Clarkson: The Weekly Times Comment Column by Jeremy Thread

Alkusoittow

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The Sunday Times Driving website seems to be uploading the columns a week after they premiere, so I recommend checking the site next Monday for the car column. And now here's the regular column. It suggests Jezza is contemplating a career change...

Thanks for posting this, as always. And thanks for pointing out that the Sunday Times Driving column was available on the site. :D
 

Revelator

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Thanks for posting this, as always. And thanks for pointing out that the Sunday Times Driving column was available on the site.

You're very welcome. Yesterday's Sunday Times didn't have a car column, but here's the regular one:

Splints, tick. Crutches, tick. Stuff health and safety, tick. Let the holiday begin (August 02)

Judging by the absence of traffic on London's roads, you're all currently on holiday, which means that fairly soon you will be overcome with an uncontrollable urge to injure yourself. Many of you will do this by going water-skiing. Others will choose to be towed behind a speedboat on an enormous banana.

Well, you go right ahead but don't come crying to me when you arrive home on crutches, or in a box, or with a bottom so full of water that you could double up as a fish tank.

Water-skiing is like snow-skiing. Professionals make it look so easy that after a couple of bottles of wine you too think you could do it. But here's the thing. It's not easy and soon you will have a dislocated hip.

Being on an enormous banana is very easy. So easy that after just a few moments you will decide to try to turn it over. Nobody does this when they are watching television at home, or when they are sitting in a restaurant.

Nobody thinks: "I wonder if I can make this chair fall over?" But put them on an enormous banana and almost straight away they will start to rock violently from side to side until over they go. And then they are in a hospital with a head wound.

What's really odd is that the need to try to turn the banana over becomes particularly irresistible when you are sharing the ride with your children. They're sitting there, bouncing up and down and squeaking with delight, and you're at the back, thinking that it'd be much better if you put them in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

I was in Australia last week and every morning lots of people with Tarzan hair and ankle bracelets ran down the beach and leapt into the sea with their surfboards.

Within an hour most of them were in a shark, and those who weren't were back on the beach with a skeleton that wasn't joined up any more.

And I kept thinking to myself: "Why do you do this? Why spend a lovely sunny day putting yourself in harm's way?" If you keep going round the globe you eventually reach New Zealand. And here things are even worse because as soon as you are off the plane, you will feel compelled to jump off a bridge, trusting that the organiser, who may or may not be a little bit stoned, has tied the bungee rope properly.

And if by some miracle you survive this ordeal by gravity, you'll climb into an enormous see-through ball and ask someone to push you off a cliff. It's extraordinary. You've sat in an aeroplane for more than two days to reach New Zealand and as soon as you get there you decide to become a paraplegic.

It's not just summer holidays either where we crave a spot of light paralysis for ourselves and our families.

On a weekend break in December many parents will take their children ice skating. It all sounds very idyllic: ruddy-faced kids whizzing about, mittens on strings, and the public-address system playing a selection of heart-warming carols. But do you know why they play carols at ice rinks? It's to mask the screams coming from the first-aid room.

Well, that's what it says on the door.

Because "first aid room" suggests it's full of nothing but a plump nurse with a cupboard full of sticking plasters and aspirin. But if you step through the door it's like going into the aftermath of an alien attack. There are limbless corpses everywhere and the walls are papered with flesh.

What's the matter with Monopoly? Or chess? Or if you want to get some fresh air, a spot of homoerotic volleyball? Oh, and there's another thing.

Why does everyone these days want to do a parachute jump? If you want to raise money for charity, which is the usual impetus, why not sell jam or do a sponsored walk? Why jump out of an aeroplane? I have never jumped out of an aeroplane and I never will. I'm sure it's a rush, standing by the door, plucking up the courage to take one last step. But after that it will be a few seconds of pure terror with a choice of two possible outcomes. Either you end up back at the airfield where you started in one piece. Or you end up back at the airfield where you started with a broken ankle.

I definitely can't understand why someone who has jumped out of an aeroplane and not broken their ankle would want to do it again. Because that's like going to a casino and betting constantly on red. It's a statistical certainty, bound by the laws of probability, that one day you're going to lose.

And yet here we all are in the summer holidays, scattered to all four corners of the globe, waterskiing and jet-biking and trying our hands at stuff for which our office-bound minds are completely unprepared. And why? Why are we risking so much for a momentary thrill? Well, it's because of those signs in shopping centres that tell us the floor is slippery when wet. And it's because of George Osborne's highvisibility jacket. And it's because of labelling on food.

It's because we live our day-to-day lives in a big cotton-wool ball, with handrails to stop us falling over and new roundabouts to make sure we aren't knocked off our bicycles.

All this health and safety flies in the face of everything that makes us human -- our playfulness, our need to explore strange new worlds and cut our knees occasionally.

Which is why, for two glorious weeks every year, we can fling off our socks and ride motorcycles in shorts and drink too much alcohol and eat too much food. Will we get a fatty liver and a broken leg as a result? Yup. Do we care? Nope.

Because soon we will be back at the airport, not being allowed to take any liquids on the plane in case we moisturise the pilot to death.
 

