from the head. It must be biological.

Cod psychology tells us that he's spent all of his life being a lion and that soon he will be no good at it. His teeth will fall out, his testes will turn into sultanas and he will be left to ruminate on what could have been. If only he'd got the Harley and the tighty-whitey jeans.

There was a picture of Sean Connery last week and it was a shock. Last time we saw him, in The Rock, he was old, for sure, but there aren't many women who would have kicked him out of bed. Now, though, he looks decrepit. And we know there must have been a moment when the lights went out. We all know that moment is coming and we want to cram our lives with as much as possible before it goes all dark and doddery.

That sounds like a reasonable thesis but my point is that it doesn't happen consciously. Any more than Lady Isobel was acting consciously when she halfinched that can of tuna and tub of cream.

We must accept that the menopause and the midlife crisis are the same thing. And that they will come to us all in varying degrees at some point. And then, when we've accepted that, we must look at the middle-aged mad people who are campaigning for our votes in the coming election and think: "Really? Wouldn't we be better off with someone who's 30?" Anyway, the point is that we respect the menopause.

I also saw that picture of Sean Connery, and thought he looked pretty damn good for an 87 year old.
 

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Up and away:

BA lands in the brown stuff over a power cut. Next we'll blame it for turbulence (June 11)

And in other news last week, a group of jumper enthusiasts called Skytrax left their Thermos flasks and B&Q folding chairs at the end of the runway at Heathrow and announced through their swollen adenoids they're thinking of taking away British Airways's coveted four-star status.

If the binocular boys from the planespotting community go ahead with their threat, BA will be ranked in the tables alongside the national carriers of Burma, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan.

Apparently this has something to do with the fact that the seats in economy are now suitable only for the sort of people you see in an LS Lowry painting, and the food served back there would be rejected by most dogs. Well, I can't comment on that because I haven't turned right on a plane for years.

I suspect mostly, though, the main reason BA is facing a downgrade to junk status is that at the start of the half-term break it suffered a global computer crash that caused its fleet to become stuck in a giant game of musical statues. Many people's holidays were ruined, thousands of business meetings had to be cancelled and there was chaos. I saw it first hand. Angry-looking Heathrow security people were barring the doors, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who were being inconvenienced. And then more wailing and gnashing when I was waved through after flashing my BA gold card.

Naturally enough, the trade unions say the global crash happened because BA recently outsourced its entire computer setup to a small industrial unit at 4b Queen Victoria Way, Calcutta. Whereas BA says it was because of an electricity surge.

I'm not sure quite what's meant by this. Does the power supply suddenly come in a big lump? Do all your lightbulbs start to glow very brightly and does your washing machine swell up to the size of a chest freezer? I thought it all sounded a bit farfetched. Until I went to my little cottage in the country last weekend. Seemingly there'd been what news reporters who want jobs on American television call a power "outage", caused, according to Scottish and Southern Electricity, by "trees coming into contact with our network". A snappy line, that.

Now, in the olden days, when we had three-day weeks and I had to watch Top of the Pops on a small black-and-white TV powered by the battery from my dad's Ford Cortina, the power would start flowing again after a while and everything that had gone off would start to work once more.

Not any more. The power "cut", as I shall call it, because I already have a job with a US broadcaster, had caused all of the digital sensors that govern our lives to become confused, and as a result I was cast back into the 14th century.

Obviously the wi-fi had gone. Even at the best of times, wi-fi routers are less reliable than an Austin Allegro, so after a power cut they sit there flashing their meaningless lights as you say to a man on the other end of the phone that you've already turned it off and on again. Three times.

No matter, I thought: I can do without my Instagram fix for one evening and catch up on a box set instead. Nope. The television could provide me with only terrestrial stations, which at four in the afternoon meant a selection of shows featuring men with silly moustaches going round auction houses with some uncomfortable-looking old people who thought that after they had sold their chintzy teapot they would have enough in the bank for a world cruise.

Quickly I became stupefied by this, so I decided to have a shower. At first things went well. I was able to get a good lather going in my barnet, but then the water just stopped. Unlike your water, mine is pumped from a stream at the bottom of the garden and into a purification plant that is located in what is officially the dustiest, dirtiest barn in the world.

And that is where I found myself, squelching through guano and decomposing rodents, to find what had gone wrong. And when I finally found the circuit board, I couldn't see it because of all the soap in my eyes, so I fumbled about with all the switches and levers until the dust and the dirt had mixed with the shampoo to turn my entire hair into a massive breeze block.

Unable to hold my head up properly, I stumbled back through the lake of pigeon crap to the cottage, where I used a hammer to free my head from the concrete. And there I sat, with rubble in my hair, watching another man with another moustache explaining to an old dear that her teapot had fetched ?2.75 and she wouldn't be going on a cruise.

Now, this is a small house in the Cotswolds and it was plunged into the Middle Ages because?in English?some branches had been blown by the wind into power cables. So it's entirely plausible BA was crippled by some kind of disruption to its power supply.

I like BA, as a rule. I like being welcomed on board by a homosexual in grey flannel trousers. I like the soothing, confident tones of its pilots. And I really like terminal 5, especially the check-in facilities for gold-card members.

That one of the windmills it is undoubtedly forced to use to offset its carbon emissions had a hissy fit and wrecked all its computers is just plain bad luck. And that's no reason to give it the same rating as an airline where you get beaten up, or where you get slapped for not putting your seatbelt on (that happened to me recently), or where you have about as much chance of surviving the flight as a prisoner in one of General Augusto Pinochet's detention centres.
 

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Post-election hysteria from Jezza:

You young people were jolly naughty on June 8. Go to your rooms with no vote (June 18)

So that's two elections on the trot that have been messed up by Britain's young people. They couldn't be bothered to vote in the European Union referendum and we ended up with Brexit. And then, having realised the error of their ways, they decided they would vote for that arse Jeremy Corbyn in the general election, so now we've ended up with a hung parliament. Which won't be able to deal with the mess their bone-idleness created in the first place.

Frankly, I'd smack their bottoms and send them all to their rooms for the day, and then I'd raise the voting age to 46. Actually, I'd go further. I'd make people sit an IQ test before being allowed to cast a vote, because I'm sorry but anyone who plumped for Corbyn is so daft they really need to be on medication.

Britain's national debt is more than ?1.7 trillion and it's growing at the rate of almost ?1 billion a week. Which is about ?100,000 a minute. And the weird-beard Islingtonite thinks that this can be tackled by making Starbucks pay a bit more tax. He's deluded and should be in prison. The problem is he has a soft voice and kind eyes and he sounds genuine when he says that if Sir Elton John and Lord Bamford would only pay a little bit more to the government each week, it would end all poverty, hunger, crime, terrorism and war. I'm sitting there screaming: "The man collects manhole covers. He's a lunatic." But young and stupid people are turning to their fat friends and saying: "Well, that makes sense." In a northern accent.

