Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

[h=1]Jeremy Clarkson: argue with today’s youth and they’ll call you a racist — then start blubbing[/h]
Over a lovely lunch on my holiday this year, one of the “old people” around the table said that Britain’s super-slack immigration policy means we are letting an army onto our shores. Well, the mood couldn’t have changed more quickly if she’d said: “I’ve just murdered 14 tramps.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, of course, that won’t be possible. They’re stuck here, on their non-judgmental rock in the north Atlantic. And that’s their fault because on referendum day none of them could be bothered to go to the polling station.
The next arrival at Heathrow's eco-haven is a million tons of concrete for the third runway (Sept. 02)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here are the Sun columns for August 18 and Sept. 01. My thanks to Nanoflooder for posting the earlier Times column while I was on vacation.
The Very Old Bill — my pensioner police force will put the fear of God into baddies (Sept. 16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

While we do have some radical left wing socialists here, more left wingers are left wing democrats who support ideas like socialized medicine. Even Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent, and who once called, and still sometimes calls, himself a socialist, espouses many main stream and middle of the road ideas that could find, and have found, support from both democrats and republicans.
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Lefties will love my West End blockbuster: Neil Armstrong — the Hip-Hop Musical (Sept. 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here's the Sun column: "Picky about fruit? Then it’s time to eat what’s on our hedgerows as supermarket fruit ‘tastes like absolutely nothing at all’"
In my house we go by my rules, whether we're playing croquet, Scrabble or war (Sept. 30)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Sun column: "Lord Sugar’s new Apprentices are saucier but make me feel a bit sick."
For a petrolhead, bathing in crude oil was a must. But, ooh, it gave me the willies (Oct. 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And from the Sun: "Women will have to compete on level terms with men if they want Formula W to be anything like Formula One"
I grew up in Bradford, PA. Back in the 80s and 90s, there were many large puddles and small ponds that were filled with water and crude oil. I can remember very distinctly once running a little Suzuki Quad Runner 50 that I had, at age 12, become too big for, into a very deep puddle of crude oil. While I am sure that I accidentally had other similar calamities, this one stands out in my mind because of how completely saturated in oil I became. My clothing and the four wheeler were completely coated. For a brief moment, the four wheeler had stalled due to being deprived of oxygen. But after a couple of pulls on the starter rope, I got it going again.

One thing that I am surprised that Clarkson didn't mention in his article is the smell. It could be that what he bathed in may have had less of an odor than crude oil which had probably been left from drilling that had taken place anywhere from 50 to 90 years prior, however, I really can't imagine that newer crude would smell much better. I can fully attest to the fact that crude oil will stay on your skin long after you think that you must have scrubbed enough to wash it away. It seems like l remember feeling oily (it's a very specific feeling) and smelling of the stuff for days after the incident.
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Ties? Rubbers? Five equals 11? Learning to play bridge left me vulnerable to a large glass of red (Oct 21)

As a general rule, I'm a big fan of card games. I spent a great deal of my formative years playing blackjack because, even if you're gambling only tiny amounts, casinos give you free drinks. And since then I've whiled away many happy hours playing Between the Sheets, Queen of Spades and, best of all, Oh Hell.

It's hard to understand how playing cards came about. Who thought: "Right — we have invented a printing press, so let's use it to make 52 bits of paper divided into four suits"? And then, once someone had worked out how they could be used to play a game, why did someone else develop another? And then another? And then another? No one did that with chess.

They came up with the board and the bishops and the pawns and they left it at that. Today no one ever says: "What sort of chess are we playing?" With cards, though, people did keep inventing new ways of using them until one day a soldier in the Crimean War decided that, to take his mind off the disease and how Wilfred had just been blown up again, he'd invent the most complicated game of them all: contract bridge.

I've avoided this in the past, mainly because I had better things to do and I'm not 87. But last week it was time to step into God's waiting room and take it up.

When you play blackjack you are usually surrounded by serious-looking Arabs and chain-smoking Chinese men in a room with no windows, and when you play everything else you are at someone's kitchen table surrounded by several empty wine bottles, some overflowing ashtrays and a bit of sick.

Bridge is different. It's serious. So we'd be playing it in one of those clubs in St James's where everyone is dead and you have to wear a tie. I used to have a tie. I wore it for Margaret Thatcher's funeral. But it had gone missing, so I bought another and then — this is true — I had to go on YouTube to remind myself how it should be done up.

That's another thing I don't get. Who woke up one morning and thought: "This ruff is annoying me, so instead I shall wrap a bit of silk round my neck"? I'd like to meet him so that I can kill him.

Anyway, my tie was eventually sort of tied and I had found a jacket that was nearly the same colour as my trousers and off I went.

The cards were dealt and our teacher explained that I must let my partner know where my strengths lay. "Right," I said enthusiastically. "I've got a shitload of clubs."

Apparently this was wrong. You aren't allowed to say what you've got. You must hint at it by saying you'd like the trumps to be clubs and that you've got enough to win one trick. Well, I had the ace, king, queen, jack and 10 so obviously I was going to win way more than one trick. I therefore opened with "five clubs".

Apparently this was also wrong. But it did stop anyone else bidding and that meant the game could get under way. My partner began by excusing herself from the game entirely, which was weird. She simply put her cards on the table, face up, and said: "Good luck."

"Whatever," I replied.

Yup. That was wrong too. I was supposed to have said: "Thank you, partner." Which was weird, because why should I thank her for simply giving up? No matter. I had all the heavy-hitting trumps and I needed to win only five tricks. Nope. Wrong again. Bidding five meant that for some reason I had to win 11 tricks. I have no idea why, but I failed completely. And lost.

Or did I? Because at the end of each hand you add up the number of light fittings in the room, subtract the number of teeth in your head, put that number above the line and the number of children you have below the line and then after five rounds there's a rubber and the winner is the player nearest the mantelpiece.

Who the bloody hell thought that made sense? It's as stupid as cricket. You get one run if you do one run, four if you send the ball all the way over there, six if it gets there without bouncing ... and if it rains it's a draw.

Mind you, it could be worse. The Germans have developed a version of bridge called skat. In that, you have to work out which one of the other two players will be your partner. Imagine that. Playing a team game when you don't know who your team will be.

Perhaps that's what's gone wrong with their national football squad. But, whatever, it won't catch on here, as no one is going to say yes if you invite them round for an evening of skat.

There's another problem with bridge, which became clear as my inaugural evening wore on. Because we were in a beautiful club in St James's where all the other customers were dead, the waiters had nothing to do but constantly fill up my wine glass with a beautiful red.

And since bridge requires you to not participate if your partner made the opening bid of the successful suit and is wearing white underwear, there's very little to do half the time but drink it.

Soon I was a bit sozzled and I was arguing with the teacher, who kept saying that to win I needed to lose. In the same way as John Prescott used to say that the slower you drive, the faster you get there. He didn't make any sense. It didn't make any sense. And what were trumps again? You can't do this if you want to win. You must concentrate as though you are flying an airliner and all four engines have stalled. If you daydream for even a moment, you've had it.

Which is why I wouldn't use MPs and civil servants to negotiate our tricky exit from the EU. I'd use our national bridge team instead.


Meghan the scarpering duchess could learn a trick about crowds from me and the Queen (Oct. 28)

Last week the Duchess of Sussex — that's the American one, if you get them all muddled up — was invited by the United Nations to promote markets by spending 20 minutes touring a market in Fiji. Sadly, after just six minutes she whispered urgently into an aide's ear, and then moments after that she was politely bundled into a black van and whisked away.

