Clarkson's Sunday Times Columns

Revelator

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I'll be dammed if I can hold this flood back: Streams on my land are too full of rainwater and my attempt to stem the tide is going downhill (March 14)

Storm Darcy, or Brian, or Enid, or whatever the last bit of bad weather was called, is only part of the perfect storm that's currently causing half of Britain's farmers to think about selling up and doing something more rewarding. Like being a town crier. Or a lamplighter.

They are no longer allowed to spray what's necessary onto their crops, which means their barley is 9 inches tall and the same colour as a Royal Navy destroyer. Then there's Brexit, which has screwed half their markets, and Covid-19, which means their fields are full of bewildered townies shouting "Fenton!" at the top of their voices as their dogs tear around eating sheep and knocking over walls.

The government is not helping either as farmers have been told that if they want any income at all in future, they're going to have to stop growing food and turn their land into a sort of eco theme park for the uninterested children of Britain's delusional Guardian readers.

On top of all this, vegetarianism has gone from being a niche-interest activity for sixth form socialists to a mad nationwide craze — like clackers and pet rocks. Farmers, then, spend all their lives making their cows happy and are then lambasted from all quarters for having cows in the first place. Small wonder that on average one farmer commits suicide every three weeks in England and Wales.

And I suspect that number is about to become even more troublesome because we were all promised global warming, which doesn't sound so bad. Everyone likes a warm day. But what we got instead is a nationwide soaking. These days, barely a month goes by in the winter without some rainfall record being broken. February 2020 was the wettest ever. And in parts of England and Scotland, this January was twice as wet as normal. That's irritating for most people but for farmers it's catastrophic.

And to make matters worse, our esteemed leaders have decided to design floodwater defences so that farms are sacrificed to protect the three-piece suites of people in towns and cities. And are farmers compensated for this? Ha. You're having a laugh. There are proposals but for now they simply take one for the team and then the team throws excrement at them for selling meat.

I've been told that to help I should dam the streams on my hilltop farm because water held in ponds here is not able to enter the houses of people who live downstream. And being a good citizen, I've spent the past year doing just that.

I like damming streams. As a kid, we'd holiday in Swaledale and I'd spend all day in the river outside Muker, trying to block the water's path with stones and rocks. It was an entirely pointless pursuit then and it's an entirely pointless pursuit now.

Water is relentless. It's a Terminator. It absolutely will not stop looking for a weakness, and when it finds one it's not happy to escape in slow motion. It wants to get cracking in one big rush. It took me six attempts to block the path of one stream and I succeeded in the end only after buying ten tonnes of stone, 14 big sacks of cement, two men, a sluice gate, a digger and a massive pump.

For the next stream I got super serious. I pulled on my Hoover hat and went berserk, creating a scene that Sam Mendes could have used if he'd decided to make 1918. Huge escarpments were created, mighty trees were felled, the air was thick with diesel smoke and the sound of hydraulic power waging war with nature. The lake that all this created is 70ft long and maybe 30ft wide, and I felt proud because the water it contained could not be coming out of the plug sockets in your house.

Sadly, however, I was underthinking the problem because Oxfordshire is currently a building site. When I first moved here 25 years ago, the half-hour drive to the motorway was pretty and green and full of leaves. Now it's like driving through Surrey.

Every village is ringed with new-builds and the city of Oxford is now bigger than Los Angeles.

So let's do some maths. In January 2.2 inches of rain fell in Oxfordshire; so, if the roof of your house is 20 feet wide by 50 feet long, this means that 1,142 gallons of water fell on it. That's a lot.

And there are plans to build 28,000 new houses in and around the city in the coming years. Which means that every year, more than 300 million gallons of water that would normally seep into the earth gradually are cascading down gutters into drains and into rivers. Which means they'll become raging vindictive monsters.

And remember, in addition to the problem caused by roofs, you've got the driveways and the roads and the decked gardens to think about. Britain's getting wetter and soon there'll be nowhere for the extra water to go.

I see the effect already on my farm. I recently built a small barn. It's maybe 40 feet long by 80 eeft across. And outside it is a newly concreted yard. It all looks very smart, but in January more than 3,000 gallons of water that should have seeped through the brashy soil shot through the drainage system and straight into my streams.

I did a flow test the other day and couldn't quite believe the findings. In the summer about two million litres of water were flowing down one stream each day. Last week it was handling five times that amount.

Ordinarily there are about 15 little springs on the farm. Now there's one big one. Water is leaking from literally every pore. And the effect on my new big pond has been dramatic because the 4 inch outlet pipe simply can't cope. Water levels consequently rose until the banks were breached, and that meant my trouts escaped. So if you're reading this in Oxford and one of them swims into your living room next week, can I have it back?

In the meantime, I've had an idea that may help farmers and landowners in these desperate times. Britain has always been useless at managing its water. We live in one of the wettest countries on earth, but somehow every time there's a two-day dry spell we are told to shower with a friend and not use hosepipes. This may have something to do with the fact that during the Sixties and Seventies, we built all our reservoirs in the north because we assumed people would move there for work. Only to find that everyone moved south, where there are hardly any reservoirs at all.

So let's build some. The government doesn't want us to grow crops and the nation's vegetarians want cows to roam free like their cousins in the Serengeti, so let's dam our valleys and grow water instead. We can rent it to idiotic wild swimming enthusiasts in the winter and then sell it in the summer to gardeners and people who are dirty. Everyone wins.
 

Perc

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"Fenton" :D
 

Elijah B.

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It's time you quit Furious Tweeters Anonymous and joined me and the Trots for a quiet pint (Oct. 25)

All this month, people have been talking about a new Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma, in which a bunch of stubbly Californian tech start-up nerds on a guilt trip worry out loud about how the internet has been hijacked by enormous companies that are now using it to make — gulp — money.

They say that our phones constantly monitor what we do and who we talk to and what we say. And clever algorithms are used so advertisers can target their products and services at exactly the sort of people who might be interested. And this is what, exactly? A bad thing?

If you are a woman and you are experiencing lady problems, you do not want your Facebook feed to be full of ads for agricultural buildings. In the same way, I'm not the slightest bit interested in hearing about an exciting new breakthrough in tampon technology. Targeted advertising makes sense for all concerned, and if Facebook can make a few quid along the way, good luck to it.

"Ah, but," say our stubbly friends from California. "Exactly the same information-gathering and algorithms can be used by political parties to target undecided voters." And ... what's wrong with that? Seriously. What's the difference between doing that and dispatching some smiley dweeb with a clipboard and a pamphlet full of promises to the swing-state housing estates of Hemel Hempstead?

The Social Dilemma, however, did in the end touch fleetingly on a subject that's been troubling me for a little while now. That Google and Facebook and all social media will eventually cause every country on earth to be engulfed by a bloody civil war. Possibly about toothpaste.

When I was a reporter on the Rotherham Advertiser, I'd go for lunch most days with two people who were in the Workers Revolutionary Party. I liked them a lot, and I think they liked me, even though I was very obviously not a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party. We talked about politics, of course, and we'd argue in a good-natured way and then we'd have a couple more pints. And then we'd go back to work.

It was the same story with my dad. He didn't like my trousers and I did not like his. We didn't have similar taste in music either. He thought Dave Greenslade might be the devil. I thought Bach needed to cheer up. And we'd have lengthy debates about hair too. But we never actually fell out over any of it.

Today, though, things have changed, because we can engineer our lives so we rarely encounter anyone who thinks differently. You think you are chatting to your kids in the evening, but actually you're making noises while they're tuned into Radio Greta on social media.

We all follow like-minded souls on Twitter. We have WhatsApp groups, where we share jokes with others we know will find them funny. We watch whatever news channel echoes what we are thinking. We ignore those on Tinder who like Donald Trump, or those who eat meat or who do anything that doesn't belong in our opinion bubble.

That's why people were staggered when the country voted for Brexit. Remainers such as myself were surrounded by other remainers, so we thought everyone was a remainer. It's why everyone at the BBC was bowled over when Boris Johnson won such a massive majority. They couldn't believe it because absolutely everyone in their electronic lives voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

If you are a vegan, it's extremely likely that you will share vegan recipes with other vegans on social media. You may even share stories that say meat is murder and growing cows is destroying the ozone layer. So when you see a picture of a man eating an actual burger, you are horrified. Staggered. Because how could he be so obtuse?

You are going to send him a message, which, because social media allows you to dispense with the niceties of meeting face to face, will be extremely abusive. And then your friends are going to pile in until, eventually, burger man responds in kind and soon everyone is threatening to kill everyone's children.

If you don't believe me, tell someone under the age of 25 that we shouldn't be pulling down statues. But be warned, the response will be so unpretty your phone may well melt.

I don't think there's been a time when society is as divided as it is now. Women versus men. Black people versus white people. Rich versus poor. Right versus left. There are even heated and abusive online arguments about dental hygiene. And it's because people are always absolutely convinced by social media that they have the majority on their side.

The internet was built so you could get a pizza at four in the morning, and find out where James Garner was born while you're on a beach, but it's become home instead to levels of bigotry, rage and hatred not seen since the Trojans opened up that horse.

It will spill out on to the streets in time. It already has in America, where gangs of white supremacists, utterly convinced by social media that 94% of the world is on their side, are roaming around in packs, with Glocks on their thighs and an AR-15 rifle in the boot, just waiting for one of the nation's six Democrats to look at them funny.

The stubbly start-up nerds say it isn't possible to step back from the brink. They say we've created Skynet and that no one's going to come from the future to save us.

But I think it is possible. We just need to remove the cloak of anonymity behind which all social media users can hide. You used to need a licence to own a dog and could have had it taken away if you didn't treat it well. But anyone can go online and say anything they like to anyone in the world, completely safe in the knowledge that they will only ever be found by Heckler & Koch, which will send them an ad for its latest sub-machinegun.

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My bafflement is sprouting nicely: Pass me the scythe — I'm up to my ears in agri-jargon and I don't understand a word (Oct. 25)

I didn't think farming would be especially difficult. I figured that man had been growing crops for 12,000 years and that after such a long period it would be in our DNA. That it would be relaxing. Monty Donnish even. I'd plant seeds, weather would happen and food would grow.

In my mind, then, farming would mostly involve leaning on a gate while munching pensively on a delicious Dagwood Bumstead sandwich, or enjoying a late summer sundowner from behind the wheel of an air-conditioned tractor. It'd all be a festival of crusty bread, lemonade, fresh air and cider with Rosie. Followed by a cheery harvest festival and a big fat cheque from the EU.

I've learnt, however, that all of it is back-breaking and difficult, that there's never time for a ploughman's in the sunshine, that there's no cupholder in my tractor for sundowners or anything else and that to be a farmer you must be an agronomist, a meteorologist, a mechanic, a vet, an entrepreneur, a gambler, a workaholic, a politician, a marksman, a midwife, a tractor driver, a tree surgeon and an insomniac.

I am none of those things, which is why I spend every single evening with my nose buried in a copy of the countryside bible — Farmers Weekly. It's my new favourite thing.

I especially love the fertiliser and machinery adverts, because they all feature fifty-something men and they're all wearing checked shirts and zip-up gilets made from a material that exists only in agricultural supply shops. I want to buy everything they're advertising because it all looks so manly and proper.

