Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Putin might not save Richard Hammond from a smash, but he'd get us all picking up our litter (July 14)

For the first time in 20 years we weren't able to finish one of our televisual adventures. The ending was to be spectacular and controversial, and it would have wound up the Chinese something rotten, but two hours after we set off, the man in charge of safety and health pushed the abort button.

Months of planning. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds. A great story. All dashed on the jagged rocks of risk assessment and bits of small print in the insurance arrangements.

With hindsight, I admit it was the right call. We had bitten off more than we could chew, the weather was dreadful and there was a very real possibility that, if we'd stiffened our upper lips and soldiered on, someone would have died.

And when I say "someone", obviously what I mean is "Richard Hammond".

Which causes me to wonder. Would Christopher Columbus have sailed across the Atlantic if he'd had to fill in a risk-assessment form beforehand? Would Neil Armstrong have reached the moon 50 years ago this week if Nasa had to pass everything through a health and safety department? Would anyone have reached the South Pole?

We read last week about a former soldier who has spent the past few years running about in Syria rescuing runaway girls whose life with Isis hadn't turned out to be quite as glamorous as they'd imagined. He pointed out that no government could do this — and no corporation could either — because when a risk assessment is carried out and you say there's a good chance you'll end up being beheaded on the internet, someone's going to say: "Let's not bother."

If the Bible began with the words, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and then he filled out a risk-assessment form", there would have been no light and no dividing of the firmament.

All of which brings me on to Vladimir Putin. While I was away making half a television show to keep the insurance company happy, he rocked up at a G20 conference in Japan having said that the democracies of the West were finished, because liberal policies were very obviously not what the vast majority of the electorate wants. He claimed that the public had turned its back on social tolerance, multiculturalism and immigration. And, before having a small pop at transgenderists, he said that the liberalist enthusiasm for human rights meant that refugees were free to rape with impunity.

Naturally, everyone sank to their knees and sobbed uncontrollably, saying that Captain Botox had really lost it this time. But the trouble is that, when you stop and think about it, he does seem to have a point. Vast numbers of people all over Europe really do want an end to immigration. Given half a chance, they'd also vote to bring back hanging. And while there is a great deal of multiculturalism in advertisements and in box-set television shows, there's almost none round the kitchen tables of middle England.

We are told by those with liberal sensibilities that there are words we may not use any more, but in every pub and club people are still using them. We are told there are jokes we may not tell, but they're still being told. The people in the corridors of power are completely dislocated from what's actually going on.

We don't really care about human rights and we aren't interested in risk assessments or transgender lavatories. We watch politicians making liberal noises on TV and all we think is: "Have the police found the man who stole my bicycle yet?" (They haven't. As far as I can tell, they haven't actually solved any crime since Dixon left Dock Green.) In Russia, things are different. Yes, it's a democracy, so everyone gets a chance once in a while to vote for Mr Putin. This is a man who at some point in his life at the KGB will have definitely pushed another man's eyes into the back of his head using his thumbs. It's hard to negotiate with someone you know has done that, which is why no one does.

Putin wants Crimea. He takes it. And what is the response from the liberal West? "Please, sir. Don't push my eyes into the back of my head using your thumbs." He doesn't have to trouble himself with human rights or how he will look on the world stage if he rains fire on towns in Syria. He just does what he thinks is right and proper, and he's still well-liked in Russia.

Maybe that's what we need here. A benevolent dictator. Someone who's unschooled in the nuances of politics and immune to right-on thinking. Someone who looks at those daft contestants on Love Island arguing about whether Italy is in the country of Rome or vice versa, or where Barcelona is, and thinks: "Right. That's it. No one's allowed to leave school until they have a basic grasp of what's what."

I'm talking about a man or woman who isn't steered through life by editorials in The Guardian and what's being said on Twitter. Who works for the mainstream and not the fringe. Someone with the strength to push a man's eyes into the back of his head using their thumbs. And the willingness to do just that to anyone who drops litter.

I can see why this would have some appeal among large numbers of people in Britain, but before you all start asking Tyson Fury to take charge, I would just point out that, while Russia does have strong and firm leadership, the price of its cabbages has risen by 17 times the official rate of inflation. Eggs, grain and onions are all skyrocketing too.

Disposable income has shrunk for the fourth year on the trot and now 13% of the population are living below the poverty line. Which means 20m people are living on less than £140 a month. And when the liberal democracies in Europe start making good on their promises to stop using oil, things are going to get much, much worse.


And here's the Sun column: "It’s summer, Wimbledon’s on telly, so who cares if the country is run by idiots?"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
A first-rate paint job at the very least
The Clarkson Review: Porsche Macan (July 21)

I flew with many friends recently to a 40th-birthday party that was being held in a gigantic tent near Siena. And after we landed in Florence, everyone began the long and boring trudge to the rental car desk for the keys to their much-scratched 40cc Fiat Uno. In which they would spend the next couple of days wrestling with its strong tendency to pull to the left. And some unpleasant smells.

Me? Well, I was met by a beaming Italian chap holding a Porsche board. My friends were very pleased for me. And many expressed their pleasure by ignoring me completely, or muttering darkly under their breath as they lugged their heavy bags into the sticky heat of a Tuscan afternoon.

I would have offered two of them a lift, but I assumed I'd be given a 911, so there'd be no room. I was wrong. It was a Macan, the smaller of the Porsche SUVs. And not only that, but it was also fitted with a four-cylinder engine. So it was the cheapest version of one of the cheapest models.

I didn't mind, however, because the last thing you want for a drive through Tuscany is a fast car. You want the journey to last for hours so you can savour the light and the endless valleys and the sense that round every corner you'll catch a whiff of Alan Yentob or maybe Melvyn Bragg.

I want an interesting and powerful car for trips from London to my place in the country, because there are many Peugeots to overtake. I want an interesting and powerful car on most journeys, in fact, because I like the fizzes and the crackles and the sense of fine engineering when I go round a corner. But in Tuscany, I just want an air-conditioned space in which I can sit and watch the view go by.

What was the car like? No idea, I'm afraid. I used it for three days and can't remember a damn thing about it, but that's OK, because when I got back to London, there'd been a clerical error and the car waiting for me was, yup, another Macan.

This one was green. Very green. More green than the love child of George Monbiot and that Green MP in Brighton. You know, grass in the evening sunlight, after a couple of days of rain.

Well, it was way more green than that. This was press demonstrator green, a colour designed so that the car positively leaps off the pages of those car magazines you read at the dentist's. I absolutely adored it.

I liked the interior too. The Macan has just been very mildly facelifted, so it has a light bar all the way across the back end and a new dash, which is pretty good. I especially like the way Porsche sticks to the principle, first used on the 928, of festooning every flat surface with buttons. And then putting half a dozen more in the roof. Men like buttons. They're a measure of our place in life.

The engine, though, was something else. The diesel option has gone and a petrol-powered 2-litre turbo is now seen as the solution. But it isn't, because in order to make it bear-friendly, it's controlled by algorithms that make acceleration possible only if you ram your foot through the firewall and push yourself along the road. You have to use a lot of throttle travel to cause a change in speed, and even more if you want the seven-speed double-clutch firewall gearbox to change down.

I'd like to say that this is solved if you push the button marked Sport, but it isn't really. There's a similar problem with the "hard ride" button. It's bumpy before you push it and bumpy afterwards too. I think Porsche was so busy fitting buttons that it forgot to attach them to anything. Even the air-con Auto button does nothing but illuminate a small red light. Which, technically, warms things up a bit.

So it's not a particularly inspiring car to drive, and not fast, and there isn't much space in the back or the boot. And while it has four-wheel drive, the low-profile tyres will spin pointlessly every time you drive into a gymkhana car park. And there's more.

I doubt you've heard of Andy Wilman, but he's a genius. He was the boss of Top Gear, when it was good, and he's the boss of The Grand Tour now. His skill in the edit is legendary. He knows what will work and what will not. He knows how to make me look normal and James May look interesting. And after he's viewed a thousand hours of footage, he will stun staff by remembering every last detail of it.

But the funny thing is that, although he has spent the past 20 years in a small, dark room in Soho, watching cars go past cameras, he is wilfully uninterested in the subject.

His first car was a Datsun Sunny and things went downhill from there. He even had a Mini Countryman at one point. He can now borrow press demonstrators whenever he wants, so he could swan around in Lamborghinis and Aston Martins. But these companies are unable to offer him what he really wants, which is a 1.2-litre paraffin stove. So he's usually to be found in a Hyundai.

He surprised everyone in the office recently by buying a BMW M3. But after he'd kerbed every inch of all four wheels, which took about a month, he sold it. And we were all keen to see what he'd buy next. Perhaps it would be Boris Johnson's old Toyota Previa. Or a Rover 75. But no. He went for a Macan.

I can see why it would appeal. The poor ride. The lacklustre engine. The cramped rear quarters. And the buttons that don't seem to make any difference. But these things on their own are never quite enough for Andy. He likes his cars to have hidden weaknesses as well, so I did some research and I think I know what he found.

The Macan was unveiled in 2013, but it was actually based on the Audi Q5, which by that stage was five years old. There's a new, updated Q5 now, but, incredibly, the Macan -- even the most recent, facelifted version -- is still based on the original. Which means it's sitting on a platform that was designed when Tony Blair was in power. We've had Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May since then.

And that original Q5 was not a good car. James May, Richard Hammond and I don't agree on much, but we all agree that Audi's mid-size school-runmobile was about as bad and as bland as cars can be. Toyota Picnic bad. An ocean of wallpaper paste garnished with a layer of nothing at all.

Yes, you do get a Porsche badge on the Macan and you do have the option of that green paint. But, really, you're spending a ton of money for a car whose underpinnings weren't much good even in the Bronze Age. And what you end up with is a car that's not just unnoticeable in Tuscany. It's unnoticeable everywhere. That's why Wilman bought one, obviously. And it's why I wouldn't.

Leave the pointless promenading to the French. A walk is not a walk without a pub at the end (July 21)

Last Sunday a group of chaps and chapettes met in London's elegant Jermyn Street and set off on what they called "a walk without purpose, a stroll without direction, a civilised amble without destination". It might, they said, last five minutes or five hours or five days, and it might end up round the corner or in a cafe in Paris.

Now, in Valencia I've seen people do this a lot. There's a huge walkway along the seafront, and every evening people get dressed up and mooch along it, at a snail's pace, seemingly going nowhere. And in Spain that makes sense, because have you seen their television shows? I'd far rather climb into a bullfighter costume and walk about in the evening sunshine, looking at all the pretty girls in their thong bikinis and all the pretty boys astride their Vespas than sit at home, watching some trout-faced harridan and a shouty lothario encouraging a studio audience of rural morons to clap along to some mangled old Julio Iglesias hit. Watching people in Spain is a thousand times more rewarding than watching television.

It's the same story in Hanoi. Every Sunday the main road to the east of the Hoan Kiem lake is closed to traffic, so that people can take a stroll and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Again, this is because there is no equivalent of Breaking Bad on Vietnamese television, and walking along with your kids who are flying kites or spinning tops is just a lovely thing to do.

It's preening, really. It's chatting people up without Tinder and meeting neighbours without rowing over a hedge. It's a chance to do business and catch up on gossip and see stuff and take in the sights and the sounds.

Naturally, the French have a word for this sort of thing. Flâneur. It means "a man who wanders about observing society". And we have words for people who do that sort of thing. "Weirdo" is one. Others include "Sex pest". Promenading, which means to take a walk, in public, is something I suspect we'd struggle with.

In the olden days, people used to promenade in Britain. The rich even built long galleries in their homes, and festooned the walls with art, so that when the weather was inclement they could take their evening strolls indoors and have something to look at.

But now? No. There's always a box set to finish, or a new film, or emails to send. And that's fine, except for one thing. Not moving is the new smoking. If you wobble though life with your head nestling in the blancmange of six chins, you don't get sympathy; you get scorn. You're deemed to have let yourself go, which is a sign of a weak mind.

I'm nervous, however, of just setting off and seeing what happens next. AA Gill used to do that. And he'd always find a little statue of a little-known poet in an even less well-known mews. Or a cobblestone that was out of place. Or an arch that would fascinate him for hours.

I'm not like that. I couldn't care less about almost everything, and I've always never wanted to spend two hours stroking the brass of a faded plaque in Spitalfields.

I've tried walking with no purpose. I've simply left my London flat and set off without knowing where I was going or when I'd be back, and I always, always, always end up in the Ladbroke Arms. The other day I was in Mayfair and decided to walk back to Holland Park, which was about three miles away, and I ended up in the Ladbroke Arms, again, using rosé wine to nourish and water my remaining chins.