No one knows for sure what caused the sudden departure, but some have speculated that the crowd was a bit boisterous and she became nervous.

Yes, well, I don't really buy that.

In the olden days, when I was the first-most-searched-for Jeremy on the internet rather than the sixth, I experienced some fairly heavy-duty fan action while staying in hotels around the world. A few years ago, when news of my visit to Kiev leaked onto the tentacles of social media, many protesters stopped throwing things at policemen, put down their placards and came to lay siege to my hotel. I needed 28 security people to get me out, and it was all jolly scary.

One man was so overcome with emotion, he decided he'd like to take my head home as a souvenir, and, let me tell you, it's tricky signing a million autographs while someone is yanking your ears, especially if the man whose pen you're using really, really wants it back. What's more, everyone wanted a selfie. And everyone was damn well going to get one. Pretty soon my feet weren't on the ground, either literally or metaphorically.

A few weeks later I was in Turin, and as I opened the curtains, I noticed a gigantic crowd surrounding the hotel.

It was even bigger than the throng in Kiev, so once again I called my people, who called some other people, who were massive and arrived in black suits, wearing earpieces.

I was told to wait behind a pillar in reception until the meat machines had formed a human gorge through which I could make my escape. And I had to pretend that this was all a terrible nuisance, but the fact is I was loving it. My own security detail to keep the thousands of adoring Italian fans at bay. I mean, come on. That's quite a thing, especially as many were extremely pretty girls.

I knew something was wrong the moment I emerged at speed from the revolving doors. "Go, go, go," shouted the muscle mountain to my right, and I did as I was told while wondering why I could hear him so clearly. Where were the Beatle screams? Where were the cries of, "Selfie, per favore"? In seconds I was in the back of the black Range Rover, and as the door slammed, I had my first real chance to examine the crowd close up. And it looked — what's the right word? — perplexed.

I found out later that this might have had something to do with the fact I'd been staying in the same hotel as One Direction. And that the crowd that had been waiting for them were a bit confused when a fat middle-aged man came out, behaving as though he was the president of America.

My point is that I know what it's like to be surrounded by a seething mass of people who want a slice of your action. I've been there. And I'm sorry but the crowds Meghan had to face in Fiji were more Gerry Rafferty than Led Zep.

She should have been able to cope. All she had to do was get her security team to keep the selfie-hunters and the pervs at bay while she spent a paltry 20 minutes saying, "And what sort of vegetable is this?" Then she could have returned to her hotel for a bubble bath.

But no. She ran. And that means everyone is grumpy, especially the United Nations, I imagine, because it's lost this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hammer home its vital message about the importance of markets.

The thing is, though, I don't think it was the crowd that caused Meghan to flee. Because, as you may have heard, she is currently with child, and that, I'm told, can cause issues "down there".

Which brings us on to the most important lesson that the duchess has to learn if she's going to be a prominent and valued member of the British royal family. It's this. The job comes first. Even if you have a gaping head wound, you simply carry on. Always.

God knows how many times Mrs Queen must have felt under the weather when she's been standing around pretending to be interested in the new civic centre's disabled ramps. But she just gets on with it.

Meghan has to learn how to do this, and I have a couple of helpful hints. First of all, you're a very pretty girl and you like wearing snazzy clothes. Well, stop it. Take a leaf out of my book and make sure that you constantly look terrible. Always look ill and worn out, and then no one will know when you actually are.

Then you have to come up with a strategy for coping with boredom. Yes, a Fijian market is not interesting. Nor are the UN's plans for creating more. You'd rather be in Harvey Nichols shopping for baby clothes. I get that. The trick is to know true boredom. I do this by talking to James May. Afterwards I feel able to deal with anything up to and including 40 years of solitary confinement.

So start every day by asking Harry to explain why a D model Apache helicopter is different from the F model. Then you'll be able to deal with any number of tribal dance routines.

Of course, if you don't fancy looking terrible and being bored for a living, and you're starting to see that the American dream of being a princess isn't all feasting on peaches and peacock, there is an alternative.

Anonymity. Take it now and we won't hold a grudge. Don't, and I'm sorry but you'll never be allowed to scuttle from another engagement, ever.


And the Sun column: "Blaming all Jews for Israel is like me not fancying Taylor Swift because of Donald Trump"
The past is another country, and if I ever think of visiting again, I hope they deny me a visa (Nov 8)

Is there any more dangerous place to explore than the past? Obviously outer space is fairly tricky, and if you go under the sea there's a chance you'll be eaten or stabbed. But the past is nothing but layer upon layer of guilt, shame and regret. I know this because last week I had to go to Doncaster, which is where I grew up. I had no intention of visiting any of my old haunts, because I'm never particularly interested in yesterday. It's done and gone.

But the actual location we were using for filming was my old prep school. And it isn't a school any more. I'm not sure what it is. It has the feel of a halfway house where prisoners adapt to life on the outside before going home. This made me sad.

And then I don't know what came over me. I decided to visit the house my grandfather built. I'd spent many happy afternoons there, but that was 50 years ago and a lot's happened in 50 years. Mostly to my grandfather's house. I wish I hadn't seen it.

I also wish I hadn't got back into the car and driven past the pub my other grandparents ran — it was selling wine, for God's sake — and then into the village where I grew up. Straight away, I noted the wall I'd been forced to build for some teenage misdemeanour was still upright, but our tennis court and vegetable garden had a house on them.

I peeked through the windows of the converted barn where my mum had started her business making Paddington Bears and it was being used as a storeroom for junk. There was a Paddington in the window but it wasn't one of my mum's. It was a cheap American copy. And then I went to my old house.

That was the same. Exactly the same. It had the same garage door, the same tiles, the same lamppost in the garden and even the same cotoneaster outside the dining room window. Plainly this was the only property in Britain that had been entirely impervious to Carol Smillie and "Handy" Andy, and to the Ground Force movement.

But it had shrunk. When I was growing up, it was a very large house.

There'd be huge parties on New Year's Eve, and at weekends I'd turn up with 10 or 15 friends, who would all sit round the dining room table for Sunday lunch.

I don't know how this was possible, as the dining room is now box-room tiny. And how did my dad ever cook in the kitchen, which is barely big enough for a cooker? And why were we so excited by the new remote-controlled television when nothing in the drawing room was more than four inches from where someone was sitting? Even the view is changed. From my bedroom window I used to be able to see five power stations and two coalmines. Today there are only a couple of forlorn cooling towers, but there are hundreds of windmills, sitting out there in the flatlands giving people tinnitus and mincing birds. Ed Miliband is the MP these days. That says a lot.

Having burrowed through the strata of disappointment, I decided I might as well visit my dad's grave. Which was so covered in moss and gunk, I couldn't even read the inscription.

I drove away from Doncaster wishing I'd left the stone unturned. I should have finished my filming and gone. Because the past isn't how I left it. It's been ruined by change and progress and distorted memories.

But then, on the way back to London, I decided to stop off at a hotel called the George of Stamford. It's where we used to stay in the days when you had to open a gate to get onto the A1 and it took two days to get from Yorkshire to anywhere.

Stamford is a pretty Lincolnshire town a mile or so from the A1. It's so unchanged that people from the time of Ethelred the Unready would find it all comfortingly familiar. And so it goes with the George. However, I'd been told when I made the reservation I'd have to wear a jacket and that jeans were not allowed. This is something that makes my teeth itch with rage. It's the problem with the provinces, where eating-out is seen as a treat, an event, a shiny bauble to end an anniversary or a birthday. It's not seen, as it should be, as a thing you do because you can't be bothered to do the washingup that night.