The editorial is a bit different, though, because I can't really get my head round any of it. There will be a picture of some sheep, so I'll think, "Ah. I have sheep. I must read this." But after the second paragraph I have to give up and move on because I don't understand a single word.

I therefore switch to a piece about the new agriculture bill, but all I've taken in when I finish it is the sound of a voice inside my head saying, "Concentrate, Jeremy. This is important." The actual words? No. They've just swum about like fish.

I understand now how life is for people who think they might be interested in cars. They pick up a car magazine, and after five minutes they think that maybe the exciting front cover featuring a Porsche on full opposite lock was a con because the text inside seems to be about physics.
I can read about an electronic limited-slip differential and know what the writer means.

I know terms such as lift-off oversteer and axle tramp and torque steer and scuttle shake and I even have a fairly good idea what the motoring writer Gavin Green meant in Car magazine when he said the then new Toyota MR2 suffered from "tread shuffle"*. For most people, though, this kind of language is gobbledygook.

We see the same problems today with Formula One. The commentators don't translate tech-speak such as "deg" for the viewers. They use it to demonstrate to the drivers and the engineers that they too are part of the inner circle. It annoys me — so, chaps, can you stop saying "box"? And use the word "pit" instead, because then people at home will know what the bloody hell you're on about.

This brings me on to the world of banking. Like a lot of people I have savings, and that means I occasionally have to speak with people called Rupert and Humphrietta. One said in a Zoom call recently that in the previous few months I hadn't "shot the lights out". I had no idea what she was on about. She then tried to sell me a "product", which, it turns out, is only a product in the way that a casino chip on red is a product. I could be wrong, but I'm in no position to know.

I turn occasionally to the Financial Times for assistance on these matters, but, like the car magazines and the F1 commentary, it's far too complicated. Which is why I mostly end up reading the superyacht reviews in the disgusting but strangely engrossing How to Spend It supplement.

I fear, however, that simplification isn't actually necessary in Farmers Weekly, because the readers don't need the jargon translated. When they read that ex-farm spot wheat values are averaging close to £176.50/t midweek, they know what the words mean and what the implications are. Me, though? Not a clue.

I have been writing these farming columns for six months and I have started buying all my clothes at StowAg, so quite often I'm stopped in the street by farmers wanting to know about the moisture content of my wheat or where I am on the idea of levying a carbon tax on farmers who finish their cattle after 27 months.

I have therefore become very skilled at nodding and then suddenly remembering that I must get in the car and go away.

The worry is that I want to learn how to speak farming, but I have no idea how this is possible. I don't have a boss who can take me under his wing, and while I have a land agent, who's brilliant, he is even more un-understandable than Farmers Weekly.

I could sign up for a three-year course at what is now, hilariously, called the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, but by the time I'd finished learning how to drive a Golf GTI up the steps and how to get home from Cheltenham after a particularly pissed-up day at the Gold Cup, I'd be too old to lean on gates or climb the ladder into my tractor.

Muddling on isn't really an option either, because when our EU money dries up in January, it's very obvious farmers are going to have to adopt a much more scientific approach to survive with dwindling government grants.

I already don't know how a potato grows, but soon it won't matter unless I can use chemicals and boffinry to grow four billion of them. I shall therefore drown in tech I don't understand and can't afford.

I have turned to the internet, of course, and it is neatly split between two approaches. Fantastically simple nonsense written by and for failed City boys who have two acres and a lamb. And head-spinningly complicated equations written by people into chem-porn at Monsanto.

And in the middle of all this there's me, who wants to make good food, well. I think I'm not alone. I think there are a lot of farmers like me who are bewildered and even a bit frightened by what they must do to survive. And I think you, round your breakfast tables, should be worried too.
Because when you take the art and the history and the simplicity out of farming, I suspect you may end up with a lot of food that doesn't taste very nice.

* I actually don't know what "tread shuffle" means.

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And here's the Sun column: "The first real upside of this Covid business is that Halloween’s dead this year"
I think Clarkson could find the middle ground of learning to understand the language of farming he's looking for by looking online for sites or youtubes about people learning how to homestead. Plenty of stuff for people leaving the city life and learning to farm or homestead a number of acres and want to become self sufficient. They use plain language, or explain farming words, instead of assuming everyone already knows all the key jargon about farming.
 
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Revelator

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My life in jeans: The Sunday Times columnist explains why nothing can come between him and his denim (March 21)

When I was growing up, there were two types of trousers. There were the slacks my dad wore and there were the jeans favoured by Robert Plant. I went down the Robert Plant route and I've never looked back.

If you spill food on a pair of slacks or you fail to shake yourself properly after a trip to the lavatory, then you are in real trouble. Whereas, with a pair of jeans, you can fall down a muddy embankment and barf a semi-digested tin of ravioli in tomato sauce into your lap and no one will be any the wiser. I know this because I've done it.

Today, I have a suit for funerals and jeans for everything else. Dinner parties, farming, hosting television shows, slobbing round the house. I even ski in jeans. In fact — and I'm not making this up — I wouldn't be able to name a single shop that sells ordinary trousers, and even if I could, I wouldn't go there. Because what would be the point?

I'm told that trousers come in all sorts of different styles, but I fail to see how this is possible. They're just two tubes with a zip at the top and holes at the bottom. So how can "style" be incorporated into that? It would be like trying to style hair. Or shoes. And don't bother trying to explain, because I don't care.

I'm really not interested in people who are interested in trousers. Because people who are bothered about this sort of thing tend to walk around in a Ready Brek bubble of scented hair product and sports deodorant, which means they are vain and self-obsessed.

They are also deranged. Because having pulled on a pair of trousers in the morning, they go into town and take them off again so they can try on another pair. That's madness. Trying on trousers in a small, hot changing cubicle is worse than being waterboarded.

Which is why I don't do it. Instead, every May, I go into the Levi's store on Regent Street, where I point at the label on the back of the jeans I'm wearing and ask for three more pairs just the same. Thirty seconds later I'm back on the street with a whole year's wardrobe requirements sorted.

What this means is that, while you're in a changing room, with moob sweat, desperately trying to do up a pair of strides that are too small and then having to take them off and get the shop assistant to fetch you a bigger pair, which "aren't in stock so will these purple ones do", I'm in the pub.

A few years back there were some stories doing the rounds that by wearing jeans all the time, I was giving Levi's a bad name. And that older people like myself and Tony Blair should grow up and get a nice pair of corduroy gardening trousers instead.

Friends suggested that I should write to Levi's, saying that if they gave me what I was costing them in lost revenue, I'd agree to wear something else. But I couldn't do that because what else is there? Wrangler? Do me a favour.

It's not that I love wearing the Levi's jean trouser. I simply never think about it, and that's the point. That's the appeal. They're just there for me every morning, in a puddle at the end of the bed. Ready to fulfil my only real requirement from an item of clothing: stopping people from being able to see my genitals.

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Almost as much fun as carrying pig food.
The Clarkson Review: Cupra Formentor
(March 21)

I came round the corner and there, milling about in the middle of the country lane, was an agreeable looking family, out for their permitted hour of fresh air and exercise. It looked like a smiley, happy scene from the Boden catalogue, except for the father, who, resplendent in a Barbour and Sunday morning red trousers, was looking right into my eyes and furiously flapping his arms up and down.

Plainly he wanted me to slow down, but this was impossible as I'd already noticed the presence of toddlers in his group and was consequently moving at a speed best described as "half a notch above stationary". So I'm afraid — and I'm not proud of this — that when I crawled past the angry man, I lowered the window and invited him to eff off back to London.

For the past few months, the roads round my bit of west Oxfordshire have been chock-full of finger-wagging Barbour people telling the locals to slow down. Last weekend I actually stopped to check on one woman whose face was so contorted with rage, I thought she was having some kind of seizure.

And then, on my own farm track, a man with communistical rambling tendencies stepped aside to make way for my tractor and, as I passed, he put his hands on his hips and said, indignantly: "Do you have to drive that thing down here?"

I'm not very good at being told what to do. It's been the big downside of the pandemic, being told by Boris that it is "illegal" to go on holiday and then reading in the papers about how a crack police team swooped on a young family who'd gone tenting on the Yorkshire coast. It makes my teeth itch.

And now there's a host of amateur policemen on every road, enforcing the speed limits with shaken fists, and in every village there are government spies who'll call the KGB if they think someone at No. 42 is breaking some obscure Covid-19 regulation that only they know about.

And to make matters worse, I've been driving a car this week that knows how to drive better than I do. And isn't shy of reminding me every few hundred yards.

It constantly measured my speed and worked out precisely when I could take my foot off the throttle so that I would coast to a smooth brakeless stop at the next junction or roundabout. "Take your foot of f the accelerator," it said. "Eff off back to Spain," I replied, while doing no such thing.

I tested it, of course, and it was pretty accurate but the man in the car behind was extremely unpleased that for several hundred yards before the junction I was doing 7mph. And then six and then five. It's incredible, on level ground, how long a car will roll before it finally stops. And then, when it did stop at the junction there was a car coming, which wouldn't have been the case if I'd behaved like a normal human with a driving licence.

The car I was driving was a Cupra. Which is what Seat calls cars such as this one, which costs £40,000. In the same way that Toyota calls a car a Lexus when it's too expensive for the normal badge. And Hyundai calls a car a Genesis when they hear that Tiger Woods has bought one and will doubtless be crashing it into something very shortly.

To be precise, this coupé SUV was a Cupra Formentor, and ooh, it's a good-looking little thing, full of haunches and angles and cool bronzed trinketry. It even has a good badge, the sort of thing you'd expect to find on a Cylon battlecruiser. And to make it, Seat has obviously raided the Volkswagen parts bin, which is why the interior lighting is very Bentlish and the door mirrors are Lamborghinish.

The performance figures look good too, as well they should as the model I drove was fitted with essentially the same engine you get in a Volkswagen Golf R.

However, I am unable to report on whether the on-paper promise is matched by reality because the other thing that's happened in lockdown is that everyone has started driving very slowly. I followed one man in a Fiat Doblo who was doing 18mph. And there was no chance of getting past because of all the angry walkers. No point either because I'd only end up behind someone in a Peugeot, doing 4mph.

Handling? Well there are two-wheel-drive hybrid jobs that are apparently a bit wayward but my four-wheel-drive version was fine. It wasn't particularly exciting but it didn't crash once. Tiger Woods should get one.

I'm not sure he'd like it very much though. I know I didn't. Part of the problem is a sense from the moment you climb aboard that it's not quite as well finished as a Volkswagen. The door liners feel cheap, and the door pockets and glovebox are unlined so anything in there rattles.

There's lots of space — the rear legroom is especially impressive — but everywhere you look, there's evidence of "styling by accountancy". Nearly everything, for example, is controlled from a central screen, which is a very cheap solution — buttons cost a fortune — but it's too complicated.

On the move, the issues continue. The fat tyres, which look meaningful, I admit, make a racket, and there is wind noise, and the ride, no matter what you do with the electronic options on offer, is too firm. That's how I know the handling is fine; I spent most of my time in it steering round potholes. There are lots round here. I guess the walkers like them. They slow the traffic and are a fun plaything for the littler kids, who like to jump up and down in them when they're full of water.