We see this problem not just in Britain but all round the world. In America the people elected a man who has nylon hair because he said he'd build a wall along the border with Mexico. In France they elected a man who married his teacher because he has a nice face. In Russia they fawn over a president -- who has at some point in his life at the KGB pushed another man's eyes into the back of his head -- because he wants to reinstate the Soviet Union. And so it goes on.

In Canada they were offered a choice between a normal politician and a two-year-old. And they decided to give the toddler a chance because he has a huge tattoo of a weird raven on his left arm.

It's not hard to see what's going on.

People are bored with politicians and politics and they want something new. Anything. Just so long as it doesn't sound like Tony Blair or David Cameron or any of the others.

At one point in the run-up to the election Theresa May took her campaign to Plymouth, or it may have been Portsmouth -- somewhere with a lot of ships, anyway. There she was quizzed on camera by someone from the local newspaper, and she answered all his questions with the conviction and sincerity of a regional radio DJ. You could see she didn't mean a single word she was saying. She therefore said a lot of words without saying anything at all. And people are bored with that.

Remember Ed Miliband? The one who lost an election after he failed to eat a bacon sandwich? He'd plainly been told by his spin doctors that the news crew that had been sent to interview him would use only one soundbite and that no matter how tricky or varied the questions might be, he should just say the same thing over and over again. So he did. And then, when the whole unedited interview ended up on YouTube, we could see him sitting there, repeating himself like a Dalek.

Blair was an actor, so he made a much better fist of looking as if he knew what he was talking about. But he wasn't a very good actor, which is why we all knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We could see it in his eyes. But still the politicians keep on believing that a smile, a soundbite and a nice suit are all that's needed to keep them in a job. Well, they aren't. Not any more.

There's talk, as I write, that May won't be able to keep her job, but, seriously, when you look at the replacements whose names are being bandied about: Philip Hammond, David Davis, the other one? They're like milk bottles. It's impossible to say which you prefer.

Which is why we are drawn to the weirdos, the odd ones out. There's a theory in America that presidential elections are always won by the candidate you'd most like to have over for a barbecue on a Sunday afternoon. That's why John F Kennedy beat Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, and it's why Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

I think there's a kernel of truth in that in Britain too. It's probably why we have a hung parliament, because who would you prefer to have over for Sunday lunch, a woman who goes on walking holidays or a man who collects manhole covers? The answer is: "Er... " This is what the Conservative Party must understand in the coming months. If it gets rid of May -- and it should, really, because she's a dead duck -- it must remember that in Britain there are millions and millions of people who are stupid or young or both. And who thus won't really grasp the complexities of Brexit and austerity and so on.

That doesn't matter. Any Conservative is going to make a better job of pulling us out of Europe and balancing the books than Corbyn would. That's the main goal. To keep him at bay. So the Tories must choose someone who's odd and funny and different from all the others.

Someone who the voters would like to have over for a few beers on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The only problem with this idea is that there's only one name from all of the 300 or so contenders that springs to mind. It's Boris Johnson. Which means we've had it.
 

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Vacation time:

Wish you were being drizzled on: last week's sun ruined my Riviera holiday (June 25)

Well, as weeks go, that really should have been as close to perfect as it's possible to imagine. It began with a giant party in Siena at one of those houses that I thought only really existed in advertisements for Cinzano. Even Kate Moss was there.

Then I pottered up the Riviera to stay with friends in Portofino before heading on down, for no particular reason, to St. Tropez. After that I did a bit of summer glacier skiing in Les Deux Alpes and then drove a Bugatti into Turin for a bowl of kidneys and much too much wine.

There wasn't a single view on the entire trip that was anything less than magical. There wasn't one person I met whom I didn't like. There was no unpleasantness of any kind. And yet the whole thing was spoilt just a tiny bit by constant reports that Britain was basking under the sort of summer skies it hasn't seen for more than 40 years.

"Bugger," I thought, when I consulted my Instagram feed every morning and saw everyone I knew at home frolicking about in ponds. And lots of shots of hot dogs. "Bugger and blast."

The weather on my trip was cloudless. The skies were constantly blue. And the thermometer was hovering in what those of us who can remember the summer of 1976 call "the mid-80s". But it's hard to enjoy weather such as this when you know that the people back home are enjoying it too. I suspect I'm not alone in this.

When we come back from a holiday, radiating wellness, we like people to say: "Ooh, have you been away?" We don't want to come back, after spending thousands of pounds, to find that they are browner than we are.

This troubles me. God enthusiasts are forever telling us that the human being is fundamentally good and charitable and kind. But how can this be so if we are saddened to hear that other people are enjoying a bit of luck with the weather? I wonder. Do very rich people resent those who win the lottery and become very rich themselves? Were we all a bit happy last week to hear Boris Becker has money troubles? And do we rejoice silently when Mail Online brings news of a former supermodel's cellulite? I recently ran into some people at an airport who said they were friendly with a chap I'd been at school with. Back then he was captain of everything, had a triangular torso and always went off with the girl I'd spent all night dazzling with my wit. "How is he?" I asked. "He's fat," they said. "How fat?" I asked with a hint of glee in my voice. "Well, he weighs 18 stone," they said. And I'm sorry, but that made me happy for a month.

All of which brings me to a new residential development not far from where I live in west London. Designed to be a place where thrusting City boys can spend evenings watching pornography and eating takeaway food, it's "That'll do" architecture at its most uninspiring.

But last week it became a lifeboat. The City of London Corporation has done some kind of deal with the developer and ended up with 68 flats that can be used, forever, by those who lost everything in the Grenfell Tower blaze.

On the face of it this is perfect. Those poor families have a brand-new place to call home and it's just a spit away from where their children go to school. The developer has apparently sold the flats at cost, but you can be assured that its next application to put up a ho-hum block will be passed very quickly by planners. So it's happy too. And Kensington and Chelsea council is delighted because it's a one-fell-swoop solution to a problem that two weeks ago seemed insurmountable. So that's all lovely.

Or is it? Because in the past few months people have been moving into that development. I see their expensive light fittings and curtains as I drive by. They've obviously coughed up God knows how many millions to live in a place that they thought would be filled with peace and quiet. And now it turns out they're going to be sharing it with people many of whom have been refugees twice from the other side of the tracks. Yup, the American Psycho will be living cheek by jowl with Mohamed from Somalia.

One day soon, and I can pretty much guarantee this, one of the City boys will complain. He'll say he doesn't like his new neighbour's cooking smells or that he found a used hypodermic needle on the landing. And when he does, he is going to have about 25 tons of brown stuff emptied on his head for being a callous, Tory-voting, selfish, thoughtless, heartless man-bastard.