That's why posh provincial restaurants still do that ta-dah thing with the cloche and why they're always silent. The food is king. You're there to genuflect to the chef's magnificence.

Even the lighting is designed to highlight the handmade butterscotch in his chive and mushroom froth.

As I tiptoed through the George's oak-panelled dining room, I figured it would be the perfectly miserable end to my tear-stained trip down memory lane.

But no. It was the best supper I've had. The bits and bobs that came free were tremendous, and the beef was carved from a massive slab at the table, and there was a ton of horseradish, and the roast potatoes were perfect, and the wine list had a nice rosé I hadn't tried before and there wasn't a single bit of provincial pretentiousness in anything.

Even the waiter was brilliant. Instead of standing there like a cross between Uriah Heep and that stuck-up shop assistant in Pretty Woman, he joined in our chat about the TV show Ozark. He acted like a normal person in a normal restaurant.

I ate out a lot with AA Gill, so I know what he liked in a restaurant. And he would have loved the George. Which of course made me sad all over again.

This why I've decided to be more resolute in keeping my head turned towards the future. Because, compared with the past, it's a joyous place full of nothing but Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, dementia and death.

And from the Sun: "Social media is there for people to post pictures of pets or hairstyles — not for passing judgment on celebrities"
I welcome trouble at till for M&S and I pray it finally gives small shops a spark of hope (Nov. 11)

I have never bought anything from Marks & Spencer. I've used its shops, once or twice, to shelter from the rain, but I've never seen a single thing in any of the aisles that I've wanted to buy. It's all stuff that I need. And that's boring. It's why I've never bought a washing-up bowl.

I am of course aware that Marks & Spencer is where you buy a skirt when you've grown out of Sir Philip Green. It's where you buy trousers when you've grown out of jeans. And it's where you buy your underwear when you are no longer doing sex. It is middle England with cash tills. It's where magistrates shop, safe in the knowledge they won't bump into any of the riffraff they've sent down. And it's in trouble. M&S has entered a world of S&M. Owing to competition from online giants and budget supermarkets, and the fact that people are wearing jeans and doing sex for a lot longer these days, the ailing giant's half-year profits have risen by 2%, but like-for-like sales of food, clothing and homewares have fallen again. And by quite a lot. As a result the share price dropped last week from a high of nearly 600p in 2015 to just 300p or thereabouts.

I don't understand what these numbers mean, but the management does and it's come up with a plan to turn things round: cheaper prawn sandwiches.

Hmmm. The nicest thing I've ever put in my mouth was a small piece of bruschetta that I bought at a cafe in Bologna. The tomatoes were about the same size as sultanas but each packed the punch of a hydrogen bomb. It was a kaleidoscope of taste sensations, all so vivid that my eyes became crossed and I lost the ability to make noise.

Knowing that nobody would believe a tomato could taste that good, I found out where they came from and bought some. Which caused my eyes to cross all over again, because they cost a little bit more than the car I was driving. I didn't mind, though, because — and this is the thing — they were worth every penny.

Yes, in America you can buy a tomato the size of your head for about one cent and that sounds tremendous. The problem is that this tomato, while huge, tastes of absolutely nothing at all. It's just water with seeds. You'd get more nutritional value from licking some Lego. So which tomato represents the better value? The one-cent watermelon or the five-grand, five-carat seeded red diamond? This is what M&S must surely understand. If it decides to lower the cost of its food to attract more customers, the people who supply that food are going to have to make it for less. And that is bound to have an effect on quality. Then, pretty soon, the town's magistrates are going to think: "This prawn sandwich doesn't taste of anything." And that will be that for one of Britain's best known and most respected businesses.

I can't wait for this to happen. I can't wait for all the supermarkets and chain stores to be wiped out by online competition, because then the little shops will come back selling expensive things in small brown paper bags. And this will be great news for Yorkshire people like me who think value is more important than cost.

At the moment a small shop selling good-quality products cannot survive. Due to idiotic parking restrictions and an unintelligent army of traffic wardens who don't understand what's meant by "I'll only be a minute", no one can stop off at the butcher and then the greengrocer on the way home. Because that would mean two parking tickets.

So they go instead to the supermarket, where there's a car park, and while they're there they buy some batteries and some lightbulbs. Which means that the small independent electrician's shop is history too. And the next thing you know, the town centre is full of nothing but charity shops, pizzerias and sick.

If, however, we can get rid of these supermarkets by buying stuff we need online, then the small shops will come back to the town centres to sell us stuff we want. Such as tomatoey tomatoes.

You may think I'm talking rubbish and that you want cheap food. But do you, really? Because think about this in terms of drink. I understand that if you are 18 you will travel halfway across town to find a pub that sells cheap beer. My son is always in a part of London I've never heard of because he's found the elusive £4 pint. But what about water? You could drink that from a tap for nothing, but you don't, do you? And then there's wine. Sure, you can buy extremely cheap plonk that will get you drunk just as quickly as a 1945 Pétrus. But you don't, because you know cheap wine is only for homeless people.

When you are in a restaurant, looking at the wine list, you never buy the cheapest. You buy, if you've any sense, the third cheapest, because you reckon that seems about right. Well, it's like that with food. It's like that with everything.

America has done its best to teach us that the lowest cost is always the best. But unless you're on the dole, it isn't. The cheapest of anything is always the worst. There is, as I've always said, no such thing as cheap and cheerful. It's cheap and nasty or expensive and cheerful.

Retailers just don't seem to have got this message. They're still looking at ways to turn everything into a battery farm. To reduce the price, whatever the cost may be.

It'll be the death of them. And then we can get back to the European system of shopping for what you need from whomever does it best.

Mind you, in Europe the traffic wardens are either more understanding or not there at all. Which helps.


And the Sun column: "BBC is now only giving front-line jobs to women just like Doctor Who — and they’ve totally lost the plot"
I don't care if these blasted abbreviations are MIA, Awol, KIA or DOA. I just want them gone (Nov. 18)

I received an email last week that said the sender was OOO. And by the time I'd worked out what on earth that meant, he'd got back to his office and sent me another missive, to which I replied: "So we are all BYY then?" BYY has no meaning. I'd made it up. And I sincerely hope that the millennial on the other end of the exchange had to spend the rest of the day trawling the internet for clues about what BYY might mean. And then the whole evening worried sick that a fat old dinosaur might know more about modern parlance than he did. I'm going to use this trick a lot in future.

I was sent a flow chart the other day, which asked the simple question: "Is it acceptable to use the phrase 'reach out'?" This led to the second question, which was: "Are you in the Four Tops?" I liked that, because I hate the expression "reach out". If someone uses it to me in an email, I don't reply. It's the same with "circle back" and "move the needle", anything that's "frictionless", "skin in the game" and "deep dive". This means I haven't replied to anyone in corporate America for about two years. From now on, though, I'm going to turn "There we are then" into an acronym and leave them wondering.

What I want to know about these abbreviations is: what exactly are you trying to achieve by using them? Yes, it's quicker to type OOO than "Out of the office", but since this is an automated message that you need set up only once, the amount of time you save in a lifetime is about half a second.

Whereas the people who receive this message every time your computer sends it will waste hours walking around their office and sucking a pencil as they desperately try to figure out what it means. It's possible, probable even, that someone could have developed a cure for cancer by now had they not been stuck in one of your ridiculous crossword clues.

Some well-known acronyms simply don't work at all. Pin number, for example. Because what you're actually saying is "personal information number number". It's the same with those who refer to the HIV virus. Or an ATM machine. Or an LCD display. Or an ISDN network.