The Cupra, then, sets out to be a stylish, fun and sporty SUV but it doesn't really work because it's not fun or particularly sporty. I drove it back from London one afternoon and even though lockdown restrictions meant traffic was so light I did the journey in just 75 minutes, it felt as if I'd been at the wheel for a week. It was, and this is harsh, boring.

There's another issue too. I had to feed the pigs last night and they're currently living in a field that's a very muddy half-mile from the house. My Range Rover is being fitted with two new turbos and my tractor was busy putting nitrogen on the fields so, laden down with grain, bread, milk and vegetable peelings, I set off to walk.

And only when I got back did I realise I could have used the 4x4 Cupra. It didn't occur to me because it doesn't feel like the sort of car that you can fill with pig food and use in the mud. It doesn't feel like the sort of car that would suit any role really.

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I'm waving a chequered flag for Murray Walker, a wordsmith who could make snooker exciting (March 21)

Being a sports commentator is a weird job, because what do they do when they're not commentating? Did Bill McLaren, for instance, fill the long rugger-free summer months walking aimlessly round the walkways of Twickenham until it was time for Bill Beaumont to burst through the doorframe again?

And what did Dan Maskell do for the 50 weeks of the year when he wasn't in a hot green box at Wimbledon? Did he just sit in the stands, keeping Cliff Richard's chair warm?

I suppose we could ask the same question of football. We know that when he's not commentating, Jamie Carragher likes to drive around spitting at young girls, but what about Martin Tyler? He's the voice of Sky Sports and is extremely good at what he does. He sees someone running around 50 yards away and not only does he know who he is, but also how to pronounce his name and how many touches of the ball he's had in every season since 2009.

Fine. But what does he do when he's not doing that? He has the only page on Wikipedia that provides no answers.

I suspect, however, that I know exactly what the current crop of Formula One commentators do in the closed season: they all hang around outside the drivers' houses, wanting desperately to be noticed. "Hey, Kimi. I was just passing." Seriously, they all seem to live for the day when they get a personal text from Lewis Hamilton, even if it says, "If I catch you naked in my shed again, I'm calling the police".

You see this when they talk about the sport on television, because they dress as if they work for one of the teams, with branded short-sleeved shirts and tighty whitey shorts and aerials sticking out of their heads. And they make absolutely no effort to speak in a language that viewers will understand. I'm not including Martin Brundle in this, as he's tremendous, but the others will happily talk about how someone who started in "P5 will have to box because the DRS has caused deg". I know what that means but most people do not.

What they're doing, of course, is speaking the gibberish short-form language that the teams use, in the hope that one day they'll be seen as part of the gang. And that maybe Sebastian Vettel will lift the restraining order.

All of this, naturally, brings me on to Murray Walker. After he died last weekend, aged 97, we were all reminded that he commentated as if his trousers were on fire, and were presented with a hastily compiled list of his gaffes. "This leading car is absolutely unique — except, of course, for the one immediately behind it, which is identical."

This is what he's mostly remembered for: making mistakes and giving viewers the impression that something very exciting was going on, when usually it wasn't. I, however, remember Murray for something else. He was, at heart, an ad man, which means he was extremely clever with words.

It's usually argued that authors such as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Geoff Chaucer were the greatest writers to have walked the planet, but this is nonsense. Take Thomas Hardy as a case in point. "A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment." That's not great writing. It's just boring.

And don't get me started on Chekhov's storytelling abilities. It takes him three hours to tell us about some women who want to go to Moscow but then, after someone spins a top in Act Two, they decide to stay where they are.

Now let's compare this with the Shake n' Vac advert, which in 30 seconds tells us that bad smells in a sitting room can come from a dog or a cigar, and what can be done to make them go away. It would have taken Shakespeare a week to do that.

An ad man I know was recently employed by the Diabetic Association to get its message across, and after a couple of agreeable lunches at L'Etoile, he came up with "A spoonful of medicine helps the sugar go down". That's genius. As clever as Volkswagen's "Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplough drives to the snowplough?"

I desperately wanted to be an advertising copywriter when I was younger, and applied to all the main agencies. White, Collins, Gabriel and Rutherford. Baker, Clapton and Bruce. Foxton, Buckler and Weller. The lot. And they all said I wasn't good enough.

Murray Walker, though, was. He was involved with Mars on its "work, rest and play" campaign, and claimed to have come up with "Opal Fruits: Made to make your mouth water." But then one day, Trill, the budgerigar feed people, came to the agency where he worked, saying they wanted to increase their sales. Everyone pointed out this was a tall order as they had an 80 per cent market share. Maybe that could be increased to 82 or 83 per cent, but no one outside a Soviet state could expect to do better than that.

The Trill boys were adamant, though, so a young Mr. Walker was dispatched to his office to come up with a solution. And what he came up with was "An only budgie is a lonely budgie". That didn't increase Trill's share of the pie, but as every old lady in the land suddenly realised that their feathered friend needed a mate, it did make the pie an awful lot bigger.

It was a very clever idea and doubtless it also gave Murray something to talk about when, much later, he was teamed in the commentary booth with James Hunt, whose main interest in life, apart from mating and ingesting cocaine, was keeping budgies.

I met Murray only once. He came on a chat show I had at the time and did the full Murray Walker while commentating on a game of snooker. It's on YouTube and it's very funny.

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As an English major I must shake my head at Clarkson judging literature by advertising copy standards.
Anyway, here's the Sun column: "Affairs, madness and It’s A Royal Knockout… royals survive it all"
 

Cowboy

My name is Sheridan
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Messages
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As someone who lives in the Belgian equivalent of Oxfordshire, aka, somewhere rural, not to far from the cities an I have been told pretty, I completly agree on the walkers, ramblers and especially the fucking cyclists during the lockdown, goddamn townsfolk actualy come down here, think they own the place and get to tell everyone what to, its infuriating, field road? farmers get harassed for attempting to do their job, normal road? Everyone else gets harassed for trying to get where they need to go. Walk into a shop, some nitwit on a stayover is harrassing the shopkeeper for some organic free range vegan tofu chicken sandwich, look you designer anorak wearing pussy, we are just getting used to cooking our food after we kill it round here, so why don't you get the fuck out the way so I can get one with life.... get in your E-I-whatever mobile, and go be woke somewhere else, your 'classy chique city appartment' preferrably.
It's madness. It's like the invasion of the pod people...... I swear to God one of these days some Nordic-walking-left-wing-anti-car-yet-drove-one-to-get-here-lycra-enthousiast is gonna end up with his head under a wheel, on purpose.......If I go to jail send beer.
 

Perc

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As someone who lives in the Belgian equivalent of Oxfordshire, aka, somewhere rural, not to far from the cities an I have been told pretty, I completly agree on the walkers, ramblers and especially the fucking cyclists during the lockdown, goddamn townsfolk actualy come down here, think they own the place and get to tell everyone what to, its infuriating, field road? farmers get harassed for attempting to do their job, normal road? Everyone else gets harassed for trying to get where they need to go. Walk into a shop, some nitwit on a stayover is harrassing the shopkeeper for some organic free range vegan tofu chicken sandwich, look you designer anorak wearing pussy, we are just getting used to cooking our food after we kill it round here, so why don't you get the fuck out the way so I can get one with life.... get in your E-I-whatever mobile, and go be woke somewhere else, your 'classy chique city appartment' preferrably.
It's madness. It's like the invasion of the pod people...... I swear to God one of these days some Nordic-walking-left-wing-anti-car-yet-drove-one-to-get-here-lycra-enthousiast is gonna end up with his head under a wheel, on purpose.......If I go to jail send beer.

Be careful. You'll blow a headgasket.

Edit: this does remind me of caravanners that harass truckers because their refrigerated trailer is making noise all night long.

You kind of signed up for that when you decided to overnight on a free trailer parking instead of paying for an actual campsite.
 
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Revelator

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John Lewis can't go bust — I've got a new home to kit out and a disappointing body to clothe (March 28)

Nearly five years after my house was blown up, the replacement is nearing completion. Which is why, last week, I spent an entire day grappling with the headbursting concept of infinity. And I don't mean infinity as in space or time or pi. I'm talking about something even bigger. Something even more endless. I'm talking about the Farrow & Ball paint chart.

I had decided that I'd like the hall to be a smoky yellow, but that's far too vague, because there are 2,000 billion shades of smoky yellow, all with silly names. I eventually settled on Chief Impact Officer Yellow, but then I noticed that it didn't really work when the lights were on. So I switched to Village Idiot Mustard, but that didn't really work when the lights were off.

And then it turned out that there were 2,000 billion paint companies, and all of them also offered infinite variations on the concept of smoky yellow, and it was at this point that the interior designer said, "Have you thought about wallpaper?"

Hmm. It transpires that every human who has ever lived has designed a wallpaper print, and that all of them are available in several billion colours that even Farrow & Ball hasn't thought about. So now your head is buried in a book that weighs more than that stuck ship in the Suez Canal, picking out a design and a colour that will work.

And when, after several hours, you settle on a butterfly design in a dusky shade of Toe Cheese Brown, you realise that it will clash with the curtains you chose after 17 years of consideration the week before.

Before I had a chance to address this, I was asked what sort of wood I'd like the shelves in the sitting room to be made from. And would you like to guess how many types of tree there are in the world? Yes, that's right: 60,065. And the wood from each one can be stained to whatever colour or polished to whatever texture you like.

What terrifies me most of all, though, is that when, eventually, I settle on bare plastered walls and shelves made from scaffolding planks, I shall have to start thinking about furniture. And washing- up bowls. And vacuum cleaners. And corn-on-the-cob forks. And a juicer so that visiting vegetarians have something to play with.

Ordinarily, this kind of stuff is easy to sort, because you just go to John Lewis — or Peter Jones, as I pronounce it. This is a shop that sells everything you need but nothing you want. If you want something, you have to go to a branch of Tiffany & Co, or a Bentley showroom, or a travel agent specialising in Provençal farmhouses. Nobody wants to spend their money on a washing-up bowl, but they occasionally need one, so they get into the Volvo and head for Sloane Square.

If you are turning four walls and some flooring into a house, you certainly need to do the same thing. But every time you open the newspaper these days, you read that John Lewis is in trouble. Last week it announced that eight stores are closing, including what we used to call Cole Brothers in Sheffield. That's where my mum used to take me, in the Volvo, when I needed some new school shoes.

I normally hate shopping in all its forms, but I always loved my trips to Peter Jones. The staff, because they were all partners in the company, were well motivated, everything was sensible, and sensibly priced, and I always ran into someone I knew, who always suggested we adjourn to the nearby Colbert café for a spot of lunch. And now there are very real fears that it's all teetering on the brink of collapse.

Of course, you would suggest at this point that I can buy everything I need online, but I cannot. I always get confused converting the imperial measurements in my head into the metric units the website needs. Which is why I recently ended up with a rug that was a hundred million millimetres long.

You might imagine it'd be easy to successfully order a case for my new phone. Nope. I clicked the "12 Pro" option and, having examined the trillion designs they had on offer, ended up with one so big I could have put an actual old phone box in it.

Clothes are the worst, because I only ever order them in the size that I'd like to be. Which is why, whenever I wear a T-shirt I've bought online, I always look like a slightly crestfallen Winnie-the-Pooh.