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Anyone know where the one on joining Amazon is located? I saw in a few news articles a few quotes.
 

skylock

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That might be from his Sun column--I lack access to that paper (which is mostly a good thing).

OK, thanks, I am sure it will show up/
 

thoots

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Actually, keep reading down, and you'll find this bit:

"Gear we three go again...

AS I?m sure you know, Top Gear is to soldier on under new management.

And that?s great.

But if you?re a fan of three middle-aged petrolheads falling over and catching fire, then I have good news.

Because Richard Hammond, James May and I are to make a new show with the American giant Amazon.

Along with our long-time producer, Andy Wilman, we have formed a production company which is called W Chump and Sons and we are now looking for an office, a rubber plant, some company cars and a name for our new programme.

Then we will be off. To make what will be a seriously well-funded, British-based show with no commercial breaks and, better still, no editorial pressure from on high.

Amazon has been delightfully clear on that. ?Just make the show you wanna make, guys.?

Music to my ears.

It?ll be on your televisions and your internets and your tablets and your telephones next year."

I'm not sure if that's what we were looking for, but it's in there.....
 

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This week Jezza allegedly targets the 'Dieselgate'. I haven't seen the article so far but it is considered Jeremy defends Volkswagen, blaming 'eco-mentalists' to be the cause of manufacturers' (so far Mazda, Mercedes, Honda or Mitsubishi and others were blamed as well) cheating.
 
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RedMoon

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Remember that CV you ?adapted?? So stop tutting and chuckle at VW instead 27 September 2015

So Volkswagen has been caught with its trousers down in America and now everyone is running about saying the mighty German giant will be driven into the wilderness by fines, lawsuits and decimated sales.

And, of course, if VW were to go out of business the fallout would be immense because it owns Audi, Bugatti, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat and Skoda as well. So they?d also go to the wall. And without the profits from these engineering powerhouses Germany would no longer be in a position to bail out the Greeks or house half of Syria. Which would cause global economic collapse, a humanitarian catastrophe and many plagues.

VW, then, is all set to become the new benchmark pariah. Robert Maxwell with windscreen wipers. North Korea with a tax disc. And that?s odd because, as far as I can tell, what it has actually done isn?t all that bad.

The story begins deep in the swivel-eyed mind of the world?s eco-mentalists, who spent years telling us that if we wanted to save the planet, we must all buy diesel cars. And then, when half of us had done just that, they changed tack and said: ?Noooo. Diesel cars are the new peril. They produce a blend of nitrogen and oxygen that we shall call NOX because that sounds sinister, and this will kill all our babies and puppy dogs by teatime tomorrow.?

And, of course, various soft-in-the-head governments around the world took note of this nonsense and promptly introduced new regulations on how much NOX a car could produce.

These new rules meant car firms had to spend a fortune designing a whole new range of diesel systems that run on a mix of diesel and concentrated urine. But VW went further and fitted its engines with a clever bit of software that exaggerated their economy and cleanliness when they were being tested.

This sounds a bit naughty, but let?s consider for a moment who suffers. Volkswagen?s customers? Crikey, no. The car they bought was better to drive than it would have been had it been re-engineered to comply with the rules. It had a nicer engine that didn?t need a tankful of urine to operate properly.

So what about your baby and your puppy dog? Well, mathematicians at Greenpeace have calculated that by ignoring the rules VW has murdered 1,700 people. But that?s rubbish because about 60% of manmade NOX emissions do not come from road transport, and of the 40% that do, the vast majority are from lorries and buses. So in the big scheme of things, your neighbour?s Golf diesel makes no discernible difference.

Put simply, then, Volkswagen looked at a set of arbitrary figures that had been dreamt up by a bunch of ill-informed, woolly-headed government officials and chose to ignore them. We are not talking about thalidomide here. Or Bhopal. It?s just a bit of good-natured rule-bending, and we all do that. We claim the VAT back on stuff that isn?t technically a business expense. We park on double yellow lines when we pop into a shop. We write CVs that aren?t completely accurate. We have spouses who take our speeding points. We trick automated supermarket checkout machines into thinking a bottle of champagne is a pack of biscuits, and our children make false IDs so they can go clubbing on a Friday night.

In my shorthand exam at journalism college I needed to achieve 110 words a minute, which I could have done by hard work and practice. But instead I used a discreet tape recorder with a half-speed playback facility. And my 1970s haircut to hide the earpiece cable.

And it?s not just individuals either. A few years ago a large European car company had a problem. It had spent billions on developing a new model that it guessed would not pass strict EU drive-by noise regulation tests. So it came up with a cunning plan.

On the day of the test, engineers drove the car up to the required speed and then, as they approached the government inspector with his clipboard and his decibel-ometer, they simply slipped the car into neutral, turned the engine off and coasted. The car passed, went on sale and you probably bought one. I know I did.

There?s more. An Italian company fitted the exhaust pipes in its new model with valves that remained closed when the car was being tested by pesky officials but would open up, as if by magic, in the real world.

And ultimately, who cares? Because contrary to what the BBC or The Guardian or the Pope would have you believe, it?s not a matter of life and death. It?s all just a silly game.