Let's just say I was French and that I liked preening in public. And let's say I stumbled on a charming back-street cafe where I could spend an hour or so contemplating the meaning of the table and whether the ham in my sandwich was happy, before sauntering home again, possibly with Carole Bouquet. That'd be great. But I'm not French, so the only reason I walk anywhere is because the law won't let me drive home afterwards.

Here in Britain we prefer to go for walks in the countryside, where no one can see us. I'm not surprised. In continental Europe, looking good is more important than looking where you're going, but here we don't walk to be seen; we walk to stay fit, and getting fit requires specialised clothing.

So we pull on cagoules and action trousers, and we set off with some of those silly Theresa May walking poles. And then we are happy when we sweat and our faces turn red. It tells us that we're in control of ourselves. And that our minds are strong.

Of course, walking in the countryside is impossible at this time of year, because I suffer from hay fever. The long grass doesn't just make my eyes water and my nose stream; it causes my arms to come up in a rash and my ankles to itch. I think it's God's way of telling me to have a glass of wine instead. It's certainly a very clear indication that I'm not French. I'm not sure there's even a word in French for hay fever.

In the winter it is also impossible to walk here because it is so very cold. And because after half a mile your boots are so caked in mud that each weighs more than 200 tons.

But there is a brief window, on June 6, at about four in the afternoon, when it is possible to go for a walk in the British countryside without being stung, struck down with a medieval disease or made to feel as if you're Rocky in training for his next fight.

I did a walk then and it was lovely.

There were many flowers to look at, and as I walked, a squadron of silent butterflies fluttered ahead like a fighter escort. I heard birds singing, and soon I arrived at a pub with moob sweat and a raging thirst for beer.

That's not promenading. Which is not something we can do. And we shouldn't try.


And the Sun column: "Ignoring Lewis’s Hamilton’s amazing sixth Silverstone British Grand Prix win just isn’t cricket"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Have I Got No. 10 for You has a new guest host — and Boris had better keep us laughing (July 28)

Brexit is undeliverable. I've said it before and I'll say it again now. One day we shall have to admit the whole referendum was a waste of time because separating ourselves from the EU is as impossible as humming while holding your nose. Or solving a crossword while being attacked by a bear. It cannot be done.

And now, steering us through the stormy waters towards the Kobayashi Maru, we have Boris Johnson.

Unlike every other commentator who's written about Boris in the past month, I do not know him. Yes, I've met him a few times, but I did not go on picnics while we were at Oxford together. We do not have each other's phone number or email address. We've never arranged to meet for dinner. So I know him in the same way as you know him. And, like many of you, I like him.

I guess he first came into our consciousness as a guest host on Have I Got News for You, and we liked the way he absorbed Ian Hislop's hand grenades and Paul Merton's dolphin-in-a-bath unpredictability. He just made growling noises and, after a brief spell in Latin, slotted back into gear with a self-deprecating smile and the next question. Then there were his newspaper and magazine columns. We liked those too, because he used hyperbole to get his point across. When it was discovered that under a Tory government people drank more milk and had more disposable income, Boris translated that into English by saying that if you voted Conservative, your wife would have bigger breasts and you would have a greater chance of owning a BMW M3. This was a language we understood.

When we learnt that he might have been mating with various girls around town, or helping to organise a hit on some tabloid journalist, there may have been a few raised eyebrows at the nation's beetle drives, but the rest of us just thought, "I must get that Ocado order done." And then he appeared on a zipwire over London, stuck, and with the harness accentuating his man pouch, and we all thought, "Good old Boris. I bet he spills egg down his tie next. Oh look, he has."

Boris was a clown. A clever clown, but a clown nevertheless, and that was fine when he had menial jobs such as mayor of London or MP for Henley or even foreign secretary. But now he's the prime minister, and wherever he is this morning, I can guarantee he'll be thinking, "What shall I do with the clown act?" Well, here's my advice. Don't just keep it up. Ramp it up. Don't think that just because you're the prime minister you've got to start making monotone, Theresary platitudes. We never want to hear you say "in real terms", and we know your hair was born to look like seaweed caught in a riptide, so don't try to tame it. And never wear a hi-vis jacket. You're the prime minister now; no one is going to accidentally reverse over you with a forklift truck.

I can't say "be yourself", because I don't know who you are under your food-spattered suit. But I can say "be who we think you are". Don't try to become Jeremy Hunt. Look at how he responded when Iran seized that tanker, and use it as a lesson in how not to behave on camera. He sounded like his balls were actually dropping while he was talking. It was pathetic.

The fact is, Boris, that you are charged with doing a job that cannot be done. The only bargaining chip you have is the threat of no-deal, and parliament won't allow that, or any of the shenanigans you may have dreamt up to put it back on the table. You're going to Europe to ask for more and they are going to tell you to eff off. And you will have no retort.

Yes, you could come home to say that things have gone well and that "in real terms" there's been a 12% rise in backstop concessions, but we've had too much of that. It's why America has Trump and Canada has that weirdo. We don't want the Blairs and Majors any more. We want people who've made us laugh on Have I Got News for You.

You're the one who called people "piccaninnies" . You're the one who said women in burqas looked like letterboxes. You're the one who described gay men as "tank-topped bumboys", so don't suddenly pretend you're Cherie Blair. If the Lithuanian prime minister is causing problems with your negotiations, tell us. And tell us straight. Say, "He's being a nuisance, probably because his head appears to be on upside down." Because then we will look him up on the internet and laugh, because it does.

Of course, the day will come when we are supposed to leave the EU and it won't be possible, and that'll be tricky. But if you've kept us amused in the meantime with some choice observations, a bit of Latin when you're stuck and the occasional public tumble, you will be forgiven.

If you try to brave it out like an old school politician with neat hair and a tie that doesn't smell of sherry, you've had it. And then we will end up with Corbyn and Watson and that coterie of evil that lives on the dark side.

That's really it, Boris. Don't bother trying to be conventional over the next few months, because even if you were as skilful a politician as Blair or Obama, you would not survive the failure to deliver Brexit. You'll be gone as a result, and Britain will be plunged into what Dante would have called the 37th circle of hell.

Just remember this. You can't do the job you've been asked to do. So you face a choice. Fail to do it with a straight face and we get Corbyn. Or fail to do it while playing everything for laughs and we might not.


Here's your choice: sublime or thrilling
The Clarkson Review: VW Golf GTI TCR versus Mercedes-AMG A 35 (July 28)

There's a chap I know who likes to play tricks on his wife while they're out doing retail therapy. He lets her enter the clothes shop first and then says in a high-pitched voice,"Look at me," before ducking quickly out of sight. Of course, all the assistants look up and there, on her own, in the doorway, is this poor woman, stammering something about how she "didn't say that". Apparently, she finds this very annoying.

The funny thing is, though, that if you think about it, people do want to be looked at. I watched a Chinese woman in a Singapore swimming pool preen herself and flick her hair for a two-hour, nonstop blizzard of selfies. And then afterwards, using all kinds of electronic sorcery, she changed the pictures to ensure her waist was thinner and her bottom bigger and her breasts pointier. I'm told this is not unusual. I'm also told that one in four millennials would quit their jobs if it meant they could be famous.

I believe this. When someone posts a picture or a witticism on social media, they are hungry for an immediate and global pat on the back.When someone buys a new pair of shoes, they want strangers in the street to bite the back of their hands in a display of envy. I'm surprised everyone doesn't say, "Look at me," when they enter a shop because, actually, it's what we all want. For everyone, every time we enter a room, to stand with their hands on their hips, bathing us in the warm amber glow of recognition.

I guess on the road, it's the same story. Maybe a private detective needs to blend in, but, that said, Jim Rockford drove a golden Pontiac Firebird and Thomas Magnum had a red Ferrari. And I've just remembered that in an early 1990s private-eye show, the heroine, played by Imogen Stubbs, drove a Sunbeam Alpine. She also wore a very short skirt, and stockings, which is probably why, for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was called.

It's not just private detectives, either. If you go home with a new car, it's nice when the neighbour's curtains twitch. And I think that's been a problem for the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

There was something about the first incarnation that caused even the most dedicated motoring dunderhead to know that it was something special. The way it sat on the road, the alloy wheels, the black window surround at the back and the red stripe round the grille at the front. All of these things combined to make it a car that raised eyebrows.

But since then the GTI has always been virtually indistinguishable from lesser models. Perhaps that's why its appeal faded; because at heart, everyone wants to be a tall poppy.

Well, that's certainly been addressed by the latest version. Called the TCR, it arrived at my house sporting a black chequerboard paint job on the sides and both a roof spoiler and a big rear diffuser. This thing stood out from the rest of the Golf range in the same way that Brad Pitt would stand out in a provincial town's am-dram performance of The Winslow Boy.

I like the Golf GTI. I ran a Mk 7 for a couple of years and still maintain that, all things considered, it's one of the best cars yet made. You may think that VW puts its best brains and its best engineers into Bugatti or Bentley, but the truth is, it doesn't. The real boffins work on the bread that pays for the jam and the cherries. They work on the Golf, and when you drive it, and concentrate, you can tell.

The TCR has been built to celebrate VW's successes in touring car racing. That's the official reason. Unofficially, it's been built to inject a slightly ageing car with a bit of appeal before the Mk 8 Golf comes along later this year.

But don't think it's just a few stickers and spoiler. It's not. Power from the 2-litre turbo engine is upped from 242bhp to 286bhp, it has bigger brakes that are made from virtually fade-free materials, there are two more radiators to keep everything cool and the whole thing sits almost ¼in nearer the road. Also, one option allows the 155mph limiter to be removed, so the TCR can barrel along at 164mph.

It's a fabulous car. It's like a GTI but sharper somehow, more pointy. And when you put your foot down gently, it makes the sort of noise I suspect Yoda hears when there's a disturbance in the Force. It's the low-down hum of menace and power.

Yes, Renault and Hyundai will sell you a hot hatchback that's racier, but neither will have the compliance of the Golf, nor the comfort. The TCR is very fast but it never feels raucous or mad. It just feels sublime. There is, however, a problem. It's called the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic.

This is the entry-level AMG model, a Golf-sized car that arrived at my house with look-at-me matte paintwork, a rear diffuser, a big flash grille and, under the bonnet, the same sort of engine you get in the VW. Only in the Mercedes, it chucks out a monstrous 302 horsepower. Perhaps that's why it gets four-wheel drive. Because it needs it. This thing flies. You put your foot down and it's like going through the "Devil's Anus" — the wormhole in Thor: Ragnarok that was used to reach Asgard. It's a mad ride, full of jolts and judders and stars flying past at breakneck speed. It's properly exciting.

It's an exciting place to sit as well. The Golf is all a bit Golfish, whereas in the little AMG, it feels as if you're in something special. There's one long glass instrument panel on which everything important is presented and then you have starship-engine intakes posing as air vents. Oh, and if you want to issue a voice command, you say, "Hey, Mercedes," which, I'm told, is very woke.

The AMG is up there with the offerings from Renault and Hyundai as a road-going track rocket but unlike the cars from France and South Korea, it is German and feels it. Rarely do you notice four-wheel drive on a dry road but in the A 35 you really do.

So which would I choose? It's tricky. The Golf is the priciest house in the street. The A-class, though, is a small flat in the best address. And that, as any estate agent will tell you, is the way to go.

But, that said, the A-class is a car that started out in life as a failed electric project and fell over in the famous "elk" test featuring a swerving manoeuvre. So you can't really make a decision based on history and tradition. I certainly can't, as in my life I've had three VWs and three AMG models.

It's hard to make a decision based on space or boot size, either. Or comfort. The Golf has a superior ride at low speed but when you get going, the Mercedes is better. And then there's a question of price. The Golf starts at about £35,000, and guess what, so does the Mercedes.

I have to say that it was damn good fun, on the roads near where I live, trying to pick a winner. But the truth is that for the first time in 30 years of road-testing, I cannot.


And the Sun column: "Why have we turned into a nation of snowflakes who melt under the sun?"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
You take the £15m yacht, Greta, and I'll fly. Only one of us is speeding towards a cooler world (August 4)

During the dry season, the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia is about the size of Gloucestershire. But when the rains come — and boy, do they come in that part of the world — it becomes five times bigger. It becomes gigantic.

I was there last month, however, in what should have been the wet season, and it wasn't gigantic at all. The rivers feeding it were full of nothing but happy cows, and forlorn boats, tipped over on their sides. And as I cycled down what should have been the lake's shoreline, past fishermen's houses on optimistic 40ft stilts, I couldn't even see it.