We will all nod, of course, and gnash our teeth and say: "Yes. He is all of those things." But actually he's only doing exactly what I did as I sat in a harbour cafe in Portofino and read that Britain had just enjoyed its hottest summer's day since whenever the last one was.

The fact is that the God enthusiasts are wrong. Human beings are not fundamentally nice. We are fundamentally horrible. Put a video of a cat having a nice snooze on YouTube and no one will watch it. Put up a video of a cat falling off a washing machine and it'll get 8 trillion views.

The Grenfell Tower fire brought out the best in us. We rallied round and donated our trousers. It's the same story when we hear about children drowning in the Mediterranean or dying of starvation in Africa. We buy the charity records and we pull the right faces.

But then we go back to our ordinary, bitter lives, where we resent the success, the wealth, the beauty or even the good fortune of others.

Don't agree? Well, just remember that when you read earlier about my week in Italy and France, you thought--and don't deny it--"You lucky sod."
 

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Clarkson says "get off my lawn!"

School's out of touch: kids must learn to wire a plug and embrace nepotism (July 2)

My elder daughter has written a funny book and I'm very proud. It's called Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? and it's a bit like the old television series Grumpy Old Men. Except it's a book and it's written by a grumpy young woman.

Young people today tend not to express themselves in print. They communicate on the dark web where no grown-up can go, or they use their breasts as a placard on a march. It's unusual, therefore, to hear from a young person who's used ink and paper to let us know what her generation is thinking.

And what she's thinking is that she's cross. She's cross with Topshop for labelling all its clothes the wrong sizes, cross with internet trolls and cross with boys for thinking periods might attract bears (her words, not mine). She's cross with those who get between her and her prosecco, and she's cross with all food. Mostly, though, she's cross about school.

As I'm her father, I found this particular chapter extremely hard to read, because I simply had no idea how unhappy she'd been as a boarder, how alien it all was to her, and how cruel. Mostly she explains that it was a complete and utter waste of time. I fear she may have a point.

Round about now, thousands of children will be leaving school for good, fairly confident they've learnt all they need to know and are ready for whatever the world may throw their way. But as Emily points out, she had no idea about the difference between a credit card and a debit card, and while she was pretty well versed in the periodic table and what inferences can be drawn from the gap in the Wife of Bath's teeth, she had no clue what council tax was.

I've long held the belief that schools exist now solely to maintain their position in the league tables. Children are just meat. They're taught how to pass exams in the easiest possible subjects so that, when they do well, other parents will send their young fresh meat to that school, rather than to a rival establishment.

To maintain the illusion that it's all for the benefit of the children and not just about league tables, kids are told they have no time for frivolous pastimes such as reading newspapers or socialising because they must get to university, for which they will need four A*s. And a disabled parent, in a council house. University is held aloft as the be-all and end-all. The portal through which you must pass if you want to avoid a front-of-house career in fast food.

But that simply isn't true. I employ quite a few young people these days and, I'm sorry, but an upper second from Exeter is always going to be trumped by a spot of nepotism. If I know your mum and dad, you stand a pretty good chance. If I don't, you're just another name on a mile-high stack of CVs.

It may well be that you were a tremendous student. And that you did your coursework diligently while maintaining a neat haircut. But what do you think an employer wants: a kid who knows about Newton's third law, or a kid who can use pay-by-phone parking without calling his mum for help? You'd be staggered how gumption-free some school-leavers are. Average-speed cameras, passport application forms, where water comes from all of this stuff is beyond half of them. We even had one come to work for us the other day who believed to be true something they'd found on Wikipedia.

When I asked them to phone the person we were researching to find out the truth from the horse's mouth, they looked at me as though I'd asked them to communicate with smoke signals. "Talk to him?" they stammered.

They mock old people such as us for not being able to use Facebook or get a TV to work properly. But they can't boil an egg or use a saw or wire a plug. And they have not even the vaguest inkling what is meant by the word "patience".

When we grew up we had Marine Boy on a Thursday and then had to wait until the following Thursday to watch the next episode. Today, television is immediate. And it's the same with dating. I used to have to chat up a girl by walking up to her and saying: "Have you seen Thin Lizzy? I have." Now you just swipe right. Or left. Or whatever it is.

Then there's cooking. We actually had to chop stuff up before making it hot, whereas Emily, as she points out in her book, left school with no idea how to do this, and consequently relied on food that comes with an instruction manual. And that made her fat.

As a result of this "I want it now" mentality, they can't understand why, after a day in work, they are still junior researchers. "Why am I not managing director?" they wail, after they've been in the job for a week.

School could rectify this by teaching patience instead of maths, which, as Jeremy Corbyn has proved with his spending plans, is not something you need if you want to get on in life. I'd also force kids to gamble, so they can see how easy it is to lose, and take out a loan, so they get a grasp of the problems of paying it back. I'd show them farmyard animals mating and make them perform complex tasks while drunk.

Could they be tested in any of this stuff? No, not really. Which is why I'd abolish all exams past the age of 11.

Exams ruin childhood and exist only as a yardstick for universities, which aren't important either.

The result would be a country full of young people who have no idea about tectonic shift or algebra but who are worldly-wise enough to cook chicken properly, cross the road without using Google and see Corbyn for the dangerous fool he really is.
 

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Some sartorial suffering:

Centuries of male suffering inflicted by Croatian ragamuffins and French fops (July 9)

As we all know, the world is in a bit of a pickle at the moment, so you'd expect parliament to be a hive of important activity as members scuttle about discussing Brexit, the latest North Korean missile test, the lawlessness of Libya and how many tower blocks in Britain are basically great big tinderboxes.

Strangely, however, they seem to be mostly bothered about the recent announcement that ties would no longer be compulsory in the House. This has plainly irked a transport minister called John Somethingorother, who stood up last week and said: "I ought to say as a matter of courtesy that I will not be taking interventions from any member who is not wearing a tie, on whichever side of the House that member may sit."

At this point I'd have filled a paper aeroplane with the contents of my nose and aimed it at his head, but no one thought to do that, so on he went. "I believe in generosity ... and I will provide a tie ... for anyone who is sartorially challenged or inadequate."

Did he think people would find this funny? Because it wasn't. I've seen more amusing stuff in an instruction manual. But he ploughed on regardless, explaining that women could intervene as he wouldn't expect them "to dress in my tie, their own or anyone else's".

There are people with dogs without a job, sitting on the pavement outside my local supermarket, who are capable of being more relevant and amusing than this.