The eco-mentalists disagree, of course. They keep telling us that people made a decision to buy a Volkswagen purely and only because of its impressive-sounding NOX emission figures. But this is rubbish. I bought a Volkswagen in the summer and what comes out of its poo shoot interests me not one bit. I care about safety, value, performance and build quality. But how much nitrogen is coming out of the tailpipe? Like every other level-headed soul in the entire world, I couldn?t give a stuff.

I therefore don?t want to see VW driven into oblivion over a bit of well-intentioned and harmless cheating. But there?s a danger that this will happen unless what?s left of the senior management stop wringing their hands and sweating in press conferences and go on the attack.

VW used to have the best advertising in the world. It managed to make the world forget the company was started by Hitler and run originally by the Nazi party, and it needs to pull off the same trick now. We need to see Golfs with ship?s funnels belching smoke. Or a lemon with a caption saying ?Liar?. Maybe it could use music from the band Busted. But, whatever, the company needs to win its way back into our hearts through our funny bones.

Because look at it this way, Volkswagen. We know the whole saga is a joke and we are going to laugh at you. So get in early and laugh at yourself before we have the chance.

and here is a link to Jeremy's Sun columns http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/suncolumnists/jeremyclarkson/
 

Revelator

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Jeremy is back at the Times and I am back on the board, so let's play catch-up!

Chickens are safe but Labour's Ms Vegan will leave us ripped to shreds (11 Oct.)

With all the hullabaloo about white poppies and whether he'll sing the national anthem, you might not have noticed that Jeremy Corbyn has chosen a person called Kerry McCarthy to be Labour's spokeschair on the environment, food and rural affairs.

I was very surprised by this because I thought the radio announcer had said the job had gone to Perry McCarthy, who was Top Gear's first Stig. That would have been weird. But further research has revealed that actually the choice of Kerry is even weirder because she describes herself as a militant vegan.

Which means that if Labour does get elected, the person in charge of the nation's farming will not even eat an egg.

Worse, her veganism isn't something she does quietly and for her own reasons. She believes that we should all be vegan, and is on record as having said that eating meat should be viewed in exactly the same way as smoking tobacco. And how would that work then? You'd have to eat your pork chop on the pavement outside the restaurant, in the rain? And on a train, you'd have to have an electronic udder on which you could vape if you wanted some milk in your tea? Hold on, I need to be careful here because veganism is actually a disability. It's fine when you are 19 and you hate your parents and you want to be a nuisance, but if you only eat weeds'n'seeds in later life you will become deficient in vitamin B12, which this is true will cause you to become ugly, uncoordinated and stupid.

Of course, a vegan will tell you that this is a small price to pay if it means the nation's chickens and cows are free to roam wild and happy. They have in their minds a countryside freed from the smothering, chemically infused fire blanket of modern farming. They dream of meadows and babbling brooks, and hirsute women in boiler suits making love to one another on a mattress of bluebells and fair trade Birkenstocks.

The trouble is that Ms McCarthy was born in Luton and studied Russian, naturally, at Liverpool University. Which means her only connection with the countryside is her refusal to take part in it. And that makes me a better spokesperson because I have an actual farm.

Obviously, I don't do any farming as such; mostly I drive round the fields in my Range Rover glowering at ramblers. But last weekend I did some manual labour, so now I have a pretty good idea of what Britain would look like if dear old Kerry ever found herself in the hot seat ...

Last year I noticed that a path through one of the woods had become so overgrown it was impassable even in my car so I asked the farmer if he'd attach one of those whirry things to the back of his tractor and clear away some of the undergrowth. He did a good job but just 12 months later all the plants that had been minced and smashed were back, stronger and more determined than ever.

So last weekend, because the farmer was busy spraying something important onto the fields before the weather did something crucial, I decided to have a go at clearing the path myself. I therefore rented a flail, attached it to the back of my quad bike and set off.

Now Ms McCarthy would have us believe that when nature is left to its own devices it will produce nothing but forget-me-nots and grasses that whisper in the breeze. But nature is no different from its most vibrant invention man. Which means that the weak and the timid are overwhelmed almost immediately by the strong and the vicious.

It's a jungle out there, literally.

My path, therefore, was overgrown with horse-sized thistles, nettles that appeared to be dead but which could still send a man into anaphylactic shock and thick bramble bushes with thorns like the incisors on a great white shark.

Still, I figured, none of this would be a problem for my flail, which went straight over the first bramble bush and then died in a horrible graunching cacophony of smoke, failure and expense.

This was no problem, though, because I had also rented a chainsaw that, after just 400 pulls on the cord, began its two-stroke dance of death. Now, I've seen Scarface, so I know that chainsaws can deal with human bone, no problem at all. I've also seen shows on lumberjacking in Canada, so I'm aware that they can take down even the mightiest redwood. But after just three seconds in an autumnal Cotswold bramble bush the chain came off and that was that.

Feeling a little fed up, I realised I'd have to clear the path using old fashioned branch cutters, so having parked the quad bike, the flail and the broken chainsaw in a nearby stream, I began to wage my one-man war with Kerry McCarthy's vision of heaven.

It was extremely tough going because each end of a bramble stalk is anchored into the ground, forming a hoop that is designed to trip you up and pitch you head first into the thorns. Or you will step into an unseen badger hole. Either way, you're going down. Had I attacked my own face with the chainsaw the end result would have been less gruesome.