Then you have abbreviations that are longer to use than the actual words. Worldwide web, for instance, is three syllables, whereas WWW is nine. And why say: "Have you RSVPed?" when you mean "Have you replied?"? I can see why initials might make sense if you are in the army and people are shooting at you. Better to say there's the threat of an ABC attack and you need AA, because by the time you'd said you needed anti-aircraft support for an atomic, biological or chemical attack, everyone would be KIA.

Or, as Robin Williams put it in Good Morning, Vietnam, "Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn't we keep the GC on the QT? 'Cos if it leaks to the VC, he could end up MIA and then we'd all be put on KP."

Business, though, is not Homs or Raqqa, so using abbreviations is stupid. Elon Musk recognises this and has views on the matter, saying to staff at his company SpaceX that unless the practice was stopped, there'd be codes for everything and new recruits would have to waste time learning them. He cited the VTS-3, which was an in-house short form of "vertical test stand with three legs". As he pointed out, "tripod" was easier to say and understand.

And yet he misses the point, because no one is dreaming up abbreviations to save time. They are showing off. By saying VTS-3 to a peer or a junior, what you are actually saying is: "I know more things than you do. I am cleverer than you. I am better than you."

So, when you get an email that says the sender is OOO, what it actually says is: "I have saved half a second of my life and I don't care that you will need a minute or two to figure out what I mean, because my time is more valuable than yours because I'm a more important person."

It's the same as being late. That's rude because what you are saying is: "Your life is less worthwhile than mine." It's almost certain that people who use a lot of acronyms in business emails are incapable of punctuality. And I'm willing to bet they are also the sort of people who use the word "paradigm" or who adopt a ridiculous French accent when saying "bouillabaisse". They are show-offs.

And that's just the start of it. They can't contribute good ideas and they can't win you over with charm or wit, so they use a type of communication designed specifically to exclude others.

That's why millennials talk about memes and meh and Milfs. They are speaking in a language, like polari and rhyming slang, that was invented to be impenetrable to you and me. This means they are, in fact, bullies. And bullies, as we know, are the new racists. You should bear that in mind next time you say Lol. Because you're being Harvey Weinstein.

Famously, David Cameron said he thought Lol meant "lots of love", and everyone howled with derisive laughter because of course we all knew it actually means "laugh out loud". Or is it the other way round? I don't know. And I don't care. Because if someone sends me an amusing picture on WhatsApp, I have the good manners to say: "I found that funny."

You try, when you are in a restaurant in Paris, to say "merci" and "au revoir", because it's polite. Well, think about that next time you are sending an email that's NSFW. Because the person you sent it to might open it in front of his boss, thinking you had some kind of beef with New South Effing Wales.

NSFW is actually a pretty useful acronym, but this is obviously one of Jeremy's "get off my lawn!" columns.
Here's the Sun column: "European Army would very likely end up fighting a huge war — with itself"
Actually it's fun when emailing a complete moron to type YFI at the beginning. They feel smug because you mistyped FYI, and you get the satisfaction of addressing them as "You Fucking Imbecile".
This article reminded me of George Orwell's "Politics in the English Language" which I have read parts of but, admittedly, have never actually read completely.
Enterprise, stand by to beam aboard Picard and his Oxfordshire nimbies (Nov 25)

As we know, there is a genuine and serious problem for young people living in rural areas. Because after you've stolen a quad bike and then spent the afternoon lolling around in a bus shelter, off your head on spice, there is literally nothing to do. Apart from a bit of light vandalism.

Some say the problem could be solved by more affordable housing, but if a young person gets 40 quid a week for doing some part-time fencing work and spends 30 of that on spice and a tenner on cider, the only price they can realistically afford is nought.

Yes, a £50,000 house is affordable if you are Sir Elton John but if you're on benefits and you look like an extra from Shaun of the Dead, it may as well be a billion trillion. And there's no hope if things stay this way because as the bright kids leave for the city, the mouthbreathing agri-yobs that remain will impregnate their gormless girlfriends and there'll be an IQ spiral until it'll be impossible to distinguish between rural people and the potatoes they grow.

Jobs. That's the only solution. Because when someone has a job, they have money. And if you have money, you get to choose how you fill your weekends. And if you have a choice of things to do then the idea of standing around in a municipal shrubbery, drooling, suddenly doesn't seem so appealing.

That's why I was cheered to hear that on a bit of countryside near where I live an American philanthropist had applied for planning permission to build a car museum. And this wouldn't just be a place where he could take friends on an ego trip to the core of his wealth and brilliance. It would be open to the public and to schools for educational visits.

That would be good for local hotels and restaurants and shops and, best of all, it would create about 100 permanent jobs. And 100 jobs would mean support and income for 100 people who'd stop taking spice and start feeding their children and painting their front doors and not filling their gardens with dead dogs and old washing machines.

No town would say no to the creation of 100 new jobs. It would be madness.

But that's exactly what happened with the car museum idea, owing to the intervention of Captain Jean-Luc Picard from the Starship Enterprise. Or to be accurate, the actor who played him, Sir Patrick Stewart.

He and, it's said, 249 other locals banded together and, by using nimby noises and hyperbole, created the image of a super-rich car enthusiast having a 2,000-decibel rev-off with his billionaire mates every Sunday morning.

And as a result the local council seems to have said: "OK. Sod the jobs and the money and the pretty environmental schemes that our American friend has promised. We would much prefer local people to be fighting in the streets over the one job on offer from whatever charity shop has opened in the town this week." And so that was the end of that.

Now I know Sir Stewart a little bit and he's a nice chap, a lovable old leftie thesp with a beautiful speaking voice. I also sympathise with him. Because people who live in the countryside out of choice, and not because there's no call for shepherds in Chelsea, are very Prince Charlesish when it comes to change. We don't like it. We have all picked a moment in history where we thought everything was OK — usually around 1867 — and we want everything to stay like that for ever.

But it's got to stop, really. Because when you think about it, people are much better at creating beauty than nature. Yes, I admit, nature, when it girds its loins, can do spectacular.

Anyone who's seen Ha Long Bay in Vietnam or the Grand Canyon will testify to that, but by far the prettiest thing in the British Isles is the Humber Bridge. And God had nothing to do with that.

When someone in the 17th century suggested building Goodwood House, I'm sure lots of people lodged all sorts of objections with the local sheriff, saying it would spoil their view and increase traffic — it's certainly done that in recent years — but now people travel from all over the world to West Sussex to see it.

I was in Azerbaijan recently, and in Baku, the capital, there's a gallery and cultural centre that was designed by the late Zaha Hadid. It's not just the bestlooking building I've seen. It's the bestlooking thing. It's better even than a Riva Aquarama speedboat or the sun rising on a frosty morning or the pinkiness of the snow-capped mountains at dusk in Useless Bay in Chilean Tierra del Fuego.

The view from my cottage in the countryside is very lovely. There are yellowhammers and fields and hills and woods and all of it would be vastly improved by the addition of that cultural centre. In the same way that Bilbao was vastly improved when the Guggenheim arrived. And Salisbury when someone said: "Shall we build a cathedral?" Our American friend with plans for a car museum has now shrunk his ambitions, moved the site and hired Foster + Partners to design the buildings. That's Norman bloody Foster, for God's sake. This is the man whose company brought some zizz to the City of London with the Gherkin and gave Germany a glass dome for its parliament building. And now his practice has been asked to enhance Oxfordshire with a museum. I'd be proud to have such a thing outside my sitting room window. I hope it happens.