But, staggeringly, his observations seem to have struck a chord, because a new MP called Eddie Hughes leapt to his feet and said ? hold on to your sides, everyone ? "I bought this suit at the weekend specifically to wear when making my first speech in this chamber, and although obviously I will be wearing exactly the same suit for the rest of the week" ? punchline on its way ? "at least for today I'm looking my best."

What a bonehead. Seriously. He's campaigned for months. He's won his election. He's now the member of parliament for somewhere awful in the Midlands and this is his big moment. And that's the best he can come up with.

That night, I bet, he will have called his wife and said excitedly: "Were you watching, darling? Did you see me? It's in Hansard and everything. I told them about my new suit and how I'd be wearing it all week." And she, if she had any gumption, will have thought, with a world-weary sigh and a pitying glance at her children: "Maybe I should think more seriously about starting that affair with my gym instructor."

Half the problem is that these two men have managed to get hot under their collars precisely because both of them were wearing ties. And ties are stupid. No. Don't argue. Because they are. They serve no purpose.

I've done some checking and it seems that the idea of the tie came about in the 17th century when some Croatian mercenaries turned up in France wearing knotted handkerchiefs around their necks.

Instead of saying, "Thank God you're here. We need all the help we can get to fight these pesky Protestants", the French ? because they are French ? said: "Wow. Cool neckwear, boys." And immediately rushed off to create what became known as the cravat.

Later it became fashionable for rich young Englishmen to do a grand tour of Europe so that they could become even more boring at dinner parties by talking about art and music. And to let everyone know they'd been away, they started wearing idiotic stuff round their necks to make them look more French.

Because they were not only boring, but bored, they started to invent new ways of tying up this neckwear. And there were various publications, all of which were edited by Dylane Jones Esq, which helped them learn how to look more preposterous.

So when you put on a tie today, what you are actually saying is: "I'm a bore. I'm vain. And I want to be French. Oh, and it doesn't matter that I have a piece of silk dangling round my neck because obviously I don't work on the shop floor so it's unlikely I'll be garrotted by a piece of heavy machinery."

I made a vow on the day I left school that I would never again wear a tie and, with the exception of Margaret Thatcher's funeral and a couple of television appearances, I haven't. I'm not sure I can remember how to tie one any more. I also, between the months of April and November, rarely wear socks.

This means my performance in the day is vastly improved, partly because I don't have to waste time in front of a mirror every morning trying to make my tie the right length. And partly because I'm never too hot. I'm relaxed. So relaxed that today I spilt some noodles down the front of my shirt.

If I were to turn up for a discussion in the houses of parliament looking like this, the Tory MPs ? whose wives, even as we speak, are texting their gym instructors ? would huff and puff and suggest I wasn't capable of thinking straight.

But that's the thing. I am. And what I see these days is a world run by tech giants who slob into work wearing jeans and a T-shirt, Kim Jong-un, who wears a boiler suit, and various rock stars who put on whatever doesn't smell too bad.

Nobody says to Mr Bono: "I'm sorry but we aren't interested in what you have to say because you aren't wearing a tie." And no one has yet asked Mr Edge to take off his hat.

Whereas whenever a man in a tie comes on the television, we always turn it off because we know he's not being funny or interesting in any way.

Why did he go to Thatcher's funeral?
While I agree that ties are fundamentally silly and illogical, their real purpose is to symbolize formality and respect. Wearing a tie to an event or place is a sign that you regard it as important and serious. So I think it is a mistake to no longer require them in the House. Lawmakers are not tech nerds or rock stars and should not dress like them.
 

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Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

Why did he go to Thatcher's funeral?

Pretty sure Jeremy's politics are more in line with Thatcher than not; that said, many of Thatcher's political and personal rivals/enemies also attended or requested to attend her funeral - some out of a desire to gloat or make sure 'that b*tch was dead,' others to pay homage to a worthy opponent, others still out of respect for a former Prime Minister.

While I agree that ties are fundamentally silly and illogical, their real purpose is to symbolize formality and respect. Wearing a tie to an event or place is a sign that you regard it as important and serious. So I think it is a mistake to no longer require them in the House. Lawmakers are not tech nerds or rock stars and should not dress like them.

While you do have a point, ties really should be restricted to actual formal occasions, not the workaday world IMHO. Another issue with the House and the wear of ties is that the female dress code is considerably relaxed from where it used to be and that it is only fair to relax the male dress code to match. Otherwise, women in the House should be restricted to full pantsuits with very high necklines or dresses that are ankle length and have similar high necklines as that is the American and British female equivalent. (And wouldn't *that* set off a firestorm.)
 
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If only the new car show was as interesting.
 

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A twofer this week! The standard column, followed by a special family-oriented one.

Like most stag dos, we were out of control ... then the groom's boxers were pulled down (July 16)

Boating enthusiasts on the Norfolk Broads ? or Ukip, as they're known these days ? have taken to the internet to express their dismay about how the peace and tranquillity of this enormous bog is being ruined by the rowdy behaviour of visitors. "Some of them may even be foreign," no one has said specifically. But you can bet it's what many were thinking.

Stag weekends seem to be the main cause for concern, and when I read that, my eyes started to roll with despair. Yes. No one likes to share so much as a postcode with a bunch of boorish drunks celebrating the forthcoming nuptials of a mate. But these things are a part of the fabric of society, so we just have to accept that from time to time a night out in the pub is going to be spoilt by some sick and a bit of broken furniture. 'Twas ever thus.

However, if you actually examine the complaints from Captain Farage and his mates, it looks as though they may have a point. One says he recently witnessed a stag do where all the participants got drunk and then started throwing one another into the water. So far, so normal ? back in your box, Boaty McBoatface. But then he goes on to say they stripped the groom naked, in front of everyone, waxed him ? that's weird ? and, after throwing him into the water too, took out their penises and urinated on him.

I'm sorry, but that's disgusting. I thought a stag night was something that involved a group of friends. Which raises a question. What sort of friends would decide to urinate on their host? I once urinated on someone who tried to get a selfie while I was standing at a motorway service station's urinals. But I've never peed on a friend and never would.

It turns out, however, that this is far from an isolated incident. Recently a plane had to make an unscheduled landing at Gatwick after someone on a stag party thought it would be hilarious to set fire to the groom. So he did. He looked at his mate, someone he'd presumably known for years, and he thought: "I think it would be for the best if he were to be married while sporting some third-degree burns." So he set fire to his hair.

It gets worse. Several years ago, various people on a stag party on a blazing hot day in Bournemouth decided that the bridegroom and his best man should be cooked. So they staked them out in the sun using handcuffs, stripped them naked, and covered them in flour, eggs and tomato sauce. I find that odd. Because I've been drunk many times, but I've never looked at Jimmy Carr, who's a friend, and thought: "You know what? He'd be lovely on a bed of fresh pasta."

