Where there’s a will

When I was a little lad I used to love watching Will Hay films like Oh Mr Porter! The Ghost of St. Michael’s, Ask a Policeman and Windbag the sailor. They seemed to hold a flickering romance that captured my imagination. Now thanks to the engineering wonder that is the Whirlpool bath and three quarters of a bottle of Radox ‘Green Tea Infusion’ bubble bath, I have been able to re-live the film Where’s that fire? In that film Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffat played firemen who attempted to fight fires using a machine that created a massive quantity of soapy bubbles, choking so much oxygen from the air that the flames were smothered.

 

I’m not going to stop there. Tomorrow, using little more than a couple of Tescos chicken breasts, a pair of crotchless panties and a copy of British MILFs: Down and Dirty vol. 5 I’m going to have a crack at creating Kelly LeBrock c. Weird Science in the kitchen microwave.

 

Watch this space Magnus Pyke and Adam Hart-Davies.

Across the Universe

I have always been prone to what are known as ‘practical jokes’. There’s something in me that simply isn’t satisfied with reality as it exists on an everyday level. I want something more. I want something weirder and more outstanding. One of my early efforts was in Mrs Plant’s class at Wellgate Junior and Infant School. This was the first year. We had a lesson where each table was given an occupation – fireman, policeman, ambulance driver (this was the days before paramedics when the guy behind the wheel of the ambulance knew less about first aid than I did, aged five), soldier and so on, and had to do a drawing of the person carrying out their job. I was sat with two lads called Wayne. We were given ‘Bin man’. We each started off drawing the man himself – a jolly figure in an orange boiler suit clutching a plastic bin liner filled with cat shit and BSE-riddled meat. But smiling. And as I looked at one of the Wayne’s sheets the idea struck me. Now the moment of inspiration just appears, I can’t define it. It is a glorious instant when all the world feels to slide into place. Goethe said: ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’

 

Well, in that moment of magic I said something along the lines of: ‘Lads, we have the least glamorous of all the jobs given. Look at Lee over there with doctor. He’s sawing someone’s leg off to save their life. Even the mucky kid with the dodgy eye who never speaks is beavering away on a picture of someone building a house. We can’t compete with that sort of action by just having our fella pick up the bin and tip it into the back of the wagon, can we? Who’s going to think anything about that? We have to work harder. We have to show the bin man doing the job when it is at its worst.’ ‘How can we do that?’ the Waynes queried, looking at their neatly executed drawings. They could see where I was coming from, they could see that we had a problem on our hands. They looked worried. ‘We have to show him collecting the rubbish in really bad weather,’ says I. ‘Like, say, in a thunderstorm.’ So taking – this is an important bit – a blue crayon I went crazy with the sky on my own drawing. Huge, messy scrawls and jagged thunderbolts. ‘This is just to give an idea, you understand?  Can you see where I’m coming from, lads? I’m going to use black when I do it for real.’ The Waynes caught on. This was a cracking idea. This would elevate the humble bin man into a figure of towering heroism. ‘Use the black,’ I coached, ‘show him doing the job during a really bad storm.’ The Wayne’s took the ball and ran with it. They went absolutely wild with those crayons. They blitzed it. After a couple of minutes mad scribbling each of their bin men – still smiling – was surrounded by the apocalypse in black and grey. They added in lurid orange and bright yellow – lightening – the bin man was out doing his rounds with Hiroshima going off behind him. By the time they’d done you could barely make the poor bugger out amongst the debris of civilization disintegrating around him. He was collecting the bins on the day after tomorrow.

 

Off the Waynes went to stand in line for marking, each with a cocky smile, confident that they were going to spank the arse of those kids who had only drawn soldiers coming under enemy fire and firemen dragging people from burning buildings. They’d struck a new chord – the bin man was society’s unsung hero.

