Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

Mr. Nice

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During a pandemic, Clarkson is calling for the NHS to be privatized? That may be the ultimate example of wealth and privilege leading to selfishness and callousness. He need only look to the United States, a country that he has often shown dislike and disdain for, to see the many ways in which a private system can fail those who rely on it. The US also experienced shortages of masks, ventilators, and other equipment going in to this pandemic. What we had that people in the UK did not was nearly 30 million people who are uninsured, and who therefore either found healthcare to be ridiculously expensive or completely unaffordable.

Yes, Americans die every year because they can't afford healthcare.

There may be negative aspects to socialized medicine, but that type of healthcare system does not exclude the working poor.

A change of circumstances can happen to anyone. Wealth should not be a determining factor when it comes to access to healthcare. I say this as someone who has more wealth than the 50th percentile (half) of American households (this amount is much lower than many people would imagine).

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/09/who-are-the-uninsured.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/net-worth-to-be-wealthy-at-every-age-2019-8

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/sickaroundtheworld/
 
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Revelator

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Agreed. Clarkson is a Libertarian who thinks government can do nothing right. But the past 40 years have shown that government is all that stands between the people and rapacious corporations that only care for profit.
 

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My, my, my, it sounds as good as Tom Jones
The Clarkson Review: Eagle Lightweight GT (July 26)

Yes, I'm writing about cars again. There were a few months when I couldn't get hold of any press demonstrators, and even if I could have done, there was nowhere I could go in them without being branded a "Covidiot". But all that suddenly changed the other day when a man from Volkswagen arrived with a T-Roc cabriolet. Which looked awful.

It had been a while, though, since I'd gone for a drive, so I leapt aboard and put my foot down. And a mile later — a mile — I still hadn't reached the national speed limit. Yes, I know that I was going uphill and that I was in sixth, but the car's stubborn refusal to accelerate meant that I turned round, went home and did farming instead. Then an all-electric Porsche Taycan Turbo arrived.

I have no idea why it's called a Turbo because, obviously, it isn't. It is, however, everything else. You get two electric motors: one to the fore that drives the front wheels through a one-speed gearbox and one in the back that powers the rear wheels via a two-speed unit.

In between is a raft of lithium-ion batteries and all the wiring needed to make such a complex machine work. The net result is that this car weighs about the same as a medium-sized bungalow.

Bloody hell, it's fast, though. The first car I drove that was too powerful for its own good was the Ferrari F12berlinetta. This Porsche is another. It may have only 617 horsepowers in normal running — at least a hundred fewer than the Ferrari — but the way those horsepowers arrive is extremely sudden and very alarming.

I can imagine that a lot of Taycans will be crashed moments after the driver has turned to his passenger and said, with a big, idiotic grin on his face: "Right. Watch this."

It got to the point, after a couple of days, that I didn't dare overtake slower-moving traffic because being on the wrong side of the road, with trees to my right and a lorry to the left, in a car that was behaving like a horse that had just had a mustard-covered hot dog shoved up its backside, didn't seem a place I wanted to be.

There's another issue too. In most electric cars, when you lift off the throttle energy from the motor is harnessed and fed back into the battery, so it's like you're braking. But when you lift off in the Taycan, it keeps right on going. It's so aerodynamically efficient that not even the air will slow you down.

You do get a button on the steering wheel that brings some regenerative braking to proceedings, and I found myself pushing that even before I did up my seatbelt. And it really does raise a question. Do electric cars really have to be this powerful and this complicated? When my kids were younger, they had a battery-powered yellow Jeep that they could use in the garden. It had plastic tyres and one-wheel drive and no brakes because it was never going fast enough for them to be necessary. And I wonder: is that not what people want from an electric car? Rather than massive complexity, terror and an immense price tag? There are juicy tax breaks and government subsidies available to anyone who buys an electric car, but despite this, and the public relations onslaught, the figures tell us they're not really catching on. Put bluntly, for every hundred cars sold in the UK last year, fewer than two were powered by batteries.

I don't believe the figures, however. Both my colleagues from the television, Richard Hammond and James May, now have Teslas. Paul McGuinness, the former manager of U2, came for lunch recently, and he had one, as did two people at dinner the previous evening. The bloody things are now so prolific in my world that to offset the effect they're having and bring some carbon neutrality to the table, I've had to order a V8-powered Bentley Flying Spur, to go with my V8 Range Rovers.

And it's why I'm moving on now to the meat of this morning's missive. The extraordinary Jaguar E-type-based Eagle Lightweight GT that's just been made by a small engineering company in East Sussex. Eagle is best known for mild E-type tweaks, but occasionally it makes a car that stops the world. Remember the Speedster? The most beautiful thing made in all human history? That was one of Eagle's. And now it's done it again.

I'm not going to beat about the bush here. It costs close to a million pounds, and that's a lot for a car that's nearly 60 years old. But the truth is, it sort of isn't. It's actually about 60 minutes old.

If you look carefully, you'll note that the sills are lower, the indicators are flush, the doors are frameless and the windscreen is more raked than it was on the original 1963 E-type Lightweight.

Under the bonnet it's a straight-six, as you'd expect, but it's a 4.7l unit, made by Eagle, from aluminium, with big valves and three Weber carburettors spoonfeeding the go juice. The result is 380 horsepowers, and it seems to me, having been half scared to death by the Taycan, that this is a more sensible amount. Especially as very little is wasted in lugging around unnecessary weight. In the Eagle Lightweight GT everything that can be made from magnesium is, and almost everything that can't is titanium or aluminium. The result is a dry weight of 1,017kg — less than me, then.

You'd imagine that it feels like a stripped-out racer, but no. It's called the GT because it's a grand tourer, a leather-lined, air-conditioned long-distance cruiser. It's nothing like the original racers and nothing like the "continuation" cars that Jaguar has made recently. It's civilised, even by modern standards.

The interior is a labour of love. It is a thing of beauty. Getting in is a bit of a faff, and getting out is harder, but that's OK because I didn't want to get out. I just wanted to sit in there, for ever, touching stuff.

Or driving it. The twin-choke Webers are a bit hard to coax into life, but once they've cleared their throats, you get just the right amount of performance and just the right amount of grip, and you also get just the right amount of Tom Jones noises. God almighty, this thing sounds good.

Hammond argued recently that we car journalists will have to start thinking up new ways of describing the sounds an electric car makes, and I wish him all the best with that plan. Porsche has tried to tune the noises the Taycan makes but it still sounds like a milk float. They all do.

That's why I'll never buy an electric car. You can drone on as much as you like about how yours does a million miles between charges and how nothing but baby hedgehogs come out of its rear end, but when you put your foot down in a carb-fed straight-six, and that long bonnet rears up slightly, you know what's missing from your motorised vacuum cleaner. The soundtrack. And when you lift your foot up again and you get all those little crackles and pops — ooh, it does things to your hair.

The only way you could achieve something similar with your Tesla or your Taycan is if you put your tongue on the battery terminal.

But, really and truly, this debate comes down to something simpler. I want an E-type Eagle Lightweight GT. I want one so much that it keeps me awake at night. I do not want a Porsche Taycan Turbo.

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Jenrick's cunning planning revolution might just give our moribund towns a new lease of life (July 26)

It has recently been announced that the rules governing planning permission are to be simplified. Soon, without any kind of thumbs-up from the local council, Katie Price will be able build a pink Rapunzel-style tower on the side of her mansion. And Ed Sheeran will be able to add a swim-up bar to the diving board and inflatable swans that he's installed in and around his "garden pond".

Planning consent has always been annoying, because even if you want to build a train set in your attic, you can be assured there will be objections. It's just a fact that on every street and in every village, there is always at least one person who spends their mornings commenting online about stories in the Daily Mail and their afternoons objecting to planning applications.

And even if you can get over that hurdle, you're still nowhere near home free, because before you're given permission, people in hi-vis jackets will have to visit the site to make sure that no bats will be affected. They will spend the night in your garden, and then they will announce that they have definitely seen a pipistrelle, and that it will have to be rehoused before work can begin.

So how do you rehouse a bat? Well, in theory, the only way is to offer it superior accommodation, which means you must encourage it to move into your rich neighbour's much larger house. Unfortunately, this is impossible because bats have no powers of reason, so what you must do is shoot it (you could eat it, of course, but I really wouldn't recommend that) and then tell the council man that, much to your surprise, it just upped sticks one day and left.

However, as it is extremely difficult to shoot a bat, many people decide instead to join the freemasons. If you do this, there will be no awkward questions about bats, or newts, and any pesky objections from your Daily Mail-reading neighbours will be put in the bin.

Some people think that, to win over a planner, you must take him to your box at Wembley or educate his children, but you really don't. You simply shake his hand, being careful to press down hard with your thumb on his index-finger knuckle, and immediately he will assume you're the Duke of Kent and allow you to build the purple guitar-shaped orangery you've always dreamt about. Oh, and 16 executive homes in your paddock.

But all that's due to change, thanks to the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, who's obviously been to a fundraising ball of some sort and decided, while sitting next to a property developer, that Britain would get back on its feet quicker if the planners were a bit more supine.

Naturally, people are now running around, waving their arms in the air and screaming blue murder, claiming McDonald's will soon be opening a drivethrough in Bibury and KFC will be allowed to build a takeaway joint in two new storeys on the top of York Minster.

However, the thing that seems to have caused the most froth and spittle is the proposal to let people convert towncentre shops into residential accommodation. "People can't be expected to live in houses where all the windows face the same way" scream the nation's architects. But I'm not sure about that. Iron Man lived in a house built into a cliff, and that was amazing. And what about Petra? All the windows face the same way there.

Architects have converted churches into houses and won awards for it.

They've also converted barns, pig sties, sewage plants, factories, stables and even caves. I know one architect who lives in a yurt, and that has no windows at all. So why the sudden beef about converting a branch of WH Smiths? Town centres have been dying for some time, and the coronavirus has accelerated that process. When I moved to Chipping Norton, 25 years ago, there were little shops selling hardware, hi-fi kit, car accessories and shoes. There was even a charming department store, and now all of them have gone.

Every day, the planners are giving permission for more and more houses to be built in the surrounding area, seemingly without noticing they're creating a doughnut. A ring of smart new Barratt boxes all gathered round a big empty hole in the middle.

I don't doubt for a minute that your town is exactly the same, so it makes sense to turn some of those empty shops into houses. That would bring in people, and when you have people, restaurants and bars will follow, along with all the little boutiques and market stalls that sell stuff you can't buy at an out-of-town superstore or online.

You therefore end up with a fun place full of families rather than a dusty and vandalised hellhole full of pizza boxes, vomit and charity shops selling nothing but books by Richard Hammond about how he didn't die in a car accident.

And it's not just town planning that needs a shake-up. According to the Daily Mail, I'm in a spot of bother with my local planners at the moment because they don't like the juniper-green steel roof on my new farm shop.

Now, at this point you're probably expecting me to describe in some detail the size of the traffic cone I'm going to insert into the planning officer responsible for this objection, but I'm not, because I've dealt with the planners round these parts for many years and they're all very sensible. The rules they have to implement, however? That's a different story.

If I filled my new barn with farming equipment, it'd be an agricultural building, and there's nothing really the council could do about it. If, however, I fill it with local produce and employ local women to sell it to local customers, the council can do something, and it has.

It's obviously nuts. But, that said, we can't have a planning free-for-all. We do need some rules, because, unfortunately, in this country not everyone has very good taste.

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And here's the Sun column: "Face masks up North? The folk there are barely wearing actual clothes"
 

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Jean-Claude Van Lamb v Clarkson: Sheep that don't want to be fleeced by amateur hairdressers have fighting skills to rival those of the "Muscles from Brussels". Thankfully the professionals are trained in hand-to-hoof combat (August 2)

I decided recently that my sheep are like woolly teenage boys. They take absurd risks and feign a lack of interest in everything, while deliberately being obstructive, stubborn, rude and prone to acts of eye-rolling vandalism. I understand this. Between the ages of 15 and 17 I could not walk past a fire extinguisher without setting it off. That's a very sheep thing to do.