Of course, in my head, I had a reason for all this. The Chinese have built so many dams upstream of Tonle Sap that there simply isn't enough flow to make those stilted houses necessary any more. But in the back of my mind, I knew there was another reason. It wasn't raining. It should have been coming down in lumps but the skies were blue, and the Chinese hadn't caused that. Well, not with their dams, at any rate. I was forced, therefore, to conclude that the climate is changing.

I'm aware that some people have been saying this for quite a while. But they were all socialists and their goals seemed to be so convenient. No foreign holidays. Less consumption. Less travel. More vegetarianism. More cycling. More hemp. They wanted us all to party like it was Bulgaria in 1959.

And, I'm sorry, but I just didn't trust any of their data. Why should I? Only last week a bunch of them arrived in London to picket the offices of a power company called Drax. Some had brought banners saying they wanted "No borders, no nations", which meant they were at the wrong event, and then they got the wrong address and chained themselves to the doors of a Norwegian renewable energy firm.

Now, forgive me, but if a group of activists can't get the right banners or the right address, why should we trust them when they tell us precisely what the weather will be doing 50 years from today? And why should we care? Temperatures have been going up and down for millions of years, so why should we all get in a tizzy about what's happened in the past century? Because that's what God would call "a jiffy".

You see, I'm doing it again. I can't help myself. Whenever I see these frizzy-haired halfwits blocking roads, or I listen to their exciting plans for flying drones over Heathrow, I'm filled with an urgent need to fire up both my Range Rovers and buy another patio heater.

But I can't really get the faces of those poor fishermen round Tonle Sap out of my head. Yes, it's possible the climate is changing all by itself, but what if it isn't? What if Swampy is right and we are responsible? What are we supposed to do about it? Put away our foolish things and play conkers instead? Make some dens in the woods? Buy a bicycle? Apparently not. Kids are the most green-aware people on the planet but a report out last week said they'd rather sit inside with the central heating turned up and play Fortnite.

Obviously, the same thing has occurred to the young Swede Greta Thingmajig. She's become the maypole around which all the eco-loonies now dance and, as a result, she's been invited to speak at the United Nations. Because that makes sense, doesn't it? The UN being advised by a 16-year-old schoolgirl.

Anyway, this means that Miss Thingamajig will have to go to New York, and obviously she can't use a plane, because she'll be called a hypocrite. So this, then, is her opportunity to show the world that there are practical, sensible alternatives to a quick seven-hour flight on a Boeing 747. And she's done just that, saying that she will make the trip on a 60ft racing yacht.

Naturally, this has made all her disciples very happy, but hang on a minute. What's the message? That the half a million people who fly every day from Europe to America should use a £15m yacht instead? It gets worse, because if you examine the yacht she's using, it's not as green as you might imagine. First of all, it is equipped with a diesel engine. Ha. You didn't know that I knew that, but I do. And second, it's made mostly from carbon fibre, which cannot be recycled effectively and which uses 14 times more energy to produce than steel. Which can be recycled very easily indeed.

What Miss Thingamajig is doing, then, is precisely the opposite of what she is setting out to achieve. She is demonstrating that there is no practical and sensible option even for the enlightened, such as me, who think we might just be screwing up the lives of Cambodia's fishermen.

Luckily, however, I have a solution. As we have seen, science has been unable to provide viable green alternatives for the way we move about and what we do and what we eat. A Big Mac is just a better, more fun thing than a lettuce. And that will not change until we are desperate.

If you are sheltering from a nuclear winter and have a fridge full of food, you will not go outside to search for supplies until it is empty. Likewise, we did not invent an electronic computer until we absolutely definitely had to crack those Nazi codes.

It stands to reason, then, that we will not have solar-powered airliners and kids clamouring for some conkers until the wells and seams in the ground beneath our feet are empty. This means that to spur on the green revolution, we must use the coal and the gas and the oil as quickly as possible.

And that's why, as you read this, I shall be boarding a flight at Heathrow for a summer-long blizzard of conspicuous consumption. I'll therefore be doing my bit for those poor Cambodian fishermen and I hope you will too. See you on the flip side.


And the Sun column: "Swat teams and how one illegal invader shows we’re raving Nazis when it comes to bees"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
A private jet for the mile-hybrid club (Aug. 11)

The Clarkson Review: Mercedes-Benz S 560 e

Every single thing that was taught on a Thursday morning at school didn't go into my head. I'd be dimly aware that someone at the front of the classroom was droning on about Jane Austen or Adam Smith, but I wasn't listening because, behind the cover of my books, I was reading every single word in Melody Maker. And then doing its crossword.

One Thursday morning, though, I didn't do its crossword because I'd become consumed by a photograph of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page descending the steps of a Led Zeppelin-branded private jet. They weren't alone, of course. Other people were coming down the steps at the same time, and they were all extremely pretty hippie chicks in loon pants. And all I could think, as the teacher made Chaucer noises, was: "What in the name of all that's holy has been going on in that plane?"

That photograph changed my life because, along with the lyrics of Pink Floyd's "Time," it taught me that Chaucer and Austen and Smith would only get me into a suit and onto the conveyor belt of middle management. And I didn't want that. I wanted to fly around in private jets.

I'll be honest: it worked out. I have used private jets on a number of occasions in the past 20 years and I'm sure that people who've seen me coming down the steps have thought: "I want some of that." Except in Britain, naturally. Here, what people think is: "I want to stop him doing that."
Well, let me be honest again.

Private jet travel is nothing like you'd expect. You still have to pass through security, where people who hate you touch your genitals. And then you are shown into a windowless room full of grey leather furniture and business magazines, where you spend a few minutes watching CNN with the sound turned down, surrounded by the kind of men wearing shoes and no socks who get touchy-feely with your wife at parties.

Eventually, you board the plane, which always has exactly two inches less headroom than you need. And a lavatory that can only be used after you've moved all the suitcases and got into a position that Harry Houdini would call extraordinary.

After take-off, a woman with a lot of make-up will arrive and offer you some sandwiches, which were freshly made yesterday, and some champagne with a plastic cork. You can't have a real cork in a leaky private jet because at altitude it would burst out of the bottle, exit through a window and you'd have a Goldfinger moment.

And then, after several hours of warm champagne and best-before-yesterday prawn sandwiches, you touch down, usually at Luton, because it's cheaper to land there than at an airport near to where you live. And you come down the steps and everyone thinks you're Robert Plant and that you've joined the mile-high club with the stewardess, but the truth is, you aren't and you didn't.

I'm making it seem as though it's a bad thing, but it isn't. Private jets take off when you get on board and people don't take pictures of you asleep and dribbling, which they can later upload to Instagram. So, despite the poor food and the boredom, I always nod vigorously when someone says: "Shall we get a jet?"

Today, however, things are changing. The Duchess of Sussex was criticised for taking a private jet to attend her baby shower in New York. And not just because a baby shower is a stupid, unroyal thing to do. Leonardo DiCaprio has also been forced to ditch private jets after he was labelled an environmental hypocrite. And now there are private jet rental firms asking customers to plant trees and make green donations before signing on the dotted line.

I wonder. Will the world's corporate giants do that? I know I won't. I'm aware that private jet travel produces a huge amount of unnecessary CO2 and having given the matter a great deal of thought in the bath this morning, I've decided I don't care. Because how much extra time do I buy the planet by using Ryanair instead — 0.0000001 seconds? Less? All of which brings me on to the Mercedes-Benz S 560 e.

The S-class has always been a road-going private jet. And this is a hybrid version that allows the corporate bigwigs to wallow hither and thither in a cloud of smug rather than smog.

Under the bonnet there's a 3-litre V6 engine that is nowhere near big enough for a car of this type. So, to help it along, there's an electric motor as well. Together, they produce almost 470 brake horsepower and nearly 520 torques. And that means this giant can do 0 to 62mph in five seconds.
There's so much grunt from the giant hybrid power pack, in fact, that sometimes it's difficult to set off without a bit of wheelspin. I'm not sure that Fatty Arbuckle in the back will be impressed if this happens every time the lights turn green. So, chauffeurs beware.

There's another issue, too. I'm not suggesting that anyone does drive at more than 70mph on the motorway or anyone should. But if you do, and especially if you get up to 100mph, the ride in the back starts to get noticeably hectic. I fear this may have something to do with the sheer weight of the batteries and the extra motor.

Mercedes says the upside is that you can do 31 miles on electric power only, which, in London, is enough to get a chap or a chapess to and from work. I only managed 21 miles before the normal engine entered the room with a discreet "ahem" but even that's not bad. Charging? Well, you can use a plug, or you can use the V6.

And, I'll be honest, the back is a lovely place to be. Providing James doesn't go at a mental speed, which will cause your chins to wobble, there are in-built pillows on which you can rest your weary head, the option of electrically extendable leg rests and so much room even I couldn't touch the seat in front with my feet.

Best of all, though, my test car came with a DVD player. I know you can stream films from the internet these days, but old people aren't always able to do that. They like the old tech. I did. I finished filming a series of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in Manchester last week, climbed into the back of the Benz, watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and, moments after the freeze-frame when Butch and Sundance evaded all that Bolivian gunfire and escaped, I arrived in Chipping Norton thinking that man has not yet invented a better way of doing a journey like that.

I'd brought my own sandwiches, my own wine, my own film and my own driver, and it was brilliant. But I wonder. Bentley is said to be working on a hybrid like this and it's likely that'll be a — how can I put this? — less Germanic place to sit. But can cars like this really be even remotely ecological? Buying the S 560 e is a bit like flying to New York on a private jet then salving your conscience by buying a geranium. So I wonder if, actually, it's best that you admitted you didn't care and bought the AMG version instead.


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Left rattled by more than just the price tag (Aug. 18)

The Clarkson Review: Audi SQ2

Whenever something green and lefty and right-on is suggested these days, it is always adopted, because anyone who opposes the plan is obviously a fascist. That's why, when a scheme was mooted in west London to create a two-lane cycle superhighway from Notting Hill Gate to Wood Lane via Shepherd's Bush, I knew for certain that the council would sagely nod its head, stroke its chin and approve it as soon as possible.

I emailed the local authority, of course, lodging my objection, and thousands of others did too — 400 even turned up to a public meeting to express their dismay.

The plans were idiotic. First of all, there was the cost, which was £42m. That's 42 million pounds on a scheme that would only benefit Jeremy Vine. He isn't even paid that much by the BBC. And to create enough space for him and his helmet and his stupid helmet camera, they would have to cut down several of the beautiful mature London plane trees that make Holland Park Avenue so achingly lovely.

There was more too. When the cycle lane was completed, it would be impossible to make deliveries to any of the hundred or so shops along the route. And nor would drivers, who'd been hutched up into what little of the road remained, be allowed to turn into any of the little side streets. Because that would mean crossing the cycle lane.

And you can't turn left in front of a cyclist these days because if you did it to Vine he would be furious. So furious that he'd certainly put some helmet-cam footage of the incident on YouTube, along with a bit of his trademark "more in sorrow than anger" commentary.

Against this sort of backdrop, there was no way in hell the council would pay any attention to the views of the objectors. You could suggest building a cycle lane through the Queen's head and it would get approved in a matter of hours. Cycle lanes are seen as a lifeline for the future of the planet and nothing and no one can stand in the way of their clematis-like crawl over the entire country.

Yes, but guess what? Kensington and Chelsea borough council said no. It actually listened to what the residents and traders were saying and rejected the scheme completely. What's more, it rejected the proposal before the period of public consultation was over. I don't think I've heard of a council making a sensible decision in the past. I reckon it could be a first.

However, instead of packing their bags, the disciples of Vine have gone berserk. "They've turned down a cycle lane!!! That's not possible. They must be fascists."

One of them, a Transport for London chap called Norman, said the decision was a "disgrace" and that "people will die" as a result of it. I'm not entirely sure what he means by that. Is he saying that cyclists will die on the quiet and pretty back roads they'll have to use instead? Or is he saying that he's going to lynch the councillors responsible? Norman, apparently, is the capital's "walking and cycling commissioner", and that's a puzzler. Because why do we need someone to tell us how to do things that we all mastered as very small children? Maybe he's employed to look after the needs of those who can't afford a car. But do we have a "car and driver commissioner", paid to look after the interests of the motorist? Of course not, because he'd turn up for work every day in a fascist uniform.

Anyway, Norman, you're going to have to move on now. Try Italy. I bet they'd love your ideas there. Actually, they would. There are more than 60 miles of cycle lanes in Rome and all of them, all day long, are full of small Fiats.

I haven't started reviewing this week's car yet. I'm aware of that. And I'm delaying the moment on purpose. Because there just isn't that much to say about it.

