At Christmas I was given a present of The World According to Clarkson 3: For crying out loud. A collection of Jeremy Clarksons articles for the Sunday Times published between January 2006 and December 2007. The series has been going since 2004 and has sold millions. Ive enjoyed them all. Bite-sized and conversational. Its easy to keep reading onto the next one. And then the next. And so on. But this latest instalment is not as good as the first two. I found the appeal of some of the articles to be narrower. They seem to be written specifically for Clarksons well-paid, good-living chums to chuckle over while they wait for their Range Rover Vogues to be serviced. Prior to picking up the shampooed shaggy haired kids from being polished at a private college for young gentry. On the way to Sainsburys Gold to buy Lampreys and half a dozen Emu eggs. Because according to these essays, Clarkson lives in a world of plenty and celebrity. Albeit not the vacant empty universe of Big Brother. No, none of that Z list crap for Clarkson. Hes out fox hunting on quad bikes with Pink Floyd. Armed with spear guns. Rough shooting Morris Dancers with Damon Allbran. Coursing comprehensive school kids with dogs across the rolling Cotswolds with Marco Pierre White. Thats Clarksons world. But is it yours and mine?
Throughout the book he celebrates his good luck. Of being rich. Of being tall (hes 6 5, you know). Of eating good food exquisitely and expensively cooked. Of travelling first class. Of owning a big house. Of having a fun career. Of being CLARKSON. Good fortune is championed as a form of natural selection. Survival of the richest. The origin of the specious. The theory comes into its own when he can compare himself to someone less fortunate. With bad teeth. Cheap clothes. Who owns a Vauxhall. Who lives in a council flat. Who is not Jeremy or one of his celebrity pals but persists in having the shameless temerity to breathe the same air. When he can nudge Rod Stewart or Simon Cowell and say: We know that the working classes do not eat strawberries because they do not eat any fruit or vegetables, which is why they are all so ugly and malformed. In this narrow, subjective way Clarkson is becoming intolerably smug. And surprisingly irrelevant. So what?! he declares. Ive been loved for my smugness for years! I can afford to be! Perhaps. The modern media loves a dancing bear. And Clarkson is a good parlour trick. Readable in print, watchable on TV. Bankable. But his smugness (throughout this collection of articles in particular) the quality that hes been celebrated for during the past fifteen years or so now seems to be turning in on itself. Or, rather, turning against us. Ey up, heres Jezza, hold onto your hats! Hes going to poke fun at Greenies and fatty two Jags John Prescott! Hes going to advocate us burning the Germans for fuel! While driving a prototype Mercedes down the Autobahn at 200mph. Steering with his feet. And smoking
But where previously Clarkson would rant because those dour faced busybodies from the Health and Safety Executive were insisting that we don hard hats in the shower. That we had to wear steel toe-capped boots when we carried the shopping in from the car. Or would be taking a pop at that lot at Greenham Common for saving the whales by knitting coats for polar bears. Now Clarkson is more likely to moan because someone at the local council has said that he cant plough his four by four through a modest semi-detached houses back garden for a short cut. Bloody jobs worth! But Ive work to do! Im in a hurry! Its only a Barratt home, for Gods sake! And a starter one at that! Im giving Nicky Clarke a lift so he can cut Charlotte Ramplings hair! Clarkson objects. Clarkson checks his watch. Clarkson puffs and blows. Im working to a timescale here, you know?! Im road testing a Ferrari against a windsurfing nudist this afternoon! With Bruce Willis! The world Clarkson rages against is suddenly the one that we live in. He objects to us. Because were not Steve Coogan. Because we dont earn £250K a year. Because we dont live in a barn conversion with five acres of pasture and a horse paddock attached. Because we dont drive three Lamborghinis. Because we dont send our children to private school. Because we eat chips. Because were poor and buy settees from DFS or Ikea. Because we pay for our cars in instalments. Because we once ate a KFC. Clarkson leans against the wood burning Aga (logs from his own forest), drinking coffee whose beans were chewed to release their caffeine freshness by orphans in Peru. Smoking some thin, unfiltered Italian cigarettes. Rich mans gut hanging over his Levi comfort fit. White undershirt. Denim shirt over the top. He is Maverick from Top Gun. He shakes his head. His long jaw sticks out. Crazy, eh? Whats happening with the world? What are these people like?!
And throughout the book Clarkson seems to be at some pains to stress his masculinity. His blokes blokiness. No pink shirts, deodorant wearing puffiness for him. No, sir. OK, he may have gone to a public school but nothing happened. He listened to some Focus, he grew his hair long, he did some rebel japes. But nothing happened, OK? Mans man. A blokes bloke, got it? Hes going seal clubbing with Rick Wakeman later. On Harleys! Without helmets! While listening to the Heep! Proper bloke.
There are many articles that I enjoyed. The united states of paranoia, Arrested just for looking weird, How to make a man of Mummys boy, There is a literary future in iLav, Drip drip drip of a revolution, Binge drinking is good for you and Make my day, sir, shoot a hoodie were favourites. I agree with Clarkson that the horrendous floods of 2007 were more to do with the governments obsession with linking economic prosperity (and so the governments success) to house building than they were to global warming. So that thanks to Tony and Gordon the old flood plains are covered in little boxes of mortgaged happiness. In negative equity. I agree that there are too many rights and not enough responsibilities. But a lot of it read like an educated mans collection of columns from Hello!
The Times touts Clarkson for Prime Minister. Perhaps the most popular choice for PM never to run. Once, maybe. When he was espousing common sense solutions for everyday experiences while driving his own version of the Pope mobile adapted from a 1987 Fiat Panda across the Gobi desert. When he advocated bringing the rest of Europe into Sterling as he drove an Audi RS4 up the side of Mont Blanc whilst dragging a caravan full of hooded youths behind him. But not now. Not when his idea of the UK is a fiefdom where the rich offset their carbon footprints by culling the energy equivalent of pensioners that it would take to run an outdoor heater, and cars below £100,000 arent allowed on the road so that he and Jay K can more easily race down the M1, each in a brace of Aston Martins. While listening to Steppenwolf.
Hmmm. That might be worth watching.