A week ago I put them in a field full of succulent grass, with far-reaching views of the Cotswolds and the Chilterns beyond. It was sheep paradise in there, but every single day, without fail, all of them would walk straight through the electric fence and into a neighbouring field full of not-at-all succulent spring barley.

There are two reasons why they do this. They know that, thanks to the weird weather we've had in the past nine months, the profit margins on barley are extremely tight, so if they eat some of it they will cause me financial hardship. They also know that barley, if eaten in sufficient quantities, will kill them, and that, as always, is their main goal in life. To die, horribly. If sheep could operate machinery, they'd all have very powerful Japanese motorcycles.

Last week they had to be sheared. Now, you may think I'd do this for my benefit and sell the wool for profit. Ha. How wrong you are.

The first problem is that the Aussie and Kiwi chaps who roll around the world like a wave, chasing the shearing seasons, are marooned this year by Covid-19, so the price for skilled labour has gone up. Reckon on about £1.50 per sheep. And how much do you get for one fleece these days? Well, as they're not being exported to China and they're not being used to make carpets and rugs here at home, the price I'd get for the wool from one North Country Mule is … drum roll … 30p. So I'm losing £1.20 per sheep on the deal. Now you can see why I call my farm Diddly Squat.

The only reason, then, I had to get shearing is because a shaved sheep is less likely to be eaten by maggots and is more comfortable in the summer sunshine.

You'd imagine they'd be grateful, but no. The first sheep took one look at the salon I'd made and charged at top speed into a bramble bush, where it writhed about until it was stuck fast. Freeing it meant lacerating my arms and legs so extensively that I was in danger of going into hypovolemic shock. And by the time I'd finished all the other sheep had wandered through the electric fence again and into the barley field.

I had two shearers on hand, but the idea was that I'd get stuck in as well. So after we finally got all the sheep into the pen, I set to work.

Job one is to capture a sheep, turn it upside down and drag it on its buttock into the shearing area. This is not possible because sheep do not want to be turned upside down and dragged about on their buttocks. And they are very strong. Imagine turning Jean-Claude Van Damme upside down and dragging him into a salon to cut off his mullet. You could explain as much as you like that he'd be better off without it, but you wouldn't get anywhere. I was knocked over, kicked and then knocked over again. The professionals advised me I should grab the sheep under its chin and fold it in half before turning it over, so I tried that, and I was kicked before falling over again.

Some of the other sheep decided at this point they didn't like sharing the pen with a seemingly violent fat man who kept falling over, so they jumped out. This amazed me because even though they had no run-up space at all, they managed to clear a fence more than 3ft tall. Honestly, sheep have better VTOL properties than a Harrier jump jet.

Eventually, though, I managed to get one of them in the right position and in the right place, and then I was told to stick one of its back legs up my butt crack and reach for the shears.

These were the most fearsome things I'd ever seen. Imagine the inside of a gearbox on the sort of circular saw they use in Canadian logging yards. And now imagine wielding that while trying to cut off Mr Van Damme's hair. There could be only two outcomes. The sheep would die. Or I would.

"Go on," said the onlookers.

But that seemed foolish. Bomb disposal officers don't urge onlookers to give it a bash. A surgeon doing an eye operation on a young girl doesn't ask the father if he'd like to wield the scalpel. So I put down the oscillating, out-of-control lumberjack's gearbox and went on strike.

The professionals got to work, taking less than two minutes to give each sheep a buzz cut, and I, meanwhile, was given the lesser job of rolling up the fleeces and putting them in the woolsack. Though when I say "lesser", what I mean is "revolting", because before the fleeces can be rolled, you have to separate the fleeces dingleberries from the wool. By hand. You have to get down on your knees and tear chunks of dried faeces from the hair. And if you tear too much hair away, you are shouted at, because it's worth something. It is too. About 1p at current prices.

When we'd finished, we had the job of herding the 75 shaved sheep and 145 of their still woolly offspring into a new field on the other side of the farm. Two dogs were used to keep them in line and I was put in front of the flock with strict instructions not to let the sheep overtake me.

I'd like to say I got a hundred yards, but it was actually about 25 before they tore past and ran into a field of barley for a lethal afternoon snack. And as I stood there, trying to rub the pollen out of my eyes while country folk told me that rubbing my eyes is the worst thing you can do, I realised that I am not, and probably never will be, much of a sheep farmer.

However, there is a happy ending. I'm building a house and I noticed the other day that the builders had started to fill the wall cavities with glass fibre.

Wool does a better job. It has a low thermal conductivity rating — which means it's good at stopping heat escaping — it's flame-retardant, it can absorb water vapour better than almost anything else and, because it's a protein, it can remove unpleasant odours through a process called chemisorption.

So instead of selling my wool for the square root of bugger all, I'm going to use it in the cavities of my house. This means I won't need to buy the expensive man-made alternative. So while my wool won't make me a penny, it'll save me thousands. And get me a letter of commendation from Greta Thunberg.

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My rock heroes are off to the great gig in the sky, but I've got a whole lotta love for their tribute acts (August 2)

If you want to hear Verdi's Requiem performed live, you will happily slip into a frilly dinner shirt and toddle off to the Royal Opera House, where you will sit in uncomfortable trousers, on an uncomfortable chair, listening to someone else's interpretation of how it should sound.

What's the alternative? Verdi is dead and the same goes for Teresa Stolz, the soprano soloist who originally performed the Requiem. So if you want to hear the full choral might of that incredible "Dies Irae," you have no choice: you must listen to other people performing it. And you do. Happily.

So why, if I suggested you head out tonight to watch a young man with a red and blue lightning bolt on his chubby face, singing a collection of David Bowie's hits, would you feel slightly uneasy? I mean tribute bands. They're a bit wedding and bar mitzvahy. Aren't they? I was hosting a yet to be transmitted edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? last week and one of the contestants announced that he enjoys watching a bunch of men pretending to be Genesis. This made me a bit queasy because the thought of watching someone who can't drum as well as Phil Collins giving it a bash on "Supper's Ready" seems daft. Not even Tony Banks liked to play the piano solo on "Firth of Fifth" live, so what chance does an accountant from Hemel Hempstead have? Frankly, I thought, I'd rather listen to a dog being strangled.

It's long been accepted that when a rock star dies, so too does our opportunity to hear his or her music played live. That's why I live in a state of constant regret about Queen. I saw them at Live Aid, but never properly, in an arena, with Freddie Mercury and the badger enthusiast giving it the full strut in a blaze of light and smoke. And now I never will, because Queen without Freddie is like a ham sandwich without the ham.

This makes me sad, and in the next few years it's going to get worse, because Billy Joel, Elton John, Dire Straits and the Eagles are all now elderly. It's possible we will never see them perform again, and before long it will be certain. Think about that: when these people are no longer with us, their music will exist only in Apple's impenetrable cloud and at the back of our cupboards under the stairs.

Or can something be done? Many years ago, I was killing time in a windowless sports bar in Fairbanks, Alaska. There were many muted television screens showing a selection of sports I couldn't name or understand, and on the sound system they were playing, loud, the whole of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

I was very happy until, on the way to the lavatory, the happiness turned to amazement, because I realised it was actually a live band. And they were note, pitch and semihemidemisemiquaver perfect. Totally indistinguishable from the album. An album I know well because I've listened to it approximately four million times.

Yes, David Gilmour was 17 and riddled with pustulating acne and Nick Mason was black, but the sound they were making was identical to what Pink Floyd had achieved after God knows how many weeks in a recording studio.

Sure, I could have sat in the car and played the actual album but it felt special to be in that small, dark, oil-workers' bar, necking a beer and listening to it being done live, loud and well.

Which gives me an idea. When a child is interested in classical music, he or she does not try to write it. They simply learn how to play what was created by the masters: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart et al. And why should it be any different with rock and pop? Right now, there are many young people who are extremely talented musicians and almost all of them will be trying to write their own material. Why? So they can trouser the royalties? Ha. There won't be any, because the fact is that everything that can be done with popular music had been done by — if I were being facetious, I'd say 1978, but let's be realistic and say 1986.

So instead of trying to write something better than Neil Young or Paul McCartney or Steve Winwood — which you can't — why not get yourself ready to pick up the baton they'll soon drop.

Don't develop your own style on the guitar. Just copy, say, Ronnie Wood, then team up with someone who's learnt how to play the drums and someone who can do bass and a Scottish vocalist who sounds like he's straining on the lavatory and the next thing you know, you could be the new Faces. Just don't call yourselves that. The Big Faces, maybe.

There's a band that does Tom Petty numbers called the Petty Criminals and that is a great name. And I'd really like to see someone form a Led Zeppelin tribute band called Hairway to Steven. I'd book them for a party, that's for sure, because I like the idea of being in a room, with my friends, listening to excellent musicians playing music I love.

I remember once going to a 50th where the host had booked the Four Tops. The word was that there were, in fact, four Four Tops on the party circuit, each with one Top in it, but it didn't matter. They were bloody good and soon everyone was making shapes and singing along.

The fact is that the London Symphony Orchestra plays other people's music, but no one calls it a tribute band. And it's the same story when you go into a church to listen to the choir.

The syrupy film Yesterday is about a man who wakes one morning to find he's the only person in the world to have heard of the Beatles. So he records all their songs and is in the process of becoming a mega-star when he's rumbled by two other people who also remember John, Paul, George and Ringo. And they are not cross with him. They thank him, in fact, for keeping the music alive. There's a lesson there.

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And here's the Sun column: "Simplify it Boris: yes you will get the virus, but if you are slim, you will survive"
 

Revelator

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If only this one came with machineguns
The Clarkson Review: Aston Martin DB5 (August 9)

I'm currently going through a phase of wanting a BMW 3.0 CSL or an old Mini Cooper. But I'm often distracted by the idea of a Lancia Fulvia or even a Montecarlo, or a Triumph TR6 or a "Big Healey" — the Austin-Healey 3000. What I really want, of course, is an Eagle Jaguar E-type, except I'm an Alfa Romeo man, really, so it's probably better I go for the 6C or a 1963 Giulia Spider or a Montreal. Actually, that's what I'd want most of all. Yes. Definitely. Unless the right BMW 3.0 CSL came along.

I guess we all do this — dream fanciful dreams about which of the eight billion classic cars out there we'd most like to own. It's impossible usually. Strangely, however, the number of cars from recent years that I'd want to buy is — and I'm going to work this out … er, hang on … four. A Bentley Flying Spur, an Alfa Romeo 4C, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm and, er, I've forgotten what the fourth one was.

I wonder if there's been a period in my life when I've lusted after such a small number of modern cars. They're very good if you want your children to be safe and your geraniums to flourish, and they all have excellent connectivity and tremendous reliability, but hardly any of them cause you to get out and say: "Right. How much?" There's a sense that engineers are no longer following their hearts because they're too busy following the diktats of Greta Thunberg-obsessed governments. And it's the same story with the styling. The fins and the flared arches and the wings and the pop-up headlamps have all been swept away by the road safety lobby. And everything else that makes a petrolhead's heart sing has been stamped on by the jackboot of accountancy.

This doesn't mean my love of cars has diminished. It hasn't. But because there's no longer any nutrition if I suckle at the teat of innovation and newness, I've been driven into the history books. Or classic car magazines, as they are called. Here's the great peril, though. While it's fun to leaf through the ads for cars that were built before the upper atmosphere was a thing, and safety didn't matter, it is emphatically not fun to buy one.

You might think that a BMW 3.0 CSL drives in much the same way as a modern-day BMW M8. It doesn't. It drives in much the same way as your ride-on mower. If you can get it up to any kind of speed, you will find that it takes several years to slow down again. And when you get to a corner, you will notice, if you are paying attention, that you are being overtaken by your own tail-lights.

Traction control on those early lightweight BMW coupés was achieved by putting two bags of cement in the boot. There were no electronic driver aids of any kind. In fact, there was no electronic anything, really. Apart from a cigarette lighter. You certainly couldn't move the seats with a motor. You couldn't move the back rests at all.