Twelve-hundred words on an Audi SQ2? Not possible. It'd be easier to write 1,200 words about the exact shade of beige used on hearing aids.

Now, however, thanks to my thoughts on the council and Norman and Jeremy Vine and why it's daft to chop down trees to make cycle lanes, I only have 600 words to go. That should be doable.

The SQ2 is a hatchback that's been raised to create a sort of SUV and lowered again to make it sporty. I'm not sure this type of car has a name yet. A Soufflé? That'd work.

The engine is a 2-litre turbo. The same 2-litre turbo that's fitted to just about every car in the entire Volkswagen Group line-up. In the SQ2, it produces very nearly 300 horsepowers, and that means it's fast. Very fast, actually. So fast that, in a drag race, it'll rip the doors off a much racier-looking Honda Civic Type R. It handles well too. I'm not saying it's fun or enjoyable in any way, but, thanks to fat tyres and a quattro four-wheel-drive system that moves the power backwards and forwards depending on conditions and how much you've turned the steering wheel, it clings on nicely, even if you're using a lot of the available grunt.

On the outside, it's not a bad-looking car, but on the inside, I dunno, it feels a bit dated somehow. And cramped. And they haven't lined the door pockets, so everything you put in there rattles. And that's not on in a car costing — sit down for this — £37,370. That is a colossal amount of money for what, when all's said and done, is a small 2-litre hatchback.

I simply cannot think of a single soul I've ever met who would be interested in such a car. Yes, there are plenty who'd want a little, pretty and zippy Audi, but not one that costs nearly 40 grand. You can have a BMW 5-series for that.

But let's just say that somewhere out there is a man whose life has been leading up to the SQ2. It's what he's always wanted. He's dreamt of such a thing. Well, I'm afraid he's going to be disappointed, because it's idiotically bumpy. It's so bad that, on one minor road surface irregularity, a can of fizzy pop damn nearly jumped out of the cupholder.

I don't know why Audi keeps sending me its souped-up SUVs, because I've never yet given one of them a good review. The SQ7, I said, is a car that no one either wants or needs. And I concluded my review of the SQ5 by saying that I drove it for one day and then went to the Crimean peninsula to hide until someone took it away.

The SQ2 is similarly depressing. It's too expensive, too bouncy, not exciting enough and the seats don't really hold you in place properly. So I think it's probably best if we finally draw a line under the idea of a sporty SUV. Because there can be no such thing. I mean, you could put boxing gloves on Jacob Rees-Mogg, but that doesn't make him a boxer, does it? Or you could put me on a bicycle and it wouldn't make me chop down every tree that gets in my way. Or is it a bit fascist to say that?


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Hold on, kids, we're hitting warp speed (Aug. 25)

The Clarkson Review: Range Rover Velar Svautobiography Dynamic Edition

The motor industry spent about a hundred years perfecting the art of making cars and by the beginning of this century had become pretty good at it. But then everyone suddenly decided cars needed to change. They needed to be taller and greener and cheaper to run and, possibly, to operate all on their own, without a driver.

And, as a result, the world's motor manufacturers are now wobbling about with one foot on a rollerskate and one on a banana skin. They are going down. It's just a question of when.

Aston Martin has cut its profit targets. Share prices in Tesla have dropped as losses mount. Nissan is shedding 12,500 jobs around the world. Vauxhall has made closing-down noises about its UK operation. And so it goes on.

The problem is that country after country is announcing it will soon ban the sale of cars that run on petrol or diesel. This is forcing manufacturers to invest in electric vehicles. And that, along with the catastrophically difficult job of making a car that drives itself, is so costly that Ford and Volkswagen — two of the biggest operators — have been forced to work together. Fiat Chrysler and Renault have also been sniffing each other's bottom.

And while billions are being thrown at the problem, almost no one is buying the tech that results. The batteries aren't good enough yet. And they're too expensive. And they don't last long enough. This is a nightmare. Can you imagine running a business whose model is shaped by a Swedish teenager's obsession with gases in the upper atmosphere, and all of your customers have bought into her vision? But not so deeply that they will actually put their money where their placard is.

In Britain, sales of hybrid and electric cars fell nearly 12% in June. Sales of cars that can be plugged into the mains halved compared with last year. So it's like I said: car-makers are being forced to develop a technology that everyone says they want. But doesn't.

What they want is an SUV. Sales of these high-riding family boxes rose by a whopping 18% across Europe last year, and you'd think that'd be good news for Jaguar Land Rover. It certainly looks that way as I mooch about my 'hoods in Notting Hill and the Cotswolds. Every street. Every pub car park. Every party car park is crammed with Range Rovers. This is not a car any more. It's a uniform.

And they're not cheap. A top model costs well over £100,000, so the profits, you'd think, would be huge. And yet, somehow, Jaguar Land Rover is losing money like kids lose their gloves on a skiing holiday. In the first quarter of this year, it lost £3,200 a minute.

It has said that this is because of a downturn in China and because it relied heavily on diesel engines, which are now seen as a no-no. Also, it spent billions working on a brilliant electric Jaguar that's only really appreciated by James May. Who's buying a Tesla instead.

And while it is hopeful that a return to profitability is just around the corner, it must be worried sick about a no-deal Brexit. Because who in Europe will buy a Range Rover if it comes with a 200% import duty? Despite all this, I am reviewing one of the company's cars this morning. It's a mega-powerful new version of the Range Rover Velar called the SVAUTOBIOGRAPHY Dynamic Edition. And I like it.

Not all of it, mind. I'm not quite sure who designs the seats for Land Rover these days, but I suspect their idea of a relaxing sitdown is a milking stool. The bench fitted to the back of a Discovery is hilariously uncomfortable. This is definitely the car to buy if you don't like your children. Things aren't quite so bad in the Velar, but they're still too hard. And the seatbelt doesn't adjust for height; and in a car this size, you would expect a bit more rear legroom.

Then there's the dash. It's glass, like in the cockpit of a modern airliner, and it looks lovely. But every time you try to adjust, say, the temperature, your knuckle grazes another part of the screen and suddenly you're in Eco mode or the sat nav has decided you need to go to Pontefract. To make matters worse, this car runs on at least 21 inch wheels, which means the ride is quite bumpy. And that only increases your chances of hitting the wrong button.

Then there's the price. The base model, with no options fitted, is £86,685. And the car I drove, with 22in wheels and privacy glass, and so on, was perilously close to six-figure territory. You could have a proper Range Rover for that.

Here's the thing, though.

There's something about the Velar that turns the rational side of your brain to mush. This is partly because of the way it looks. Think of it as, I dunno, Daryl Hannah back in the day. You knew she only ate seeds and mud, and you knew she had some weird world-views, but even so, you'd have crawled over a nest of scorpions for the chance of a stolen moment.

I don't need a Velar. But I want one. And if I bought one, this is the model I'd go for, because its supercharged 5-litre V8 produces 543 horsepowers and 501 torques. So you can get from 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds and then onwards, in a blizzard of noise from the exhaust, to 170mph. In a Range Rover, for crying out loud.

Better still, it handles. The payback for the bumpy ride and all the missed stabs at various buttons is that, on a twisty road, you can cry havoc and the four driven dogs of war will keep you between the hedges. It is bloody good fun to hustle. And it stops well too.

Yes, I did take it off road, but, after a very short distance, I turned around and went back to the asphalt. This is because the parking sensors were going batshit about every blade of grass, and any attempt to press the button that would turn them off resulted in something else happening. Also, somehow, the Velar didn't "feel" right in the back of beyond. It felt as if it were saying, in a worried, quivery voice: "I'm a bit far from Westbourne Grove here." And also as if the front bumper might come off if I met with a small hill.

It felt, then, like a car very much in tune with the times. It's an urban SUV, which is what people want. It runs on petrol, which is what people say they don't want but they do. And it looks gorgeous. Better still, it's made in Coventry, so even if we leave the EU without a deal, we will still be able to buy one without any import duty.

And we should. Because if the Europeans slap a 200% import duty on cars made here, I don't doubt we'll do much the same with cars made over there. So all the Velar's rivals will suddenly cost about half a million.


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Don't worry, be happy. It works in every other nation that's a thinly disguised walking disaster (Sept. 01)

By Jeremy Clarkson

Have you wondered recently how the country is still functioning? There's a very real possibility that in the coming months we will end up with a ragtag government led by a raving Marxist. Absolutely no one knows what laws will apply on November 1. Businesses are stuck. No one's buying houses. And every bit of grain harvested in the past couple of weeks must be exported out of the country before Brexit. Which won't be possible if it rains, because then it couldn't be loaded onto the ships.

If you add all of this up, sprinkle in the low pound and add a dash of uncertainty about what sinister forces are running the nation's unregistered schools, you'd run around in small circles and emit a scream that went on for such a long time, you'd need to take a deep breath halfway through.

The thing is, though, that things are worse in other parts of the world. Brazil. Venezuela. India. Even Greece. And yet it's still possible to lead a fairly normal life in any of these places.

Or what about South Africa? The previous government endorsed a policy of taking land from white farmers and giving it ... to themselves. Everyone knows what happened when Robert Mugabe did the exact same thing in Zimbabwe. The skilled farmers fled and food production plummeted by 60%.

Today in South Africa, though, the land grab is going ahead, there's almost 30% unemployment, you are more likely to be murdered than to die in a car crash and more than 25% of men questioned in a survey said they had committed rape, nearly half of them more than once.

But it's still a jolly place on the surface, full of happy people who'll take you into their home and lob a bit of beef on the barbecue. Despite everything, then, society still seems to work.

Then there's America. Forget about Donald Trump and the wall and the fact that everyone has a machinegun. The thing that always surprises me when I go to the States is how often you see a fully fledged lunatic wandering about in the traffic, with his trousers round his ankles and a mouth that looks like an archaeological dig. They don't seem to have any mental health programme over there, and yet people still get up and go to work and stop off on the way home for a beer as though nothing's wrong at all.

Things are even more puzzling in France. I've just spent a couple of weeks in the Dordogne, and after a day or two it became apparent that every single business is shut when you need it. And then, when you don't need it, it's still shut.

We found a lovely riverside restaurant and thought it'd be nice to have some cheese and wine as the sun went down. Nope. Even though it was a lovely evening in August, it had shut at 4pm. Petrol? No, sorry. So what about a sports bar where we could watch Chelsea play Leicester? Yes, there was such a thing, but it opened at the precise moment the game ended. Changing money at a bank? You're having a laugh. The bank opening hours are: never.

We went one day to a vineyard, where the owner explained that by law he is not allowed to water or spray his vines. Think about that. He is actually banned, by the state, from doing any work.

There are similar issues with the civil service. Carefully crafted rules mean that if you work for the government, even for a few moments as a teenager, you will be paid an inflation-linked salary for the rest of your life. It was discovered recently that 30 state employees had been receiving full pay even though their jobs had been phased out in 1989.

One had his own restaurant and had been questioned about whether this was compatible with his non-existent government job. But still the salary kept on coming. Then there was the railway employee who was paid £4,500 a month for a year, despite not working a single day. And the "general director of services" at Sainte-Savine town hall in eastern France who trousered £450,000 over a decade for doing nothing at all.

And, of course, if any steps are taken to do something about this, the autoroutes are suddenly full of burning sheeps, Calais is blockaded, there's manure all over the Elysée Palace and the president is delivering a resignation speech covered in egg and effluent.

But as I drifted down the Dordogne in a kayak I'd rented (from a Scouser), past all the shut hotels and locked bars, I didn't see any turds, the bridges appeared to be well maintained and the villages were idiotically pretty.

So even though everyone's being paid to sit at home smoking French Women and playing boules, it still seems to work as a country. And it's still, amazingly, the sixth-biggest economy in the world.

All of which brings me on to the eighth-biggest. Italy. A wise man told me the other day that the economic situation facing the British was serious but not disastrous. Whereas the economic situation facing the Italians was disastrous but not serious.

And that seems to sum it all up. The Italians know that everything is corrupt and broken and that their leaders are hopeless and on the take, but they have learnt to just get on with it.

It's what we need to do. Hang on to the general sense of wellbeing that you had last weekend, when the sun was blazing and we'd won a game of cricket and someone was bringing you another glass of chilled rosé.

Were you worried about unlicensed sharia schools then? Or what Boris Johnson was up to in Biarritz? Or interest rates? No, because when you're happy, interest rates are actually not interesting at all.

The alternative to doing this is to strive for a more ordered, cleaner society where everything works and the grass verges are mown and there's no corruption and no tramps and no one is stabbed. But if you do this, you'll end up with Switzerland, and no one wants that.