You may wonder why I don't send things back and get the correct size, but I can never open packaging without totally destroying it, so I'd have to find another box and work out the address, and arrange to be in when the collection was made, and go online to fill in a form that would want to know the little number on the back of my credit card that's rubbed off, and life's too short.

The idea, then, of buying all the furniture for my house without ever actually seeing it, or sitting on it, is completely alien. And how do you choose a knife and fork without holding them in your hands and feeling the weight? It's the same story with a mug, and that would be even harder to send back than a T-shirt.

Obviously, as I work for Amazon Prime, I'm duty-bound to say that Amazon's site is ideal if you know exactly what you want and your delivery driver knows not to leave it with the kleptomaniacs next door, or in the pond. I am also partial to a bit of Moonpig, but for the stuff I need in my new house, I need John Lewis. So I really need to get cracking before it does a Woolworths.

That's why, this morning, I went to a carpet shop and sourced exactly what I needed in just 30 minutes. There's a trick to this, if you're interested. Let your girlfriend make the decision, and then don't argue.

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The countryside idyll? That's an urban myth: London life is a model of peace and harmony compared with the rural ructions if your farm shop sells the wrong sort of sausage rolls (March 28)

It seems that whenever we turn on the television these days, we are treated to the uplifting spectacle of a pink-cheeked countryside person birthing lambs and nurturing rhubarb. We have This Farming Life, The Farmers' Country Showdown, The Great British Countryside, Countryfile, Escape to the Country, and soon, because I've spotted a gap in the market, Clarkson's Farm.

And all of this is before you get to Channel 5, which has combined its love of Yorkshire and the royal family to give us Our Yorkshire Farm, This Week on the Farm, City Life to Country Life, Build a New Life in the Country, Make a New Life in the Country with Ben Fogle, All Creatures Great and Small, The Queen's Farms in Yorkshire, All Creatures Great and Small with Ben Fogle, Ben Fogle on the Queen in Yorkshire, Farming in Yorkshire, Farming in Yorkshire with Princess Anne and Ben Fogle, Escape to the Farm with Kate Humble and The Duke of York's Yorkshire Puddings Made with Sarah's Ferguson.

All these shows are designed to do the same thing: to show Tube-and-bus commuter people in towns and cities that life in the rural uplands of Britain is rosier and more sunlit.

Hmmm. When you watched Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Hot Fuzz movie, you will have assumed that it was fiction, because obviously a bunch of respectable sixty0something shire people would not go around murdering those whose houses and clothing didn't match traditional village values. But I'm not so sure.

Quite recently we heard news from East Sussex about a rewilding enthusiast who's been told by his local council to tidy up the "eco-paradise" he has created in his back garden. He said he's "absolutely devastated" by the decision and we can only hope and pray that the poor chap doesn't turn up soon with a bit of cathedral in his head.

The problem is simple: in a village, most people are charming and happy to smile and wave at the appropriate time, but there is always a tiny minority who are bitter and whose mouths look like cats' anuses. These people are usually called "parish councillors" and seniority in this weird world is achieved by having lived in the area for a long time. That's it. So, if you are the sort of person whose horizon is located on your nose end, and you've never been further afield than Chuntsworthy, you're the village elder. You're Hiawatha.

I covered parish council meetings for many years as a local newspaper reporter, which is why I always thought The Vicar of Dibley was a documentary. Because they really were that small-minded and mad.

In the Yorkshire village of Brinsworth, councillors once spent 45 excruciating minutes deciding that they needed a new water jug for their meetings, and then another 45 minutes arguing about whether it should be made of glass or plastic.

Parish councils are clubs for people who want everything to remain as it was in 1858. If you move to the village and complain about a local tradition, say, or hanging witches from the maypole, the parish council will completely ignore you. If you decide to make your garden as messy as nature intended, you will be speared through the neck with a pair of shears. And if you open a farm shop, you'd better get ready for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse because, trust me, those babies are coming for you with burning knives on the wheels of their chariots.

My farm shop is tiny but it seems to have landed in this part of the Cotswolds like a nuclear weapon full of sarin gas. Sometimes I wish I'd built a mosque instead. Or a bypass. It would have been less controversial.

We all know that planning regulations are necessary and we all know that parish council enthusiasts are entitled to register their opposition, but there are some people in the countryside who literally do nothing all day long but object to stuff. They are made entirely from a blend of skin and hate.

If you've ever tried to build a spare room above a garage or chop down a tree, you'll know what I mean.

My shop had only been open a few days when we received a stern letter warning us that our rather lovely ice cream had been made from the juice of cows that lived eight miles away, in Gloucestershire, and that this contravened a clause that said that we could only sell produce from West Oxfordshire.

Since then we've been told that the roof is the wrong colour, that the sign is 0.3 of a metre too wide, that we aren't allowed to sell teas and coffees, that the gingham covering on the straw bales contravenes Covid regulations, that the car park is a road safety hazard, that the sausage rolls are wrong in some unfathomable way, and that if we were allowed to sell beer, yobbos would come and urinate in the graveyard.

All of which just goes to show how out of touch these guardians of the 19th century are. Because, these days, if you really want to attack something (or a royal family) you have to accuse it of causing mental health issues, or say that it's racist. It's not enough simply to say that the milk is from the wrong postcode.

It's strange. I lived in London for many years and apart from one time when I may have been using a bin bag full of rubbish as a football in the middle of Fulham Road at two in the morning, I don't recall a time when I ever fell out with a neighbour. I think that because people in a city are forced to live cheek by jowl with one another, they go out of their way to be stoic and tolerant.

In the countryside, though, contrary to what you see on TV, it's a very different story. If there has never been a farm shop, then there should never be a farm shop. Especially if it's run by someone who, like me, has lived in the area for only 25 years. I bet when Alexander Fleming invented penicillin, the village elders ran around saying that diarrhoea had been apart of rural life for hundreds of years and that they wanted to make sure it stayed that way.

The annoying thing is that only a tiny number of people object, but you never really know who they are, so you end up distrusting everyone and then sneering at them in the paper shop. And I wonder. Could that not be solved by posting the names and photographs of those who've objected on the community notice board? Or maybe we should make them walk round in Day-Glo baseball hats. I think that would help make village life as pleasant as you think it is.

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And here's the Sun column.
 

Revelator

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This bit from the Sun column is worth posting:

Life is Grand

You may be interested to hear that, at long last, the Grand Tour team is back out in the world making shows.

We were in Egypt last week, trying to get from Port Said, on the Mediterranean, to the small village of Abu Sultan, on the Red Sea.

I chose a dune buggy and went through the desert, James May used a steam train and went through Saudi Arabia and the accident-prone Richard Hammond took command of a container ship called Ever Given and attempted to make the journey using the Suez Canal.
 

Revelator

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Thanks to BMW, I've been having a field day
The Clarkson Review: BMW M3 Competition
(April 4)

It makes me sad when people say that electrical cars can be fun, because of course they can't. Take away the sound of internal combustion and the vibration and the weird torque characteristics, and you're left with something that's not even on nodding terms with the concept of fun.

Sure, an electrical car can be very fast but so what? For thrills, I'd rather do a hundred in a Sopwith Camel than five hundred in a Boeing 777. I'd rather do twenty knots on a jet ski than thirty on a cruise liner.

And then there's this: a microwave oven will bake a potato in five minutes and that's very clever, but the end result will be nowhere near as satisfying as something that's been in the Aga for two hours.

There are many people in my line of work who think that electrical cars can be enjoyed by enthusiasts just as much as those that use petrol to move about. They are wrong. Because when we are forced by law to drive around in glorified milk floats, we will simply buy whatever gives us the greatest range or the best value. Cars will become wheeled fridge freezers. Tools. And the spirit of the car, its core, will be dead.

Don't believe me? OK, watch that car chase in Bullitt with the sound turned off.

And there's more. Last weekend, an old mate who runs a company called Prodrive called round with a car he'd made. Financed by the Bahraini royal family and built in Banbury, it was a huge and ungainly looking thing that had come fifth in this year's Dakar rally. Next year it will probably win it, and after that there will be versions for the army and, better still, models you can buy. If you have £750,000 lying around. And a desert to use it in. I don't have a desert but I do have a farm and so last Saturday I was to be found several feet in the air going "yeehah" a lot.

Powered by the same turbocharged V6 they use in the Ford GT, it's not the fastest car in the world, but it will happily sit at 112mph, all day, while going across Saudi Arabia's barren and bumpy interior. So it can easily soak up the worst bits of Oxfordshire and it did, while sideways and with a fat man in the driver's seat, grinning.

Doubtless I was in contravention of many soil compaction regulations, but it was just so liberating to be out there power sliding round the winter wheat in an orgy of free thinking and optimism and fun. To be driving for the sheer joy of driving. And changing gear for the aural reward.

A millennial or a snowflake would claim, if they saw this enormous monster tearing by, that I was a climate change denier. And there'd be no point explaining that a new version designed to run on hydrogen is in the pipeline because they wouldn't listen. They don't listen. Because it's their right to live in a world where everyone agrees with everyone else and nothing noisy ever happens.

All of which brings me on to the new BMW M3 Competition. There must be a sense in the back rooms of the world's car companies that there's no point going the extra mile in the development of superfast sports saloons because the end is nigh. It'd be like completely reworking a Nigel Gresley Pacific, just before the Deltic came along (only James May would understand this.)

In fact we can already see the writing on the wall because BMW will not be selling the ordinary M3 in Britain, just the "Competition" version. And no manual gearbox is on offer either. It seems then that the new M3 is a teatime bun, just something to fill a gap until the reaper arrives.

They haven't even been very sensible with the price. Someone at a meeting just went "seventy-five grand?" And everyone just nodded and went back to skimming through TikTok.

But wait, what's this? The twin-turbocharged straight-six engine is broadly the same as it was but almost all of the internals are bigger and stronger and more racy. This means 60 more horsepowers than you got in the old model, and 73 more torques.

There's a whole new styling direction too, with a Pontiac-style nose and a grille so large you could go on holiday in it. The whole car's bigger too, noticeably so, but the essence of M3 is still very much in evidence. There's a sense that the body has been stretched to fit over the wheels, which incidentally are now bigger at the back than they are at the front. This, you start to realise, is not a coffee-break car that was half-heartedly thrown together on the back of a fag packet.

And then you step inside, where you are greeted with new seats — the best I've ever sat in. They're even better than the ones in a Renault Fuego turbo. And a whole new dash that does all sorts of new things. Like, for example, you can set the rules for your air conditioning system. And how German is that.

There is also a device that measures and then rates your drift. Seriously, you power-slide round a bend and it will give you marks. Not sure this sort of thing is, or should be, legal, but it's a hoot to know it's there. And a hoot to know that absolutely every single person who uses it will — moments after saying to their passenger "Right, watch this" — definitely get a ride in an air ambulance.

That's the thing about skidding on purpose. You can get away with it once, or twice, or maybe even two hundred times. But eventually you're going out in a blaze of splintering sounds and swear words.

It may, however, be five hundred times in the M3 because, ooh, this is a fine-handling car. I didn't much care for the steering set-up on the previous model — it worked well only in "comfort" mode — but much work has been done in the new version and it's sublime. As is the grip. And what happens when that grip is breached.

Maybe, just maybe, the gearbox is slower than the old flappy paddle manual but you have to be paying attention to notice. The thing about five hundred horsepower, though, is it has the ability to mask these things. And it does. Beautifully.