You'd love to own a classic car and you'd love to arrive outside a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel in one. But you would hate driving it very much. However. What if you could buy a classic car that had been built yesterday morning? Tempting, eh? And it brings me neatly on to the new Aston Martin DB5. Yes. New. Fresh off the line in the Aston factory in Newport Pagnell. Except that the 25 so-called "continuation" cars that will be offered for sale are not standard DB5s. They're replicas of the car Sean Connery drove in Goldfinger and cost £3.3m each.

Designed with the help of the longtime 007 special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, they will be fitted with simulated twin machineguns that pop out from the front wings, battering rams, revolving numberplates, a bulletproof screen that rises from the back and a system for leaving an imitation oil slick in their wake. Oh and, yes, there will be an optional removable roof panel and a little red button under a flip-top gearlever. Although I'm told the passenger seat will not actually eject when you press it.

Aston Martin has done this sort of thing before. With the company finances in a parlous state, bosses decided that rather than spend money they didn't have on a new model, they would simply remake an old one. So they broke out the original drawings of the DB4 GT and set to work.

The idea is brilliant. You have a classic. A real one, made by the actual company using the original tools. But none of the parts has become baggy with age. Some bits, such as the brakes and the engine, have even been modernised a bit. And, what's more, at £1.5m it is about a million pounds cheaper than buying a version of the same car that was built 60 years ago.

I drove the finished product across France and Spain for an episode of The Grand Tour a few years ago, and at full chat on the Pau street circuit, and later on a beautiful stretch of road in the Pyrenees, it was sublime. It responded beautifully to hammer-time violence. Shock and awe woke it up. And when it was awake, that thing danced.

But at all other times it was as bolshie as a teenager. I still remember the noises the straight-cut gearbox made when I tried to swap cogs. I still remember how hot it was in the un-air-conditioned cockpit and how I couldn't even wind the windows down. I remember the whines and the squeaks and the roars. I remember going over the Pyrenees in a damp peasouper and thinking: "Yes. I am very miserable."

All of that came back to me last week when Aston Martin sent me a DB5. I assumed it would be the new continuation Golfinger version, but it was just a standard-issue early Sixties version with no machineguns. I went to the pub in it and, yes, it looked absolutely gorgeous sitting outside. I sat there thinking maybe I should have one instead of the 3.0 CSL.

But on the way home? Oh dear.

The DB5 wasn't even a good-handling car in the Sixties, and age hasn't improved things. It's not fast, either, and that's a nuisance, because every van driver sits right on its bumper, taking video footage with one hand and throwing litter out of the window with the other.

It's such a distraction that people lose the ability to think straight. Which means you're there, in that beautiful cabin, with its choke lever and its ashtray, absolutely terrified that some dozy ha'p'orth is going to crash into you.

Happily, this will not be an issue with the new 007 versions of the DB5, because the 25 lucky sods who get one will not be allowed to drive them on the road. Yes, that's right. You cough up £3.3m for a car that you cannot use on the public highway.

It must just sit on your drive. Which, of course, is where a classic car belongs. For getting about, you need a Volvo.
 

93Flareside

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As an owner of an 80s Mercury wagon, he's right. Nice to look at, nice to see it at places, but actually driving it? It doesn't give give me anything back. It never was mean to be a sports car, just a tool like any other family hauler. It gives off memories. I grew up with an Oldsmobile of the same era that my dad bought off his father after my dad got tired of repairs with the Taurus wagon. And now that I write that, I realize that I'm starting to grow up and realize some old cars are meant to just sit. It's a shame really, but it's not because I don't want to drive it, it's because it sucks to drive.

I think the other problem is, I jump from a Mk7 GTI and MK7 golf wagon. Both are nearly the same except one is quick and gives a feeling of sense outside of appliance-mobile while the golf wagon is the useful one carrying tools and helping me with work, that's the appliance. Neither of those give me butt ache after long drives though or eat so much fuel you're certain theres a leak somewhere.
 

Revelator

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Throw down a picnic blanket in a park near you and watch bitter Britain go to war with itself (Aug.16)

Britain is becoming very bitter for some reason. Last weekend I went to the paper shop and remembered most of the things I now need for such a trip: spectacles, phone, hearing aid, tin of boiled sweets, gazetteer and a list of the papers I like to buy when I arrive. But I forgot my mask.

In the olden days, when there was Enid Blyton and local bobbies gave apple scrumpers a clip round the ear, people would have forgiven a 60-year-old for making such a mistake. But not any more. A man leapt from his 10-year-old Toyota to do some remonstrating.

"Do you not need a mask because you're on television?" he bellowed. And he hadn't finished. In fact his lecture, padded out with much profanity, was so lengthy that I never got the chance to interrupt and point out that he wasn't wearing a mask either.

We see this sort of thing all the time. David Beckham has neighbours who say he shouldn't be allowed to make a pond in his garden because "there are too many ponds round here already". They don't actually mean there are too many ponds, because that would be a ridiculous thing to say. What they mean is: "We are disgusted that this man is so much richer and better-looking than us."

Thierry Henry suffered the same fate when he wanted to build a four-storey fish tank at his house in London. Well, not exactly the same fate. No one said, "There are already too many four-storey fish tanks round here," but they did object to his aquarium because he was a good-looking footballer who earned millions by pretending to like Renaults.

Then you have J.K. Rowling, who pointed out that people who menstruate are called "women". She was given a social media machine-gunning for being stupid and naive, and can you work out why? Me neither. And what about Rachel Riley, who attacked antisemitism by making a joke about Jedward, and then had to apologise for the joke? It gets worse. Every August I put out a tweet trying to cheer up kids who got lousy A-level results by explaining that I got a C and two U grades and that I've not really suffered as a result. Until quite recently, people thought this was a kind thing to do, but not any more, because last week, most of the messages I got in return were full of bitter, mealy-mouthed vitriol.

This nastiness has now spread to the nation's parks, where open warfare is being waged between all the groups who like to use them for various different recreational activities.

I visit Holland Park in London very often and I'm always staggered at the variety of things you can do in there. Before Covid-19 came along, you could listen to live opera, or, if you are not an appalling snob, you could choose instead to play chess, or take a walk in the woods, or sit on a bench and look at the squirrels, or do exercises, or play tennis, or have a game of football.

And everyone was able to coexist perfectly. There was no exchange of gunfire between those who liked the Japanese garden and those who did not. And nor did I feel the need to summon the police because I'd been offended by a same-sex couple kissing on a bench.

Today, though, it's like the West Bank in there. Everyone is snarling at everyone else. You even have people vandalising the statue of Henry Vassall-Fox, Lord Holland, whose family had owned the land.

And it's not just Holland Park. In parks everywhere you have joggers at war with cyclists and cyclists at war with people who just want a picnic, and picnickers at war with dog-walkers and dog-walkers at war with families who've broken out the tagine and are cooking a nice merguez casserole for 500 of their closest friends.

Last week we read about a park in Essex where the licensed outdoor gym instructors are going ballistic at their unlicensed competitors, who are making their charges do exercises on a park bench that was erected in memory of Doris, who loved to sit there.

Residents, meanwhile, are "furious" because people locked out of their gyms are "hogging" flights of stairs by running up and down them. And park wardens say that some of the people using the branches of trees to do pull-ups are "pretty heavy", which means the branches may break.

Am I missing something here? We've all been told that if we lose a few pounds we stand a better chance of surviving contact with the coronavirus. So it makes sense to go to the park and spend an hour or two, perhaps in the company of other like-minded souls, doing downward dogs and picking things up and putting them down again.

I can't understand for the life of me why anyone would need a licence to do this, and nor can I understand why such an activity would bother anyone else. Watching a field full of young ladies bending over can be quite charming. Watching a field full of middle-aged men doing the same thing is often hilarious. Either way, it's not annoying. And yet somehow, in new, bitter Britain, that's what it's become.

We seem to be annoyed by absolutely everything. Vegetarians are enraged by people who eat meat. Remainers are enraged by people who voted for Brexit. Poor people are enraged when a rich neighbour applies for planning permission to plant a hedge. There's no tolerance at all. The middle ground has become as alien as Mars. And it's got to stop.

Everyone. Tories, Muslims, young people, the elderly, migrants, rockers, hip-hoppers, Jewish people, vegetablists, white people, bacon enthusiasts, speed freaks, the fat, the fit, the timid, black people, policemen, Christians, vicars and socialists. If we want to live in a happy country, we've all got to come together as one. And gang up on the cyclists.

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It's harvest time and I've come a cropper: The summer months were shaping up to be a time of plenty, but what the agrichemical firms giveth, the weather gods taketh away (Aug. 16)

When I was a small boy I went to a Church of England primary school in a mining village outside Doncaster, and every September we were frogmarched into the local church to thank God for the harvest. But as I sat there, staring at the altar, which was festooned with trugs full of marrows and ears of corn, I always used to think,"God had nothing to do with any of that. It was all produced by Mr Turnbull," who was the local farmer.

God definitely didn't have anything to do with it. In fact, he's done his best over the past nine months to make sure there was no harvest at all. He gave us the wettest autumn since 2000, the wettest February on record, the driest May on record and then, for good measure, the coldest July since 1988. He's fried my crops, frozen them, drowned them and then drowned them again.

So if we are going to thank anyone for the harvest in 2020, might I suggest we sink to our knees and give praise to the giant agrichemical group Monsanto, whose weed-killing glyphosate invention has enabled me to keep my head above water. And while we are at it, let's not forget Syngenta, Bayer and BASF, which make the nitrates and the pesticides. It's thanks to their efforts, not God's, that you're going to have bread on your table this year.

That said, as harvest approached, I was warned by my land agent that despite the heroic efforts of the chem-science boys, the crop yield would be poor. However, on my daily walks, emboldened by the gift of innocence, I would gaze upon my barley and my wheat and my oilseed rape and think, "Well, it all looks fine to me."

And it continued to look fine until, one day, Kaleb, my tractor driver, went out and killed all the rape with a potent cocktail of weedkillers. Apparently this is necessary. Rape has to be dead before you can harvest it. Who knew? Another thing I didn't know is that you can't harvest rape if the moisture content of the tiny seeds is greater than 9 per cent or less than 6 per cent. So if it's been raining, or not raining, or if it's been sunny, or not sunny, you have to wait. Too dry and the crop will be rejected by the buyer because it will be impossible to extract the oil. Too wet and you must spend a fortune drying it out.

There were more complications too. Earlier in the year, when my land agent asked where I was going to store all the harvested crops, I said, "In a bucket." Judging from the incredulous look on his face this was the wrong answer, so I said, tentatively, "In the bath?" This was also wrong. You need a barn — so I built one. It was huge, the kind of thing they use to make airships, but when he arrived to inspect it, he said it would be big enough only to store the rape.

This meant that before harvesting could begin I'd need to organise a fleet of trucks to take away the barley. I'd also need to rent a combine harvester and, although this is not a common problem in farming, book a film crew to cover the event for the Amazon television show I'm making.

This meant I needed an accurate weather forecast, so on the Sunday evening I sat down to watch the BBC's Countryfile show. And in the "what's the weather got in store for the week ahead" segment, the forecaster said high pressure was on its way and we could expect clear skies, temperatures in the mid-twenties and light winds.

The next day it was cold and wet, and I was furious. To you, inaccurate weather forecasts don't matter. The worst consequence is you have to abandon the barbecue you'd planned and move inside, but to a farmer they are critical, so I have a plea to the Beeb's weather people: if you don't know — and at the moment you don't, because the transatlantic pilots on whom you rely for information are all at home learning how to make sourdough bread — admit it.

There's no shame in that. I don't know lots of things. I don't know the boiling point of steel or how to make a roux or who painted Belshazzar's Feast, and I'm big enough to admit to these failings. You should be too.

Especially on a farming show.