And here's the Sun column: "The real surprise is that the carnival arrest toll was ‘Nott’ considerably higher"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
If cows protect my fields from ramblers and keep the grants rolling in, I'll be over the moon (Sept. 8)

After Sir Oliver Letwin gave a debagged Boris Johnson six of the best last week, and Jeremy Corbyn revealed himself to be a deranged and dishonest Marxist coward, it'd be easy to imagine that the machinery of government had, with a groan and a burst of steam, ground to a complete standstill.

Not so. A nice chap from Natural England, which sounds like an organic yoghurt but is, in fact, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, arrived on my farm the very next day to explain why I couldn't plough up my 350 acres of grassland and use it to grow food. Which, I figured, the country was going to need sooner rather than later.

He sank to his knees and pointed to what you and I would call a dead weed. "See that?" he said. "It's marjoram. And that? That's an orchid." He then switched to Latin, explaining that another plant, wilting in the late summer sunshine, was sepsis, or psoriasis, or something like that.

And then he paused for a moment before saying: "How many acres did you say you have like this?" When I told him, he was genuinely staggered. He reeled with the excitement and wonderment of it all. "This is exceptional," he explained. "It's rare to find places like this in southeast England. It's fantastic for beetles. It's fantastic for birds. It's ... oh my God ... that's fairy flax."

Imagine a daisy that's been shrunk by a mad scientist and then somehow grafted onto what looks like the stem of some lily of the valley. It was, after I'd broken out the most powerful magnifying glass in the world, extremely pretty, and further research has revealed it to be a useful laxative. Although, as it's only a millionth of a millimetre across, I suspect you'd have to eat several hundred thousand before you'd be able to bomb Swirl Harbour.

"So I can't plough these fields up, then?" To get an idea of how he reacted to the question, imagine how the curator of the Louvre would look if you asked for permission to draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa. "No," he replied sternly. "You cannot plough them up. And if you do, you could go to prison."

Interestingly, I also cannot leave the fields to their own devices. If I want to keep on getting grants, I must make sure that the whole area is as well maintained and manicured as Jennifer Aniston's hair. This, according to the government agent, means getting some livestock.

That surprised me. I thought there was a general sense among the gentlemen and gentlemanladies of ecology that farm animals are bad because they consume more energy than they produce when they arrive at the dining table, dripping with gravy.

Yes, but in order to keep the fields rich in the flora and fauna necessary for the bees and the birds, it's critical we use them to feed animals. But not sheep, it seems. Sheep are like woolly lawnmowers. They are horned locusts and will turn even the thickest rainforest into the Sahara in two hours flat.

Cows are much better, it appears. Cows mooch through a field like we mooch through a box of chocolates. They find something that looks good and then they spend a few hours savouring it before going in search of the hazelnut cluster.

However, if the world's most paralysed government has rules and regulations on how a micro-daisy should be treated, can you even begin to imagine how much it would interfere if I wanted to start producing Sunday roasts? Or even milk? It doesn't bear thinking about.

So I've been wondering. What if I promise not to put them into the food chain? Would that be OK? Could I get a flock of cows and keep them as pets? Yes, the badgers would immediately give them tuberculosis, but there is an upside I can think of straight away. If we have cows as pets, we will be less inclined to eat them. And that'd be good news for our bowels, which would be less prone to turning cancerous.

Sure, it is not possible to house-train a cow and they do produce a staggering quantity of turd, so your sitting room will become extremely aromatic. Also, a cow will not bark if it detects a burglar. But then neither will a horse, and people keep those for no good reason I can see.

Like a horse, a cow is an accomplished jumper, so you could theoretically enter it for various Pony Club competitions, but, unlike a horse, it does not need to sleep in a stable and it does not need a set of expensive new shoes every week and you do not need to wash its penis. Also, a cow will lie down to warn you that rain is on its way. No horse can do that. No weatherman can, either.

Consider this, too. When you go on holiday, you must give someone you don't know many pounds to look after your dog or your cat or even your fish, but a cow won't even miss you. It'll just stand in its field, turning what you don't need into fertiliser. And scaring the living daylights out of any right-to-roam ramblers that may heave into view.

Obviously, by now, you are sold on the idea and will be wanting to know about costs. Well, it depends of course on what sort of cow you buy, but I reckon you could get one for £1,200. Which is only a tiny bit more than you'd pay for a dog. And a dog will do nothing for your marjoram or your fairy flax or your psoriasis. Apart from roll on it.

I'm tempted, then, to get some cows, but there is a worry. That bearded fool Jeremy Corbyn has already said that, when he achieves power, he will confiscate all farmland and implement his hunger plan.

This means the next time I get a visit from a government agent, he will be wearing a brown shirt and tall boots and he will kill my cows because all animals are ... equally unimportant when space must be found for Hamas terrorist training camps.

And the Sun column: "If only the Brexit mess, like the death of Bobby Ewing, was just a dream"


Now needs wood
May 29, 2008
MWF HQ, Ukadia
MX-5 1.8i Indiana SE, update pending
I used to love reading these but as time goes on the ration of funny:wanker seems to be heading less and less in Jeremy’s favour. He used to make excellent points but he seems more and more to be pandering towards Tory Middle England.


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
A 1,000-mile gallop I'll never forget (Sept. 15)

The Clarkson Review: Ford Mustang GT convertible

For the family holiday this year, I rented a house in the Dordogne and we all decided to drive. That wasn't so bad for my son, who has a Fiat 124 Spider, or my elder daughter, who has a Ford Fiesta ST. But my younger daughter has a nine-horsepower, base-model Volkswagen Polo.

Her passenger called in a state of some distress when they were half an hour south of Calais. "This 130mph speed limit is ridiculous," she wailed. "We've been trying ever since we got on the motorway and we just can't go that fast."

Once I'd explained that France uses the Roman Catholic method of measuring speed, and that the local gammon have absolutely no sense of humour any more about rosbifs who choose to break their limits, we all settled down at a legal lick for the 530-mile slog.

Now, the people who write for all those car magazines you see in the dentist's waiting room often refer to a powerful car's "continent-crushing ability". They have it in their heads that people buy a Bentley Continental GT or a Ferrari GTC4Lusso because they need something to get them from London to Milan as quickly and as comfortably as possible.

I've been guilty of this myself. On television, I've often staged races between planes and cars to show cars are faster. But the truth is that when people with Bentleys and Ferraris want to go to Tuscany, Cannes or Gstaad, they fly. Often on a private jet. And if they want to go to Paris, they take the train.

The people who actually drive across a continent to their holiday destination all have dismal Hyundais with roof boxes and unnecessary GB stickers. One man had even painted his headlights yellow, as though it were still 1968.

None of them has the first idea about lane discipline. Yes, I know the inside lane of a summertime French autoroute is a conveyor belt for Dutch caravanners, but only the British see this as an excuse to drive at the UK speed limit in the outside lane. For ever.

Everyone else gets out of the way when they see you barrelling towards their back bottom, but not Ron and Irene. Maybe this is because they can't see you coming for all the National Trust stickers in the rear window of their miserable South Korean box. Or maybe it's because they're waging a class war.

They're certainly stupid enough. This becomes obvious when you pull up behind them at a toll plaza. It's very simple: you either take a ticket or you rub your debit card over the reader thing. But this seems to baffle them. So then they push the intercom button to speak to an uninterested Frenchy who, when he gets back from lunch at 4.30pm, refuses even to try to speak English.

Oh, and then there are the service stations, which are always crammed with French school kids on days out. Interestingly, the children can cope easily with the job of buying a sandwich, but somehow Ron and Irene can't. They stand at the till, not understanding a word the cashier says, then spend 10 minutes moaning about the exchange rate. Yes, well, it was you who voted for Brexit, so how about a nice game of shut up? You go first.

There isn't much romance to driving across France any more.

I dare say there never was. I look back with fondness at those long trips with my parents, but I bet that my dad, from behind the wheel of his Austin 1100, in the gazetteer and wonky-thermostat days, never thought, "Oooh, I feel like David Niven".

However, you can take croquet sets and inflatable beach toys in a car, which is harder to do on a plane. And no one touches your penis at the border. And you can stop when you want. We stayed overnight in Orléans, which is one of those cities that cause you to stop and think,"Why the bloody hell have I not been here before?" It is spec-bleeding-tacular.

It's good to have your car on holiday too. Because that way, you don't need to give half your spending money to the fleecing taxi bastards, or waste half your time at a car-rental desk watching that woman from Planes, Trains & Automobiles write War and Peace on her computer. "You've got the car and I've got the money, so hand over the keys, vache."

The only trouble is you know that when you get back to Britain, you'll have to crawl up the M20 at 50mph because they're installing a system that will make the 50mph limit permanent. Do you know how many coned-off sections of motorway I saw on my 1,100-mile round trip in France? None.

I'd do it again. No question.

But would I do it again in the car I used this time? The latest incarnation of Ford's 5-litre V8 Mustang convertible? God, it's childish. It has an unnecessary 10-speed gearbox and a seven-speed fan and a system that lets you choose whether you want the exhaust to wake the neighbours when you start the engine. You can even lock the front wheels while spinning those at the back.And that's brilliant if you are 10, or if you have too much tread on your Bridgestones.

But there's no getting around the fact this big, good-looking, honest-to-God V8 convertible muscle car with all the bells and whistles you've ever dreamt of — and a hundred more you haven't — costs as little as £46,545 for the six-speed version. That is extraordinary value for money.

Yes, you can tell where the money hasn't been spent. There's a fair deal of flex when the roof is down, but as this isn't sold as a taut sports car, it doesn't matter. Also, some kind of fluid often dripped onto my feet, but in the heat of a French summer, I was grateful for it. Oh, and it has a turning circle of about 17 miles, so in an ancient city such as Bergerac, I was a bit of a nuisance. But you don't live in an ancient city, so relax.

You're probably getting the impression I'd forgive the Mustang anything. And, to an extent, I would, because, crikey, it has a big heart. This is a car you treat like a dog. You want to tickle it behind its door mirrors and let it sit by the fire on cold evenings. And when it develops a wobble at tickover, you don't get cross with it; you worry.

And yet it really does work as a car too. After an 11-hour drive back to London, I stepped out without any aches at all. I'd listened to Rich Hall on the brilliant stereo, spent much less than expected on fuel, had the wind in my hair when it was sunny and icebox air-conditioning when it wasn't.

I don't want a US muscle car — I'd feel like a traitor to the cause of good engineering — and I don't need a Mustang. But I miss the car that took me across France so much, it actually hurts a little bit


For God's sake, archbishop, get off your belly. We're not to blame for the sins of our forefathers (Sept. 15)

The ruler of Cambodia, Hun Sen, insists that minions address him as "lord prime minister and supreme military commander". And his wife as "most glorious and upright person of genius". Idi Amin decided that his official title would be: "His Excellency, president for life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, lord of all the beasts of the Earth and fishes of the seas and conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in general and Uganda in particular."

Obviously, we have no time for such nonsense here in Britain, unless you are talking to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He leads an organisation that represents the views of 30 or 40 old people who believe their imaginary friend is better than the imaginary friend of Mr Sadiq down the road. But, despite this, he is known as "the most reverend primate". Yup. This guy reckons he can lord it over not just you and me but all of the world's lemurs, apes and monkeys as well.

Last week he was to be found lying prostrate on the ground in India, while begging forgiveness from the locals for a massacre that happened 37 years before he was born.

The atrocity in question took place in a walled garden in the Indian city of Amritsar. British troops blocked the narrow entrance and then opened up on those who were trapped inside. In just a few minutes, 1,650 rounds had been fired and a thousand people, including women and children, were wounded. A soul-destroying 400 or more died.

His Divine Magnificence Justin Welby felt such shame over the incident that he was compelled to sink to his stomach, before saying he was "personally very sorry" for what happened.

Right. I see. So let me ask your Divine Magnificence a question. How do you feel about the antics of Richard the Lionheart? He spent most of his life attempting to make everyone in the Middle East believe in his imaginary friend, and when they wouldn't, he got very angry. So angry that on one occasion he ordered the slaughter of 2,700 unarmed prisoners. Are you "personally very sorry" for that as well? Or how about this one? On March 31, 1904, British soldiers invaded Tibet and were told by their superiors to "make as big a bag as possible". Since they had Maxim machine guns and the Tibetans had nothing but pointed sticks, the bag turned out to be vast. As a result, his Most Serene Excellency should get over there as quickly as possible, so he can roll around on the ground, sobbing.

Then, after a quick stop-off at Croke Park and Culloden, he could pop over to Guangzhou in China, where, in 1925, the British, French and Portuguese shot and killed at least 52 people for no especially good reason. Follow that with a quick trip to al-Bassa, where our troops put 20 Palestinians on a bus and made them drive over a landmine. And by the next morning he could be in South Africa, where we invented the concentration camp to keep the pesky Boers in order.