But, using swearing, I was soon making progress and after three hours had nearly cleared a square yard. But then I noticed something terrifying. It turns out that a bramble bush grows by 3in a day, which means that the path you're clearing is closing behind you. Until eventually you are trapped, on a shrinking island in the middle of an acre of lacerating, poisonous anaphylactic death.

This, then, is what Britain would look like under a Labour government. Badgers will knock over all the walls, allowing an indestructible, tangled forest of horror to engulf our towns and cities at the rate of 3in a day. The cows and sheeps will die. Foxes will murder the chickens. And soon there will be nothing to eat but the fruit these plants of doom produce. Which will turn us all into twitching, yellow-faced morons.

Moving on to last Sunday...

Dear hotel manager, get off of my smalls. Yours, Keith Richards (18 Oct.)

According to leaked paperwork, the Rolling Stones are demanding that all the hotels in which they stay provide extra butlers, a 24-hour bar, after-hours dry cleaning services, a plentiful supply of Marlboro cigarettes and clearly written instructions in every room on how the television works.

The message then is clear; these ageing rockers have spent so long in the platinum-branded, superpampered section of cloud-cuckooland that they've completely lost touch with reality. "Doubtless," you will scoff, "they also want to shower each night in the tears of an angel."

Yes, but just for a moment put yourself in the leopard-skin shoes of Keith Richards. You've been on stage for a couple of hours, belting out an approximation of all your best-known hits, and now it's 11 o'clock at night and you're in your seventies and you're tired. It's possible, though photographs would suggest otherwise, you are also hungry.

Well, you can't go to a restaurant because the waiter, for a laugh, will eject some bodily fluids into your supper. And then ring a local newspaper to say that Keith Richards has just wolfed down a plateful of your -- let's be kind, let's say -- saliva. Garnished with a couple of the chef's dingleberries.

And there will be photographic evidence of this because every other person in the restaurant will have spent their entire evening sneaking pictures on their telephones. They may even end up with a snap of you apparently picking your nose that they will then sell for a hundred pounds.

So. Since you're an old man and you don't want to eat saliva or be humiliated in the newspapers for apparently picking your nose, you'll be forced to retreat to your room to watch a bit of television. Which as we all know is now impossible in every single hotel in the world because the controls are completely unfathomable.

There will be several remotes on the bedside table that you have to match up to all of the equipment using nothing but guesswork and swearing. And eventually the television will stop playing the "Welcome Mr Ken Richard" message and will become a forest of hash accompanied by the sort of white noise the CIA uses to make its captives go mad.

While stabbing away at the wrong remote to make the volume go down, you will first of all open the lid of the DVD player and then you will turn the screen into the sort of menu you could understand only if you were a senior programmer at Microsoft. HDMI 2.0 and Aux mean nothing to a man who is a) 71 and b) drunk.

Eventually, of course, you will get the television to show some kind of moving image. And since it's usually a woman with massive breasts talking Klingon to a completely orange man with Sylvia Berlusconi hair while foam is hosed into the shrieking audience you will give in and call for assistance.

But when you are a member of the biggest rock band in the world, you can't do that because the hotel staff will sell you out. But then you already knew that because the perfectly reasonable request you made for written instructions on how the television works has been leaked.

Maybe then you could do a spot of laundry. Oh no, you can't because no one can be arsed with that form in which they ask you to count how many items you are submitting and then has a column in which they are allowed to give their number. And guess what? Yup. Their number is always lower and always tallies with the amount of things they are returning.

That's a problem we all have but for Keith Richards things are much worse.

Because the chambermaid isn't even going to get to the lift before she's tipped your dirty smalls into a pile, whipped out her iPhone and shown the world that you don't wipe your bottom properly.

I'm not making this up. I am not Keith Richards but after I checked out of one hotel in Australia its management rang the newspapers and told them exactly what I'd done since I'd checked in. Some hotels won't shop their guests to the press. But a lot do. And you can never tell which is going to do what. So you have to plan for the worst, which is why the Stones have "demanded" -- newspaper talk for politely requested -- special dry cleaning services.

But how come, you may be wondering, these brilliantined old stick insects can't even make it to the tobacconist for a packet of fags? Why have they asked the management to provide a supply of Marlboros? Right. Fine. Let's assume that you are in a petrol station, paying for your fuel when who should breeze in but Keith Richards himself. You're going to stare, aren't you? And wonder if it'd be OK to ask him for a selfie ...

Happily, while you're deciding, someone else will jump in first. "I'm sorry to bother you, Keith," they will say, "but I'm your No 1 fan. I saw you once in Leeds and ..." they will go on for some time before asking for a photograph. This will involve passing their phone to a stranger who will not know how it works, so they will take a picture after five agonising minutes of their own eye.

And now everyone in the petrol station is thinking the same thing. If Keith has demonstrated his willingness to have his picture taken, surely he won't mind doing one more ...

They've all got a back story. They've all got a reason for wanting a picture. They're all No 1 fans and they've all got different phones that no one else can work. All of which means that Keith, who just popped out for a packet of Marlboros, is going to be 95 by the time he gets back to the broken television set in the room.