Sure, I wouldn't want to be around for the building works and, yes, there will be more cars on the roads. But these will be cars bringing money to the region — and jobs. And these are the twin pillars of rejuvenation. Not cheap houses made from spit and Kleenex. Not charity shops. Not a ban on Londoners owning second homes. Money. And jobs. Lovely.

And even lovelier when they come in a parcel wrapped up by Lord Foster.


The Sun column: "I haven’t got the boggiest what World Toilet Day is — but you’d be a loo-ser to miss it"
I had my dream house all planned, and then it hit me — there's nowhere to store the Parma ham (Dec. 9)

The worst thing about Brexit is that when Jeremy Corbyn and his bunch of halfwits come to power, there will be no guiding hand to steady his lunacy. Freed from the European overlord, he'll be free to do as he pleases, filling cattle trains with intellectuals and burning books and insisting the army develops some kind of weird new marching technique.

Unsurprisingly, various regions from across Europe have invited well-off British people to up sticks and start a new life over there. The Portuguese have a 20% income tax rate for Brits who wish to emigrate. The Italians, meanwhile, say if you buy a house in their country there'll be no tax at all — just a flat fee of €100,000 (£90,000) a year. And pretty much no reporting requirements about overseas earnings.

And then you have the Basques, who are offering massive tax rebates to people working in the film and television industry. Well, I do work in film and television, and — I've got to be honest — that sounds extremely appealing. Apart from the dodgy weather, San Sebastian is a tremendous place, and Biarritz, my favourite city, is just around the corner.

It all sounds very tempting — slashing my tax bill and leaving the Brexiteers to wallow around in the communistical misery pit of their own making — but instead of buggering off, I'm literally putting a stake in the ground here by building a house.

I'm told that this is everyone's dream: designing and creating your own living space. We all watch Grand Designs with drool puddling on our guts and think: "God, I'd like to do that." But so far it's proving to be quite difficult.

I got planning permission ages ago, but then I decided that instead of a slate roof, which the council liked, I'd prefer something made from stone. So I got some new planning permission for that. But last week, in a meeting with the architect and the project manager, I discovered that if I used stone tiles on the roof, it would be nearly the same colour as the house.

This, I figured, would be the same as wearing a jacket that was nearly the same colour as your trousers, so we spent a few hours discussing the possibility of using darker composite tiles instead. And then I decided that, because I'm not John Terry, I didn't want a plastic roof and I'd go back to slate. So now I've got to ask the council for permission to change my mind. Again.

After this lengthy discussion about the colour of the roof, we talked about how much lime would be used in the mortar and the texture of the gravel on the drive, and then it was time to turn our attention to how the lights might be turned on and off.

Now I've said before that no two suitcases are the same. You literally never see anyone in an airport who has one the same as yours. Well, it's worse with companies that make light switches. They do one and then they change the design and do another and so on. This means there are 74bn options.

There are also some hi-tech alternatives that allow you to draw the curtains and pilot a drone over Homs. But I have made it very plain to all concerned that, apart from wi-fi, I want no tech in the house at all. Because tech doesn't work. Ever. Not even wi-fi, usually. I've also insisted that the plans are drawn in feet and inches, because I can visualise that. How big is "350 mill"? The length of a pin or two hundred miles? I've no idea.

Eventually, out of boredom, I chose a switch, and then we moved on to flooring. Oak. Yes. Definitely oak. "Or what about elm?" asked the project manager. "Or mahogany?" queried the architect. Pretty soon it was dark and still we were sitting there saying tree names to one another.

And then I noticed something. I've been looking at the plans for months. I've worked out where the laundry cupboards will be and even where I can store the vacuum cleaner. Wine fridge? Yup. Ticked. I know where it will be plugged in and what sort of generator will be employed to keep it going should Corbyn's nationalised grid go wrong. I've even angled the house so that on a summer's evening I can sit on the porch with some sipping whisky and watch the sun go down.

But as the team talked about the possibility of planking ebony and holly, and the clock crept past seven, I started to get hungry, so as we discussed the possibility of creating the world's first poisonous floor out of manchineel, I thought about food. And that's when the problem entered my head: there was nowhere for a pantry. I was building a six-bedroom house, but there wasn't even a tiny spot where I could store flour and Oxo cubes.

Plainly this had to be rectified, so we stopped talking about Burmese teak and started discussing what should be sacrificed to make way for the olive oil and the ham. It came down to a choice of three things. Wine fridge. Dishwasher. Or lavatory. The lavatory lost.

Nobody explains any of this to you when you say you're going to build a house. Nobody says that you can't get a costing for the job unless every detail of the job has been talked through in advance. You literally can't start until, in your head, it's absolutely finished. I began in earnest on my house in September, and the schedule says that, even if everything goes smoothly, we will not break ground until September next year. And then it'll take three years to build. And by that time I'll be dead.

And then the house with no downstairs lavatory will end up in the hands of Diane Abbott, who'll fill it with all the people who were too stupid or too poor to bugger off to San Sebastian when they had the chance.


And the Sun column: "Here’s a French lesson in three Rs: revolution, riot and rudeness"
How does my garden grow? With sickly twigs and a threadbare hedge ... and no bees at all (Jan. 20)

We like to think that "researchers" are people in white coats, with pipettes and microscopes. Or that they are to be found in the street, with clipboards and a winning smile, asking passers-by about dog food or aircraft noise. But I'm not so sure.

If, for instance, the National Cheese Council were to announce one day that cheese makes your penis bigger, we'd dismiss the report as nonsense. But if the National Cheese Council were to say a team of "researchers" had found it to be so, then we'd nod sagely and immediately buy a hunk of red leicester.

However, I'm fairly sure "researchers" just sit in a room all day, waiting to be told what to say by their paymasters. They exist solely as a label to make untruths look real. They don't garner opinion or fact. They invent it. They're PR men in lab coats.

Last week they came up with a belter, telling everyone that bees are being saved by the middle classes, whose suburban gardens are full of juicy and nourishing flowers. The presumption here is that upper-class gardens are full of coach parks and gift shops. And that working-glass gardens are full of used needles, broken dishwashers and a rusty Peugeot on bricks.

This, however, is simply not true. A great many working-class people are enthusiastic horticulturalists. Their gardens blaze all summer long with a smorgasbord of, er ... and there you go.

I'm middle-class and I can't think of one single bee-friendly flower. Lupin? Is that one? All I know about flowers is that I like hyacinths, but they only grow indoors, I think, so the bees can't get at them.

My garden in Oxfordshire has no flowers in it at all. There are some bushes down one side, and on the other a hedge the neighbouring farmer likes to ruin once a year. Underneath there's a cesspit that leaks. I don't know if bees can smell, but if they can, they'd almost certainly give the whole zone a wide berth and head off instead to Gary and Sharon's sweet-pea-scented allotment.

However, because the "researchers" talked about how the "middle classes" help bees, I'm sitting here on a guilt trip because I don't. And I should.
Gardening, I'm afraid, is not an option, because I don't understand it. I go sometimes to my local garden centre, and all you can buy is a plastic pot full of mud with a dead twig sticking out of it. And when you look at the label, it is always in Latin.

I have occasionally bought one of these twigs and taken it home, and a year later, when it's still a twig, I've put it in the bin. Occasionally a working-class person will come round and explain that it needed more sunshine or less, or that I've given it too much water, or not enough, but the end result is always the same. It stays dead.