Except, of course, "we" did not invent the concentration camp, in the same way that "we" did not use mustard gas in the First World War or murder any innocent civilians in Kenya. British people who lived back then did these things, but holding us responsible is like sending someone to prison because their grandad was a murderer.

You don't have Mongolians rolling around on the banks of the Danube apologising for the black death they brought to Europe or the pyramids they made from children's skulls. Because "they" didn't do it. And when I meet a German, I don't ask him to apologise for bombing the East End, because he wasn't in a Heinkel.

I do not hold people to account for the actions of their forefathers, or else I'd hold Welby to account for the actions of his distant relative, the Protestant-burning King James V of Scotland. Almost every country has, in its history, some disturbing episodes. In fact, there's only one state I can think of that's never fought off a colonising power or done any colonising itself*. I'll tell you at the end, so you can try to work it out. Or prove me wrong.

Yes, the British Empire was responsible for some eye-watering acts of cruelty and barbarism. And by lying on the ground in India, the Effortless Bag of Genius is doing a pretty good job of reminding everyone. But I'm not sure it's helpful. Because what Welby's actually saying is: "The British are useless today, but it was not always thus. In the past, we were nasty sons of bitches as well."

I urge him, then, to stop and to come home to his palace so that he can tend to the needs of the 30 or 40 old ladies who are busy embroidering church kneelers and handing out hymn books on a Sunday morning. This is what he should be doing. Smiling and saying nice things to his flock; not lying on the ground in India saying he's personally sorry for something he did not do.

Three years ago, the archbish discovered his real father was not the drunk who'd brought him up but some double-barrelled, Oxford-educated fighter pilot who ended up as Winston Churchill's private secretary. It's possible that in this wildly exciting life, old Fotherington-Sorbet got up to all sorts of mischief and devilment. But Welby's not responsible for any of that either.

Interestingly, however, he was responsible for many of the oilfields in the North Sea and off the coast of west Africa. Because, before he found God, he worked for a French oil company and then for an operation that was employed to exploit the assets of British Gas.

So, Welby, you had nothing to do with the deaths of more than 400 unarmed Indians in 1919, but, if Greta Thunberg is to be believed, you definitely have something to do with the death of the entire planet. Maybe, then, if there's any flat-on-your-face apologising to be done, it should be to her.

*Thailand, I reckon. Can't think of any others.

And here's the Sun column: "Build that bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland, BoJo: Not because it is easy…but because it is hard."

Also: I'm going on vacation next week and I won't return to posting columns until mid-October. See you then!

Mr. Nice

Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2007
Thanks, Revelator. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who appreciates your posting of these.


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
The fastest way to appal a millennial: The Clarkson Review: Mercedes-AMG GT 63 (Sept. 22)

I wonder if at any time there has been such a massive jump between generations as the one we are experiencing now. Because my children and their friends seem to have absolutely nothing in common with people my age.

In the olden days, children were just small adults. They wore ties and old-man trousers made from flannel. They listened to the same music as their parents and the same radio shows. They enjoyed whittling sticks with their dads and had the same views on immigration and the trade union movement.

Things changed a bit in 1950s, when the word "teenager" was popularised. Because this gave kids permission to be different. Soon they were listening to the Rolling Stones and not sitting up straight at the lunch table. Often because of what they'd been smoking.

My dad used to listen to the music I played as though he were being tortured. And he would often point at the crotch on my extremely tight loon trousers and explain that unless the scrotum was allowed some room for movement, I'd never be able to father children of my own.

But I did, and it's as though I've brought aliens into the world. I have less in common with them than I do with an earwig. I listen to them and recognise that the words they're using are English. But they don't seem to make any sense. And I bet it's the same for you too.

They drink, for example, but only in moderation. And if they overdo it, they punish themselves with a run. They really do. We only did that in the 1970s because the school made us.And even that didn't work because I'd run out of the gates, sit in a bush smoking for an hour and then, having jumped up and down in a muddy puddle to make my legs dirty, run back again.

They also go to the gym, with cups made from bark, and at weekends they go for bracing walks, stopping once in a while to discuss new and interesting ways of not being racist and what straws should be made from.

All kids think our generation has killed the planet. I've tried to explain that I was in the pub at the time, but they don't believe me. They think we caused the Brexit debacle as well, and get weepy when I point out they're the ones to blame because they didn't get out of bed to vote.

They get weepy at everything, in fact. They weep whenever Donald Trump has a thought, whenever a refugee lands in Deal and whenever a cow is sad or dead. They weep every time there's a hurricane and every time there's an injustice and every time I get on the dancefloor.

Somehow we have bred a generation that simply cannot cope with anything at all. Perhaps the tightness of our trousers is to blame. Who knows? All of which brings me on to cars. We loved cars when we were growing up, but all that's gone. Now boys have football to keep them occupied and girls have social media. Cars are just things that knock you over when you're crossing the road while engrossed in your phone. They are noisy and dirty, and after they've killed all the seals, they will kill everything else too. Climate change. There is no debate: cars did it.

Naturally, the world's advertising agencies have cottoned on to this, which is why all car adverts now feature a 30-year-old man, with stubble, in a kayak, with his multiethnic wife and children, going down some rapids before climbing a mountain and cycling back down to the tram stop.

Lifestyle advertising is not new. But it is new to sell a lifestyle that doesn't involve the product you're promoting. It's like BA celebrating the achievement of that Swedish girl who went across the Atlantic on a sailing boat (that was fitted with a diesel engine).

There's a Mercedes ad running at the moment. It shows people running and cycling and swimming and going to the gym, and I'm sure lots of young people will like the way some of the athletes don't have two legs. But the young people being addressed aren't remotely interested in the big 4x4 that's being advertised.

And, I'm sorry, but if Mercedes is really the all-inclusive, cleanliving son of George Monbiot and Sir McCartney, why the bloody hell would it make a car such as the AMG GT 63 S? This — a rival for the Porsche Panamera Turbo — is the most powerful Mercedes in the range. It produces 630 horsepowers and 664 torques, and this means that, despite the vastness and heaviness, it will get from 0 to 62mph in just over three seconds. This, then, is a blisteringly quick two-fingered salute to everyone who stars in adverts for Mercedes and everyone, frankly, who's under 30.

I loved it. You can't believe, after you've engaged the launch control, and put everything in Race mode, and asked the exhausts to go full Krakatoa, just how quickly it sets off. And how it keeps on pulling. Even in a straight line, on a dry road, the tractioncontrol light keeps flickering on. And this, despite the fact all four wheels are being driven.

Sometimes, there's a whiff of turbo lag, but the company is clearly not embarrassed about this because it provides a digital read-out to tell you when the rush is coming. And, oh boy, is it worth the wait. Because the speed is … intoxicating.

It handles, too. Even though it's oil-tanker huge, you can fling it into a bend and emerge on the other side wondering if you could have gone faster still. You probably could because, ooh, there are some choices to be made.

Obviously, you can choose how firm you'd like the suspension to be, and there's even a setting that will let you drift. But if you get everything right, you'll be able to get round the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 25 seconds. No four-seater car can do it faster.

This, perhaps, is the most astonishing thing about the GT 63 S. It is hypercar-fast and race-car sharp, but in Comfort mode it's a quiet, civilised and well-appointed grand tourer. It really is very comfortable, and it has space for two adults in the back, and there's a massive boot and a centre-console cubbyhole so huge I lost my wallet in it for three days. You could smuggle a family of stowaways through Dover in there.

Faults? Well, although I'm a sucker for pillarless doors, I'm not going to say this is a good-looking car, because it isn't. And the "mouse" system used to operate the infotainment centre is clumsy.

But the biggest problem is the conspicuousness of the consumption. If you bought one, your children would simply not speak to you again. So it's probably a good idea to wait for the rumoured 800 brake horsepower version, which will be even faster. Because that one is a hybrid and kids love that sort of thing.


Give McDonald's a break, good burghers of Rutland. Your fortunes depend on the Big Mac (Sept. 22)

In the olden days, you always got what looked like a dingleberry in a box of Black Magic chocolates. It was there to make absolutely sure the contents weighed as much as the packaging said they did. You found the same sort of thing on rock albums when eight-tracks were all the rage. There were short songs that had been composed and recorded to make sure one "side" was the same length as the other. Anyone familiar with the 90-second "Aisle of Plenty" at the end of Genesis's Selling England by the Pound will know what I'm on about.

Making up the numbers happens on a bigger scale too. When Europe had fought its wars and sorted out its borders, there was a small patch left over that no one wanted. So the world got Luxembourg, a pointless little state ruled now by a jumped-up little man who, infused with an industrial bout of small-man syndrome, thinks it's acceptable to be rude to the leaders of bigger, more important countries. He even has a beard.

All of which brings me on to Britain's equivalent of the scrap of chocolate and Luxembourg and the tiny Genesis track. The county of Rutland.

Back in the 1970s, everyone realised this accidental gap between proper counties served no real purpose and tried to turn it into a reservoir, but some of the landmass remained, and today it's home to almost 40,000 souls. Many of whom, it seems, suffer from "prime minister of Luxembourg" syndrome.

McDonald's has recently applied for planning permission to build a drivethrough restaurant close to the bypass round Rutland's biggest town, Oakham.

But instead of the investment and the job opportunities being welcomed, all hell has broken loose. Locals are saying this plan would not be for "the greater good". Weapons are being stockpiled. Cloaks are being distributed. All the farmers, and all the farmers' mums, are packing heat.

Residents point out that they do not want the "obvious eyesore of a highprofile golden arch" — forgetting, perhaps, that the flag of Rutland shows a giant golden horseshoe. They also say that Rutland is the only county in England without a McDonald's, as though this is somehow a good thing. It's like saying: "We are the only county without wi-fi."

And now they're desperate to keep it that way. One campaigner claims it will affect house prices. Yes, it will. They'll go up. But she's having none of it, saying things will get worse, with "youngsters in their cars tearing down our streets at all times of night and day". Honestly, you read stuff like that and you understand exactly why this country is in such a muddle. Because although she didn't say "And they'll employ foreigners", you can bet your arse she was thinking it.

My two daughters have never, as far as I know, eaten anything made by McDonald's. This is because they were taught in school, before they could read or write, that Ronald is killing children and trees and baby seals for profit, and that if you have one of his burgers, you will immediately explode and become a fatberg in a sewer.

I, on the other hand, will have a Big Mac fairly often. This is because I have a hangover fairly often and there is simply no better cure. I've seen people juicing nettles to clear their heads and munching their way through handfuls of pills. I once even met someone who'd had an actual blood transfusion in an effort to feel better, but I know this from many years of experience: nothing beats a Maccy D's.

There were all sorts of murmurings in the rectory when news came that both Aldi and Marks & Spencer were planning on opening supermarkets in my local town. I may have been party to some of those murmurings myself. But the fact is that, when I want some fresh noodles, or a packet of tongue, I can now buy them all day long, whereas previously I could not.

I recently applied for planning permission to build a small barn on my farm, from which I could sell stuff that happens to be in season. And I was told by a local lady last weekend that it will "kill the village". I couldn't see the logic, really. It wasn't as though I'd applied for permission to do a low-level helicopter gunship strafing run down the high street. It'd just be a barn with some vegetables in it.

The trouble, of course, is Britain's morbid fear of change. That's why the Brexit debate is unsolvable, because you have old shire people who want everything to be the same as it was in about 1789. And you have young metropolitan people who want everything to be the same as it was five years ago. Both sides have a point. And I can't see either giving in.

Except here's the thing. Small communities don't have to be backward-looking and small-minded. Rhode Island drove the bus that created the United States. It was the first to renounce its allegiance to the British crown and the last to ratify the constitution that followed. It was little but it thought big. And now it's Rutland's chance.

So, people of Oakham, go and try a McDonald's. It won't be like anything you've tried before, and it won't do you any good unless you've overdone the sherry, but I think you'll like it. I certainly think you'll like the prices.

Then talk to the Lithuanian behind the counter and the Somalian having a fag round the back. They may not be up to speed on hunting etiquette or the dress code for dinner at the nearby George of Stamford hotel, but they'll have some stories to tell — that's for sure.

And then, if you think it actually is for the greater good, put down your capes and your green ink and be the jewel that makes the crown.

My mum spent her last few years in the Rutland area and she hated the idea of fast American food. Right up until the moment she put some of it in her mouth. Up to that point, she'd have been a Little Englander. Afterwards, she wasn't.