I'll be honest. I'm not really a fan of stag nights. I find the whole idea of all-male company extremely distressing. All that cigar-infused nonsense about snooker cues, speedboats, business deals and hookers that men feel compelled to talk about when left to their own devices makes me nauseous.

Things are even worse when you sprinkle a bit of forced jollity into the mix. Taking off a man's clothes and chaining him to a set of traffic lights could possibly, if you are 20, be mildly amusing if it's spontaneous. But feeling obliged to do it? Nah. That's just rubbish.

That said, there was one occasion I was on a stag night and was hauled out of my dining chair to hold down the groom while other chaps shaved off his pubic hair. It seemed to me to be a terrible thing to do and I was very unamused about being forced to join in.

Until they got his boxers down and we noticed the poor man had quite the smallest penis we'd ever seen. The embarrassed silence was eventually broken by someone saying: "You can't get married with that."

Mostly, though, the stag nights I went on in the Eighties and Nineties were reasonably calm affairs. I think I once played football with a bin bag on the Fulham Road. And I seem to recall that in an Indian restaurant someone once threw a nan into the ceiling fan. I fear it may have been me. But that's it. No one ever got driven to London Zoo and fed to the lions or strapped to the live fire targets on Salisbury Plain.

Today, things are very different. Now, a stag night is as often as not a stag weekend. You get to the airport, drink a hundred pints, get on the plane, drink a hundred more pints, say something offensive to the stewardess, get off the plane, say something racist to the immigration officer and then spend a thousand pounds drinking more pints until it's time to experiment with some drugs your mate's bought. And then, when you wake up from the coma, you find Instagram is rammed full of pictures of your naked and freshly tattooed arse with a chicken sticking out of it.

Strippers are now compulsory. And give me strength on that one because what face exactly are you supposed to pull while some enormous Romanian woman pushes her pudendum into your mate's sunburned forehead? I blame The Hangover. It was a brilliant film. I laughed a lot at nearly all of it. Unfortunately, for a whole generation, it was more than that. It was a new minimum standard. Anything less than an angry Chinese person in the boot, some amateur dentistry and a stolen police car and you haven't given the groom the send-off he deserves.

Hmmm. I'm not sure. I think ? and I'm going to have the backing of the Norfolk Broads boating community on this one ? that more than anything else in modern society, someone needs to press the stag night reset button and go back to the days when you drank a bit too much port on the night before the wedding. And then went to bed.

And now for the father-daughter items:

Relative Values: The journalist and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, 57, and his daughter Emily, 23, a blogger, on growing up with Top Gear, clubbing with Dad, her stalker and how to sweet-talk an irate cop. (16 July 2017)

Jeremy:

Fatherhood didn't seem all that complicated to me. I thought, "I'll be able to do that," because everyone else does. But when Francie [his then wife] went into labour, I was stuck in Iceland with only two flights out a week. Luckily it was the world's longest labour, so by the time I eventually got home, Emily still hadn't been born. I was asleep when Francie called at 2am to say there would be a caesarean section. "Are they doing the operation imminently or immediately?" I asked. "Imminently," she said, so I went to the loo, cleaned my teeth, showered, stopped to put petrol in the car ? and then discovered that, actually, she meant "immediately". Emily was halfway out when I got there.

She was a little mouse of a thing and utterly perfect. The world's most stubborn human had been born. She gets it from her mother, who is quite immovable. We were going to call her Boadicea, but we decided at the last minute that it would be unfair to call a child Boadicea ? too pretentious. Now I think Boadicea would have suited her better.

Emily is really outspoken, and you'd never believe it, but her natural instinct is to be shy. But then I am shy too. She covers it up well. I always used to say to her the most important thing is to make people laugh, because it means you're thinking of other people and want to make them happy. She's got a huge heart. When the Grenfell fire happened, she cleared out her wardrobe, filled five bags and leapt into the car to help with Lisa [Clarkson's girlfriend ? he split with Frances in 2014]. She even threw in her ball gown. Trust her to think that would be useful. The centre had too many clothes anyway and wanted bedding and toiletries, which we didn't have.

Em lives in London now, but she was raised in Chipping Norton. It was an idyllic place to bring up kids. There was a big garden with a stream and lots of pets to ignore. There were visits to London every now and then where Em would stare with wonderment at city life and I'd think: "Oh dear, I have a daughter who points at taxis. She's got to get out more."

We'd often get stopped in the street, though I'd use the children as an excuse not to engage. Now it's selfies, and I still say, "Sorry, I'm with the kids," and they look at Emily and must think, "But she's 23!" Each selfie is three minutes by the time you've got their backstory and heard about their cars. Just get the f****** camera out.

Emily is the oldest of three. It makes me cold inside to think the kids' childhoods were affected by me being on a car show, but I suspect they probably were. They wanted to be normal children and would change their names when we went away on holiday so people wouldn't know they were Clarksons. Em wouldn't tell anyone she was my daughter until they became friends.

She worked her socks off in school and got good grades, then, in her usual stubborn way, she refused to go to university. Instead she said she would move to London and write a blog [Pretty Normal Me, which focuses on women's fashion, beauty and health]. I know plenty of thin women in Chelsea who run blogs, but I didn't think an 18-year-old could do it. I was wrong about that. I am incredibly proud of her. My heart is 16ft across with pride for how well she's done. She is a hilariously funny writer, with a great ability to be flippant at the end of a sentence.

The trolls can be brutal. As a father, knowing there are people lashing out at your children online and in the comments sections of papers for no reason is just hideous. The Mail chose to put a picture of Emily in a bikini in the paper recently. Did they have to do that? They did it to Francie as well. Why does she deserve that? Then of course Lisa gets "Mmm, money". When I read the barbaric things they say, I am consumed with the need to find them all and bludgeon them to death. In my mind they are greasy-haired, fat men living with their mothers. I used to feel very sorry for Em, but she has worked out a way of dealing with it.

The big difference between Em and me is she likes to obey rules, whereas I was appallingly badly behaved when I was young, broke every rule and got expelled from school. I love being in trouble.

Of course I embarrass her. At a New York airport once, I decided to address the security woman at the same volume she was talking to me. I assumed she was hard of hearing when she bellowed: "Name?" So I bellowed back: "Clarkson."

"Daddy stop!" "Jeremy!" I shouted.