This is one of those cars, like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, that just glides from corner to corner on what feels like a wave of telepathy and poise and pit-of-the-stomach excitement. It's balletic.

And comforting, because it means that BMW's engineers are not going to sit through their final days shrugging and reminiscing. They want to go out in a blaze of glory. We can only hope other carmakers do the same thing, and that before they're all made to work for Zanussi's automotive division making stuff to fill the windows at Currys, they remind us all why it was they wanted to be car engineers in the first place.

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Johnson will be branded a Covid serial killer but no one will lay a glove on our bloated NHS
By Jeremy Clarkson (Sunday Times, April 4)

One day soon, when we are all on a beach drinking wine and eating cheese, there will be a public inquiry to establish why so many people in Britain died of Covid-19. And it'll be a complete waste of time and money, because after many years of huffing and puffing and some am-dram mock incredulity from the panel, all of the blame will be landed with a big fat wallop on the shoulders of Boris Johnson.

You can already sense the hyenas of the left, circling and gurgling, aroused by the bloodbath to come. For months now we've been listening to their questions in press conferences, and they're not really questions at all. "Do you accept, prime minister, that you are now responsible, personally, for the deaths of 125,000 people and that as a result you are Britain's biggest ever serial killer?"

Certainly, Boris could have played a better game in the early days, if he'd been as fluent in hindsight as he is in Latin. But he isn't. No one knew, back then, what to do and what would be for the best. It was a case of sticking your wetted finger into the wind and following the advice of whatever boffin had the most letters after his name.

But because it's now known that we should have locked down earlier and not encouraged people to eat out quite so quickly after the first wave passed, Boris will cop the blame. All of it.

There are, of course, many other reasons why our death rate is higher than that of other countries, but in today's world none of them will be raised in the inquiry. For example, a lot of us eat awful food and are fat. And an equal number are thick. A Public Health England study released last week showed that only half of us, after a year of non-stop Covid, can recognise its main symptoms. Only 18 per cent of us bothered to get tested even if we were clever enough to notice we were feeling a bit peaky.

All those things contributed to our high death toll, but none to quite the extent of the biggest problem. And this certainly won't be raised in the inquiry. That the NHS is useless.

Oh I know you're all flying those rainbow flags and that every night last year you went out and banged your saucepans together. So you don't want to hear it. But you were clapping a big, stupid, expensive monster.

I'm not talking about the doctors and the nurses, of course. Many of them are far from useless. But the organisation they work for? Dear God in heaven, it's so far past its sell-by date, you'd die from taking a single whiff of it.

The problem is simple. Unlike every successful entity, it does not exist to make money. It exists to spend it.

And then, because the money it's spending is ours, it has to be monitored by a panel to ensure there's no behind-the-scenes trickery going on.

And because this panel is a public body, it will have to be monitored to ensure that it meets all the sustainability and diversity targets.

And then the body set up to do that will need an HR department to ensure that mental health issues are being properly addressed.

And now, all the bodies and committees and panels will need to be housed in offices, which will need to be financed. So suddenly there's a need for a chief executive, and he'll need some staff and they'll need an HR department too, which means another office will have to be built. And more money will have to be raised, which means a public-private finance operation will have to be started, and that will need an oversight committee, which will need another HR department.

And then, from way down at the forgotten end of the food chain, a doctor will say that he could do with some new PPE, and there will be a mass panic because no one's thought about buying medical supplies.

This means a procurement department will be necessary, and then the chancellor will announce he's spending enough already, so Laura Kuenssberg will go on the news and say the Tories are starving the NHS of cash.

No private company would allow this to happen. It would concentrate on the core business and put the human resources nonsense in a shipping container in the car park. Private companies are designed to make money, not waste it on meeting stupid targets.

Last week I wrote about the sadness of John Lewis going to the wall and remarked on how all the staff are partners. But that is actually the problem. They're all happy to take a few extra quid in the good times, but when Covid comes riding into town, not one will say to the bosses, "OK, I'll mortgage my house and sell my children for medical experiments to see if I can give you a bit of cash back."

The simple fact is that John Lewis is not a plc. It can't dilute its shares or do whatever it is big business does when it's in the crapper. It just has to go under, because it's another example of socialism, and socialism doesn't work.

You may say, of course, that the NHS vaccination programme has been a great success, and I'd agree. But that's mainly because of private enterprise that swiftly developed the jabs, public-spiritedness and Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist whose clear head and far-sightedness is the main reason you're going to the pub next week.

So, do I know what system we should have instead of the NHS? Nope. Haven't a clue. But what I do know is that the powers that be should look at the countries whose health services did better than ours and maybe copy them. And which countries are those? Pretty well all of them.

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Be careful what you wish for Clarkson! Speaking as an American, I can tell you that privately-run healthcare puts profits before people.

Anyway, here's the Sun column: "Bring back the chain gang and make prisoners clean up Britain’s litter"
 

jack_christie

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That unhinged rant about the NHS is such a load of luke warm rehashed Tory talking points.

Over 248 NHS healthcare workers died, many lacked PPE the BoJo and chums couldn't be bothered to ensure adequate supply.
 

Mr. Nice

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The USA has a private healthcare system, and we've had the most recorded deaths.

I am an unintelligent loser who quit his job in 2019. I haven't worked since then, and have been buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. When I was working, the company insurance plan that I was under had a $5,000 deductible. I ended up meeting that deductible after having a hernia surgery that has since caused me more costly health problems. Last year, I paid $4,620 in premiums for ACA health insurance that had a $6,750 deductible. I also met that deductible. My story, with the exception of the unintelligent loser part, is not unusual in this country. If I didn't have family throwing gobs of money at me, my financial situation would probably be pretty dire. It is very understandable that bankruptcy from these types of issues is a not so uncommon occurrence in this country.

The USA is also having another type of epidemic. For many years now, our rural hospitals have been closing their doors, and leaving residents without nearby access to healthcare. This is, in part, being caused by administrative bloat. Yes, this is happening in privately owned and operated hospitals. Because, why should you, an overpaid administrator, be made to do work that you could hire someone else to do. So, yes, problems that are common with public sector employment can, and do, happen in the private sector as well.
 

jack_christie

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Part of the post Brexit dream is to cripple the NHS and open the market to all those wonderful US health insurance providers
 

93Flareside

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Part of the post Brexit dream is to cripple the NHS and open the market to all those wonderful US health insurance providers
That worked so well for the rail services.
 

Revelator

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I've found a way to sidestep cancel culture: I'll tell you everything I'm not thinking instead (April 11)

Awhile back, I decided that instead of getting cross about cancel culture and the shoulder-sagging intolerance of younger snowflake people, I'd simply tune out when they talked to me and turn over when they came on television. They could, for example, be down there in their Hoxton bedsits, loving Meghan and the damage she's done to the royal family. And I could be up here, on a hill in Oxfordshire, wanting to sprinkle diced guillemot into her morning Paltrow juice.

And it wouldn't matter. Because I wouldn't be listening to them and they wouldn't be listening to me. We'd be mutually and blissfully ignorant of one another's viewpoint.

The problem with that plan, however, is this column. Last week, for instance, I did a whole segment on how some people in this country can't speak English, and while that's patently true and completely acceptable to my friends, it would be deeply offensive to the spotty and the hormonal of Hoxton. So it was all removed, and that meant some poor soul had to sit down at his, or her — or their — laptop and fill the gap with a new passage that sounded as if it had been written by me, while expressing an opinion that I don't have.

That's selfish of me, making them do this extra work, so this week I shall say what I'm not thinking instead. To save them the bother of changing it.

We'll begin with my decision to remove from my house all the photographs of my grandfather. To the casual observer he was a much-loved country GP who held the hands of the dying and always had time for the lonely. But there's no getting around the fact that he began to practise in the early 1920s, so it's entirely possible that he attended to the wellbeing of people who had profited in some way from slavery. Which of course makes him the personification of evil. Certainly, he shed a tear at Winston Churchill's funeral, which indicates very clearly to me that he supported racism in all its forms.

As a doctor, he would also have been "ablist", judging people by their physical abilities, and it's a fair bet that he would have had no clue what to make of this whole gender issue. He may even have been a supporter of the hateful JK Rowling, who dares to believe that a person who menstruates is a woman.

Not me, though. I spoke last week to a young girl so that I could better understand the complexities, and I think I'm there now. You can only be one of two sexes, a man or a woman, but you can choose which you'd like to be from the age of six. You can also be whatever gender you like. And there are a limitless number of possibilities. You just pick anything you identify as, and then that's who, or what, you are.

The capitalist patriarchy think this is a bad thing. They argue that a man cannot say he's a woman so that he can take part in a women's boxing match or go to a women's prison. They also say that a man cannot go into a ladies' public lavatory even if he is wearing a frock.

But these silly old men are missing the point, because last weekend, after a particularly determined drinking session, I woke in the morning and, because I could not move and felt very top-heavy and wooden, decided to identify as a hat stand. This meant that someone else made my breakfast.

Also, if you fail a breathalyser test, it would be very useful to say to the policeman or policemanwoman: "Aha, yes, officer. I may well be drunk. But I identify as a sober person, so I'll be on my way." I'm not sure Boris Johnson would allow this, though, and there's a very good reason for that: he's a fully paid-up member of the meat-eating classes, which means he simply has no idea about real life.

No one can know what it's like to be a woman unless they are actually a woman. They cannot know what it's like to feel unsafe in a taxi or on the street. And no one can know what it's like to suffer racist abuse unless they are from an ethnic minority. I know Barry Norman once said that even though he'd never been to the South Pole, he still knew it was bloody cold, but Barry was mansplaining at the time, while under the influence of his middle-class face, so he should be ignored.

You need to be constantly aware of your privilege so that you are aware of the challenges faced by people who lack that privilege. And you need to understand, once you've spotted someone without your privilege, that you should give them your Bentley. Then the next day, when they see you waiting for the bus, they should give it back. How refreshing that would be.

Sharing everything and chatting in the day-long queue for bread with people who are just the same as you are. And thinking the same thoughts about everything as well.

It worked with climate change. There was a time when the subject could be debated, but then the BBC announced that there was no debate and that anyone who thought man might not be involved was a climate change "denier". Suddenly everyone was on side. Like we are today on meat, the royal family, trans issues, mental health and colour. It's so much easier that way.

It's only the Tories who remain resolutely out of step. They announced a year ago that I would not be allowed to have a 60th birthday party, and last weekend they said I couldn't have a 61st either. (It's today, by the way.)

That's sad, because I was going to burn a few Union Jacks, erect a monument to George Floyd, have a Mao-themed vegan barbecue and free all my baby lambs from the tyranny of farming. Before going into town to kill a bill and smash up a Mercedes-Benz.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This week Clarkson's Sun column is unusually better than his Sunday Times one: "You never saw Prince Philip slouch… he was the human spirit level"
 

Revelator

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Joined
Mar 14, 2012
Messages
470
Location
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I'm lost in a Brexit spaghetti junction: I'm trying to adapt to climate change by growing hardy pasta wheat — but baffling new red tape is sowing the seeds of disaster (April 18)

As we know, the nation's Brexiteers are now running around with a smug look on their faces, and Union Jacks on their mobility scooters, telling anyone who'll listen that if they hadn't won the referendum, we'd all be painting red crosses on our front doors and throwing granny on the cart because she'd just coughed.