The next day I called my neighbouring farmers to say I was going to have a coronary, and they all had the same piece of advice. I had to accept whatever happens, because that's farming. They also said I had to be patient, which is not possible. I can't be patient. It's not in my DNA. It's a bit like telling Nicholas Witchell he has to be a Moroccan cage fighter.

But after a while I'd calmed down to the point where my heart was beating only a million times a minute and then, contrary to what we'd been told in that morning's forecast, we got one of those grey days when it feels like God's put the whole country in a Tupperware box. So we placed a handful of rape seeds in my £500 moisture-o-meter and, after a heart-stopping pause, got the result: 7.2%. Perfection. We could begin.

Except we couldn't, because the trailer I'd bought had hydraulic brakes and my Lamborghini tractor has a system operated by air. Stopping was tricky with nothing in the back, but when I had 12 tons of crop back there, I'd be very much on the wrong side of both the law and the road. So I rented a trailer with air brakes, waited for another unforecasted weather front to pass and then everything began. Again.

And five minutes later I received the news that a whole year of properly hard graft had been a complete waste of time. The combine has a computer that can tell how big the crop is. In a good year I could expect maybe 1.5 tonnes per acre, but the initial figure said I was getting just 800kg. I'd been prepared for bad news, but not that bad. And it was about to get worse.

My job was to wait at the side of the field for a flashing light on the roof of the combine to begin twirling. This would announce that its hopper was 80% full. I'd then rush over and drive alongside the mighty harvester while a fan blew the seeds up a tube and into my trailer.

All I had to do was drive at the same speed as the combine. Simple, yes? No, actually. You need to look where you're going, so you can drive in a dead straight line, but you also need to look backwards to make sure the seeds are going into the right part of the trailer. To do it properly you need eyes on the side of your head. Basically, you need to be a pigeon, and I'm not, which is why, in the first few minutes, most of the miserable quantities that were being harvested were being immediately Onanised back into the ground.

Despite all this, we worked into the night. The next day, when the dew had evaporated and the moisture content was back in the window, we started again until, that evening, my new R101 barn was filled with a big black dune of what was 50% rape and 50% earwigs. Apparently they will be filtered out before you use the oil to make your supper. I hope so.

And then came the real heartbreak. Brexit has buggered my barley. Because no one knows what will happen to international markets after the end of the year, there's a mad scramble to sell barley to Europe before the door is closed. So not only was the yield down by 20%, thanks to God, but, thanks to the coffin-dodgers who wanted to "take back control", prices are down too.

Which is why I'm writing this in Manchester. It's been said that, to make ends meet, farmers must diversify, and I have: later on I shall be recording the first in a new series of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I think I may sit in the wrong chair and get the contestant to ask me the questions.

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Note: Belshazzar's Feast was painted by Rembrandt.
Here's the Sun column: "There’s nothing wrong with causing offence – sometimes it’s even a good thing"
 

Revelator

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The young get Deliveroo and Doctor Who on demand. Now they click 'Yes' for three grade As (August 23)

If you have a generation Z snowflake person living in your house, then you will know that it's possibly the most entitled and spoilt creature to walk on God's green earth. Has it cleaned its room since lockdown began? Helped with the laundry? Paid its way? Not a chance.

I first noticed the trend emerging, like a tentative tortoise head, more than a decade ago, when my youngest daughter watched the first episode of the newly rebooted Doctor Who. She enjoyed it very much, and when it ended, she wanted to watch the second episode immediately.

I smiled the most condescending smile I could muster and explained that, because of the unique way the BBC is run, it wouldn't be possible for a week. She looked as me as though I might be mad, toddled into my office and, after a swift fingery spider dance over the keyboard, was watching episode two in about four minutes. I was flabbergasted.

Since then, life for young people has become an orgy of instant gratification.

The tortoise has shed its shell completely and is leaving a sonic boom in its wake as it tears past the hare, the cheetah and even the extremely speedy elephant shrew. Young people can watch any film they like whenever they want. If they fancy a shag, they just swipe right. They don't have to wait for food to be ready in an oven; they just get out the phone, and moments later anything they fancy is brought to their door.

Meeting up with friends in the 1970s was so complicated I'm not sure how I managed it. You'd need a stack of 10p pieces for the phone box, an A to Z, a carefully detailed plan of how you'd get home and actual cash money. Not any more. Now you can meet friends without even meeting them.

The news is instant. Fake ID cards are instant. Taxis are instant. Shopping is instant. Even drug dealers are instant. Kids don't have to wait for anything, and they never hear the word "no".

And now they've gone up a gear with this A-level results business. Teenagers who were given grades they didn't like simply made some moaning noises, and instantly Her Majesty's government crumbled and said: "OK. You can all have three A*s."

People of my age will be enraged by this. I certainly was. I did very badly in my A-levels because I suffered, back then, from debilitating hay fever. And because I did no revision. But mainly because I'd been expelled 10 weeks before the exams began and already had a job. But, whatever, I did very badly and it never occurred to me that if I applied a bit of light pressure, James Callaghan would give me three As.

There's more. After the local cinema stopped showing Where Eagles Dare, I knew that I would not see it again until ITV screened it at Christmas 10 years later. I knew too that if I wanted to go out with Suzanne Durdy, I'd first have to get dressed up and take her to the Berni Inn.

This is why old people were in a good place when the lockdown began. We were told it might be a few weeks before we could go back to the pub and that we really shouldn't go outside at all. That was going to be a doddle for people who had endured 14 years of food rationing.

And even for baby-boomers such as me it would be a breeze because we'd waited a week for the next Doctor Who and grown up knowing the only way of hearing Curved Air's "Back Street Luv" was to wait until it came on Dial-a-Disc.

For young people, though, lockdown was beyond impossible. I know of many teenagers who lasted only three or four days before they became quivering, drooling wrecks. And mothers, fearful the word "no" would drive their children into the arms of their wayward fathers, encouraged them to have friends round.

Now, as far as I can tell, half of them are in Spain, and will they quarantine when they get back? Well, their parents can explain that 14 days isn't so bad, but here's the thing: 14 days when I was growing up was two weeks; 14 days when you have been brought up in a world where everything is immediate is about five hundred billion years. So no. I guess they'll quarantine for about five minutes before heading off to a rave of some sort.

That's stupid, obviously, but on the flip side, I'm glad our children can have raw tuna delivered at 4am and get a cab shortly thereafter. I'm glad they can see Where Eagles Dare whenever the mood takes them, even if they're on the bus at the time. I'm glad they don't have to go through the Adam's-apple-bouncing embarrassment of having to ask a girl out and that they can live in an electronic, right-on world where old people in bad trousers aren't allowed.

When I was a kid, having a strop about not being allowed an ice cream, my mum used to say: "You can't have a Punch and Judy show every day." And even then I used to think: "Why not?" It is possible to enjoy a fine pie at night without beating yourself with twigs beforehand. And when I go to the pub with my son, I don't feel I must sit there wearing a barbed-wire garter. There's nothing wrong with at least trying to have fun all the time. As parents, we think it is our responsibility to prepare our kids for the trials and the drudgery that lie ahead. But why? Why make them practise for the days when they have to vacuum the sitting room and clean the oven? That's like practising for the day when you develop bowel cancer.

If they are charming and well mannered, why should you care if their room's a tip? You don't have to live in it. And why worry that they are creating a ridiculous world where no one is allowed to judge — not even judges — and you can have any A-level result you want? Because, let's face it, you won't have to live in that either.

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No car or farming article this week, but here's the Sun column: "Robots can’t even fetch slippers, let alone handle steering a car through rush-hour on the M25"
 

93Flareside

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How tone deaf is he?

EDIT

To add more, this fucking asswagon things his generation is the best, listen, your generation thought Brexit was a good idea and on this side of the planet finds an orange buffoon is "just a normal guy like us." Your generation can be conned into pyramid schemes. At least mine didn't create Amway. At least my generation doesn't life as work work work and thats all there is to life. How much of his generation has been known to touch kids? quite a bit. Don't try and say you're better than everyone else when you've got skeletons in your closet.
 
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Revelator

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I think you're misinterpreting the column. Clarkson isn't waging generational warfare. He's pointing out that teenagers today are in the unprecedented position of having everything at their fingertips, and how this can cause a sense of entitlement. But he then writes "on the flip side, I'm glad our children can have raw tuna delivered at 4am and get a cab shortly thereafter" and spends the last three paragraphs saying why. This is one of Clarkson's U-turn columns, where he ultimately dismisses the problem that initially bothered him.
 

dw1

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Please also remember that Jezza is showing his English (and North counties) sense of satire, which tends to be a bit different than on the other side of the pond. Sometimes he writes with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.
Reflexively referring to a noted entertainer and author as "a f**ing arsewagon" because you are cheesed off with something he wrote seems more than a bit gormless. One is not forced to read Mr. Clarkson's work. I personally enjoy his work, even when I disagree (I did and still do think Brexit is a disaster).
 
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Revelator

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While you lot splurge on disco balls, I'm keeping my money, money, money for the apocalypse (August 30)

My great-grandfather was a very wealthy and very typical Yorkshireman. We know this because one day he paused for a few moments outside Harrods before turning to his friend and saying: "I could buy everything in that window. But I'm not going to."

I have certainly inherited that gene, because I get an enormous amount of pleasure by not buying anything, ever. I even get a genuine shiver of excitement by lingering on magazine pictures of speedboats that are for sale and then turning the page. I'm proud that my iPhone has valves and that my car has a tiller. I love that my sofa cover is ripped and that I'm still wearing pants and shirts that were given to me as Christmas presents in the last century.

It seems, however, that I am alone in this, because a study out last week has shown that during lockdown, when I didn't use my credit card at all for three months, everyone else went completely berserk. One person questioned by researchers admitted he had signed up for an expensive online course in how to speak Mandarin, which he hadn't got round to taking. Another said they had bought three disco balls and a ceramic pineapple. A third had bought a 7ft inflatable elephant.

So, people have been sitting around at home, furloughed from a job that probably doesn't exist any more, and to pass the time, they've been wasting money that isn't even technically theirs on stuff they neither want nor need. This may be a sign that everyone is going mad.

Of course, some of this madness may have been caused by lockdown-inspired resolutions. I'm willing to bet a lot of DIY kit was sold, and easels and cookbooks and gym equipment. And I'm also willing to bet that all of it is now in the garage, gathering dust.

I also understand the problem of online shopping, because I've been on Amazon and I know how tempting it is to surf around the place, finding stuff you never see in the shops and then clicking on the "Add to basket" button before hopping off to look at some other suggestions. It's so addictive that before a recent camping trip to Madagascar, my online shopping trolley contained three pairs of action trousers, a sturdy torch, two Bob Seger T-shirts, a waterproof bag, a sun hat, a Leatherman multitool, two books about pirates, a solarpowered phone charger, an inflatable pillow, a pair of James May-cancelling headphones and a microfibre towel.

But here's where you and I differ.

Because instead of feeding in my credit card number and telling the delivery drivers to leave all the parcels in the shed, I went to the checkout, unordered everything and then sat back in a state of utter bliss, knowing that I wasn't going to end up with a skip-load of what is basically landfill.

Some would call this typical Yorkshire meanness. But it isn't. According to one report, about 65% of Yorkshire people often buy gifts for other people, and that's 10% more than the national average. If you want meanness, you have to go to Scotland, where only 38% buy presents. No. What Yorkshire people have is thrift, and I'm sorry but in the coming weeks and months you're going to have to learn to live that way as well.

First things first. Develop a sixth sense for when someone is taking the piss. I'm building a house at the moment and saw in a bill last week that I'm about to spend £1,200 on fixtures and fittings for an outside workman's khazi. I have absolutely no idea how much lavatories and sinks cost, but I know that if they were more than a grand, most of the country would be doing its number twos in the street.

Exactly the same alarm bells go off in my head when I'm in a sunglasses shop. I know that when you select a pair by Ray-Ban, you're supposed to think you're buying a crown jewel, which is why the sales assistant takes out a soft cloth and wipes the lenses as if she's trying to burp a glass baby.