That said, Em isn't always well behaved. There was a marvellous time when she turned 18 and I took the family to Nevada for a holiday. Of course, she couldn't drink ? the age limit is 21 ? but she could smoke. On the way home, we were having a cigarette in the smoking lounge at Las Vegas airport. A woman came in and said: "I need to see some ID, ma'am. There's a gaming machine in this room." Em listened to this and said: "Oh, f*** off." And I thought: "This is not going to end well." The next thing, three policemen had carted her off and she was in a bit of a panic. I had to step in. I did my usual "Our young men and your young men" speech, where I go on about our great countries having fought together for freedom ? even the freedom to have a cigarette. It always works with policemen. They put their hands on their hearts, stand upright, and then they let you go. I've got away with lots of speeding tickets with that speech. But telling anyone in America to f*** off when they've got a uniform on never ends well. She knows that now.

Em worries about me and my job, which is nice, but there is no need ? it's just driving and talking. It's no more dangerous a job than a man with a ladder and it's only ever Richard Hammond that crashes. I've never had cause to lie awake at night worrying about her. My mother always used to say, you can only ever be as happy as your least happy child, which is a clever thing. Em's never been the least happy child. She's been a perfect child and I'm very, very lucky.

STRANGE HABITS
Emily on Jeremy: He breathes very loudly in lifts. Like Darth Vader. I don't hear it anywhere else. It's really weird.
Jeremy on Emily: I'm not in a position to criticise, but she smokes more than I do. There's a nervous energy that goes into her smoking. It's sort of her shyness.

Emily:

I'm the oldest of three, born at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. When I was still a baby, we moved to Chipping Norton. It was a lovely life in the country; the house was open to everyone. We were always in the garden, even though my dad and little brother had crippling hay fever.

I was the classic oldest child: among my family I have the nickname Saffy, from Ab Fab, because I'm the sensible one. I'm really bossy, but also shy and conscientious, which is an odd combination. I think that's my two parents. They split me down the middle. I am stubborn and opinionated like my dad ? but hopefully share his funniness too.

Dad is much more shy than people give him credit for. He was quieter at home than he is on TV, but probably because he was tired. He'd go off to work in London on a Sunday night, filming, writing scripts and newspaper columns, and would be back on a Thursday. My friends were surprised he wasn't always cracking jokes and that he'd listen to you. He's also surprisingly good at shopping and appreciates fashion more than Mum. He would take me and my sister Kat to buy cowboy boots and leather jackets. We'd leave shops feeling like the dog's bollocks.

I went to school in Oxford and then to boarding school at Rugby. I wasn't bullied, I had friends, but I also felt left out a lot, which I think happens to most teenage girls. I hated the sound of my own voice and was nervous about sticking out.

When I was 15 ? and this still makes me want to cry ? I went to a party back in Oxford where I didn't know anyone. I had some heels that were too high and I felt great. I walked in and the Top Gear theme tune started. I thought: "Oh my God, they're all talking about me." The whole night, I sat with the mum of the guy whose party it was, trying to brush it off. I don't blame people. And bless Dad, it would kill him to hear that.

From the outside, anyone would want to be Dad's daughter. Boys would say: "Jeremy Clarkson would be the best dad ever." But I was happier being me and doing it on my own. At my prep school, a girl would sit next to me and I'd think: "Yes! I'm in with the cool kids." Then she'd say: "Did you know me and Jeremy Clarkson have the same birthday?" And I'd think: "Oh, that's what this is."

I've got my own career, and have a book coming out [about absurd expectations on modern women], so when it comes to trolls now, I say: "Come at me!" But there was a time when all I'd done was be born a Clarkson. The day of my school-leaver's ball, Dad wanted to buy me a dress, which was really sweet. We went shopping and afterwards we were in Notting Hill having a coffee and a fag. He didn't force the cigarette into my mouth, he doesn't like that I smoke, but I was nearly 18 and it was my choice. The next morning, paparazzi photos came out and the top-rated comment was: "It looks like Jeremy Clarkson's daughter has eaten Richard Hammond." I was 40lb heavier than I am now, so insecure ? and also hungover from the ball. I thought: "Good God, hello world!" I see the flak Dad gets on Twitter and it doesn't bother him. He laughs at the haters. I couldn't do that for ages, but I'm much better now. Maybe it's because I'm in my twenties, I have lots of friends and a boyfriend, Alex, whom I adore. I am happy with myself.

There was a crazy time when I was 15 that I've tried to block out. My family had been at a carnival in the Isle of Man. Someone had seen me and must have thought, "That life looks nice, I'm going to befriend her." I had a message on Facebook, from a guy who said he'd gone to school with me and was now in the army. We messaged all the time. Mum was suspicious. She asked around and found out that this person wasn't in the army. So she read the messages between us. Imagine your flirty attempts to impress someone becoming your mum's business. Then she said, "Your dad's reading them too," and I needed the ground to eat me.

Mum found out who the person was: a female student. It was so weird. Mum suggested I go to schools to discuss being safe online, but I haven't wanted to face it.

When you're a child you think your parents are indestructible. I do worry sometimes about Dad. After Richard's crash the other week, I spoke to Dad and at the end of the call said, "Be safe," which I never do. The time when Top Gear went to Argentina, with the angry mob outside the hotel, was scary too. He rang me to say, "Love you." He was fine in the end. He adores cars and he's happy making other people happy.

It was really sad when Dad left the BBC because Top Gear was his baby. He was so stressed about that. We'd go for lunch once a week and not talk about anything too heavy. Mainly, Dad was unemployed and bored. One time, he and my brother decided to cook a complicated Vietnamese soup. It had 46 ingredients ? and tasted like chilli dishwater. Thank God he landed on his feet with the Amazon show. It is different to Top Gear, more grown-up. It's going so well and I'm really proud of him. Dad is so talented and I wanted him to be proud of me when I wrote my book. He texted me to say he was enjoying a chapter called Dear Boys. I thought, "Oh God!" It's very personal. Our relationship has always been pally, though.

I've been with Alex for 4? years. Dad was quite awkward the first time Alex came to stay with the family in the Cotswolds. He said, "OK, cool, great," when I told him on the phone, and, "Gotta go now, bye." He likes Alex. His only rule has been that I can't date someone who drives a motorbike.

Deep down, Dad's really soft and kind. And although he's got a big enough ego already, I still tell him he's the funniest person I know.

Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson is out now (Simon & Schuster ?12.99)
 

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Issues of mortality this week:

Living to 125 is a doddle: you simply get the government to make dying illegal (July 23)

As we know, because Lily Allen keeps telling us, the Conservative Party wrapped Grenfell Tower in petrolsoaked rags and then set it alight on purpose so that as many poor people as possible would burn to death. And now comes news that the evil blue bastards are deliberately starving the NHS of cash so that the maximum number of elderly people die too soon and in a puddle of their own urine.

To try to understand the reasoning behind these latest accusations, I turned to The BMJ ? formerly the British Medical Journal ? which says that in 2015 there was a blip and a lot of people in the UK did die. But that last year almost everyone stayed alive. And that, as a result, the life expectancy for people in Britain continues its inexorable rise.