And doubtless you're now scoffing again, pointing out that you paid for Keith's lavish lifestyle so you're entitled to take his picture and read about his every move in the Daily Mail.

But wait a minute. You also paid for James Dyson's lifestyle. But you don't demand he comes out of the back office and gurns into your camera every time you buy a vacuum cleaner, do you?
 

Wing Nut

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Thanks for the links and clippings above - appreciated by those of us separated by geography and a digital curtain.
 

Elijah B.

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Thanks for these, Revelator.
 

skylock

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I lol,ed thinking about people having to eat their meat outside.

I love the way Jeremy's brain thinks.
 

Wing Nut

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I love the way Jeremy's brain thinks.
He does conjure up some amusing imagery :D

I have most of his books from his Sunday Times column. I guess reading some snipped items here will mean they'll be vaguely familiar a year or so later when I get into the next book. Thankfully I'm a slow reader, so I might find it just as funny the second time around :)
 

Cowboy

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"I don't do any farming as such; mostly I drive round the fields in my Range Rover glowering at ramblers."

"Get off my lawn!" :lol:

God I'm glad he's back :lol:
 

Revelator

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This week's column takes a strange right-turn...

Sorry to be a bore but we must drill a great hole through Blackpool (Oct. 25)

We keep being told that, thanks to various capitalist banker-bastards who all want second homes, property prices in provincial Britain are now so high that people -- or hard-working local families, as politicians like to call them these days -- simply cannot afford to put a roof over their heads. I don't doubt for a moment that this is true.

So what about all the refugees who burst from the back of vans on the M20 every evening and disappear into the undergrowth? We have to presume these poor displaced souls do not continue to live on embankments, feeding on berries and scrumped apples, and that they end up in some kind of house. But how can they afford to do this? Well, it turns out that Britain is playing host to an increasing number of what officialdom calls "houses in multiple occupation" (HMOs). You probably know all about this phenomenon, but since I divide my time between Chipping Norton, Holland Park and the business lounge at terminal 5, I did not.

The idea is simple. Landlords, especially in seaside towns such as Blackpool, buy a large guesthouse that hasn't been used much since people realised it was cheaper and sunnier to holiday every summer in Spain. They then rent out each room to whoever comes along. And they don't have to worry about the rent not being paid because, thanks to housing benefit rules, they are guaranteed a steady income from Her Majesty's government.

So everyone's a winner. Poor people in the town, whether they're refugees or down-on-their-luck locals, get a super-cheap room they can call home; the landlord gets a return on his investment; and the government gets people off the streets for next to nothing. Lovely.

Except, of course, it isn't lovely at all, because the people who end up in HMOs tend not to be what you'd call "house-proud". And many are enthusiastic users of heroin or Stella Artois, which means that even if they try to tidy up a bit, it all goes wrong and they end up in the middle of the floor under a pile of broken furniture, gently marinating in a puddle of their own ordure.

Soon, people in the street who are house-proud and do not use heroin or Stella Artois tire of the smell and the begging and the crime and the noise and they sell their house to a landlord, who fills it with yet more lost souls. Until pretty soon the whole area is a cesspit of awfulness and disease.

It really is. A BBC reporter told us last week about the state of various HMOs in Blackpool and it was all too disgusting for words. There were cookers that looked as though I'd been using them, deformed pets, mattresses bearing stains you don't want to think about and flies the size of your hand feasting on the grimy stickiness of every flat surface.

You looked at the pictures and you couldn't help thinking: "Jesus H Christ. How bad was your life in Syria for this to be better?" Needless to say, local councils have got it into their heads that landlords -- or greedy landlords, as we must call them these days -- are entirely to blame and, as a result, rush about the place in a blizzard of hi-vis vests and clipboards and over-the-top hazmat face masks, ordering them to make improvements or else.

Right. I see. So let's just assume for a moment that the greedy capitalist banker-landlord-bastard employs a team of decorators to run amok with the Farrow & Ball. Does the council think that the heroin and Stella enthusiasts will come home that night and think, "Ooh. This smells lemon-fresh, so I shall immediately give up drink and drugs and become a plumber"? Because that doesn't happen. What does happen is they continue to come home from the off-licence every night, with yet another deformed pet and a wheelbarrow full of heroin, which they consume until all the new paint is stained with yet more vomit and effluent.

The council then blames the Tories and the private sector and uses taxpayers' cash to create its own accommodation, which must meet such high health and safety standards that the drug addicts and the drunks end up on the street, selling themselves to whoever comes along. Until they are finally given a clean bed, by a doctor, so they can at least die with the dignity life was so unwilling to provide.

It's hard to know what to do about all this. The private landlord idea works well economically, but life in the conditions it creates cannot be much fun. The council-run schemes, like all Soviet thinking, sound great on paper but don't work at all. And still the refugees keep on coming. And property prices keep on rising, and young hard-working families in rural areas keep being driven into town centres to look for jobs.

Happily, however, there does seem to be a solution, especially in some of the worst-affected areas of Britain: fracking. All these terrible HMOs in places such as Blackpool and Morecambe and Lancaster sit on a freak of geological good fortune: the rocks are full of gas that can be extracted and used to reduce Britain's dependence on Russia for its lighting and warmth.