But listen to that inner voice in your head saying that a bit of metal with two lenses cannot possibly cost £150. Then go to the market and find a pair for £8.99 before realising that actually you don't need a pair of sunglasses at all because you're not a pilot and this is Britain.

This is the critical part.

Understanding that there's a massive difference between what you need — which is two shirts, two pairs of trousers and a toothbrush — and what you want. Which is a speedboat. So when you're sitting there, thinking about buying one, consider all the breakdowns you'll have and all the rainy days when you can't use it and all the extra bills for servicing it and fuelling it and keeping it in a marina. Pretty soon you'll know that you'd rather have genital warts.

Want a new car? No, you don't. There's nothing wrong with the one you have now. Need a holiday? Why? You'll only get bitten by something, possibly a dog. And healthcare? Ha. Don't make me laugh. Look at those offices that Bupa has with all those rubber plants. Who's paying for all that? You are, you mug.

You can even convince yourself that not buying something is the morally right thing to do. I saw a painting recently that I liked and now I'm feeling extremely munificent because I left the gallery without it. Which means it's now giving great pleasure to someone else.

I know that at the moment we are being urged, for the sake of the economy, to get out there and spend as much as possible, but if you lose your job in November, which you almost certainly will, you're going to feel a bit foolish if you've got nothing to your name except a cupboard under the stairs full of disco balls, ceramic pineapples and that massive socket set you bought when you thought you'd build your own greenhouse.

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I'm sending out an SOS to bloomin' pop stars: The super-rich are the only people who can be trusted to preserve the countryside, so we must scatter tax breaks across the land (August 30)

There is a sound argument for handing all Britain's countryside and farmland to rock stars and bankers. And then giving them massive tax breaks to help them to run it properly. I'm being serious, because who else would you trust with such a big job? Not the government, obviously.

The government can't be trusted to do anything properly. I mean, all it had to do when it saw the pandemic coming was buy some aprons and some gloves, but somehow it managed to make a mess of it.

It was the same story in Iraq. Our troops desperately needed body armour and bullets and transport made from something stronger than Kleenex, and what they were sent instead was 6,000 pairs of chef's trousers. So there is no way in hell you'd let the government grow food or manage a hillside in Yorkshire.

There was talk by the Labour Party, when Corbyn was in charge, that land should be confiscated from the rich and given to the poor. But that wouldn't work either, because what poor people do when they have a bit of land is use it to store their rusting old cookers and vans.

I'm not sure farmers are the answer either, because farmers need the land to be profitable. So when they look at an agreeable view full of dry-stone walls and bustling hedgerows and ancient woodland, they don't think, "Wow, this is pretty." They think, "Hmmm. I must fire up the bulldozer."

I get that. If you invest a million pounds in shares, you expect some returns, and it's the same story if you invest a million pounds in land. So you're going to squeeze as much as possible from every square inch. Plus, of course, people want cheap food.

But there is a problem with all that. Since the 1930s, Britain has lost 97 per cent of its wild-flower meadows. This is because wild flowers look good on a postcard but terrible on a profit and loss account. There's simply no money in cornflowers and dog daisies, so any farmer is going to replace them with wheat and barley and oilseed rape.

My farm, however, has always been owned by rich people who wanted land for shooting or hunting or avoiding tax. They no doubt saw the act of "farming" as a bit grubby. A bit trade. This means the wild-flower meadows still exist. They were never ploughed up.

I hate flowers. They bore me. But they do not bore everyone. They certainly didn't bore a man who came to my farm earlier this month. He was literally jumping up and down saying that what I have is pretty much seen nowhere else in the whole of the United Kingdom.

Apparently wild flowers don't do terribly well in Mrs Miggins's cottage garden. They need space to thrive, and that's what I have. Six big fields. A total area of perhaps 200 acres, which is chock-full of small scabious, kidney vetch, green-winged orchids, yellow rattle and various other things that sound as if they've escaped from a Victorian book of diseases.

My new friend said it was a staggering natural resource. Which is why I was a bit surprised when he climbed into his Land Rover, attached a small vacuum cleaner to the back and drove up and down the fields, sucking seeds into a hopper.

He then laid out what he'd collected on a giant tarpaulin and invited me to take a closer look. Which is a bit like asking someone with a severe nut allergy to apply for a job with KP. My hay fever went berserk, but in between sneezes, and through streaming eyes, I could see that the haul was moving. It was alive with insects.

I must admit I was excited, because wild-flower seeds at my local garden centre cost about £60 for 100 grams. And I had about half a tonne of the damn things. I therefore rushed home and immediately ordered a Bentley.

However, it turns out that my seeds will not be sold. They will be given away, which is not a phrase the Yorkshire part of my brain likes, or even understands. Apparently, it's all part of a conservation scheme funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which was set up — surprise, surprise — by a wealthy investor in the early Sixties. The idea is that any of my neighbouring farmers who are suffering from eco-guilt can get hold of seeds that are genetically suited to this specific part of the world.

And, I'm told, the system works for me too because, thanks to my generosity, the government may be more inclined, down the line, to look favourably on my requests for public money.

And there's the problem. I don't want jam tomorrow. I want a Bentley today. I want to monetise my marjoram and fleece the bejesus out of my fairy flax. And I want to sell orchid seeds in my shop, like cocaine, only with a higher price tag. This is because I'm not rich enough to be a landowner.

Sting is. He has 800 acres in Wiltshire on which he farms pigs and hens, but not in the way that normal farmers do farming. It's all tantric and aesthetic, because he's not really interested in using the land to make money. He doesn't need to, because every time someone uses "Roxanne" in an advert for panty liners, he can buy another organic jet.

If you think that the land should be given back to nature, and managed sensitively, with insects as the No 1 priority — and I'm beginning to think this way — then it is imperative that Sting is encouraged to buy as many neighbouring farms as possible. I may buy Outlandos d'Amour again this afternoon to help him out, and you should too.

Sting's not alone, either. For a long time, Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull owned a salmon farm on the Strathaird peninsula, on the Isle of Skye. Steve Winwood, of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith, has a chunk of land in Gloucestershire, and Alex James of Blur grows quite the nicest vegetables you've ever tasted on his farm just down the road from me in Chipping Norton. All of them should be given more farmland to play with as soon as possible.

Thirty years ago, if you drove through the countryside on a summer's day, you wouldn't get five miles before your windscreen was spattered with a million dead insects. Not any more. You won't hit one, because there are hardly any left. And that's bad, because without insects there will be no life on earth of any kind.

We need them, and we need hedgerows and ancient woodlands and areas that are boggy and sad. Almost everyone seems to be in agreement on this: we need to put Mother Nature back in the driving seat. And I'm sorry but the only way this is going to be possible is if we hand over control of our land to the super-rich.

The government should therefore consider this suggestion seriously: that we turn Britain's green and pleasant bits into the new Monaco, a tax haven for people who have both the time and the money to do the right thing.

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And here's the Sun column: "I back Harry Maguire because I was also attacked in Greece and cops nicked ME"
 

Revelator

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Messages
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Location
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From 60 years old to teenager in 5 seconds: It might look more at home on a derelict farmyard, but the Range Rover Chieftain is a revamped classic with an age-defying secret (Sept. 6)

Age. It's invisible and insidious and hateful. It's like a sniper, creeping silently through the undergrowth. You aren't aware of it at all until your head bursts open like a dropped watermelon — and then you're dead.

Each day I look at the birthdays column in The Times, and each day I'm incredulous at how old people have become. Zoe Ball, for instance. Yesterday morning she was a kid with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Now she's knocking on the door of 50.

Janet Street-Porter is 73, and that's not possible. Lord Prescott is 82. Gloria Hunniford is 80.

And Sting is 68. That's Sting, the scrawny youth who did "Roxanne" in a parachutist's boiler suit. He is now an old-age pensioner. Meanwhile Dale Winton is so old, he's dead.

Then there are other people's children. One minute they are sitting in a high chair with spaghetti sauce round their mouths, and then, after you turn your back for a moment, they are on Instagram, on a boat, showing off their baby bump.

The problem, I think, is that it takes 20 years for someone to become 20 years old and then about five seconds for them to become 80. Certainly I don't feel now, at the age of 60, that time is ticking away.

I feel as if I'm in the sort of wormhole you see in sci-fi films. I have a birthday every minute or so, and I'm well aware that at the next one I shall reach 61 — the age at which my father died.

I still feel 19, though, so it's always a surprise when I jump over a farm gate and, on landing, find that my knees hurt. And there's no getting round the fact that last night I went to bed with a bottle of milk, having put my spectacles in the fridge.

Every day feels the same as the one before, but it isn't. It's worse, because age is quietly and silently nibbling away at my joints and my head. I know I can run a mile and power-slide a Lamborghini and fly an F-15 and play bicycle polo and serve a tennis ball at 100mph, but, actually, I can't do any of those things. Without noticing it I've become a grey, ghostly echo of what I used to be.

And so it goes with cars. I look sometimes on classic car websites and I imagine what fun it would be to have a 1966 Alfa Romeo GTA. Or perhaps a Lancia Fulvia HF. Or a BMW 3.0 CSL. We like to think that cars haven't really come on at all in the past 50 years, so any of these things would simply be an interesting and better-looking alternative to the charisma-free eco-boxes that populate the showrooms today.

But, deep down, we know that cars have come on. Quite apart from the fact they have air conditioning and satellite navigation and electrically adjustable seats, they are so much more usable than they used to be.

The windscreen wipers are a case in point. In the Seventies they simply didn't work. Sure, they moved backwards and forwards when you pulled the knob, but if you were doing more than 50mph they would be an inch from the screen. And if you were doing less than 50mph they would make a god-awful squeaking noise — the sort of sound a ship makes when it scrapes along a concrete dock.

The heater didn't work either, and the steering was usually so heavy at parking speeds that the wheel felt like Thor's hammer.

But it's the refinement that's changed most. Even the most dismal modern car is brilliant at masking imperfections in the road surface, whereas the cars we remember from our youth were appalling. They lurched and shimmied and rattled and creaked and wobbled and conveyed information about grip to the seat of your pants with the same enthusiasm as a bolshie teenager.

All of which brings me on to the subject of today's column. For some reason the "classic" Range Rover is now regarded as desirable. I don't quite understand this, because, unlike an Alfa Romeo GTA or a Lancia Fulvia HF or a BMW 3.0 CSL, it's not glamorous or rare or even very exciting. It's just old, so I can't see why well-cared-for examples are now changing hands for between £50,000 and £100,000.

I seem to be on my own here, though. I have one friend who has God knows how many of the old cars, and he takes great delight in fitting them with engines from other things. He lent me one the other day that had an Aston Martin V12 under the bonnet. And while it was very interesting, I was happy to get back into my modern Range Rover for the drive home.

Another friend has invested in an engineering firm that does a fantastic job of modernising old Jensen Interceptors, and now it's turned its attention to the classic Range Rover, creating what it calls the Chieftain. "Would you try one?" he asked. And before I'd had a chance to think of an excuse, there it was, in my drive.

It looked silly parked next to the 12-year-old version I use on the farm, and titchy compared with the three-year-old example I use for trips to London, and I couldn't really see why on earth I'd want to drive it anywhere. But, out of duty, I did, and then all weekend I drove nothing else.

First things first. The standard Rover V8 is gone, and in its place is a 6.2-litre V8 you might find in the front of a Chevrolet Corvette. It churns out 430 horsepower, which is fired via a General Motors six-speed automatic gearbox into Land Rover's four-wheel-drive system.

The result is hilarious. You put your foot down, and, with the sophistication of a covered wagon falling down a hill, the gearbox drops a cog or two, the rear end squats and you're off on a headlong charge that will cause all your passengers to ask you to "stop doing that".

JIA — Jensen International Automotive, the firm behind it — has done a remarkable job of making everything not fall off. It has changed the chassis, fitted fully independent suspension and uprated the brakes, but there's no getting round the fact that you don't really drive the finished product. You just hang on.