 

I finished mine off and joined them a few places back. As I got to into the queue, the first of the Wayne’s made it to Mrs Plant’s desk. ‘What on earth is this?!’ I heard her exclaim. Wayne #1 stammered a reply. ‘Showing him doing the job in the worst weather, miss.’ ‘This is a mess! This is a disgrace!’ an angry, outraged tone emerging, ‘And you’ve spent all lesson making this rubbish?!’ You could tell by Mrs Plant’s voice that she thought Wayne #1 was trying to have her pants down. Wayne #2 was a bit further back in line from #1 and I could see the nervous look descend on his face as Wayne #1 slumped tearfully back to the table. Wayne #2 casting worried glances at his drawing of the bin collection in Nagasaki. You could tell he wanted to run, to rip it up and start again, in the words of Edwin Collins. But there was nothing he could do other than slowly shuffle towards his doom. Which he did. ‘Not another one from that table?!’ Mrs Plant screamed. To turn from a lovely picture of a nurse fitting a catheter to an old man by a quiet girl called Janet, to THIS!

 

The bollocking was lethal. She ripped him a new arsehole. He probably still wakes up sweating about it now, all these years later. Off Wayne #2 shambled, an accusing look at me. Would could I do? I shrugged. You could see he was comforting himself by the fact that I was up next and my turn was bound to be the worst of the three. Mrs Plant had built herself up into a fury by this point and she was going to flay me alive at least.

 

So I hands over my drawing. In which I had diligently and carefully coloured the remainder of my sky in a glorious, summery shade of blue. And put a big yellow sun in the corner, complete with radiating sun beams. ‘At last,’ says Mrs Plant, a smile cracking on her erstwhile gloomy face, ‘a good, sensible drawing from that table. Well done. Gold Star.’ Thank you, miss.

 

The daggers look I got as I approached my desk just added the final touch. Absolutely hilarious. How I didn’t wet myself, I don’t know.

 

And so it began.

The Fast and the Furious: Lofthouse Drift

There is one thing I can tell you about any motoring review that includes such phrases as ‘helm responses are a tad lightweight and compromise detailed feedback, the involvement for the petrolhead pushing the machine and wanting to feel a sexual responsive purr as you grind through the apex will be cut to a minimal’ and that is that it was written by the kind of Grade A bell end that you would happily kill within thirty seconds of meeting them. Slowly, and with considerable pleasure. Using a soup spoon. You’d get Medieval on that mother’s ass. This is the kind of man – because almost invariably the articles are written by men for men – that should be denied a drivers’ license on the grounds that they are absolute fucking wankers. But the attitude is typical. According to most motoring journalists what the average driver should be looking at in a car is not decent MPG, not safety, not comfort, not luxury, not reliability, not build quality, not value for money, but some kind of semi-sexual symbiotic relationship with grip and acceleration that’s on the verge of violent collapse and could change from frantic, no holds-barred sex to blood up the walls murder at any moment. Apparently the drive to and from work should be a personal Gumball Rally that starts from the front door and ends with a handbrake spin into the same parking space that you’ll occupy for the next twenty-five fucking years, with a second leg to get you back home to negative equity and all the fun of The X-factor. And anything less than adrenaline levels equivalent to a Kamikaze pilot heading into the deck of the USS Bunker Hill at Mach 5 as you sit at the lights on the outer ring-road will simply not fucking cut it. Anything less and you’re car is shit, and you are a boring cunt who knows nothing about cars or driving, and should be universally derided for even considering getting behind the wheel of it. You ignorant twat. Your car should be making every trip down the motorway a living experience of the computer game Spy Hunter. You are Burt Reynolds at his shimmering, sexual best with the open highway in front of you, a squadron of Smokies in your rear view mirror, you want a V12 and six hundred stampeding horses, and this isn’t the trip to pick up the kids from school, this is the fucking Cannonball Run! Now kick it!