We know this. We know too that we have the technology to extract this gas quietly and safely. And we know that if only we could get on and do this, Lancashire would become as rich as Saudi Arabia. There would be jobs and cash and shimmering skyscrapers where all the run-down guesthouses stand now.

Amazingly, however, we are not able to get the fracking ball rolling because Friends of the Earth and its frizzy-haired mates in other eco-organisations are fighting the proposals every step of the way.

Because of the desire of these groups to live in a medieval mudbath, hard-working families in Blackpool and desperate refugees who have fled their own countries for their lives are being forced to endure conditions that are truly inhumane.

I do not know what clean-living, bicycle-riding, smoke-free environmentalists die from. But if there were any justice in the world, it would be shame.
 

skylock

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As usual, he nailed it.
 

Revelator

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The latest:

Beneath the splinter in my foot lies the key to all human endeavour (01 Nov.)

In the closing stages of last weekend's American Grand Prix, a man called Nico Rosberg was well out in front. And all he had to do to keep his world championship chances alive was drive round a few corners without making a mistake. It should have been easy.

Except it wasn't, because with just a handful of laps to go, he suddenly became June Whitfield. He got his feet all muddled up, pressed the wrong pedal and slithered onto the grass verge in an uncoordinated mud-brown soup of Reginald Molehusbandry. His teammate swept past, and that was that. A year's work up the Swanee.

It's strange, isn't it? Nico is a talented driver. He could drive round and round a track all day without making a single mistake, and yet, when the chips were down and the pressure was on, he blew it.

We see the same sort of thing going on in penalty shootouts. In a Sunday afternoon kickabout, any big-name player could score a hundred times out of a hundred. But in a World Cup decider, even the best striker becomes a big wobbly octopus and hoofs the ball into the next postcode.

All of which raises a question. If a footballer at the top of his game is capable of using his mind to become completely useless, then why can't someone with no skill at all use his or her mind to become a leading goalscorer at Manchester United? Back in 2004 I went to see the mighty Wasps rugby team play an amateur outfit from Solihull called the Pertemps Bees. On paper the part-timers looked as though they didn't stand a chance. They were fork-lift truck drivers and plumbers taking on a team that featured God knows how many England players.

And yet, while the Wasps had all the skill, the Bees had all the heart. And as the final whistle blew, the mind had triumphed over the much heavier, faster and more muscular matter. Yup, the Bees won.

And it's not just in sport that we see this. There are documented cases of people with quite serious illnesses getting well after taking a Smartie once a day for a month. They'd been told they were testing a new type of chocolate-flavoured drug, and because their mind believed this, their body got better.

Last weekend I was in Warsaw and I somehow managed to get a splinter in the ball of my foot. I'm not one to make a fuss or exaggerate, as you know, but I was in screaming agony. And yet on Saturday night I walked onto a stage in front of 50,000 people and for the next two hours I completely forgot about my gaping wound. It was as though it wasn't there.

This morning I'm getting a cold. I know it. I can feel the telltale signs in the back of my throat, and there's a heaviness to everything I do. I know for a fact, however, that it will not actually become a cold because tomorrow morning I'm flying to Seattle to do an Important Job and I have told myself that I cannot therefore have a runny nose.

This will work. It always does. If you really and truly cannot spare the time to lie in bed watching Cash in the Attic, then the cold will simply lie there, dormant, twiddling its thumbs, waiting for you to go on holiday. Then it will arrive. In spades.

I have never, not once in all my life, taken a day off work because of illness. And I have never, not once in all my life, had a holiday that hasn't at some point been spoilt by a bug or a chill of some sort.

It's not just me, either. A group of Tibetan monks amazed doctors recently in an experiment in which they were placed in a freezing cold room draped in wet, cold sheets. None shivered. They just sat there, concentrating on increasing the heat generated from their bodies until, after just a few minutes, the sheets were dry and warm.

Apparently, they do this as a regular competition: seeing who can dry the most sheets in a single evening. Well, what else is there to do when you're a monk? "Come on, lads. Let's see which of us is the best at being a tumble dryer."

All of which makes me wonder. Is it really worth going to Mars? Yes, man has an insatiable desire to know what's over the next hill, and what sort of lizard bats live at the deepest parts of the ocean.

But surely the most valuable bit of exploration not yet done is to the centre of our own heads. And no, don't worry. I'm not going to toe the Hollywood line that we use less than 10% of our brains and that we could all be Iron Man if only we could unlock the rest. I'm well aware that we use more than 10% of our brains just to ball our fists.

However, while we know how a brain works -- we know which bits are flickering away when we run or read or watch pornography -- we don't know how the wiring works when it decides to ignore the pain of a splinter or to cure the common cold.

We know it can do this. We've all heard about farmers who walk miles carrying the arm that's been torn off by their tractor. We've all read those Victoria Cross citations about pilots who landed their shot-up plane even though they had 164 bullet wounds, and we've all experienced it ourselves: the ability to forget discomfort when there are more important things to be getting on with.

Imagine, though, if we could wire ourselves up so that we could do this at will. Illness would no longer matter. We could all be Wayne Rooney. We could all be Nico Rosberg. And, unlike him, we wouldn't bottle it at the last moment. It'd be brilliant. But instead of working this all out, we're busy mapping the sea bed and digging up pharaohs.
 