Somehow, though, Channel 4 and The Guardian managed to look at the same figures as The BMJ and come to a completely different conclusion. They ran headlines saying our life expectancy had stalled. Whereas the BBC ? which perhaps had other things on its mind, such as where to go for lunch ? recently said that it had actually fallen back and that soon everyone will die when they are two.

Many reports quoted a chap called Sir Michael Marmot, who said the trend for longer lives had pretty much stopped; he blamed this on Tory austerity measures. "They are deliberately killing your mum and dad," he implied, "so that Starbucks can pay less tax."

Naturally I assumed Sir Marmot was in some way related to Lily Allen, but it turns out the two are simply joined at the hip politically. He is director of University College London's Institute of Health Equity (me neither), having once been an adviser to Gordon Brown.

According to The Guardian, he is held in high regard, but I can't see why, because the man says he is surprised by the figures and had expected us to keep living longer lives. What? For ever? You expected everyone to live in the future to be what? A hundred? Two hundred? A million? The fact is that we no longer send every young man in the land to fight the Germans in a Belgian field. That's helped. We are also getting on top of HIV and many sorts of cancer, which is good news too. But by surviving Aids and the big C and the Germans, we have now been driven into the arms of dementia.

Doubtless, Sir Marmot sees the day when science gets on top of that ? and I do as well ? but afterwards who knows what terribleness might be lurking in the shadows? We might die because our eyes fall out or we spontaneously combust.

And what's life going to be like in Sir Marmot's world when everyone is living to be a thousand or more? How will everyone be housed? How will they be fed? And who will change their sheets? Then you've got the most important question of them all. Yes, I'd like to live for ever, but only if I had the physical attributes of an 18-year-old, not if I were sitting there with no teeth, no bladder control and fingers like burst sausages.

This, then, is what Sir Marmot should worry about. How to stop the ablebodied dying before their time. Because if you eliminate death in younger people, you naturally raise the average age at which we croak. Let me put it this way: 18-year-olds falling off motorcycles play havoc with the statistics.

There's a simple solution right there. Ban the motorcycle. I bet Sir Marmot is making a note on that as we speak. And we can't have 40-year-olds catching lung cancer, so we'd better ban the sale of tobacco too, and alcohol while we are at it. Because no good can ever come of that pesky and debilitating toxin.

Already, there is a great deal of health and safety in the workplace. In our office we have to jump through hoops like police dogs at a Horse of the Year Show intermission before we can get insurance to film anything. But even though we have to assess the risk of a giant meteor landing on someone's head, Richard Hammond still manages to put himself in hospital every time he tries to drive anywhere. And that has to stop too, which means health and safety must be tightened up still further.

Then we have the roads. At present the annual cull amounts to about 1,700 people, some of whom are children or fools who use children's toys to cycle to work. Drastic measures must be taken here, because if we can keep this lot alive until they are 127, the figures will look tremendous. That means more average-speed cameras, lower speed limits, a ban on cars on roads used by cyclists and a new type of tarmac made from feathers.

Maybe we could take a leaf out of the book they use in southern France, where they routinely live to be 112. This would mean encouraging people to sit in a plastic chair at the side of the road in a grandad shirt, eating foie gras all day.

Then, after we've pulled down all the flammable tower blocks, banned cheese, tomatoes, milk, cream, butter and anything else the Daily Mail says gives us cancer, shut down every KFC and Maccy D in the land, set up boot camps on the coast where we all do star jumps to keep fit and locked up anyone who may be a murderer, things will improve still further. Though I think that maybe it'd be best if the government simply made it illegal to die before you are 125.

Threatening to lock up your children if you fall into some farm machinery or allow yourself to be tied to a bungee rope by a man who's plainly been smoking weed would be a very good way of keeping us alive.

Or, if you don't fancy living in a walking-pace world of flower-arranging and poetry, you could just accept that we have to die at some point or the world won't work.
 

Revelator

Active Member
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Mar 14, 2012
Messages
471
Location
San Francisco
News of Pneumonia:

When I went to hospital, I was at death's door. But a far, far worse fate awaited me (Aug. 13)

In all my adult life I've never been ill.

Oh, I'm sure my children have found me in a white-faced heap on the kitchen floor from time to time, and they must have heard me calling for God on the porcelain telephone, but they've never seen me in bed, whimpering and pleading for soup.

I've led an idiotic life filled with smoking and danger and germs, but despite this I've never taken a sick day. I've never had an antibiotic. I've never had food poisoning. I've never broken a bone, and I sure as hell have never spent a night in hospital.

I'd always hoped that when the luck ran out, I'd catch something exotic, something that would cause a doctor to harrumph, reach for his textbooks and then pull together a panel of great medical minds from all over the world to discuss in wonderment what might be done. About the chap with a supernumerary penis growing out of his forehead.

But no. Instead I got a pneumonia, which is what my mum said I'd catch if I went outside without a vest. It's pathetic.

I was on holiday in Mallorca when I started to feel ill. And after three nights spent spasming in my bed, I thought I ought to go and see the doc.

He sent me for tests at the hospital, where I was put into a plastic dress with a slit up the back and told by a man in what looked like a swimming hat that I'd have to be admitted for at least a week.

"Impossible," I snorted. "I have to go to New York on Tuesday and I've my columns to write; then on Friday ?" "A healthy person's CRP should be five," said Mark Spitz. "Yours is 337."

I had no idea at the time what a CRP was ? it turns out to be something your body makes more of when you have an infection ? but 337 sounded a lot.

"If you don't do as I say," he added, "you will die."

I did understand that. I'm sure many of you will have found yourself in hospital, not having planned to be there. But for me it was a new experience. And a weird one. Because I was in a room with nothing on the walls except wallpaper, and most of that was coming off. And I was in there for an hour, on my own, with absolutely nothing to do. The boredom was so bad I thought often about killing myself.

But then an army of nurses arrived to wire me up to a drip, which meant for the following hour I was effectively fastened to the wall. If only I'd thought to be travelling with a baseball glove and a ball when I was captured, I could have managed more easily, but stupidly I'd left them at the villa.

I pushed the help button on my emergency panel and a nurse arrived. "I'm very bored," I said. "And I can't find the remote control for my television." It turned out that these had to be rented at ?30, or ?27, a day. I'd have paid ?3,000. But luckily I didn't, because all there was to watch was golf. In Spanish. So I summoned the nurse again and asked if she could get me a rock hammer and a big poster of Raquel Welch.

Much, much later, the head honcho arrived. I knew he was the head honcho because I have seen Jed Mercurio's medical dramas, so I know that head honchos in hospitals swoosh into the room followed by a team of fawning assistants.

"Do you smoke?" he asked. I said yes.