Once, I tried to create an actual flowerbed. This meant I had to do manual labour and, immediately, my back hurt. But I persevered and filled the mud I'd hoed with some Impatiens bequaertii, and six months later I had a bed full of thistles.

In London I have a balcony with flowers on it, and in summer bees do come and cause my guests to run round in a panic, spilling their drinks and screaming. It's weird. A dog can bite you and give you rabies. But you don't climb on a chair and hyperventilate when you see one. So why do people do that when they see a bee? We are told that the world cannot function without them and that if they become extinct — which is a possibility if we carry on panicking and making merry with the fly spray — it will be impossible to grow food and we will all die. That theory was almost certainly dreamt up over tea and biscuits in a honey manufacturer's research department, but I don't care. I like bees. They amuse me with their aerodynamic hopelessness. And I want more of them in my life.

It is thought there are about 44,000 people keeping bees in the UK. This means beekeeping is now more popular than being in the Green Party. And it's not just Britain. Beekeeping used to be nothing but an excuse for uptight ladies of literature to wear man-repellent clothing — much like the Green Party in fact — but now Peter Fonda is an enthusiast. So's Morgan Freeman. And Scarlett Johansson was given a hive as a wedding present by Samuel L Jackson.

Bees are the most fuel-efficient creatures on earth. Give one an ounce of honey and it'll have enough energy to fly round the world. Bees also recognise our faces. And they are all different. There are optimistic bees and sad bees. So really, they are like dogs. Except they can manage if you go on holiday.

Unlike dogs, however, which produce only faeces, bees make honey. And how that honey tastes depends on what sorts of flower they visit. I once had some that had notes of peppermint with an overtone of hot handbags.

Apiarism, then, is a hobby that allows you to be even more pretentious than wine enthusiasts. But unlike wine, which tastes only of wine, honey really doesn't just taste of honey.

And then there's beeswax, which you also don't get from dogs. If you use this to polish your wooden floors, your house will smell even more wonderful than a bakery.

So bees are interesting, lowmaintenance pets that keep on giving. And, in addition, beekeeping seems to me to be a relaxing and gentle way of filling your spare time. And researchers say that is good for you. Along with not relaxing in your spare time. Along with eating tomatoes. And not eating tomatoes. And using bath salts. And not using bath salts. And wanting to be in the EU and not wanting to be in the EU.

I can hear eco-freaks squeaking already: The Clarkson Review: Mercedes-AMG G 63 (Jan. 2019)

The M1 motorway is the spine of Britain. It's what connects the head and the brains in West Yorkshire with the pelvis and the testicles in the southeast.

Every day, about 140,000 vehicles use it, so it's vital for the good of the nation — and our sanity — that, no matter what, it's kept open and flowing. Anyone with even a modicum of common sense could work that out.

Apparently not. Because a 13-mile stretch of the motorway was closed recently for 12 nights. Contractors turning the hard shoulder into a fourth lane in Northamptonshire needed to remove some nearby trees but could not use traditional methods because the noise of them crashing to the ground might have woken a family of dormice that was hibernating nearby. Tiptoeing workmen were therefore forced to park cranes on the carriageway itself, so that the trees could be pulled carefully and quietly from the ground before being loaded onto waiting lorries. Which … what? Somehow wouldn't wake up the mice?

It's undoubtedly true that dormice numbers have fallen in the past hundred years. They've been fighting, and losing, a turf war with the grey squirrels. But that's not our fault.

The fact is that only about 2% of Britain is paved in some way. The rest is green. Which means the dormouse has plenty of places it can call home, and I'm sorry but if a dozen or so have to be woken up to keep the spine of Britain functioning, then so be it — even if Highways England claimed it was concerned for motorists' safety, as well as the well-being of the dormice.

We live, however, in weird times, when the motorist is lower in the pecking order than the newt and the bat. Certainly we are far lower than the pedestrian. The health watchdog announced recently that when roads are being built, those on foot should be prioritised over those in a car. The watchdog's deputy chief executive actually said she wants roads to be so attractive that people will be encouraged to get out from behind their steering wheels and walk. Yes, and maybe instead of life jackets, planes should have parachutes, so if passengers are flying over a particularly pretty part of the world, they can jump out for a ramble.

Our glorious leaders are even thinking of introducing Dutch-style roundabouts to make life better for the species at the top of the pecking order — the cyclist.

This is foolish. There's a double mini roundabout in the town where I live, and in theory it's not complicated. You could explain how it works to a seven-year-old in less than 10 seconds. But, despite this, it completely flummoxes everyone who encounters it. People in Peugeots just sit there for hours, rendered catatonic by bewilderment and confusion.

So God alone knows how they will cope with the Dutch idea, which features an outer ring for cyclists. You give way to them, and when it's clear, one car at a time can cross to the inner ring, which is like a normal roundabout. It won't work. It's too confusing.

But this is what our leaders want. They want us to be confused. They want us to be stuck in a 50-mile jam caused by sleeping dormice. They want us crammed in between bus and cycle lanes and monitored at all times by cameras. They want the traffic lights to be phased stupidly and a roadworks policy that's unjoined up. It's not an accident or stupidity that causes the gas board to dig up the road one week and the power company the next. They're doing it on purpose.

And it's the same story with the highway wombles. We were told they were being introduced to keep the roads open. But they do the exact opposite, making sure that as many lanes as possible are closed for as long as possible.

I've always said that if the motorcar had been invented yesterday, there isn't a government on earth that would allow ordinary members of the public to use it. It'd be reserved for the military and the emergency services. The idea that you, an accountant, could use one for a visit to your grandparents in Blackpool — that'd be laughable.

But because we've ad that freedom for more than a hundred years, they can't simply take it away. So they are just making life for the independent traveller so miserable, we give up and go on one of their buses instead.

Which is why you can't help but smile when you learn Mercedes has just launched a new G-wagen, or Mercedes-AMG G 63, as it is now known. The old model was an army lorry, really. Designed in the trenches of the Somme, it was made from coal and brass and garnished with sharp edges and places where you could mount a Spandau machinegun.

But then, at the back end of the 20th century, someone decided that if it were fitted with an engine that ran on petrol rather than steam and coated inside with a veneer of leather, it could be used by people who weren't oberleutnants.

Despite its ridiculously high price, it worked. Propelled perhaps by a desire not to be yet another Range Rover driver, people bought G-wagens and bounced around in them, imagining they were cool. Which they were. But, my God, they were terrible to drive. And cramped. And thirsty. And stupid.

The new model attempts to deal with these shortcomings. And so, instead of a steering system made from hope, it has an electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion setup. And instead of a front suspension made from bits of the Tirpitz, it has double wishbones. It still has a ladder-frame chassis, though. Like a chariot.

This means that, although it's still restless as you drive along, it does go where you want it to go. And because it's bigger than it was, you no longer feel like Stanley Tucci at the end of the film The Core. Giggly, but a bit squashed.

From the outside it looks very similar to the old model: rugged, strong and militaristic. You still get visible hinges and doors that you have to slam, and slam hard, if you want them to shut properly. But from the inside it's totally different. You get 2ft-wide screens and a lighting system that puts Pacha to shame. Every teenager who saw and sat in the G-wagen I borrowed wanted one immediately. And my inner nine-year-old did too.

I especially liked the engine, a twin-turbo V8 that develops 577 horsepowers and a lung-bursting 626 torques. This means you can hit 62mph in 4.5 seconds, and that's hilarious. But not as hilarious as the exhausts that poke from the side of the car, not the back. Why? Why not? You'd imagine that, because it's gone all city-centre mainstream, some of the off-road ability has been lost. And maybe it has. But the car still has huge ground clearance, and even on road tyres I found that it managed a woodland track better than even the most down-to-earth Land Rover.