It was completely intoxicating, and I haven't got to the best bit yet. You can, if you want, have flared wheelarches and snazzy paint, but the car I borrowed was Austin Princess beige and, apart from the wheels, looked completely standard. It didn't even sound particularly amazing, even though it had a hand-built stainless-steel exhaust system.

This meant I could draw other road users in and then leave them open-mouthed in disbelief as my ancient old classic roared off like a jet-propelled space hopper. I haven't done that sort of thing for years, and it made me feel, for the first time in a while, young.

I drove my newer Range Rover this morning, and I felt 60 again. It was depressing, and I sort of want the old one back. There's a price to pay for that, however, and it's £176,400. That's a lot if you look at this as a car. But if you look at it as an elixir of youth, it's the bargain of the century.

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Snappy dress sense, a way with words and a fix for the Scottish question: put Hadrian in No 10 (Sept. 6)

I wonder. When did politicians decide that to get their message across they needed to be catastrophically boring? I bet when Hadrian or any of the great Roman emperors had a road-building policy to announce, there'd have been no talk of "real-term investment" or "family values" or how the present roads were not "fit for purpose".

Instead, the audience would have got swishing togas, the fiery glint of an immense golden brooch and plenty of theatrical document abuse as beautifully manicured scrolls held aloft in the right hand were smashed for effect into the outstretched palm of the left.

This is all a far cry from the hapless education secretary, Gavin Williamson, droning on last week about "hardworking families" and how children faced an "exciting" future at school. Where were the jewels, Gav? Where were the lions and the greased eunuchs? Where was your inner Hitler? Adolf was a master of crowd manipulation. Using nothing but a bit of rhetoric and an early Grateful Dead sound system, he was able to convince the most sensible, down-to-earth people on Earth that they should slip into a pair of cheap boots and invade Russia.

The invention of the televised interview is partly to blame for the new hopelessness. It all began simply enough. You had a reporter who would put on a tie and, after the prime minister had finished speaking, ask, "Is there anything else you'd like to add, sir?" But that's all changed. Now, more often than not, the reporter will say, "What have you got to say for yourself, you useless lump?"

To begin with, politicians dealt with this new-found impudence by taking off their microphones and storming out of the studio. Who can forget the defence secretary John Nott walking off after Sir Robin Day asked him why the public should believe a "here today, gone tomorrow politician"? This policy was quickly adopted by musicians when they weren't treated with sycophancy by the interviewer. The Bee Gees went after Clive Anderson called them tossers — I was kind of with them on that one — and even the mild-mannered badger enthusiast Brian May once walked. But with the notable exception of Harvey Proctor, the former Tory MP wrongly accused of sexual offences, it's not really the done thing for politicos any more. I guess because it looks churlish somehow.

In its place came a policy of not answering the question. Michael Howard perfected this by not answering the same question 12 times. And then came Ed Miliband, who answered five different questions with the same answer. You could see what his tiny mind was thinking. "They only want a soundbite so I'll keep giving them the one I want them to use." That would have worked in the olden days but it most definitely didn't work at a time when the whole interview could be dumped, uncut, onto YouTube. If you watch it, and I do, most days, to cheer myself up, he comes across as a halfwit.

Mind you, not as big a halfwit as Tony Abbott, later the Australian prime minister, who came up with an even more idiotic wheeze. When he was asked an awkward question, he stood there for 28 seconds, nodding.

After this came the policy we have now, which is to think of a simple message and then add unnecessary words. This means that every single MP has ended up sounding like a British Airways stewardess. "Any bread items at all for yourself, sir?" Or a policeman investigating a "male individual" who's been involved in a "road traffic accident", which means a man who's had a car crash.

I watched Matt Hancock last week talking about something or other, and I swear to God that if he'd used exactly the same words while on a train, in a hi-vis jacket, I'd have assumed he was making an announcement about a signal failure outside Peterborough.

I can't help wondering if politicians talk like this when they go to the pub. "A half a pint of exciting beer, please, and have one for yourself and your hardworking family in the community." I suspect they don't, which means that what we see and hear is not real. It's just talking Plasticine in a suit.

That's why we can't be bothered to even try to understand what they're on about. Because it's like listening to vegetable peelings or wallpaper. It's just a noise that happens between Pointless and EastEnders. And that's precisely why our ears prick up when a politician like Donald Trump comes on the television. Because he doesn't sound politician-y at all. He speaks his mind. Sometimes he answers the question. Sometimes he doesn't. He scoffs. He makes stuff up on the spot. He lies. And sometimes he storms off as if he's Maurice Gibb.

We have our own version of that here too. Boris hasn't stormed out of anywhere in a temper yet — apart from Scotland, obviously — but he's up for anything else. Waffling. Making strange animal noises. Talking in ancient Greek. And making references to obscure historical figures that interest only him. Hearing him crop up on a news programme full of other politicians is therefore like hearing someone have sex in the next hotel room. You are compelled to listen.

But consider this. If I had his job and answered questions by squeaking and breaking carrots in half with my forehead and then talking at length, in Latin, about the 1979 VW Golf GTI, you'd quickly come to realise that I'd done no homework and consequently had not the first idea about the subject at hand.

There can be no return to the status quo. We must tackle the real issues here. And in future elect only people who know what they want and have the charisma, the drive and the intellect to go and get it. Even if that means we end up with a bloody great wall between England and Scotland.

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Here's the Sun column: "My plan to save the BBC: Completely abandon scheduled television and don’t make shows that go out 4am Sunday"

An excerpt: "Yesterday, I got a call from a producer at Have I Got News For You, asking if I was free to host the show next month. I can’t, unfortunately, I’m busy making merry with Hammond and May."
 

Revelator

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Messages
432
Location
San Francisco
What every farmer needs: a flamethrower.
Machines make rural life far easier, but even the finest of them can be made better… (Sept. 13)

When you look at a Royal Navy F-35 Lightning landing vertically on an aircraft carrier, you can't help but marvel at the technology that makes such a manoeuvre possible. But I can assure you that when it comes to engineering complexity, a combine harvester makes the fighter jet look like a toaster.

I've peered inside a combine and I've studied many YouTube videos on how they work, but I still reel in awe when I see one cut through a field of wheat and then, in a blur of noise and vibration, somehow manage to separate the grains from everything else.

Explaining how this happens is like explaining witchcraft, but in simple terms you wouldn't want to fall into any of it. There are a lot of knives, a lot of fans, a lot of jiggling and a lot of sensors that tell the driver exactly what's going on.

He knows, for example, precisely how many grams of grain he's getting from each acre of a field, and how wet it is, and, to make sure he can concentrate on that day's Test match, he doesn't even have to do steering. That's all done from space. An F-35 Lightning, meanwhile, has two wings, a joystick and no Test cricket on the stereo.

I will grant you, however, that the jet fighter does look better than a combine. Other things that look better than a combine include most wheelbarrows, your chest freezer, the marabou stork, the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Kim Jong-un's hair.

This is an issue that runs throughout farming. There's been a small amount of effort made in recent years to give tractors a bit of snazziness, but everything else is designed to do a job and put on sale. Even vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are styled these days, but agricultural equipment? No.

It's true that farmers like kit.

They like a new toy and a new gadget, but they also don't want to throw away cash on superficial flimflam. They don't, for instance, want their cultivator to have a spoiler or alloy wheels, because they know farming equipment is regularly bashed into gate posts and dragged through mud, and that it often lives outside, in all weathers, becoming rusty and stiff, until one day it has to be welded back together again by a cross-eyed 16-year-old halfwit.

All of which brings me onto my seed drill. This is a machine that makes even the combine look as simple as a wooden bench, because it can deliver seeds into a field at precisely the right intervals and at precisely the right depth. It even turns off two of the drills every so often to create a series of "tramlines" of unplanted earth, which the sprayer can drive along when the crop starts to grow. What's more, it's all controlled by a laptop in the cab, so it's far more sophisticated than your iPhone, and yet it looks like the sort of thing you'd find in a Bangladeshi scrapyard.

If Cyrus McCormick, the 19th-century inventor of the reaper — widely regarded as the first bit of mechanised farming equipment — came back today and saw what was parked in my yard, he'd assume humankind hadn't advanced by even an inch.

I have a mole that allows me to feed water pipes into the ground and then bury them as I drive along. It's simple and clever and about as attractive as a genital wart. I also have a topper, which works brilliantly but has exactly the same styling you get on a heating-oil tank.

I've seen footage of a flamethrower being towed behind a tractor and I immediately wanted one, because who wouldn't want a flamethrower attachment? I'd have one on my ironing board if I could. But this one looked as if it had been made out of scaffolding poles and cow bells.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that a lot of farming equipment has been designed by farmers themselves. And you only have to look at a farmer's three-piece suite to know that aesthetics rarely feature in his list of "important things". He just wants somewhere to sit down, so that's what he buys. This is a man who thinks uPVC windows make sense.

The farmer doesn't care what you think of his shoes, which is why he wears big plastic boots with metal toecaps. He wears overalls that make him look fat. He cuts his hair by dipping it annually into his combine harvester and he continues to wear an oily tie that he found, 15 years ago, holding the leaf springs on his trailer together.

He even manages to make his quad bike look dull and practical. Elsewhere in the world quad bikes are purple and have stripes, but here in England's green bits they have narrow wheels and mittens on the handlebars and they look like the sort of thing that was used to mow the grass at Biggin Hill in the summer of 1940.

There is, however, an exception to all this. The JCB telehandler, a machine with a telescopic arm that can lift and move heavy loads. I managed to go for 59 years without one in my life, and now I have no idea how.

Yesterday I used it to transport crates of empty bottles to my new water-bottling plant and, even though it's me we're talking about, and I'm neither practical nor careful, I didn't drop one. It's as gentle, then, as an eye surgeon's bedside manner.

This morning I used it to take stone to the new dam I still haven't finished, and later I'm expecting a delivery of rape that will need to be stored in the barn. This evening, after I've used it to shovel the wheat into a neat pile, load some barley onto a truck and fetch some logs, I shall go to the pub in it, then tomorrow I will put a pallet on the forks and raise a child high into the apple trees to collect the hard-to-reach fruit. Apparently you're not supposed to use it for this purpose, but I can't see why.

Like all farming equipment it is extremely clever and very strong. You know when you pick up a matchstick? Well, that's how the telehandler feels when you use it to pick up a rock the size of a skyscraper. You're sitting in the air-conditioned cab, making tiny Neil Armstrong thruster movements on the joystick, and with no discernible effort at all it is rearranging geology.

It took God six days to make the world and we're all supposed to be impressed by that. But a telehandler could smash it up again in two. The machine I'm using can lift three tons 50ft in the air and not feel even remotely troubled by it.

And here's the best bit. Unlike anything else in the farmer's barn, it's as cool as the kit they used on Thunderbirds. It looks as if it were designed by someone who has a Poggenpohl kitchen and furniture made in Denmark. It is the best of both worlds, then: something you want and something you need. And now, because I'm not a proper farmer yet, I'm tempted to fit it with flamethrowers modelled on the guns in Aliens, and maybe some lasers.

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Chris Whitty's science says, 'Stay indoors and hide.' My science says, 'What a load of tripe' (Sept. 13)

The government's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has your life, your children's future and Boris Johnson's testicles in his hands. This makes him the most powerful man in the country right now. And, possibly, the most dangerous. When the coronavirus first appeared on the scene, there was a genuine sense of panic, and many were reassured to hear that Boris was following carefully considered scientific advice from a respected epidemiologist such as Whitty. Better, in tough times, to be guided by someone who knows what he's talking about than someone who can't always tuck his shirt in properly.

Now, of course, our priorities have changed. Yes, after a prolonged lull, Covid staged something of a comeback last week, but as the number of deaths has dropped dramatically, there's no great worry at the moment that the NHS will be overwhelmed or that your fat dad won't make it to next weekend.