"Good," he replied. "That keeps me in work."

He then stroked my knee tenderly and left. And that was that. Consultation over.

In the night I was shaken awake by a nurse, who was furious because I had been sleeping in such a way that the drip wasn't working. Addressing me with the tone, accent and volume that a Vietnamese bar owner would have used on a GI who was attempting to leave without paying, she yelled for two minutes, hurt my elbow and then left.

I was grateful for these moments, because here's the thing. My right lung was more than half full of mucus. I was running one hell of a fever. I had almost no breath at all and even less energy, but all I could think was: "I am dying of boredom here. Literally dying."

Then my girlfriend arrived. To say she was going for lunch with friends on a super-yacht. But very sweetly she did say she'd stop off in Palma to pick up some essentials for me. After I'd spent four more hours watching my wallpaper fall off, she came back with a beautifully soft black leather bomber jacket.

Normally, when I'm bored, I smoke. Or drink. But both those things were out of the question. I just had my drugs. Thousands of them. There was one that caused lightning bolts to ricochet around in my toes and one that would apparently ruin my stomach and loads more I didn't understand, but there was one that was ? and remains ? the highlight of my day. I was hooked.

It's called Fluimucil Forte, and its purpose is revolting. It's designed to dislodge the phlegm and the gunk in my lung and bring it up in the sort of dark, meaty globules we haven't seen since Mrs Thatcher shut down the mines. But holy sweet Jesus. It's a taste sensation.

You can forget the joy of a cold Coke on a hot day, or an early-evening sip of Ch?teau L?oube. This was in a class of its own. And pretty soon I was telling the nurses I'd spilt it and could I have another? Then my heart sang even more because my son arrived. After I'd spoken to him at some length about my new wonder drug, he got up and flew back to London.

This is the problem with hospitals. People who stay in them become institutionalised and incapable of speaking about anything other than what nurse brought what drug at what time. Boredom turns them into bores.

And when they get out, as I have, and there is nothing to do for two whole months apart from get better, things are even worse, because all I can talk about is my illness. And, as my dad used to say: "A bore is a person who, when asked how they are, tells you."
 

skylock

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Thanks. I was hoping to get to read that one.

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
 

Revelator

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2012
Messages
471
Location
San Francisco
A milestone this week:

A foolproof recipe to kick the fags: chewing gum and a hideous chest infection (August 27)

Whenever you are interviewed by a medical or life-insurance person, they always begin by asking if you smoke. You can tell them you like to spend your free time wrestling tigers while driving a burning motorcycle, and that despite your massive heroin addiction you work in the underwater explosives business, and they won't care. Just so long as you have pink lungs.

It's much the same story at people's houses. Ask your hostess after dinner if it would be all right if you fondled yourself, and she'll say, "Yes, of course," and politely look the other way while you get on with it. But ask if it would be all right to smoke and there will be a lot of flapping and huffing, and pretty soon you'll be puffing away in the back garden, in the rain.

Smoking among adults is now more antisocial than murder but, apart from one brief pause a while ago, that's never stopped me. I've smoked nearly 630,000 fags over the past 43 years and, aside from the very first, there hasn't been a single one that I didn't enjoy.

But then, as you may have heard, I got pneumonia while I was on holiday, and I was told, by everyone, that I had to stop. Immediately. I had no choice at the time because the blood poisoning was so bad and I was so racked with the resultant rigors that I couldn't work a cigarette lighter. Also, I was fastened to the wall of my hospital room by an intravenous drip. And I couldn't really breathe.

So a week went by with no smoking.

And then my daughter came to look after me as I recovered, and she's very fierce so I didn't smoke for that week either.

And then after another week I came back to London, where an insurance company needed to know whether I was fit enough to return to work.

This meant going to a hospital in west London and passing my credit card through the reader until it melted. In return, I was made to empty my lungs into a tube and then empty them some more. And then keep breathing out, until I could feel the hairs on my head being sucked into my skull.

Then I had to run up some stairs, and afterwards the doctor was horrified. I had 96% of the lung capacity you would expect in someone my age. And I could breathe out harder and for longer than a non-smoking 40-year-old. Plus, after I'd run up the stairs, my blood was more oxygenated than it had been when I was sitting in a chair. Which is impossible, apparently.

In short, getting on for three-quarters of a million fags have not harmed me in any way. I have quite literally defied medical science.

And yet, for reasons that are not entirely clear, I decided that, having done three weeks without smoking, I might as well keep going, so now it's been a month. I've pushed it. I've got drunk. I've stayed up late. I've been to bars with smokers and sat outside in a cloud of their exhalations. And so far I haven't cracked.

I've been tempted, of course, usually when every single person I meet says: "Ooh, have you thought about giving up drinking as well?" No. Why in the name of all that's holy would I want to do that? Then there are those who think that because I'm not smoking, I should take up running, or cross-country skiing. I was invited this weekend to the south coast so I could go swimming. Swimming? In the English Channel? I'm off the fags, for Christ's sake. I haven't gone mad. Swimming in British waters is something you should consider only if your Spitfire's been shot down.

What people who smoke don't realise ? and what people who don't smoke realise even less ? is that nicotine's a fiend. Giving it up is really hard. It requires constant attention, and you can't be distracted by changing your life in any other way.

But there are a few handy hints I can pass on. You could move to Australia, where smoking is just about impossible. But that would mean living in Australia, which would be a bit dreary. So stay here and go to the cinema a lot. Or shopping centres. And go to bed early.

The next handy hint I can pass on is Nicorette 4mg "original flavour" gum. At ?18 a pack it's more expensive than smoking gold, and it causes you to hiccup sometimes, but it delivers the nicotine and that keeps you on an even keel. Because of it, I've murdered only three people in the past two days, and one of those was an Uber driver so that doesn't really count.

What's more, I spend so much time chewing gum, I can't eat, and as a result, since I gave up, I've lost a stone. True fact, that.

Some say that vaping is the answer, but I'm not sure. Partly this is because that steamy stuff makes me cough until my lungs are hanging out of my mouth, and partly it's because people with vapes look like complete idiots.

The main trick, however, is to try to find a friend who's prepared to give up at the same time. I spent the latter stages of my holiday with a woman who'd been forced by bronchitis to quit, and having her around, in the same boat, was a genuine source of strength.

Mainly, though, it's willpower. And to help with that, never say that you're giving up for good, only for the week, or the morning, or whatever seems manageable. And then, when that time is up, and you've coped and you haven't stabbed anyone, think of another timeframe that seems achievable.

And when it all gets too much, which it will, try to imagine how much damage each puff is doing. Which, of course, is my biggest problem, because tests have shown I'm going through all the pain and the misery for absolutely no reason. I may as well have given up sandwiches.
 
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