"Look," they scream, priapic with delight, "even the Germans have not been able to organise themselves thanks to the bureaucratic monster that is the EU, whereas here, where we are free and agile, every man, woman and child has now been vaccinated with a proper British jab."

Even I will admit that the vaccination programme has been a remarkable success, chiefly, I suspect, because we bypassed the monstrously inefficient Department of Health and the almost completely useless NHS — the organisation, not the doctors and nurses — and gave the job of arranging everything to a small team of people who were properly motivated by what Boris called "greed". Because that's what it was.

However, already I have come face to face with a major downside of leaving the EU and on balance, I'd rather have Covid. Last year, global warming stopped being an issue that affects only unpronounceable islands on the other side of the world, and arrived in all its oppressive majesty in the UK. God, it was hot. Hot and wet.

Which, to paraphrase Adrian Cronauer, is OK if you're with a woman, but not so good if you're trying to grow wheat.

From my kitchen window, we seem to be having the same problem this year. I'm writing this at the end of March, and I'm on the highest, windiest and coldest farm in West Oxfordshire, and already the oil seed rape is starting to flower. There's not as much as I would like — thanks to a surge in the number of pigeons — but it's yellow already. And that's weird.

So because the weather is obviously changing and because there's literally nothing we can do to stop it, I decided to adapt.

This is something coral should think about doing. Instead of sitting off the coast of Australia, bleaching and moaning about how the water's too warm, why doesn't it move to the Humber estuary and grow there? It's the same story with all those elephants we see in nature programmes, mooching about in muddy puddles, wondering where the river's gone. Come on guys. You're supposed to be intelligent. So if water is your issue, move to Manchester.

Farmers in Britain must do likewise. So, as I now have many weeks of agricultural experience under my belt, I decided to adapt to climate change by growing durum wheat instead of the normal milling variety that's used to make bread.

Durum is a "hard" wheat that was developed by man around 10,000 years ago and is perfectly happy growing in harsh, dry and hot conditions. So if that's what we are going to have in the UK from now on, that's what we will have to grow. And I was going to be one of the first out of the blocks — I'd be the kid in Formula One who changes his tyres before anyone else. I'd be ahead. In the lead.

Globally, only around 6 per cent of the wheat grown is durum because it's not what you'd call user-friendly. It's hard to mill and the casing is brittle so you get a lot of bran in the mix. Plus — and this is farmer speak — it loses its Hagberg very easily, so unless you get it out of the ground and sold very quickly, you end up with a shed full of pheasant food.

The man at my local flour mill was delighted, though, that I was going to give it a bash because in the UK in recent years there's been a surge in demand. And it's easy to see why. Not only is durum flour used by the middle classes to make pasta but in addition it's needed to make flatbread and Levantine dishes such as tabbouleh, kashk, kibbeh and the bulgur for pilafs. Which is pretty much the staple menu in every Huddersfield takeaway joint these days.

As a result of all this, I was feeling very smug. I had a new crop that could cope with hot dry weather, and it would make flour that's jolly popular with those who enjoy a doner kebab after a pint. That's a double top.

As you can't easily buy durum seed in Britain, I placed my order, through a complicated chain of middlemen, with a French seed breeder in the Rhône Valley. And very soon, three tonnes of the stuff arrived in Calais, where it got stuck in a jungle of red tape.

The French customs said it would not be released until they were given the consignment's EORI number, and no one on this side of the channel had the first clue what that was. And there was no point asking the French for clarification because all you get is the Gallic shrug, a universally recognised symbol of complete uninterest. Tinged with a hint of "Well, you shouldn't have left the EU, should you?"

I had just spent £45,000 on a snazzy new Weaving Sabre Tine seed drill and after a lot of swearing and broken fingernails and calls to my farm manager to come and help, it was attached to the back of my fuelled and serviced Lamborghini tractor. I was ready to get out there. But I didn't have the seed.

The weeks passed and the weather got hotter and hotter. And as the thermometer climbed past 24C, I started to worry that I'd missed the boat completely, and wouldn't be able to plant it even if it did turn up. I was so cross that I drove over to see a Brexiteer neighbour yesterday morning and called him a c***. I did. I pulled up, called him a c*** and then drove home again.

And I'm not alone. You try buying flower seeds from Holland these days. Or exporting corn and straw. I know we keep being told that traffic between the EU and Britain is barely affected by Brexit but from where I'm sitting, that sounds like nonsense.

Happily, yesterday afternoon, my bacon was saved by Simon Bates. I'm fairly sure it's not the Simon Bates who used to make the nation sob every morning with "Our Tune" but I suppose it might be. Whatever, he was one of the middlemen in my supply chain and he worked out that an EORI is some kind of hybrid VAT number. And with that information the seed was freed, and this morning a massive artic lorry hissed to a halt in the farmyard. As I write, I can hear the welcome beeping sound of a reversing telehandler telling me that it's being loaded into the drill.

And that's where I shall be this evening. As the sun sets on this wonderful spring day, I shall be sitting in the cab with a cold beer trying to spot birds' nests in the blossom-filled hedges as I trundle up and down my fields, planting pasta. Farming has been made even more difficult by Brexit but despite that, I shall be very happy.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nicknames are a staple of British humour — we can't let the language police stamp them out (April 18)

When we look back at the greatest monarchs in history, we tend to think only of those who have ruled Britain. But this is unfair, as there was once a queen in Spain whose achievements matched those of either of our magnificent Elizabeths.

Isabella of Castile brought the dysfunctional regions of Iberia together for the first time. Then this God-fearing and hard-working woman created a properly functioning government, reduced crime rates to the lowest they had been in years and funded Columbus's expedition to the New World. She laid the foundations that would make Spain the dominant global powerhouse for a hundred years.

Despite all this, however, she is remembered today as Isabella the Smelly. Apparently she once told courtiers she would not take care of her personal hygiene until the last Moorish kingdom on the Iberian peninsula was defeated. And as this took eight months, she did become a bit pungent.

Last week, though, we received news from Spain that historians had uncovered documents that proved Isabella was normally fastidious about cleanliness and body odour. However, by releasing this information in these woke times, they've caused everyone to remember that while she was bathing and discovering America, she was also murdering quite a few Jews. Which means, if they're not careful, she'll become known as Isabella the Hitler. And on balance I think she'd prefer to be remembered as smelly.

We often see this. The wonderful country of Georgia was once ruled by David IV, widely regarded as the country's greatest monarch. He created a nation, raised an army to hold the Turks at bay for 20 years and drove the Muslims from Tbilisi, which is why when you enter the city today there's a magnificent statue of him astride a huge warhorse of some kind. Sadly, however, because he built so much, the inscription reads "Dave the Builder".

In England we have Ethelred, who was sitting around at home one evening, making a bit of supper, having forgotten his mates were coming round for a party. His legacy was buggered for good.

Then there was one of the last Saxon kings, Edward. His brother had been blinded by red-hot pokers after a power struggle with King Cnut the Anagram, but he held on to power for 20 years. Then, one day, he took Harold the Eye to one side and confessed to once having stolen a goat. And that was that.

That's the trouble with nicknames. You don't get to choose them. At school I was Ness, after the monster, and I shared a house with Mong, Jobber, Pixie, Junky and a fat boy we called Pies. One guy was called Mary and referred to, always, as "she" and "her". Remember, this was the 1970s. You weren't allowed to choose your sex back then. So, much to his surprise, we did it for him.

Had we been allowed to choose nicknames, we'd have been Maverick and Iceman and Goose. But we weren't. Those are the rules. Or they should be.

In Formula One motor racing, Daniel Ricciardo is known — but only by himself — as the Honey Badger. That's because he chose it. If I'd been allowed to give him a handle, he'd have been Nose. Nicknames can never be complimentary. So when Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor in the Avengers movies, tells us his nickname is Hammer, we can be fairly sure it isn't.

Do you suppose that back in the day, when they were down the pub, people called Alexander "the Great"? I seriously doubt it. Neither, in a game of football, did anyone ever spot Richard on the wing and shout, "On me head, Lionheart!"

I worry, though, that this is the way the world is moving. We were told last week that a woman who had an on-air clash with Sharon Osbourne about Piers Morgan's observations on the royal family was claiming to have PTSD. Yup, she reckons that after a brief bit of lady gossip, she is suffering from the exact same problem that soldiers have after they've survived a bombing raid. If I were to give her a nickname it'd be Wetty.

But I wouldn't be able to give her a nickname, of course, because that would give her even more PTSD.

There was a case recently in which two people in the same workplace were called Mark. They became known as Big Mark and Little Mark, and does anyone see a problem with that? Well, they did, so were given six months off to recover.

Bosses, in fact, must ensure that nicknames are not used at work, as it could become expensive. There was one case in which an elderly employee was made redundant. And the tribunal that resulted agreed this had been because of his age, simply because he was known to colleagues as Yoda.

There is no doubt in my mind that in the current climate I could contact my old school and say my life had been materially affected by the nickname I was given. And it would have to cough up. It's the same with the army, where everyone is basically called Shithead.

It'd be such a shame if nicknames were crushed into history by ... let's call it Marklism. Because reducing a person's whole being to one basic component is an art form. I knew a chap called Baxter Campbell who was known as Two Soups. In the car industry there's a PR man named Wayne Bruce. We call him ManBat. And then there's a chap with a medical condition that has caused one of his hands to be much smaller than the other. He's known as Clock.

One of my oldest friends has Tourette's. No matter what the social situation or the company he's in, he is a fountain of profanity. My mum gave him a nickname that has stuck. It's C***y.

And I know that sounds unkind, but it was born of fondness. And that's sort of the point of the nickname.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And here's the Sun column: "Everything has got better since 1971… apart from music"
 

Revelator

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2012
Messages
470
Location
San Francisco
The Clarkson Review: Ferrari Roma
A Ferrari that’s fun, not totally bonkers
(April 25)

Let’s dive straight in, shall we. You’ve all noted from the pictures that this week I’m reviewing the Ferrari Roma, which is the cheapest Ferrari of them all, so I’m guessing you don’t want a five-hundred-word treatise on the origins of, say, trifle, followed by a sudden dogleg and then a few words on the car. Right. Happy to oblige.

I took it over to see my friend Eric, who has owned many great Ferraris in the past. He knows the brand well. He knows the appeal. He also knows his cars — this is the man who produced the film Rush. So he climbed in, took one look at the digital dash and the complicated steering wheel, and then leapt straight out saying: “They’ve lost the plot.”

There’s more. Ferrari is saying that the Roma is 70 per cent new, but people with adenoids and way too much time on their hands have worked out that it has exactly the same wheelbase as the unloved Portofino, so they’re saying that while 70 per cent of the components may be new, the basic architecture of the car, and its engine, is not new at all. Others are suggesting that it was supposed to have been a Maserati but Fiat changed its mind at the last minute and stuck a prancing horse on the back.

Everyone else I talked to, including one guy who’s actually ordered one, said it looked very like an Aston Martin. It doesn’t. It does, however, look extremely similar to an F-type Jaguar, which costs £100,000 less.