There is, however, a very great worry that the economy is on the brink of collapse and that if we end up with five million on the dole, there will be some troubling social unrest. Boris, therefore, doesn't want to cancel Christmas or employ busybodies to make sure their neighbours aren't having too many friends round. Quite the opposite. He wants us all to go to the office tomorrow, and to the theatre as soon as possible. He wants to see town centres full of people and schools full of kids doing something other than washing their bloody hands.

But he can't say any of that too loudly, because if he does, Whitty will resign, and that's quite the last thing the Tories need right now. Having a disgruntled ex-wife telling all your friends that you squeak like a bat when you make love is bad. But having a disgruntled former chief medical officer telling everyone who'll listen that if we ditch the social distancing and abandon facemasks, there'll be a second spike and millions will die in screaming agony is far worse. And can you even begin to imagine the brouhaha if it turns out he's right? Boris will no longer be a simple racist in the eyes of the left. He'll be a murderer too.

This means we are paralysed. The rest of the world is coming out from behind the curtains and opening up its patisseries and beaches, but here the universities are closed, the civil service is barely functioning, there's no plaster for your kitchen extension and we are being led by a group of people who are terrified of not doing what Whitty wants. Which is for you to spend the rest of your life avoiding your parents and only having sex with yourself.

To make things even more complicated, Boris really did say, very often, that following the science was the right thing to do. This means people are bound to ask: "So why isn't it the right thing to do now?" I'll tell you why. Following science is a fool's errand, because science is like mercury. You can never quite get hold of it properly. You think you have it nailed, and then you learn something that proves you don't. The Earth is flat, eugenics will be the death of us all, an ice age is coming, thalidomide is the cure for morning sickness, there are canals on Mars, Pluto is a planet, light propagates through a medium called the aether, California is an island and the planet is expanding.

Scientists told us all these things over the years, and then along came more scientists who said that the original scientists were wrong. As Albert Einstein once said: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

Stephen Hawking was not stupid. He was generally considered to be the brightest physicist for a generation, and he spent the first half of his life working on a theory about singularities and event horizons and the beginning of everything. And the second half proving himself wrong.

This is why I always roll my eyes when a global warmingist tells me that she has science on her side. Yes, the vast majority of scientists are in agreement that man's fondness for electricity is causing global warming and that this is a bad thing. But it's virtually certain that the scientists will change their minds. It's what scientists do.

There is no such thing as "proof" in science. Just "evidence". And so we are sitting here, trying to drink through a paper straw and then walking to the shops for some sustainable yoghurt, and maybe that's wrong. Maybe global warming is a good thing and we are actually holding back a bright new dawn.

The quest for scientific discovery is never-ending. You have a theory. You find clues that suggest your theory is right. You invite your peers to study your workings-out, and if they agree that you have a point, your theory becomes fact. Until another fact comes along that shows it to be nonsense. The only truth in science is that there are no truths. Ever.

And yet here we are, stultified by scientific research into Covid that's already six months out of date. Everything has moved on. New questions are being asked. Some are saying that herd immunity in Sweden seems to be working. Others are wondering out loud why India has such a low mortality rate. Could vegetarianism have something to do with it? Or are they just not adding up the numbers properly? Time and patient study will reveal all the answers, and then further time and further patient study will prove those first answers to be wrong. And in the midst of all this debate and research there will be the legacy of Whitty. Thanks to him, Great Britain will be a ruined and bleak grey rock in the North Sea, its toothless people lining up in wartime coats outside soup kitchens, its industry gone, its financial hub home to nothing but foxes and deer, its theatres dusty and broken. And on its tombstone: "We followed the science."

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And here's the Sun column: "At Extinction Rebellion newspaper print protests the police did what they do best: Nothing"
 

Revelator

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Messages
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Location
San Francisco
All you need now is a matching headscarf
The Clarkson Review: McLaren GT
(Sept. 20)

Last month in Wiltshire a car crashed into the side of a house, rolled over and caught fire. All four of the young men inside died. Naturally there was a terrible outcry among the locals, who say the stretch of A4 on which the young men were travelling is often used as a "race track". Some now want the speed limit on that section reduced to 30mph. And soon the road safety charities will emerge to demand that the legal age at which a person can drive should be raised to 58.

Me? Well, while I have no idea what caused the crash in Wiltshire, I think we must accept that young men will always drive too quickly. The figures are grim. Young people make up only 7 per cent of UK licence-holders but represent more than 20 per cent of drivers killed or seriously injured in crashes: 279 young people died on Britain's roads in 2017; the same number again in 2018.

If you are male and aged between 17 and 24, you are the most at risk. You are also the least likely to look at those numbers and imagine, for one moment, that they mean you. Telling young men to slow down is like telling them not to make a mess of their bedsheets at night. It's a waste of breath. I know this because I was one once.

I drove everywhere flat out. Every other car was either a competitor or a nuisance. And the A40 into London wasn't a trunk road, it was a drag strip, where I could prove to my mate that my Volkswagen Scirocco was faster than his Vauxhall Chevette HS. The powers that be could have imposed a 20mph limit and it wouldn't have made any difference. I still would have gone down there at 110mph.

Only when we accept the simple fact that teenage boys have no sense of their own mortality can we sit down and calmly decide what's for the best. Which is to encourage them to drive much better cars than they do at the moment.

A teenage boy is always limited by whopping insurance premiums and a shortage of funds, so he has to tool around in a rot-box that was designed long before any of the recent advances in safety came along. As often as not, you, the parents, will actually buy him a car such as this. Which means you're putting a person you love, and who is genetically programmed to be an idiot, into a car that has the crashworthiness of a carrier bag. You may as well lace his dope with strychnine and stick pins in his condoms.

All of which brings me on to another dreadful case that was in the news recently. An 18-year-old boy crashed his BMW 118d in Buckinghamshire and, sadly, one of his passengers was killed.

Interestingly, the judge, who handed the driver a six-month suspended prison sentence, blamed the parents, saying: "The buying of that BMW was the crassest decision that any of us will ever witness. The defendant had only just passed his test and the decision to buy him a BMW … for a new driver of his age, was a crass one, to put it mildly."

Of course the newspapers picked up on this, describing the BMW as a "sports car". But it isn't a sports car. It's a diesel hatchback. A G-Wiz is more of a sports car. So is my frying pan. A 118d is exactly the sort of car young men should be driving. Modern, so it has all the right safety features; a diesel, so it's slow and cheap to run; and a BMW, so the young man can get his leg over more often.

I wish to God I had bought my son a BMW 118d instead of a Fiat Punto. And I hope if the judge has boys heading in a monosyllabic haze towards the age of 17, he too considers the Beemer. Because having the option to do that and choosing instead to go for a clapped-out Vauxhall Corsa? Trust me. That's not crass. That's moronic.

Ordinarily I'd now find a neat link from this rather sombre point to the McLaren GT, but there isn't one, so let's just plough on.

GT stands for grand tourer and if you're in the business of writing about cars or preparing the showroom brochures, you'll know this means a car that is capable of driving in sublime comfort, at high speed, across a continent.

It's a lovely idea. All Chanel and headscarves and stopping off at the Villa d'Este hotel. But no one actually does it any more. If you want to go to Lake Como now, you charter a jet and then get some Italian Herbert in a Mercedes S-class to meet you in the general aviation terminal.

McLaren, however, weirdly believes that grand touring is still a thing, and, what's more, it also believes that the people who do it want an alternative to the Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin DB11. It reckons that, instead of 2+2 seating, a big engine in the front and rear-wheel — or perhaps four-wheel — drive, people want a grand touring supercar. This is niche thinking.

So what it's done is tinkered with the supercar format and made an engine that isn't as tall as usual. This means there's space on top of it, in a compartment between the explosions and the sun-blasted rear window, for some golf bats or skis. There's also a small trunk at the front for underwear and toothbrushes.

Inside there are two seats and a cab that is not daunting at all. Unlike the interior of a Ferrari, which is ridiculous, the McLaren GT feels like … like a car.

This is a good thing. It drives like a car too. There are no histrionics. The exhaust doesn't crackle and pop, you don't graze the nose every time you run over a pebble and there's never a sense you're about to hit a tree.

That said, it's not boring or ordinary. The steering system is about as beautiful as any I've experienced and the speed is immense. But then it would be, because this is a car weighing less than 1½ tons, with a 612bhp twin-turbo V8 behind your left ear.

There is a problem, though.

Ever since the template for mid-engine two-seaters was laid down by the Ferrari 308, it's been nigh-on impossible to make one that is anything less than stunning. Yet, somehow, McLaren has managed it, and got the front end all wrong. It looks limp.

There's an even bigger issue if you own one, because history has taught us that McLarens do not hold their value terribly well. But, hey, if you want a grand tourer that doesn't have four seats and that has its engine in the middle rather than the front, and you have a problem with Bentley and Aston Martin, for some reason, and you still drive every week to the south of France, and you don't mind a bit of eye-watering depreciation, the GT could be just what you're after.

At the very least you'll be able to watch its stablemate doing battle at weekends with the Racing Points. Which is more than can be said of Ferrari.

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Britain already has a rule of six: grousing, griping, moaning, groaning, whingeing and wailing (Sept. 20)

In the run-up to the last general election we were all assured, many times, that the Conservatives had an "oven-ready" deal on Brexit. But it seems that, when they opened the packaging, they found that actually it was full of mould, subterfuge and razor blades.

Like everyone else in the world, I cannot get my head round the detail of the issues, but, also like everyone else in the world, I'm aware of the fact that to solve it, Britain says it may have to break international law. And, naturally, this has caused all sorts of wailing, with everyone explaining that if we openly go down this road, it will shatter our reputation around the world for fair play, cricket and decency.

Ha. I think we probably shattered that when we established concentration camps. Or when we tricked the Germans into believing they'd captured a high-ranking American general when in fact they only had a corporal called Cartwright Jones. Or when we torpedoed the Belgrano.

Around the world, the British are not known for fair play and decency. We just like to think we are. What we are actually known for is Diana, Princess of Wales, and Manchester United, and if we are not very careful we will also become known for moaning. Every single person I spoke to last week has moaned about the new rule of six. They want to know what happens if they bump into friends in the pub and why they can't go on a family picnic unless they bring some guns to shoot grouse.

If you stand back and think calmly for a moment, you can see that Boris Johnson has rather cleverly created a new rule that limits social distancing but allows you to go out with a couple of mates and, better still, keeps the rural economy going by allowing the shooting of airborne food.

What he's actually saying is, "Don't be an arse", and that makes sense to me. It's the only rule a country needs. But absolutely everyone else sees the rule of six as the perfect opportunity to lean over the garden fence and have a good old moan with their neighbours.

And when they've finished with that, they can start to moan about how London's bridges really are falling down and how no one's doing anything about it, and then, of course, they can toast the going-down of the sun with a good old whinge about how they had to drive 40 miles for a Covid test.

This month a decent man won a million pounds on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and I thought this might make people happy. Fat chance. Instead, they all moped around moaning about how "it's all right for some".

Literature and history would suggest that, in the past, British people didn't behave like this. I once made a military documentary about the near-suicidal raid on the port of St Nazaire and I recall one of the interviewees said of the battle: "I remember Johnny Proctor lying there, leg blown off, cheering us on ... "

That's what we like to think of as British. Stiff upper lip. Keeping calm and carrying on. But I wonder — is that an illusion created by the fact that history has recorded the views and achievements only of those in charge? People who had usually spent their childhood being buggered and birched at a barbarian prep school, in readiness for the day when their leg exploded? If you hadn't been to a school like that, it's possible you would have been extremely upset about your limb becoming detached, so you'd lie there, sobbing and begging for your mother and saying: "Why me?" But no one was listening to you. You were unimportant.

We all know that, on HMS Victory, Nelson was standing there with his missing eye and his stump, making all sorts of stirring speeches about how England expected every man to do his duty. And we sort of assume that, below decks, his men were cut from the same cloth. But were they? Maybe they were actually moaning about how the cannon balls were too heavy.