Revelator

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478
Another week, another column:

Vite, vite, Johnny French. We can't wait much longer for a nuclear roast turkey (Nov. 8)

When the nuclear power station at Chernobyl blew up, everyone ran about, waving their arms in the air and saying millions would die from the radioactive fallout. Farmers in Wales said their sheep had turned green and many had grown a new head. Ukraine, said the experts, would be a desert until the end of time.

Well, I went to Chernobyl last year and spent a day mooching about in the nearby city of Pripyat. The trees were full of fruit. The woods echoed to the sound of wolf cubs playing joyfully in the sunshine. And so far I have grown no warts.

It's a similar story in Fukushima.

A tsunami caused what's described as a "level 7 event" and, once again, the experts were to be seen on television, wailing and gnashing their teeth and explaining how everyone in Japan would die a horrible death within weeks. And yet so far the number of people who've died from radiation exposure is, er, nought.

This is the problem with the debate on nuclear power. Every scrap of information we receive comes from the mongers of doom. We read phrases such as "level 7 event" and we're scared, even though we don't know what level 7 actually is. Nor do we know how nuclear power works.

We think there is some kind of rod made possibly from uranium. Or maybe plutonium and that it needs to be cooled somehow. It's hard to be sure and there's no point consulting the internet for more information because that has been hijacked by the disciples of Monsignor Bruce Kent.

I'm not a disciple of God's Luddite. I get my opinions from a well of something called reason and it goes like this: we need to generate electricity and we can't use coal and gas because we can chip and chisel and frack as much as we like but one day both will run out. And we can't rely on new-age alternatives such as sunshine or wind because neither can produce anything like what we need. Which means if we want to drive electric cars and charge our phones and make tea, we must go nuclear. There is no alternative.

But, oh my God, there simply has to be an alternative to the way we go about delivering it ...

Britain was the first country in the world to open a nuclear power station, but then we adopted the same philosophy that we saw with the Mini and the Land Rover and Concorde and the red phone box. We invent something ... and then never develop it.

In 2006, however, Tony Blair decided to put that right. He declared nuclear power was "back on the agenda with a vengeance". But there was a problem. There were no nuclear physicists in Britain. Not one.

So it was announced we were getting into bed with the French, who a year later said the people of Britain would be cooking their Christmas turkeys using lemonfresh nuclear power by 2017. In 2008 all was going well. Our French friends announced there would be four new plants in Britain, all of which would use the European pressurised reactor system. But then in 2010 disaster struck.

Engineers scouring one of the sites, at Hinkley Point, in Somerset, found a colony of badgers. They applied to Natural England for permission to move them and having submitted detailed plans of how this might be done, the licence was granted. But that wasn't good enough for a bunch of women who, in their heads, were still chained to the fence at Greenham Common. "This is how they'll treat people," they wailed. "You'll be tranquillised in the night and put in vans."

So much time and effort was put into Badgergate that no one noticed another problem. We had the design for a new reactor. We had a badger-free site. We had government approval. But then someone looked in the bank and, uh-oh, there was no money to build anything.

While everyone sat around wondering what on earth they were going to do, the wave hit Fukushima and everything was halted while the design was analysed to make sure it was safe.

Which, since Fukushima was a totally different design, is a bit like halting the production of Bedford vans because a Boeing 747 has crashed.

It was May 2011 before anyone realised the Bedford van is nothing like a Boeing 747 and there will never be a tsunami in Somerset. Which meant everyone could go back to scratching their heads about money.

Happily, Chris Huhne, then energy secretary, forgot that he'd once said the government must stop putting time, effort and subsidies into nuclear energy, and decided to use cash earmarked for green projects to, er, subsidise the new power plants. Maybe his mind was on other things ...

But whatever, with the subsidies in place, the French applied for planning permission. And as anyone who's tried to build a conservatory knows, this is never easy. Indeed, owing to the rules on newts, bats and badgers, their application ran to 55,000 pages.

It was such a complex job that it was March 2013 before permission was granted. By which time the costs had run amok and more money was needed. Which meant that six months later the government agreed to pay Johnny French PS92.50 for every megawatt-hour of power twice what electricity normally cost at that time. And we'd be paying it for the next 35 years.

And it still wasn't enough. By May last year all they'd built was a new roundabout. And now here we are, just 25 months away from when we were supposed to be cooking our turkeys with nuclear power, and still nothing is finalised. Even though the Chinese are now involved, the French are still doing that shruggy thing after they've been asked an awkward question such as "When?".

I'm not surprised really because the actual answer is that we can't afford nuclear power. And we can't afford not to have it either.

So here we are. It's nearly 10 years since Mr Blair said nuclear power was back with a vengeance and all we have to show for it is a new roundabout and a family of rather confused badgers.

The automotive column was amusing and unusual enough for me to post it here, though it'll show up at the Driving site next week:

So smooth, Hank could perform eye surgery in the back (Nov. 8)

LINCOLN TOWN CAR
$52,895 ([euro]49,260)

Because I now have my own production company, I have had to learn how to behave like a businessman when travelling. It's the little things that set them apart; the wheeled suitcase that fits precisely into the overhead locker, the laptop that never runs out of battery. And the maroon polo shirt that's tucked into a pair of bad jeans.