In short, then, the Roma doesn’t have much appeal to the mega Ferrari fans, it may not be what it says it is, and it isn’t what you’d call good value.

However, I have been banging on for years that Ferrari is losing its way, that it’s a hatmaker first and foremost, and that the cars it makes are way too big, way too powerful and really only suitable for the rich and famous in Saudi Arabia. Driving an 812 GTS in Britain is like trying to ride a cow through your local antiques shop.

So I was rather looking forward to the Roma because it’s small, and because its engine is not completely bonkers, and it’s at the front, which is where Ferrari always used to put them in the glory days. And why should we criticise it for looking like an F-type Jag? Isn’t that like saying about a woman: “The trouble is she looks too like Alicia Vikander”?

Then there’s the price issue. Sure, at £170,000 it costs more than a Jag or a Porsche — and a hell of a lot more than a Ford Mustang — but that’s OK if it has the Ferrari magic. And there’s no way round this: it just does.

When you turn the steering wheel, even if you’re not going especially quickly, a combination of many things, both visual and sensual, causes the pit of your stomach to feel momentarily warm, as though everything is suddenly all right in the world. I know this is the sort of pretentious twaddle Grayson Perry uses to lose viewers but it really does happen. Well, it does to me. And then, when I changed down for an upcoming corner and the double clutch gearbox did its thing, it happened again.

Oh, and when you put your foot down and there’s a combination of sound and torque-driven fury, it’s like you’ve dived head first into a vat of dopamine after drinking three pints of serotonin. It feels different to other cars somehow: lighter, sharper, better.

I discovered this unusualness when I first drove a Ferrari 355. And I’ve experienced it a couple of times since, always when I’m in a small V8-powered Ferrari. They are just so bloody exciting.

And for once the power didn’t cause me to soil myself. In all the Ferraris I’ve driven recently I’ve put my foot down and then, driven by a healthy lust for self-preservation, I’ve lifted it up again. I challenge anyone — and I include Lewis Hamilton in this definition of “anyone” — to keep their foot down for more than two seconds in a modern V12 Ferrari on a typical British country road while in second or third gears. You can’t.

This means you’re paying for all that engineering and all that capability and you can’t use it. Whereas in the Roma you can. The twin-turbo V8 produces 612 horsepowers, which is a lot, but crucially you get only 560 torques. That’s still a lot but it’s not so much that you immediately hit a tree. It’s fun power.

So what we have here is a car that tickles your tickly bits, and roars the triumphant roar of flat-plane internal combustion, and on the stretch of road I use when I have a nice car it was wonderful. It’s my kind of car, this.

Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, a mid-engined 488 would be a tiny bit more darty, but in a 488 you’d have to slow down for all of the crests or you’d graunch the underside of its low nose. Whereas in a Roma you can keep right on going. As an all-round driving machine, then, it is fantastic. And it’s not even remotely crashy on poor surfaces. It glides.

It’s practical too. Because the engine is in the front you get a decent-sized boot with a decent-sized opening, and back seats as well. I’m not sure who exactly could ever use them, as even Richard Hammond would moan about being squashed, but they’re useful storage spaces for smaller stuff. Babies, for example.

Further forwards there’s a lot of clever-clever electronic interface stuff, with glass screens and haptic buttons and so forth, and I know this has gone down badly with some of my colleagues in the specialist motoring press. But I thought it all worked quite well. For once I didn’t even mind having most of the controls on the steering wheel. It’s still a stupid idea not to have stalks for the wipers and indicators, but at least in the Roma I’d figured out the headlight dim/dip operation after only three days of swearing.

However, the whole thing then comes crashing down because of the seats. There’s no proper lateral support no matter what you do with the controls, and you feel like you’re sitting on them rather than in them. They are terrible. You’d be better off ordering the car with none at all and using your kitchen chairs instead.

Of course you can opt for sports seats instead, which, of course, brings me on to the other problem with this car. The crazy options list. You want the rear diffuser to be made from carbon fibre? Well, that’s £6,720. Two-tone leather is £4,800. Foldable rear seats are £960. Basically everything is an option, which is why the test car I drove would actually cost you just shy of £230,000.

The Roma’s good. Very good. It’s elegant and subtle and pretty and fast and surprisingly practical. I really liked it, but at that price I’m not sure I could bring myself actually to buy one.


THE CLARKSOMETER
Ferrari Roma
Specifications
Engine: 3855cc, V8 twin turbo, petrol
Power: 612bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque: 560 Ib ft @ 3000rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph: 3.4sec
Top speed: 199mph
Fuel / CO2: 26mpg / 245g/km
Weight: 1,570kg
Price: £170,659
Release date: On sale now
Jeremy’s rating: ★★★★☆
 

Revelator

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2012
Messages
470
Location
San Francisco
The Clarkson Review: Ferrari Roma
A Ferrari that’s fun, not totally bonkers
(April 25)

Let’s dive straight in, shall we. You’ve all noted from the pictures that this week I’m reviewing the Ferrari Roma, which is the cheapest Ferrari of them all, so I’m guessing you don’t want a five-hundred-word treatise on the origins of, say, trifle, followed by a sudden dogleg and then a few words on the car. Right. Happy to oblige.

I took it over to see my friend Eric, who has owned many great Ferraris in the past. He knows the brand well. He knows the appeal. He also knows his cars — this is the man who produced the film Rush. So he climbed in, took one look at the digital dash and the complicated steering wheel, and then leapt straight out saying: “They’ve lost the plot.”

There’s more. Ferrari is saying that the Roma is 70 per cent new, but people with adenoids and way too much time on their hands have worked out that it has exactly the same wheelbase as the unloved Portofino, so they’re saying that while 70 per cent of the components may be new, the basic architecture of the car, and its engine, is not new at all. Others are suggesting that it was supposed to have been a Maserati but Fiat changed its mind at the last minute and stuck a prancing horse on the back.

Everyone else I talked to, including one guy who’s actually ordered one, said it looked very like an Aston Martin. It doesn’t. It does, however, look extremely similar to an F-type Jaguar, which costs £100,000 less.

In short, then, the Roma doesn’t have much appeal to the mega Ferrari fans, it may not be what it says it is, and it isn’t what you’d call good value.

However, I have been banging on for years that Ferrari is losing its way, that it’s a hatmaker first and foremost, and that the cars it makes are way too big, way too powerful and really only suitable for the rich and famous in Saudi Arabia. Driving an 812 GTS in Britain is like trying to ride a cow through your local antiques shop.

So I was rather looking forward to the Roma because it’s small, and because its engine is not completely bonkers, and it’s at the front, which is where Ferrari always used to put them in the glory days. And why should we criticise it for looking like an F-type Jag? Isn’t that like saying about a woman: “The trouble is she looks too like Alicia Vikander”?

Then there’s the price issue. Sure, at £170,000 it costs more than a Jag or a Porsche — and a hell of a lot more than a Ford Mustang — but that’s OK if it has the Ferrari magic. And there’s no way round this: it just does.

When you turn the steering wheel, even if you’re not going especially quickly, a combination of many things, both visual and sensual, causes the pit of your stomach to feel momentarily warm, as though everything is suddenly all right in the world. I know this is the sort of pretentious twaddle Grayson Perry uses to lose viewers but it really does happen. Well, it does to me. And then, when I changed down for an upcoming corner and the double clutch gearbox did its thing, it happened again.

Oh, and when you put your foot down and there’s a combination of sound and torque-driven fury, it’s like you’ve dived head first into a vat of dopamine after drinking three pints of serotonin. It feels different to other cars somehow: lighter, sharper, better.

I discovered this unusualness when I first drove a Ferrari 355. And I’ve experienced it a couple of times since, always when I’m in a small V8-powered Ferrari. They are just so bloody exciting.

And for once the power didn’t cause me to soil myself. In all the Ferraris I’ve driven recently I’ve put my foot down and then, driven by a healthy lust for self-preservation, I’ve lifted it up again. I challenge anyone — and I include Lewis Hamilton in this definition of “anyone” — to keep their foot down for more than two seconds in a modern V12 Ferrari on a typical British country road while in second or third gears. You can’t.

This means you’re paying for all that engineering and all that capability and you can’t use it. Whereas in the Roma you can. The twin-turbo V8 produces 612 horsepowers, which is a lot, but crucially you get only 560 torques. That’s still a lot but it’s not so much that you immediately hit a tree. It’s fun power.

So what we have here is a car that tickles your tickly bits, and roars the triumphant roar of flat-plane internal combustion, and on the stretch of road I use when I have a nice car it was wonderful. It’s my kind of car, this.

Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, a mid-engined 488 would be a tiny bit more darty, but in a 488 you’d have to slow down for all of the crests or you’d graunch the underside of its low nose. Whereas in a Roma you can keep right on going. As an all-round driving machine, then, it is fantastic. And it’s not even remotely crashy on poor surfaces. It glides.

It’s practical too. Because the engine is in the front you get a decent-sized boot with a decent-sized opening, and back seats as well. I’m not sure who exactly could ever use them, as even Richard Hammond would moan about being squashed, but they’re useful storage spaces for smaller stuff. Babies, for example.

Further forwards there’s a lot of clever-clever electronic interface stuff, with glass screens and haptic buttons and so forth, and I know this has gone down badly with some of my colleagues in the specialist motoring press. But I thought it all worked quite well. For once I didn’t even mind having most of the controls on the steering wheel. It’s still a stupid idea not to have stalks for the wipers and indicators, but at least in the Roma I’d figured out the headlight dim/dip operation after only three days of swearing.

However, the whole thing then comes crashing down because of the seats. There’s no proper lateral support no matter what you do with the controls, and you feel like you’re sitting on them rather than in them. They are terrible. You’d be better off ordering the car with none at all and using your kitchen chairs instead.

Of course you can opt for sports seats instead, which, of course, brings me on to the other problem with this car. The crazy options list. You want the rear diffuser to be made from carbon fibre? Well, that’s £6,720. Two-tone leather is £4,800. Foldable rear seats are £960. Basically everything is an option, which is why the test car I drove would actually cost you just shy of £230,000.

The Roma’s good. Very good. It’s elegant and subtle and pretty and fast and surprisingly practical. I really liked it, but at that price I’m not sure I could bring myself actually to buy one.


THE CLARKSOMETER
Ferrari Roma
Specifications
Engine: 3855cc, V8 twin turbo, petrol
Power: 612bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque: 560 Ib ft @ 3000rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph: 3.4sec
Top speed: 199mph
Fuel / CO2: 26mpg / 245g/km
Weight: 1,570kg
Price: £170,659
Release date: On sale now
Jeremy’s rating: ★★★★☆
 

Revelator

Active Member
Joined
Mar 14, 2012
Messages
470
Location
San Francisco
Now I've really leapt into the danger zone
To have a farm is to run the daily gauntlet of serious injury or death, but nothing says "adrenaline junkie" like owning a herd of cows (May 2)

As is the way with everything powered by electricity, the automatic door on my new barn broke recently. This meant the enormous pile of wheat in there became an all-you-can-eat 24-hour diner both for the farm's rats and the pheasants I didn't shoot last year because of Covid.

Naturally I needed to get it closed as soon as possible, but to do that I had to access the machinery box, which was about 15 feet above my head. And I don't have a ladder. I don't believe in them and I don't trust them. They work in tandem with the cruel mistress that is gravity to ensure that no matter how many precautions you take, you will end up in great pain.

