Friday, July 20, 2012

Bag yourself a Clarkson

I haven’t really got it in for Jezza. I blame it on my son. He keeps trawling through the charity shops and dragging home £1 copies of Clarkson’s collected rants under titles like Born to be Riled, which he presents for my entertainment. The trouble is, at 1500 words apiece, those articles from the Sunday Times and Motorworld make perfect loo-time reading, and I have to admit the guy can write. I’m becoming addicted.

His opinions are forthright, so I suspect the ST’s lawyers scan his pieces pretty carefully before publication. I find it amusing that a fellow who started out on the Rotherham Advertiser not only has three cars but a country house with a garage big enough for all of them, especially since one of them is a Ferrari 355. There’s hope in that for us scribblers.

The article title will contain either a personal name or a car badge, like Prescott goes Bus Crazy or Lemon-Sharp Alfa. From him I have learned how to distinguish one model of Mercedes from another, how several cars are the best car ever, and how the Vauxhall Vectra fails to be the worst. I have also learned that what Jezza likes doing best, curiously, is not driving cars. Sure, he likes to drive cars, and he likes to drive them fast, but their mere speed is not of value; as I’ve observed myself, you can do 500mph in an airliner and be bored. Yes, Clarkson likes a good power-to-weight ratio. He likes to drive a lean, mean machine through corners and bends, listening to engine howl, feeling G forces and testing the limits of control. But that’s not his main aim in life.

I’ve also learned, to my surprise, that he’s not a petrolhead of the kind you avoid in the pub, the car enthusiasts who gather in little shoals to compare cam belt wear and track rod ends. He mercilessly lampoons them. Jezza drives cars, it seems, to feed his ultimate passion: writing. He likes to have material knocking on the inside of his woolly skull, keeping him awake at night and demanding to be constructed into words. Whether he’s being begged to drive a new Fiat, a Kia, a Chrysler or a Rolls, it makes no odds. He likes to drive them because it’s writing about the experience that makes him smile.

I’ve given three muffled cheers through the hem of my nightie when he rants against stupid political decisions on our transport systems. I’ve snorted appreciation at his turns of phrase and witty similes. I’ve enjoyed descriptions of drives in far-flung places, in cars I could never afford – because he writes well. If I could find such a niche for my writing, perhaps I too could be paid to gather exotic material. For this glimpse of hope, I can forgive Clarkie his rudeness about vegetarians, non smokers, gardeners, horse riders, bikers, caravanners and Greens.

Only occasionally do I get cross when he attacks the “Rohan Man” who drives a diesel car, prefers mpg to mph, recycles glass and likes the great outdoors (my husband, who wouldn’t recognise a pair of Rohan trousers if they got up and bit him.) However, when I do get cross with Clarkson, I’m appeased by one piece of inside knowledge, and the thought of how I’d use it. You see, one firm poke anywhere higher than his midriff and he’d go over like a felled tree. Bound to. He may stand six foot five and weigh seventeen stone, but he’s only got size nine feet.

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