When travelling, a businessman deliberately wears jeans that don't fit properly because it tells everyone that he spends most of his life in meetings or on a golf course where the denim trouser is frowned upon. It is important, therefore, when wearing jeans to look as uncomfortable and as stupid as possible.

A businessman never uses any of the business facilities in an airport lounge because hooking up to the airline's services implies that he does not have the right equipment to do this for himself, and worse, that his business is so unimportant he doesn't mind if his conversations are broadcast over an unsecure server.

You see someone in one of those airline lounge business booths and you can be assured he is a business foetus. A new boy. And you are thus at liberty to pull his hair.

On the aeroplane, a businessman never has a drink because this suggests to other people in this cabin that he is an alcoholic. No true businessman drinks. Ever. He also does not watch any of the films that are on offer because he gets all the stimulation he needs from a spreadsheet. He is in his in-flight pyjamas, horizontal, and fast asleep six seconds after the seatbelt light is turned off. Eating? That's for wimps. Relaxing? That's what you do when you're dead -- something he hopes to become when he is 57.

When the seatbelt light comes back on, he is immediately bolt upright and dressed in the suit that was somehow concealed in his locker-sized suitcase. He then either whips out his laptop that's been on for six years and still has 42% of its battery life remaining. Or he watches a businessmen-friendly half-hour episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, just to show everyone else in the cabin that he is so well organised he doesn't need to check the spreadsheets one more time.

Four minutes after the wheels chirp into the runway, he's outside the airport, in the back of the Mercedes Sclass and on his way to grease the wheels of the world.

I have to admit I'm pretty hopeless at all of this. I watch films on planes, my suitcase is too big and I don't have a suit. But I do have a grasp of the wheels you need at journey's end. And I know that the S-class is wrong. It would be the correct choice in Europe or Asia, but any businessmen on a trip to one of those places is saying that he's second tier.

Really, the only place to do proper business is America, and if you're going there, you don't want to be picked up in a Kraut-Tank. Which is why last weekend, on a quick trip to Seattle, I was picked up in a Lincoln Town Car.

Sadly this will soon be a problem because Ford stopped making it four years ago, which means that eventually the current crop being used to transfer businessmen to their downtown hotels will sigh for one last time, then die. And then what? Because there is simply no other car quite like it on sale today.

First of all, it is enormous. Until 2003, in fact, it was the largest car in the western hemisphere. If you could make a Town Car float -- and you can't because it's made from the heaviest metals known to man -- you could use it as an aircraft carrier.

Happily, this size means the interior is slightly larger than most branches of Walmart. Fitted with bench seating, it can handle a driver and five businessmen (or three Americans), and the boot is so vast that not even the Beckhams would be able to fill it with luggage. Apparently it will take four sets of golf clubs, which understand is impressive. And a golf buggy as well, probably.

But the best thing about a Town Car is not the size, or the loungeability of the rear quarters; it's the comfort.

European and Japanese cars are always made with one eye on the Nurburgring. We can't help ourselves. Deep down, we think that handling is more important than safety, price, fuel consumption, world peace, the global economy or God himself. But the problem is that if you build a car that's designed to cling and scrabble on a high Alpine pass, comfort will inevitably play second fiddle.

In America it's different. Many think the steering wheel is nothing more than handy place to rest a laptop. Going round a corner at more than 2mph would cause your bucket of coffee to fall over. So why bother? Lincoln definitely understood this when it was designing the Town Car back in 1876. Of course it's changed since then -- it now has a cigarette lighter and the leather is ruched -- but the recipe is basically the same. You get a body bolted onto a chassis, a live rear axle and a V8 engine that produces seven horsepower but lasts for a thousand million years.

Then there's the suspension, which iron out, completely, even the most savage pothole in New York. You could drive a Town Car through a recently bombed city while doing eye surgery and the patient would be fine. I once parked a 1980s Town Car outside a shop in Detroit and when I returned an hour later it was still rocking. It's probably still rocking.

Of course this does have an effect on the way it goes round corners. And we know how it does this because the Lincoln's sister car -- the Ford Crown Victoria -- is used by many of America's police forces. And we've all seen what happens when they get involved in a chase. Even though they have beefed-up suspension they usually end up in a ditch, with hilarious consequences.

But here's the thing. When you emerge into the world after nine hours in an airfree, overheated tube, which would you rather have transport you through the inevitable jams and into the city centre: a car that can get round Silverstone in 90 seconds? Or something comfy?

There are other things too. Because the interior of a Town Car is made from DVD-box plastic and DFS furniture, and because it has 19th-century railroad underpinnings, it cost, when it went out of production, 16p. And because the engine turns over at no more than 2rpm, it only has to be serviced once every million years.

The Town Car was everything a limo should be. Spacious, well equipped, comfortable and cheap for its operator to buy and run. Apart from the lemon-fresh smell from the inevitable air-freshener, it was a lovely place to be. A little taste of America before you actually got there, if you see what I mean.

But now it's been replaced by something called the MKT, which looks like a Citroen. No businessman would be seen dead in it. Which is why you won't be reading a review of it from me any time soon.
 
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