I'd still rather have a Range Rover. It's more dignified. And not quite as expensive. But I do love the G-wagen, mainly because there is simply no other car made today that flies so firmly into the maelstrom of anti-car nonsense coming from everywhere else.

This is a car that genuinely hacks off cyclists and dormice and government watchdogs. And for that alone I wish it well.

The Sun column: "It’s madness that Prince Philip, 97, is driving and families should make sure ‘motorists over 70 are still capable’"
Anointed with Piz Buin and ordained by magical thinking. God save our royal family!
(Sunday Times, Jan. 27)

If we'd never had any sort of government and suddenly decided we needed one, it's highly unlikely we'd come up with a system where the position of head of state was hereditary. Imagine trying to sell the notion on Question Time. Not even the brilliant and eloquent Diane Abbott could hope to make it fly.

It's nuts that Prince Charles is going to be our next leader simply because his mum was. Lots of people think that way. And I agree that, logically speaking, they have a point. But what if we decided to get rid of the royal family and have a president instead? I think we'd almost certainly end up with a palace full of Ant & Dec. Or, if it had to be a woman — and in the current climate it would — we'd have President Rachel of Countdown.

So while I know that the hereditary system is silly and that we could one day end up being led by someone who talks to his lunch, I still prefer it to the alternative in which you end up with Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin or that bottom feeder in Venezuela.

Did you see what Mrs Queen had to say last week on the divisions caused by Brexit? "I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view ... and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone."

Obviously that is neither possible nor desirable at a football match, but in the country as a whole she's dead right. And I'm glad we have her and her wisdom and not President Dec with his "Let them eat grubs".

The problem, however, is that in a hereditary system some poor sod gets the gig simply because he came out of the wrong womb at the wrong time. Imagine having to sit down with your child when they are eight or nine and explain that they will have to spend their entire adult life being polite and wearing a seatbelt and going to Middlesbrough on a Wednesday afternoon to open the civic centre's new disabled lavatory.

Yes, they get a lot of houses and a man to warm the lavatory seat before they use it, but I'd rather live in a tent and do my business in the woods than have some chinless adviser called Nigel telling me that I must marry a clotheshorse and never once go home with a traffic cone on my head. It's not a life. It's a life sentence.

And there's more. To make the whole system work, the royal family have to convince proles such as you and me that there's some mystical reason they are in charge and not, say, Huw Edwards from the 10 o'clock news.

During the actual moment of a coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoons special oil from an eagle-shaped bottle onto the monarch, and to make sure you and I don't see this, it all happens underneath an embroidered tent that's carried to the spot by a gaggle of cross-dressers who were definitely bullied at school.

The reason this part of the ceremony is hidden from the public's gaze is simple. If we actually saw it happening, we'd know the oil was basically Piz Buin factor 10. And then the whole divine right, appointed-by-God-Himself thing would be ruined.

It's already ruined, if I'm honest. Most of us don't believe in God, and we certainly don't believe that more than a thousand years ago he found a man called Theo in Germany and said: "Your sperm, my son, is holy, and it will be used many years from now to provide a system of government in Great Britain."

We know it's all just a magic trick, and, as with a magic trick, we don't really want to know how it's done. So if they want to claim that someone goes into the embroidered tent as a man and comes out on the other side as a king, fine. As I say, it's better than having Ant & Dec or Donald.

The problem is that when the ordinary person comes out as a king, he's got to keep the whole charade going. He's got to be aloof and covered in medals he didn't win and good at waving, and all his opinions have to be nice and calm and sensible. Everything that happens in his head has to stay there. That's just about doable, but not when you have the tabloids running around saying that the royal family must be aloof and good at waving and so on but that in addition they must be like us.

So now we have poor old William, who's stuck. On the one hand he's got the Nigels telling him that he must behave like a king and be carried around in a velvet-lined sedan chair by six oiled eunuchs, and on the other he's got the Daily Mail saying that he must go down to the Dog and Duck on karaoke night and get pissed.

Only last week he spoke in Davos to a roomful of people who are nowhere near as influential as they like to think, saying that the British habit of stiffening the upper lip and keeping calm and carrying on meant it was difficult to deal with the horrors he experienced as an ambulance driver.

Doubtless this is true, and doubtless it was an important message for the nation's mental-health charities. But, while opening up and weeping and talking about stuff is fine for normal people — and especially Americans — it undermines the fabric of royalty.

Happily, there's no serious movement in the UK right now to get rid of the Windsors, but unless they sit down soon and work out how to keep the magic going in a cynical world where there are no witches or unicorns, such a thing might get traction.

It would only take something small like a road traffic accident to get the discussion going, so let's keep our fingers crossed that such a thing never happens.

The Clarkson Review
A lunatic let loose among the sheep: The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
(Sunday Times, Jan. 27)

In the olden days I would often walk round London, usually because I was coming back from the pub. Or because I was on my way to the pub and knew there was no point taking the car because I'd have to walk home afterwards. And then in the morning I'd have to walk to the police pound to give a gormless person in an armoured booth a hundred pounds to get my car back.

And then there was the casino on Lower Sloane Street. It was run by an oily Frenchman called Roger and had just two card tables and one roulette wheel. I loved it in there, but afterwards I would have to walk home because I had not a single penny left for a taxi.

As I said, I did a lot of walking back then, which is probably why I had a 28in waist. Coupled with a 38in inside leg, it made me look like a telegraph pole. I'm surprised a stork never nested on me. Mind you, I had so much hair in those days, it looked as if one had.

Today, in an effort to have a 28in waist once more, I'm back on foot, using my legs wherever possible to get from A to B. It's much more difficult than it was back then, mainly because I now weigh more than most moons, which means after a very short distance I get terrible backache. Also, I am stopped very often by someone who wants a selfie.

This always takes an age, because they have to explain why they want one. "I've just been on a hockey tour of Canada, and I met this guy in Toronto who had multiple sclerosis, and he had this old Honda he couldn't use any more, so I borrowed it and I said that if I was ever…" And on and on and on it goes until I just want to jump under the next bus.

A word of advice. If you see me in the street, ask crisply and efficiently for a photograph. I will then tell you to eff off and we can both go about our business with minimal disruption.

The other problem with walking today is that there's nothing much to look at. Back in the Eighties the streets would be filled with mid-engined Renault 5s and Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprint Veloces. Then you had rear-drive Toyota Corolla rally cars and Supras and Mitsubishi Starions and even the odd BMW M5.

It was like walking through an art gallery, only there was a growling, buzzing, throbbing soundtrack as London wriggled itself free from the gnawing misery of Seventies socialism and embraced Margaret Thatcher's vision of getting up, getting on and getting a Golf GTI.

Now, though, it's just an endless parade of dreary SUVs. It's my job to know what they all are, but on a walk yesterday I couldn't name a single one. They were just grey shapes, like frogspawn.

Plainly this sort of car is what you're all interested in these days, and that's good news because the car I didn't use very much the week before last, owing to my new walking habit, was the Peugeot 5008 Allure. It had a 1.5-litre engine, could go from 0 to 62mph in a certain length of time, ran on diesel and cost just shy of £30,000. In every way it's just another SUV, except you don't look through the steering wheel at the dials. You look over it. And if that's what you want — if it's what's been missing from your life, a new way of mounting the steering wheel — then this is obviously the car for you.