And here's the Sun column: "Fighting online trolls? You must be off your blocker, Rachel Riley"

The Sunday Times columns from Sept. 29 will be posted tomorrow.


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Flat-pack frump that moves like Fonteyn

The Clarkson Review: Ford Focus estate (Sept. 29)

My son was taught many things at school, absolutely none of which are of any use. And that's why, this month, when the keys to his first flat were handed over, he thought he could simply move in, open a bottle of beer and sit down on the sofa to watch a bit of football. Council tax? Residents' parking permit? Wi-fi connection? None of this had occurred to him. He had, however, thought about furniture, mainly because his mother had said to him: "You're going to need to think about furniture."

Now, when I need a coffee table or a small armchair, I spend a day or two wandering round the Conran Shop. Or I visit an antiques fair. Certainly, I will make a mood board on Pinterest and study glossy magazines such as Coffee Table Weekly. But having just spent what he considers to be perfectly good beer money on a not-at-all-interesting washing-up bowl, my son was in no mood to waste time. He wanted to get into the furniture shop and out again as quickly as possible, so he could get home, order a curry and fire up the footie.

So he went to Ikea, did some speed-shopping and arranged to have everything he needed delivered on the day he moved in. Unfortunately, the van arrived at 6.30am, which is a time of day that no 22-year-old is aware of. Frantic phone calls were made, followed by a decision to go to the pub and have a nice cold pint until the whole thing blew over.

Amazingly, it did. Ikea found another van and that night a chirpy Scouser delivered so many boxes that, pretty soon, the sitting room looked like that warehouse where they stored Indiana Jones's lost ark.

This is the sort of thing that fills me with dread. I know some people can look at a laptop or a steam train or a lawnmower and know instinctively how all the components go together, but I cannot. I look at a plug and a socket in the wall and, even to this day, I'm filled with pride and wonderment when I successfully join the two things together.

As my son is also like that, he suggested going back to the pub for another nice cold pint while the furniture goblins got busy. But I explained that, in the real world, you have to do things for yourself. And we got to work.

I unpacked the sofa, and as all the pieces and all the little bags of bolts and washers spread out like a wave across the floor, I began to feel overwhelmed. Because, to you, a bolt and a washer is a bolt and a washer, but to me, it's a red wire and a green wire, and if I cut the wrong one, the ship and everyone in it will explode.

This meant I had to become unmanly and break out the instruction manual, which was a series of simple diagrams. Well, they would be simple to you, but to me they looked like the architectural drawings for a submarine base.

Nonetheless, with my special tongue-out concentrating face applied, it all started to come together. To get some parts attached to other parts, I had to adopt a few cruel and unusual yoga positions, and that made me out of breath. Also, I sprained my thumb at one point and then I dropped the big part on my finger, which really hurt, but after just three hours — and without once using a hammer — the sofa was built, and when I put it the right way up, it didn't wobble or fall to pieces.

I'd never really come across Ikea before. I'd seen the shops, obviously, and I'd been told that everything in there is very cheap. And perhaps, because of that, I'd driven past as quickly as possible so I could get home to read my new copy of French Dressers Monthly. But having built that sofa, and seen how strong and robust the finished product was, I'm wondering why anyone would buy anything from anywhere else.

All of which brings me on to the Ford Focus Active X estate. You don't want one because you want a high-riding SUV or a sports car or something with a BMW badge on. A Ford Focus? That's flat-pack furniture with windscreen wipers. It's ordinary. It's dull.

And even if you do have a beige-slacks moment and fire up Ford's configurator, you'll learn it has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. And you'll think: "Oh, for crying out loud. A three-cylinder engine? It won't move."

But here's the thing. It does move. Really move. Because, while the engine might be small, it somehow conjures up 148 horsepower. There's another version that delivers 180 horsepower, and that's great.

But what's even better is that both will shut down one cylinder when you aren't in a hell-for-leather frame of mind, and run around happily on two. Which means you'll save money on fuel and be right-swiped by Greta Thunberg next time she's in town.

It's a lovely engine, too, full of vim and vigour, and if you ask it to stretch its legs, it makes a sort of eager gravelly noise. I really, really liked it. Yet I liked the feel of the car even more. The original Ford Focus, thanks to its expensive and well-engineered independent rear suspension, was in a class of its own for good manners, but in recent years some of that quality has been missing. It's back now, however. Even though this Active X version of the Focus has a raised suspension, you can whizz along in it and things never get hectic or unruly. It's as composed as a ballet dancer.

And here comes the best bit. You get, as standard in this trim, a full-length glass roof, keyless entry, mercifully unpanicky parking sensors, two-zone airconditioning, rear privacy glass, Apple CarPlay, a lane-departure warning system, selectable driving modes and something called post-collision braking.

Personally, I'd prefer precollision braking, but there you are. This is a car that brakes after you've crashed, which I supposed could be useful if you've been incapacitated by the impact.

Now, sure, you get that sort of stuff with a BMW or a Mercedes as well, but they don't cost £26,745 and the Ford does. Because it's a Ford.

The only other downside, as far as I can tell, is the way it looks. Even with the optional snazzy blue paintwork on my test car, it wasn't much of a head-turner. And you're not going to bring a drinks party to a shuddering halt when you tell the other guests what you've just bought.

But the fact is that if you want a spacious five-seat estate car that does what you want, cheaply and efficiently, you'd struggle to find anything better. Certainly, it swallowed up all the empty boxes left in my son's flat.

Which gives me an idea. Why doesn't Ford sell the Focus in kit form? It would be cheaper still and clever people, such as me, who are good with their hands could put it together in a weekend. It might even be fun.

Take those chocks away, Biggles - your noisy little plane's a pain in the alpha, Romeo, sierra, echo (Sept. 29)

Is there anything quite so selfish as taking up a hobby that ruins life for everyone else? For example, how many babies have been born at the side of the road because the car taking the mother to hospital was stuck behind a teenage girl doing 4mph in a gigantic horsebox? Then you have that view across the Camel estuary in Cornwall, spoilt completely by the 18 lime-green splodges of artificial awfulness that is St Enodoc golf club.

And then there's motorcycling. Yes, it's very noble to wear an all-in-one leather bag that keeps all your valuable and much-needed internal organs in one place when you fall off. But the noise you make as you hurtle towards the pearly gates is horrendous.

The absolute worst offenders, though, are those who fly around in light aircraft.

When I first moved to the countryside 20 years ago, I'd occasionally hear a Piper Cherokee forging a lonely path through the sky above my house. It was a mournful sound, like that of a sad dog, and it was fitting, really, because I just knew the pilot was a friendless and unhappily married lost soul who wanted to spend his free time totally alone.

Today, though, things are very different. I spent a few days trying to film at my house recently and there was not a single moment when we could record anything, because of a constant conveyor belt of airborne miserabilists. The sound recordist would hold up his hand, waiting to give the all-clear, and then as one Piper finally went out of earshot, another would come along. And so it went on until dark.

The figures are alarming. There are now 28,000 people with private pilot licences in the UK, and 21,000 light aircraft, which between them clock up 1.3m hours of pointless noise pollution every year. And as aircraft get cheaper and less complicated, the growth is likely to accelerate.

I understand the need for helicopters, because they are used to take people from A to B quickly and conveniently. But, as a general rule, light aircraft, and appalling microlights, are flown for what the owners call "fun".

Let me explain what this entails. They turn up at the airfield where the plane is kept, imagining that they're Douglas Bader. They wear flying jackets bought as Christmas presents by their wives, who desperately want them out of the house. And they spend most of the morning sitting outside the club house, chatting to other Eeyores about their "old kites", imagining that at any moment a bell will ring and Trevor Howard will tell them to scramble.

Eventually, after this hasn't happened, they will climb into their stupid plane and do pre-flight checks, which makes them slightly aroused. And then they will key the radio so that they can talk in a weird phonetic code to a man in a jumper, who's located in a nearby hut, imagining he's Kenneth More and he's responsible for keeping the Jerry hordes at bay.

Our hero will then take off, and fly into the wind, which means he has a speed over the ground of about 14mph. He's even being overtaken by horseboxes. For miles in every direction, sound recordists are holding up their hands, millions of pounds are being wasted and peaceful picnics are being ruined, but Biggles isn't bothered about any of that. He's now talking to Kenneth More about vectors and remembering to use acronyms and say "niner" instead of "nine", and he's so excited by all of this, he's actually got two joysticks.

Soon he will land at another airfield, where he will have a terrible cheese sandwich and a mug of tea, and he will sit about with the pilots based there, swapping stories about near misses and how you need to vector your VIR round niner niner at Biggin, and then he will have to rush to the lavatory for a bit of me time before flying home again.

Yup. Tens of thousands of people have had their days ruined by the noise, and the man who isn't Douglas Bader has ended up back where he started, having produced nothing. Apart from a bit of unnecessary carbon dioxide. He hasn't even had any excitement.

No land-based creature can think that this is acceptable, and yet when an airfield near where I live was threatened by plans to build a Norman Foster-designed museum housing a collection of prewar French cars, a staggering 180 or more local people objected. Are they mad? Because even if all the prewar French cars ventured onto the small track at the same time, they would create less din than a single one of the Biggleses.

Happily, the council agreed that the car museum was a good idea and planning permission was granted. But now the local MP, Robert Courts, has stepped in and referred the matter to the secretary of state.

I went to see him to argue my case, but when I noticed the back of his car was festooned with RAF roundels and the back of his phone case bore the insignia of Brize Norton, I figured I might be in for a spot of heavy disappointment.

It got worse when he told me that the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is very much in favour of keeping as many airfields as possible out of the hands of developers. This may have something to do with the fact that Shapps is a keen amateur pilot and has a light aircraft of his own.

So now, here I am, wondering what on earth to do. I don't want light aircraft to be banned because banning things is mean-spirited and socialist. I suppose I could ask the local flying clubs to go and do their practice restarts and their droning somewhere else, but that shifts the problem. It doesn't solve it.

So I've decided that in my advancing years, I'm going to take up a new hobby of my own. It's called "shooting light aircraft down with a surface-to-air missile".

Of course, after I've got the hang of it, it's possible there won't be any targets left. Which means it's win-win.


And here's the notorious Sun column: "The world may be getting hotter, Greta Thunberg… but having a meltdown isn’t going to help"


Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
The Beeb's editorial police chief has always been a fair cop. It's a crime to throw him under the bus (Oct. 6)

Last week the BBC tied itself into a new kind of completely inextricable knot when it announced very firmly what it thought it should be saying, and then, when everybody got cross with it, decided very firmly that it shouldn't be saying what it very firmly believed it should be saying.

Here's the history. A few months ago, Donald Trump told some Democratical ladies of colour that they should stop whining about the awfulness of America and go back to where they came from to sort out the mess there.

This was discussed on a BBC sofa by two of the corporation's news stars: a man whose name has gone from my head and a woman called Naga Munchetty, who said such remarks were "embedded in racism".

At a rough guess, I'd say about 95% of the population would agree with her. I certainly do. But someone from a rest home for retired Brexiteers in Eastbourne did not, and complained to the BBC, which, after an investigation, partially upheld the complaint, saying: "Our editorial guidelines do not allow for journalists to ... give their opinions about the individual making the remark or their motives for doing so. Those judgments are for the audience to make."

All over Islington, people went crazy.

They were frothing at the mouth and twitching so violently it looked as though they'd caught rabies. And at the BBC it was much the same story. People were incredulous. A woman of colour had been reprimanded for questioning the motives behind Trump's remark. "Of course he is racist, for God's sake," they cried. "And racism is worse than paedophilia. It's nearly as bad as being a climate-change denier."

So in stepped the director-general, who said that the complaint should not, in fact, have been upheld, even a tiny bit. Which is a bit like a defendant listening to what the judge has to say and then leaping onto the bench to announce: "Actually, I'm not guilty after all, and now I'm going home."

I get the problem. We all live in a bubble, surrounded by people who think like we do. It's why I was absolutely convinced "remain" would win the referendum. And it's why no one at the BBC could get it into their heads that people in their own building had sided, albeit partially, with the halfwit in Eastbourne.

What disturbs me most of all about this sorry saga, though, is that the BBC has thrown its chief of editorial policy (ed pol), a man called David Jordan, under the bus.

It's well known that, towards the end of my time at the BBC, I was embroiled in many noisy arguments with various bits of the management machine, but in all my time there, I never had a single cross word with David or the department he ran.