Only recently a chap who works for me was up a wooden stepladder painting a beam when the top rung snapped. This caused him to fall, with one leg on one side of the ladder and one on the other. As both his hands were full of painting stuff, he couldn't brace himself, which meant he broke the next rung down with his testicles, and then the next and then the next until eventually he was at floor level. Incredibly he didn't spill any paint.

I can still hear the shrill, keening noise he made, though, so there's no way I was going to try to unjam my barn door while perched on a long wooden killing machine. Especially when I have a JCB telehandler.

Now I know that rule one in every single health and safety book says you should never, ever use the forks on a telehandler to raise an actual person, but I've never been able to see why. It's mechanical, not electrical, which means it won't suddenly go wrong for no reason. So out I went with Lisa, who's Irish and therefore a natural with construction equipment, and up I went into the roof.

Inevitably the operation was not a success. The barn door remains resolutely open. But on the upside I was not injured. In fact, and I'm touching wood as I write this, I haven't been injured at all in the 18 months of farming.

My tractor driver had to go to hospital when he got a fertiliser pellet in his ear — don't ask — and another guy nail-gunned his leg to a scaffolding board, but me? I'm still the same shape as I was. There are no new holes. And all my limbs are still attached.

This makes me unusual as farming remains, by far, the most dangerous job in the country. Farmers Weekly, my bible on these matters, reported a couple of weeks ago that over the past 12 months more than 50 people died while working in UK agriculture. That's the highest level for 25 years and means that around one farmer or farm worker every week says to their family when they leave the breakfast table, "See you later." And then doesn't.

It's clear, then, that when you visit the British countryside you are entering the Killing Fields. And remember, this figure doesn't include the huge number who have to walk home carrying the arm they've cut off or those who end up in a straw bale with no legs. Or dignity.

These days, thanks to the advance of Marklism, you aren't allowed to hurt even a soldier's feelings, so they don't have anything like the rate of injury and death that farmers have. No other job does. Not the police. Not reporters or cameramen in war zones. Hell, I bet if you checked there's probably a better survival rate in the Democratic Republic of Congo's cobalt mines.

I can see why, of course. Most farmers use a quad bike of some sort and these things are by far and away the most stupid way of moving around since Sir Clive Sinclair woke up one morning and said: "I'm going to make an electric slipper." The fact is this: sooner or later, quad bikes fall over.

The Travellers who live up the road from my farm have many, and on a lovely evening we can hear them jumping over stuff and doing wheelies. Many of my neighbours complain about the noise and the damage being done, but I see no point. Because soon the noise will stop.

Other issues. Well, the back of a tractor seems to me to be a particularly dangerous environment. You are usually standing on slippery mud, trying to maintain your balance while attempting to attach lumps of powerful machinery to a surface that's invariably covered in a thick layer of grease and oil. And you're almost always on your own, miles from anywhere. And as often as not it's dark. And raining.

You sometimes watch astronauts attempting to restart broken satellites and you think, "Ooh, that looks dangerous." But compared with tractoring, it's like being a schoolteacher in Godalming. Imagine covering yourself in baby oil then playing Twister in a Burmese sawmill. Then you're on the right page.

Another issue in farming is being crushed. I don't even want to think about that, but soon I shall have to because it's that time of year when I have to cultivate my game covers. And one is located on a precipitous slope. Last year I was almost sitting on the side window of my tractor as I went along and I was acutely aware that at any moment it could topple over and that I'd end up underneath it, being pushed into the ground like a tent peg. I'm told this is the most painful way to die.

But I reckon being burnt alive would be worse, and that's another peril I face once a month when the time comes to burn some stuff that won't light because it's a bit damp, so I think I'll use a bit of diesel and it turns out a bit's not enough, so I lob a gallon onto the fire that I think had gone out and then there's a whoomph, suggesting that it hadn't.

So far I've only ever lost my eyebrows, but the day can't be far away when I am forced to run around in a burning panic, like one of those flamethrower people in Saving Private Ryan.

However, it turns out that fire and falling off ladders and overturning tractors are not the biggest danger out here in the sticks. We read recently that you are just as likely to be killed by a cow as you are by an AstraZeneca-related blood clot, and that heartened us all because, obviously, the only people who are ever killed by cows are men in satin suits in Spain.

Not so, it seems. Cows are incredibly dangerous. Some reports suggest that they are in fact the biggest killer of countryside people in Britain. Not just farmers, but walkers as well.

I was thinking of maybe getting a few Friesians because I like them, but I'm told that a Friesian bull is more dangerous than a saltwater crocodile on a quad bike. Friesian bulls remember if you look at them strangely and can make a mental note to kill you at a later date. They actually bear grudges and their attacks are premeditated. They are black and white terminators.

So bear that in mind the next time you are watching First Man or The Right Stuff. By all means marvel at the bravery of those test pilots and swoon at the skill, but never forget that compared with a farmer, and a beef farmer in particular, Neil Armstrong and Chuck Yeager were pussies.
 

Revelator

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It's daft to expect kids to work for a living. I'm encouraging mine to take up burglary instead (May 9)

It has been suggested that while everyone was hiding under the bed in a tropical haze of sweat and fear, 700,000 people packed their bags and left London for good. This figure may be wrong, though. According to my sources in the property business, it could be 800,000.

Obviously, the frizzy-haired and the mad who research this kind of thing will explain that it's all been caused by rich people abandoning their houses in the capital and moving full-time to their weekend cottages in the home counties. But that's obviously nonsense. Sure, some people with suits and a direct line to the front desk at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair realised in the hibernation that they could manipulate stock markets just as easily from the middle of a field in Gloucestershire, but the number is not that great. It certainly isn't 700,000.

No, the vast majority of those who've left were not well off at all. And they have not just gone from London. They've gone from Britain, driven out under the cloak of Covid but actually by Brexit, back to all those places you couldn't place with any degree of certainty on a map. And this is going to be one hell of a problem for the capital's pubs and restaurants when they finally fully reopen. Because who's going to man the pumps?

British kids? Hmmm. This suggestion causes employers who were raised under the guiding hand of Norman Tebbit to roll their eyes and smack their foreheads in exasperation. "British kids are hilarious," they say. "They turn up on the first day and lean on stuff, looking sullen, and then, on the second, they text at about 11am to say they had too much ketamine the night before and feel unwell."

We've all heard the stories. One young person I know simply couldn't believe it when he arrived home after an eight-hour shift to be told by his mother that he had to do it all again the next day.

Another teenager, after a month of work, was horrified to find that a quarter of what he'd earned had been taken away in tax to pay for the army and street lighting. But not half as horrified as he was the next month.

"Mum," he sobbed, clutching his payslip in disbelief, "they've done it again."

British kids, then, have a bad rap.

They're seen as weak, spoilt, lazy, entitled and completely incapable of doing what you and I would call work. Getting up. Putting on a tie. Being told what to do. And then going home with not much pay. And it's true. They don't want to do that. Which is why so many of them have decided to become burglars.

I'm not surprised. In burglary you're your own boss, you work whatever hours you like, you pay no tax and there is almost no chance that you will ever be caught. We read in The Times last week that in nearly one million burglaries that have taken place since 2015, police failed to identify a suspect.

Yes, in 18 per cent of cases a suspect was identified, but that was usually because he was on the premises when the constabulary arrived, drooling and puking into his swag bag. Anyone with even the smallest amount of self-restraint and intelligence gets away with it, which is why, in 82 per cent of cases, the perps were never identified. In London, where there are a lot of cycle lanes to police, it's nearly 90 per cent.

Richard Littlejohn, writing in the Daily Mail last week, told us how the private security company that monitors the gated community where he lives found a burglar inside his house while he was on holiday and called the police, who took 2½ hours to turn up. By which time the enterprising young kid who had broken in was long gone.

The government is doing some very hopeless things to try to stop this sort of thing happening. In Nottinghamshire, for instance, residents who have been burgled once already are being offered solar-powered security cameras in the hope that the criminals can be captured on film next time. But then what?

Not that long ago I found a CCTV picture of a bright-looking young man coming out of my London flat carrying my television set. It was as though he'd been photographed on an expensive Nikon in a studio, so I had it published in The Sun. And did Plod catch him? No, they did not. I guess they were too busy investigating Leon Brittan and various equally dead DJs.

So let's picture all this, shall we, from a kid's point of view. You worked hard at school and you're about to emerge from a miserable locked-down spell at university with a 2:1. What are your choices? Well, you could go and work in a restaurant for minimum wage and some blisters. Or you could kick someone's door down this evening and trouser a load of tom.

You won't even have to worry about the owner of the property coming at you, partly because you'll be younger and fitter than they are, but mostly because, in London, no one's there any more. Even when they are. In Knightsbridge, for example, I learnt the other day that 80 per cent of flats are unoccupied 80 per cent of the time.

Guns? No one's got one. Knives? Sure, everyone's got one of those in the kitchen drawer, but if you say please and thank you, no one's going to stick it into the side of your head.

I used to say to my boy that he should think about a career in plumbing. I figured that, with his accent and manners, he'd clean up, even if his customers had to do much the same thing after one of his visits. But now I'm thinking that he should consider a career in burglary instead.

The only problem is that when he knocks off for the night and decides to stop off at a greasy spoon café for a celebratory bacon sandwich on his way home, he'll be in a queue of other burglars and there will be no one on hand to serve them.

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And here's the Sun column: "No malaria, sun cream or funny tummy… you can’t beat Britain’s beauty". This part will be of interest to Grand Tour fans:

I’ve just spent ten days filming the next Grand Tour Special. Which wasn’t special, or a Grand Tour, as we shot it entirely in England and Wales. But oooh, it’ll look good.

I began by driving from my house in Oxfordshire to a town I’d never heard of, and can’t pronounce, in the middle of Wales.

And there wasn’t one view on the entire three-hour journey that wasn’t jaw-droppingly spectacular. Or sack-shrivellingly beautiful.

Over the next three days, we whizzed around in Wales, and there’s no getting round the fact that in the spring, on a sunny day, some of their scenery is very nearly as good as the stuff you get in Yorkshire. (I’m bound to say that obviously.)

Then there was another pretty drive to Leamington Spa, which sounds like it’ll just be a provincial hell-hole full of vomit-speckled pavements and Subways. But it was a Regency gem, as awe-inspiring as Florence. Only without the boring art you feel duty-bound to go and look at.

After a night in a cracking hotel just outside Rugby, we toddled off to Kent, which I always thought was full of nothing but mobile homes and bewildered Syrians.

Again, I was wrong. It rolled and bristled and was bursting with pubs I wanted to stop at.

Then, we drove along the south coast to the spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs before turning right and heading for Suffolk with its weird and timeless villages and yet more pubs that tugged hard on my steering wheel.

In ten days, we did not see a cloud. But despite this, no one needed to waste an hour every morning plunging their heads into a bucket of sun cream.

No one caught malaria. And we didn’t have to wait around every morning for Richard Hammond to get over the funny tummy he gets every time we go past Calais. Everyone drove on the correct side of the road as well.

I’m not going to say it was all smooth sailing. On the way home, some out-of-practice herbert had crashed on the M25 and I had to divert through the back streets of Harlow, which was a bit rubbish.
 
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