Eventually the Peugeot was taken away — and a few days later I noticed. The car that replaced it was another bloody SUV, but this one was an Alfa Romeo. And if anyone can make this sort of car interesting, Alfa can.

It's called the Stelvio, which means it's been named after a famous bit of road that twists and turns its way up an Alp in Italy. I tried the diesel version last year and it was sort of all right, but this time Alfa sent the full-fat, 503-horsepower Quadrifoglio version.

Now. I adore the engine in this car. It's a twin-turbo Ferrari V8 with two cylinders lopped off, and it's a masterpiece. Genuinely, an all-time great. If it were music, it would be Beethoven's Fifth. If it were art, it would be Turner's "Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway." If it were literature, it would be Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn.

It revs as if it's held at idle by an elastic band that the throttle just snaps, and the noise it makes can curdle blood at 500 paces. You can use it to potter about, but that'd be like playing chopsticks on the organ in the Royal Albert Hall. This is an engine that wants you to open all the stops, all the time. But would it work in an SUV? That's what I wanted to know.

Well, to make sure the rest of the car — which is tall, because that's what people need these days — doesn't throw its arms in the air and panic when asked to deal with a volcanic burst of power, it's all been tightened up. Really tightened. And then nailed down. And then fitted with tyres that have the give of steel. I'd like to say that despite all this the Stelvio copes very well with badly maintained urban roads. But it doesn't. It rides like a racer.

Which is what it is. It has a carbon-fibre prop shaft, and most of the time all the power is fed to the rear wheels. Alfa says when they lose grip, power is sent immediately to the front, but as I exited one roundabout on full opposite lock, I can testify to the fact that Alfa's idea of "immediately" and mine are a bit different.

A friend of mine actually bought one of these cars last month and texted me after a few days to say: "This thing is mad." He's right. It is. Hilariously, mind-bogglingly insane. Imagine a harbour tug with three Lamborghini V12s. It's that.

There are a lot of fast SUVs on offer at the moment. There's the Lamborghini Urus and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and the Audi SQ7, but nothing is quite as swivel-eyed as this Stelvio. And as a result it's easily the most exciting SUV out there. Which is a bit like saying Proteus syndrome is easily the most exciting disfiguring disease.

There are some other issues too.

When you zoom the sat nav into see individual streets, it goes into what I call "moron mode" and swivels round when you turn a corner. I hate that and there's nothing you can do to stop it. And while the carbon-fibre seats are cool, the seatbelt buckles rattle against them all the time. You can't even fit a towbar because of the complex exhaust system. Mind you, not being able to tow a caravan is probably a good thing.

This car, then, is exactly what you'd expect from Alfa Romeo. Its best brains fitted a truly magnificent engine, and then the factory cleaning staff were left to make everything else.

I love this sort of thing. I love Alfas because there are bits of them that don't work. But you almost certainly will find this infuriating.

I could suggest you buy the Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon, because it's far superior as an actual car. But you don't want a saloon. You want an SUV, because you are a sheep. So go on, then. Buy an Audi Q5 instead. Be a dullard. See if I care.


And here's the Sun column: "Defiling Bomber Command Memorial reeks of ‘make love not war’ rhetoric from pacifist halfwit Jeremy Corbyn"
Spa guide: Jeremy Clarkson has water therapy at the Gainsborough Bath Spa

By Jeremy Clarkson (January 27)

All health resorts need a unique selling point, something that makes them more than just a few corridors full of wet idiots in towelling slippers. Last year I went to a place in Surrey called Grayshott, where they plucked one of my eyebrows and said I could eat whatever I wanted except … Actually, I can’t remember what it was.

This year I went to the Gainsborough in Bath, which is much like any other luxury provincial hotel. There’s a lounge full of couples who haven’t spoken to one another since 1952 and a dining room where the food arrives underneath a ta-dah cloche.

The USP? At first I thought it was the one functioning lift that had doors that closed like the chompers in Galaxy Quest. And that went to a floor of its choosing rather than yours. A cunning post-Christmas ploy, I figured, to make me use the stairs.

But no. The real reason for the Gainsborough is to be found in the basement, where the Malaysian owners have built a modern take on how the Georgians thought the Romans used to live.

I began my visit by filling in a form. I don’t know what it was about as I’d forgotten my reading glasses. I was then presented with what looked like a Scarface-sized bowl of cocaine lovingly infused with scents that only a dog could detect, some of which was then put into a small heart-shaped lace handbag. I’m not sure they’d had me in mind when they were developing this idea.

Clutching my lace bag full of lemon-scented coke, I was invited to sit in a pool of water that is kept at 36C, and after I’d been parboiled, I was microwaved in an infrared sauna and then steamed in a small room full of hot fog.

I did feel like the food at this point, and there was more. In the massage that followed, a lady vigorously rubbed what felt like salt into all of my skin before coating me in oil. “This,” I thought, “is what it’s like to be a chicken.” And despite what vegans say, it’s not so bad.

The next morning I went for a walk round Bath and concluded it’s just like every other town. There’s a Poundland and a Superdrug and a few forlorn charity shops. But on the upside, there are a lot of pillars.

After this, I went back to the spa to try a procedure that my girlfriend, Lisa, had suggested. I was greeted by a good-looking North African man who immediately took off his clothes and climbed into the bath with me.

He said I should lie back and live in the moment. But I’m a busy man with an active mind so immediately I started to think about Brexit. I then thought about where we might go for the next Grand Tour show and then, as he pulled my head under the water with no warning, I thought about Guantanamo. I spluttered to the surface and asked him not to do that again. So this time when I lay back, he cupped me tenderly with one hand and stroked me gently with the other. And all I could think was: what if one of the onlookers takes a picture of this and puts it on the internet?

I’m sure there are thousands of men who would love to be stroked by a good-looking Moroccan chap in a warm bath. But I’m not one of them. In fact, I’ve vowed that on a forthcoming trip to the Far East, I will take Lisa to one of those special Thai massage clubs, so she can have a taste of her own medicine. By which I mean, her own kind.

In the baths there were a lot of ladies sitting on the Jacuzzi-style water jets, smiling. One read the same page of her book for about an hour.

I, meanwhile, chose to go under a jet that shot water onto my shoulders with tremendous force. Only Parisians in yellow vests know what it’s like to be hit by a water canon of this ferocity. However, my shoulders and neck have ached constantly since I slipped a couple of discs 13 years ago. And this morning, when I woke up, they didn’t.

So, it’s fair to say that I was touched at the Gainsborough, and by the Gainsborough. It genuinely restored me. And I shall for ever be in its debt.


… and his girlfriend, Lisa Hogan, deals with the moaning

by Lisa Hogan

Agile as the Neanderthal appears, it’s surprisingly difficult to budge. Unless you have a cunning plan. January health kick to a spa? Forget it. But if it’s journalism, legitimate work, we’re on.

Our suite looked over the blond stone buildings of the most stunning city in England. The rooms, with high ceilings and tall Georgian windows, are cosy, and the bathrooms are neat but luxurious, with a solid marble look.

The treatments, meanwhile, are excellent. My massage was a sensory novelty. The nerves below my right ear went berserk when salt was massaged into my left leg, and vice versa. Droplets jumped from my face during the stomach massage. Magnesium oil followed, which cured the twitch in my eye. Neanders had a ginger version, moaning about being served vegetables after the infrared-sauna visit. He complained about everything here. In fact, so much, I swapped his facial for a Freedom pool experience, in the little Speedos I’d sweetly purchased for him. As he drifted off to sleep he groaned on about how all spa getaways are ridiculous. Then woke up after an unprecedented 10 hours straight.