When I left Top Gear and signed with Amazon, everyone said: "It must be great to be out of the BBC, because now you're free to say what you want." And I always used to reply: "Have you actually watched Top Gear? Right. So how could we have caused such upset every week if we'd been in a PC straitjacket?" Of course, I couldn't just say or do what I wanted and then hand the DVD to a divorcee in a cardigan, who'd slot it into a big machine and press a button marked "Transmit". Everything had to be scrutinised by the ed pol police — but they were never the enforcers of management diktats. They were the guardians of free speech, and now their boss is under a Routemaster simply because he and his team analysed what Munchetty said, calmly removed the hysteria of the subject matter and concentrated only on the issue of impartiality. I watched them do this every week for 10 years.

Once, we asked ed pol if we could team up with a production company that was shooting a cinema remake of The Sweeney. We wanted to make a Top Gear film about how we filmed the movie's big car chase.

Think about that for a minute — that's us, using licence-fee money to make a car chase to slot into a non-BBC film, which would then go on to make profits for someone else. Where on earth do you place your first foot in that political minefield? Believing it to be an unsolvable riddle, we went to ed pol, and the arrangement it went on to construct between us and the film company was so huge and complex you could see it from space. But using grey, painstaking diligence, it got the BBC and the film company to a position where each would share equal benefits. Which meant we could go ahead and blow up some caravans.

The ed pol department is like John Gielgud in Arthur. It runs everything, but its personal opinion is never known. It may be thinking behind its passive face, as you describe something you want to do, that it's the stupidest nonsense ever to come out of a mouth, but you would never know it, because its job is to stick to the rules. And that's it.

I've worked elsewhere, where a management type will call to say: "Can you take that comment out? Some people in the office were offended by it." But at the BBC, ed pol is always on hand to stop all that nonsense. It uses its cold detachment and lack of opinion to make sure the boat stays upright.

People complained after the Munchetty ruling that the ed pol police were not considering what the situation felt like for a woman of colour. The truth is, though, that when they come to do their job, they don't see colour. They just see a BBC news person implying the president of America is racist.

There may be only a few hundred people in the country who think Munchetty is wrong. But it is not the BBC's job to ignore them or their views, abhorrent though they may be.

Management often loses sight of that simple fact, but ed pol never does. And proroguing the department on a whim, no matter how popular that whim might be, is foolish.


And here's the Sun column: "Strong and stable, long walks… the Theresa May story isn’t quite Keef’s"
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Active Member
Mar 14, 2012
San Francisco
Skyfall's villains can blow this one up too

The Clarkson Review: Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante (Oct. 13)

Of course I will go and see the new James Bond film, but I almost certainly won't enjoy it. I haven't really enjoyed any of them since Daniel Craig took over.

I know he wants his Bond to be fallible and weak, like the character in the books, but I don't want to see 007 swigging Heineken from a bottle that just happens to be label-side out, and I don't want to see him bleed, or fire his gun at something and miss. I want him to be Roger Moore, the cheeky chappie who could speak Latin, fly a space shuttle and lay anyone low with one of his signature karate chops.

Craig's Bond can't do that. In fact, if you actually stop and think what he's done in the past, you'd have to conclude he's completely useless. In Casino Royale, he didn't notice that the woman he'd fallen in love with was spying for the other side, and then, despite his best efforts, he let her drown in a lift. The next woman he lurved, in Skyfall, got shot in the head by a former colleague. Oh, and then he took an old woman who needed to go into hiding to his own bloody house. Where she and 007's gamekeeper wandered about on a darkened moor, with a torch, just in case the baddies needed even more help locating her.

Before that happened, though, Bond went to interview someone in Shanghai and ended up throwing him off a skyscraper. And in an earlier scene, he was shot by Miss Moneypenny. I'm telling you, Johnny English is better at espionage than this guy. So's Inspector Clouseau.

But the worst bit in Skyfall came when the director Sam Mendes decided to blow up Bond's Aston Martin. So he pumped it full of bullets until it exploded.

I'm sure, to the luvvie-in-chief, this was fine, because a car is just a collection of plastic and metal and glass. But a car is not just a collection of plastic and metal and glass. And Bond's Aston is more of a car than most. It has been a part of my life since I was four. I have owned many models, including one that would fire a small man under the sofa. And Mendes blew it up so he could get Craig to do some acting. I considered at the time filling Sam's dog with bullets until it exploded, just to show him how it felt.

The car was put back together in the next Bond film, Spectre — and it appears in the new movie as well — but it was like making Ring of Bright Water 2 and trying to argue that someone had sewn the otter's head back on.

I bet Aston Martin had a duck fit when it saw the DB5 reduced to a smouldering ruin, because Bond is its marketing department. He is its PR machine and its ad agency and its ambassador all rolled into one. So I bet it really did try to sew the DB5's head back on, because without 007, the company would have to maintain a public profile on its own. And it doesn't have the cash for that.

I'm not sure it even had enough cash to develop the car you see before you today. It's called — deep breath — the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante, and sometimes you get the impression that you're tootling about in almost two tons of make-do and mend. With a bit of cast-off Mercedes tech to maintain a veneer of modernity.

To create it, Aston had to chop the roof off a normal DBS, but this meant finding somewhere to put the electric roof mechanism. That meant rerouting the massive exhaust system and that meant turning the fuel tank round and redesigning every body panel aft of the doors.

The company managed it, but sometimes the roof doesn't go down when you operate the switch, the boot is laughably tiny, and it gets so hot in there, owing to the exhaust system, you could roast a chicken. There's also a problem with the interior. Astonishingly, we got four adults in it, and that's impressive, but it is almost identical to the interior you get in a far cheaper DB11 Volante. And that's not good enough.

The basic starting price of the DBS Superleggera Volante is £247,500 and, I'm sorry, but if I'm going to blow a quarter of a million on a car, I don't want it to have the same innards as a car that costs almost £90,000 less. The trouble is, of course, that when you've spent all that money turning the fuel tank round, there simply won't be enough left to do the air vents as well. Or fit a glovebox.

It sounds like I have a real downer on this car, and I haven't finished yet, I'm afraid. Because superleggera is Italian for "superlight", and it just isn't. With a couple of people on board, it weighs more than two tons. Perhaps that's why it endlessly catches its chin-mounted skid plates on speed humps. And why its tyres are so thin you need to be very careful when you're parking, even against a dropped pavement, or you'll kerb the wheels. Perhaps Aston should have called it Supergrasso.

You can feel this weight when you're driving, too. It doesn't come across as a feisty little whizz-bang; it's no water boatman. But that said, it's fast. Rocket-ship fast. It's almost too fast, because on wet roads you would be well advised to treat the throttle with extreme caution or you will have a crash. You even need to be careful sometimes on dry roads.

And that raises a question. If you can't unleash all the volcanic fury without the back end having a few moments of panic, then why not save yourself the best part of £90,000 and get the DB11 Volante instead? Because you can exploit all the power in one of those, all of the time.And it has the same interior. And it's a little bit more civilised and comfortable.

It's almost as though Aston bit off more than it could chew with the DBS. Think of its engineers as pianists. They're accomplished enough to impress their friends and colleagues, but they're not really able to put on a penguin suit, walk onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall and attempt Liszt's La Campanella.

If you attempt to build a 211mph car that costs £247,000, you need to make sure that you have the money to pull it off. Yes, the DBS Superleggera Volante is one of the best-looking cars ever made, and it's blisteringly fast and it makes some laugh-out-loud noises from the tailpipes, but as a package, it's flawed.

Hopefully, the new Bond film will be a gem and will keep alive the aura that surrounds the man and the car he drives. But I wouldn't count on it. The way things are going, they'll replace Craig with Anthea Turner and give her a Nissan Leaf. And that, I fear, would bring the curtain down on Britain's best-loved car-maker.

In the meantime, if you want an Aston because you, like me, grew up worshipping them, then don't despair because the DB11 Volante is brilliant. That sort of car at that sort of price? Nobody does it better.


He's not around to beat me, so I'll say it: Ginger was only the world's second-best drummer (Oct. 13)

The drummer Ginger Baker died last week and everyone was very surprised because we all assumed the drug-addled wild man from Cream and Blind Faith had shuffled off this mortal coil years ago. It's customary, of course, when someone dies to gloss over their shortcomings and concentrate instead on their work for charity and their heroics in the war. But this is nigh-on impossible with Baker, who was almost certainly the most unpleasant man ever to grace a stage. He pulled a knife on Cream's bass player, Jack Bruce. He used his fists to settle almost every dispute. He broke the nose of the director who made a documentary about him with his walking stick.

Then, of course, there was the naked 11-year-old girl featured on the cover of Blind Faith's only album. That's such a difficult issue these days, none of the obituaries even mentioned it.

Instead, everyone concentrated on Baker's skills as a musician — but even here people missed the point, because despite what he claimed, he wasn't the best drummer the world has ever seen. Thanks to Mitch Mitchell, who played with Jimi Hendrix, he was the second best. I'm on Twitter if you want to argue.

Baker, however, could keep perfect time, even when he was full of heroin, which is quite an achievement. And he could maintain four different cross rhythms with each of his limbs. This is like rubbing your tummy, patting your head, pumping up a lilo and playing hopscotch all at the same time.

I have a drum kit. It's an enormous Pictures of Lily limited edition replica.

And after several years of weekly lessons, I developed a profound admiration for drummers, because they're doing something I can't do.

We can't admire people who can do what we can do. I don't admire anyone who can drive fast while shouting, but when I watch a dry-stone-waller creating a natural barrier using nothing but experience and big, warty hands, I become a statue of wonderment held upright by nothing but the tingling in my hair. That's what happens when I hear a drum solo.

A columnist last week said that words cannot begin to describe the "unstoppable misery" of the "nightmarish" drum solo. Plainly, he is the sort of man who thinks drummers are like houseflies. That they come, they make an annoying noise and then they die. And I literally could not agree less.

A drum solo allows the audience to marvel at the technical wizardry of the drummer. It allows us to concentrate on his incredible ability to get a whole arm from one side of the kit to the other faster than it takes a Formula One car to change gear. And to do it in perfect time.

It's been suggested that Ginger Baker invented the drum solo so his bandmates could have a moment to go backstage and top up whatever was missing at that moment from their lives. I doubt this, though. He didn't really like other musicians that much.

It's been reported that he called Mick Jagger a "musical moron". But that's not true. What he actually said was that the Stones were like "a load of little kids trying to play black blues music and playing it very badly". It was George Harrison he called a musical moron. And he dismissed Paul McCartney too, because, unlike him, McCartney could not sight-read music. Led Zeppelin? If you even mentioned them in his presence, you'd get a thick lip. He only really liked people we've never heard of. Phil Seamen was a hero of his, for example. And Art Blakey.

So no. Baker was on the stage doing his solos simply so we could hear how he'd fused the jazz music of his heroes with an altogether new and busy way of playing. He despised the 4/4 beat of rock and pop music, but it's possible that, because of what he did with Cream, he's partly responsible for it.

His solos were often more than 10 minutes long and were mesmerising. And soon drummers everywhere were trying to outdo him. Led Zeppelin's John Bonham did a 17-minute epic on the track "Moby Dick", and then you got — whisper this, because I'm friendly with Nick Mason and Roger Taylor — my favourite drummer, Phil Collins, duetting with Chester Thompson. They started out hitting bar stools and then moved to their kits for a drumming shootout. It's the best thing on YouTube.

And now? Well, there was the movie Whiplash, which everyone, apart from me, thought was weird — but on stage? In real life? There's nothing. The drum solo is dead.

I find that odd. There are still bands and some still have drummers, so why don't these people want the audience to see and hear them doing their thing? Isn't that like being a goalkeeper who never wants to make a save? The only explanation is that they actively hide at the back behind the bass and the guitar and the flashy vocals because they're not that good.

This sort of thing has happened before. Between 1750 and 1820, the world heard from Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn, but since then, apart from a couple of little spurts, there's been nothing of any great consequence. And today? There's a woman in Iceland who turns drawings of turnips into classical music and there's Ludovico Einaudi, who provided the soundtrack for many of the Top Gear films I made. But that's about it.

Could it be that the same thing has happened with drumming? That we as a species were only ever any good at it between 1958 and 1978, and now we have lost the ability, in the same way that penguins have lost the ability to fly? Luckily, however, we still have the recordings from the days when drumming wasn't just an electronic nn tss nn tss nn tss nn tss and I've been listening to a lot of it all week. That's why I ended up revisiting "Can't Find My Way Home." You played on that one, Ginger. And now you have.


And here's the Sun column: "Extinction Rebellion forget dole money, tents and yoga mats all come from… oil"

Clarkson is wrong by the way: Ginger Baker is only the world's fourth best drummer. The best and second best are Hal Blaine and Levon Helm.
Anyway, I've now caught up on posting all the Clarkson columns that ran while I was on vacation. Normal weekly posting will resume on Monday.