Likewise, in the Second World War, we've been told about Winston Churchill's rousing rhetoric and we imagine the bomb-ravaged East End was full of cheery Cockneys shaking their fists at the Heinkels and singing uplifting songs about how Hitler had only one ball. Certainly the clipped newsreel commentators of the time suggested that this was so: "Here's a plucky chap digging for victory and carrying on."

But maybe the chap wasn't digging for victory. Maybe he was actually digging through the rubble of his flattened house to find his dog. Maybe he wasn't feeling at all plucky, but we'll never know because, back then, no one was recording the views of what we must now call Britain's hard-working families.

Today, though, things are different.

Television reporters love conducting a vox pop and, without fail, every single person they approach will find a way to moan about whatever's being discussed. Everything is "disgusting".

And then we have Twitter, which is a constant downpour of fury, misery and complaint. You almost never read a British person on there saying what lovely weather we've been having or what a tremendous pub lunch they've just had. It's all just Tripadvisor one-star gloom.

Doubtless, thousands objected to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's proposal to build a railway from London to Bristol, and I bet it was the same story when plans were unveiled for the M1. But this complaining would only ever be heard, quietly, in the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck. Whereas now, with Twitter and 24-hour vox pop news, we hear every squeak of complaint about the HS2 high-speed railway.

Could it be, then, that the Australians have been right all along? We really are a bunch of whingeing Poms? I hope so, because then we can ditch this fair play and decency thing and do what the Greeks are doing. We can put our masks on so we can concentrate fully on ignoring everything the EU says.

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And here's the Sun column: "A task force to fix a bridge? Why can’t this Government ever do anything?"
 

Revelator

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Name That Sitar Song and Spot the Vegetable — it's how I'll get my kicks in the lockdown without end (Sept. 27)

For many decades, yoga enthusiasts and hippies have said that instead of worrying about the past or planning for the future, we should all sit crossed-legged on the floor and, with our eyes half closed, live entirely in the moment. Hmmm. I'm sure this works if all you have to do all day is wonder whether it's time to boil the commune a new hoe, but it's hard to live in the moment when you have the kids to pick up at four and a party that night and a board meeting in the morning. Normal people need to plan ahead.

However, I'm afraid that for the foreseeable future, there is no point in planning ahead, because you won't be going to the Caribbean this Christmas and you won't be going skiing next February and there's a very good chance that all those weddings and sporting events that are in your diary for next summer won't be happening either.

Your future, then, has gone. And so has your past. Those sweaty nights in underground dives, pogoing to Sham 69.

Singing about Spurs in the Shed End. Raucous nights in the pub. Civilised post-theatre dinners at the Wolseley. Rosé-drizzled lunches at Club 55. Soaking up the sick with a late-night kebab. You're not getting any of that back for a while, that's for sure.

So if we can't plan for the future and we can't live in the past, the only place we can be is in the here and now. This means pausing for a moment to enjoy the call of a wood pigeon and masticating lazily over every mushroom. We must do as the hippies do and wonder for hours if grass can think. Then we must take up the sitar and learn to play the sort of song in which there's only one note every two weeks.

To try to prepare myself for this, I decided last Sunday to go to Devon. I had no plans and nothing in mind. I didn't even check the traffic reports, which is why I spent most of the afternoon in a jam caused by the closure of the M5, wondering why no one has built a bridge over the Avon since Victorian times.

Many, many hours later I arrived in Branscombe, where I deliberately left my phone in the car and went to the beach. It's one of the prettiest spots in Britain, and the weather was lovely, and I didn't want to spoil the moment by endlessly checking Twitter to see how Chelsea were getting on.

The trouble with British beaches, though, is that they're rubbish. Everyone is always fat and white and revolting, and, unlike Italians, who stride out of the sea looking like gods, we come out as though we only learnt to walk five minutes ago. Plus, we don't do beach bars.

I began by looking at the sea, and then I threw a few pebbles into it, and then, after spending three hours waiting for three minutes to pass, I went back to the car to see how Chelsea were getting on.

The next day, with nowhere to go and nothing in particular to do, I drifted like a dandelion seed into the hotel's vegetable garden and tried to identify as many of the plants as possible. I got the tomatoes right, because they had tomatoes growing out of them, and everything else wrong. So then I sat down and spent five minutes wondering if the cows in a faraway field were happy. Then the next five minutes wondering if they were perhaps horses. Then I did some emails.

The problem is that I'm impatient, so telling me to savour the moment is useless. I can't do it. Ask me to watch a butterfly flitting about and I'll sit there wondering if The Grand Tour could build a bridge over the Avon and what sort of housewarming party I want and why women in Hollywood films can never hold guns properly.

And it's torture to sit there, knowing that all these things — movies, parties, and so on — are in the past and that, for now, we must all spend our afternoons wondering whether our cucumber sandwiches have been cut with a silver or a steel knife.

I went that afternoon to Somerset and ended up in a restaurant where the menu was full of kale and beans. I ordered a plate of cheese, determined to spend an hour or so teaching myself to identify the subtleties. But the first bit I tried tasted as though it had been soaked in diesel oil, so I spat it out and spent the next half-hour wondering what Keir Starmer would look like if he had Jean-Claude Van Damme's hair.

Then, after not being able to work out how steamrollers work, I ordered a glass of sparkling chardonnay because it was on the menu and I couldn't think of anything that sounded worse. I was wrong. Cheese soaked in diesel is worse. But only just.

I shall be honest. I actually enjoyed my Brownian weekend in the same way as I enjoy a lazy Sunday morning with nothing but the papers and a jug of coffee. I enjoy these things because I know that they will end and frantic activity will resume. This time, though, frantic activity will not resume. I'm going to be naming vegetables and thinking about Ravi Shankar next weekend as well. And the one after that.

It's been said that time is the greatest gift we have, and that's true, but time itself is useless. Time is merely a conveyor belt on which we stand while doing things that make us happy. Watching the conveyor belt itself is pointless.

So, yes, the lockdown that lies ahead may be necessary to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, but I fear that only the stupid and the inert will survive it with their minds intact. The rest of us will come out on the other side as frazzled and as mad as a box of dogs.

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I've turned around my little shop of horrors: With a little help from his friends, Jeremy Clarkson is selling more than just chard and rhubarb on his farm. Cow juice, anyone? (Sept. 27)

This year I will produce probably 300 tons of wheat, 700 tons of barley and 250 tons of oilseed rape. And I'll almost certainly make a loss on every single ounce.

The cost of preparing the soil and buying the seeds and planting them and buying the fertiliser and pesticides and fungicides and then hiring a combine harvester to collect the crops and then storing them in a big fan-heater to dry them is greater than the market will stand. Put simply, it costs more to make your bread than you're prepared to pay.

It's the same story with my trout and my hens, and it's especially the same story with my lambs. Right now I'm faced with a choice of selling them as they are or paying for some supplementary feed and selling them later, all fattened up. I've done the maths and either way I lose exactly the same amount of money.

This is why so many farmers are opening farm shops. They make sense, because the food goes from farm to fork through no middlemen at all. And you, the customer, can buy your lunch from the field in which it was grown. People seem to like that.

Naturally I leapt onto the bandwagon and, earlier this year, built a small unheated stone barn with a view to selling whatever happened to be in season at the time. Lovely. Very Italian. But when the shop opened, the only thing that was in season were the potatoes.

Then Covid-19 came along, which meant I had to close the doors, and when I opened them again, in late June, all the spuds had gone to seed. It was a disaster.

And virtually nothing else was ready to be picked. The apples were tiny sour bullets, the wasabi was string, the vegetables were barely out of the ground and my water-bottling plant was still just a pipe dream. Actually, scratch that: it was only a pipe.

So I had to buy stock from other farmers, who also have farm shops, which may turn out to be bad business. I also had to contact local wholesalers, which is why, on the day of the grand reopening, we had a basket full of what I'm selling as Cotswold pineapples. And two avocados, which Lisa ate because she's a girl and no girl can walk past an avocado without eating it.

I desperately want to sell what I'm growing but even when it's all ready, I'm not sure it's stuff people want to buy. I mean, who wants an ear of corn? Or a bit of rape? It'd be like buying a cog when what you need is a car. In order, then, to turn these raw materials into what you'd recognise as food, I'd need to build some kind of factory.

I did the sums on that and the cost of the factory, plus the cost of fitting it out with ovens and stainless steel drums with dials on the side — all food factories have those — and staff in crisp white uniforms and masks, means each loaf of bread would have to cost approximately £15,000. My beer, meanwhile, would be £36,000 a pint and my trout paté £400 a gram.

What I could sell, however, at a reasonable cost and straight away, was the honey from my 250,000 bees. So I went to the hives, collected the supers, spun the trays and after two days had enough to fill the boot of my Range Rover. This was excellent, apart from the fact that all of it sold in less than two hours and there won't be any more for weeks.

It's much the same story with the sausages. My tractor driver, Kaleb, keeps some pigs and from time to time turns them into bangers that are quite simply the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. I sold four to one couple who came back the next day to get some more, and were noisily disappointed to find I'd sold out and wouldn't be getting any more until next year.

That's the thing about selling seasonal products on a small scale.

It is extremely inconvenient for the customer. Today, for instance, I have rhubarb, but you'd better hurry if you fancy some because I only have eight stalks and there's no chance of a top-up until May.

I do have plenty of chard, though, which to begin with wasn't selling at all. It turns out that people round here (including me) don't know what chard is, so I'm now calling it spinach and it's flying off the shelves. That's probably illegal.

There are other issues. I accidentally built the barn about as far away from a power supply as it's possible to get, so I've had to run an extension flex to a nearby caravan site. The water comes from there too. There are no lavatories and one of the fridges I bought — for £1, so I can't really complain — sounds like a Foxbat jet.

On the upside I've installed a milk-dispensing machine. It's brilliant. You bring your own bottle, put it in a little glass box, where it's cleaned, and then, after you've put a pound in the slot, you get a litre of extremely delicious chilled cow juice. Milk 24/7 sounds great, and it is, but as the machine cost £6,000, I'm going to have to sell 10,500 pints to pay for it. That's a prospect even Asda would find daunting. And it doesn't even include the cost of the milk.

The funny thing is, though, that since the shop opened, all sorts of people have come along to ask if I can sell the stuff they're making in their sheds and on their allotments and in their back rooms, and, bit by bit, the shelves have been filling up with all sorts of tasty comestibles.

There's a woman who makes cakes and another who does sausage rolls and a man who came round with the best tomato juice I've ever tasted. There's even a rock star in the area who does cheese and, what's more, as the after-effects of Covid-19 begin to bite and more people lose their dreary office jobs, I suspect I'll have an even greater local pool of artisans to draw on.

But for now trade is brisk, the feedback is good and I've even taken on a shop girl to help out. I did the maths last night and I reckon that, with a fair wind, I'll lose only about £500 a month on the project.

It'll probably be more, though, because when the council gets back to work properly, it's bound to drop round and say I'm breaching some kind of bylaw, or that I must install lavatories, or that the roof is the wrong shape.

Or it could be that people will realise that while a farm shop is a great place to buy scotch eggs during a pandemic, it's probably better in normal times to stick with a supermarket, where you can also get batteries and shaving foam and wine. And avocados, obviously.

I hope not, because while farm shops are not a solution to the desperate financial problems facing farmers, they do mean that the poor chap will be going bust a bit less quickly than if he sold his stuff to Lidl. And they are also a genuinely nice place to buy bloody good food.

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And here's the Sun column: "There is a war our squaddies could fight… one to save rhinos from extinction"
 

Perc

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I’m looking forward to your posts every tuesday. Thanks for keeping it up. Would be nice if everyone that reads this thread clicks the Like button to let @Revelator know his work is appreciated. 👍🏻😊
 

Revelator

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Thanks very much! Glad you guys are enjoying the columns. I'm amazed that Clarkson has been able to write multiple columns a week for so many years without growing stale. He's mentioned that one of his influences as a writer was Auberon Waugh, the legendary columnist (and son of Evelyn).
 
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