 

And this is all one man’s fault. Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson took the old Top Gear by the balls and slipping a finger up its back passage, tickled its male ‘G’ spot, turning it from the consumer affairs yawn of the obligatory Sunday morning tumble of a dead relationship, into an entertainment dirty weekend fuck-fest. Consequently the entire nation’s attitude to driving is the product of a fourteen year old boy’s imagination trapped inside the body of a middle-aged man. The self-fellating attitude has a target audience of one – Jamiroquai. And it hits the spot every time. Top Gear mark 2 is a chewy whinnet that clings on from the early/mid 2000s period of lads’ mags like FHM and the abundance of easy credit that we wallowed in back then. It is escapism. It is Nut’s Top 100 Babe’s with cars. The programme is estimated to have 350 million viewers worldwide; or, if you divide it by the number watching the looping repeats on Dave, fifteen. And five of them are Jay Kay. It is incredibly successful because Clarkson is right, people don’t want to be average. People are aspirational. And people want to be entertained more than educated. People want to see super cars race Concorde across the Antarctic, they want to see a 1995 Vauxhall Calibra turned into a submarine and driven under the Straits of Gibraltar, up against a raft crammed with African economic migrants. Because the world if full of people who suddenly find themselves faced with the uncomfortable prospect of having to grow up and they cling to someone or something that tells them that they don’t have to. Track days, internet porn and Jeremy Clarkson for PM is all they have left in the ashes of hope.

 

That people aren’t interested in watching ‘sensible’ programmes about cars is summed up in Jason Dawe. Jason Dawe is the Pete Best of motoring journalism. Dawe was dropped by the second incarnation of Top Gear after the first series in 2002. He refused to get rid of his teddy boy quiff to fit in with the rest of the band and John Lennon didn’t like what he had to say about depreciation prospects on the 1999 Ford Puma. Plus he was fat and talked far too sensibly. Dawe tended to review standard cars for the average driver. A principle he’s followed since that time. Take this review of Dawes’ from 2007: ‘We may dream of driving a Lamborghini, but outside the realms of unbridled fantasy most motorists are faced with the much less glamorous task of tracking down a reliable used car. Television car shows have tended to pander to wishful thinking and ignore the needs of the great car-buying public.’ I can see Clarkson’s expression register apoplexy now as thoughts like this slap him in the face. To picture the big man’s clock, imagine Clarkson sat in the passenger seat of a diesel Daiwoo next to a German on a trip between London and Peking and being told that he’s going to have to offer Hans some mutual while listening to a Happy Hardcore compilation at full blast before he’s allowed out of the car. Terror and outrage. It’s no wonder that Dawes was kicked out of the band and replaced by Ringo Starr in the form of James ‘Captain Slow’ May, the perennial butt of Clarkson’s gay jokes. Top Gear isn’t about reliable used cars. It serves up motoring wank fodder. Jay K at home with a stiffy on, open Ferrari brochures all around providing some visual stimuli doesn’t want to see a programme that tells him about the bargain to be had by bagging a 1988 Fiat Yugo. He wants to see Clarkson, Hammond and May enjoy a bukkake party over a shiny new two thousand break horse power Lambo. And the viewers want to see the world broken on Clarkson’s opinions. Though of late the toady bowing to Clarkson’s pronouncements is slightly disconcerting. It’s all too obvious that George and Ringo want to stay in the band. This is Berlin in 1933 and the Ford GT is the best car in the world. It’s a boys club that talks about boys’ toys. And remember: ‘Anybody who hasn’t owned an Alfa Romeo can’t consider themselves a Petrolhead.’ Fuck. How cringe-inducing is that? The very phrase ‘petrolhead’ makes my skin crawl. It sends appalling shivers down my back that feel like piss from a wino dribbling down my spine. It makes me deeply, deeply, embarrassed for anyone saying it. It’s the equivalent of Dad dancing. Think ‘ace’, ‘fab’, ‘cool’. It is appalling. Reach for the soup spoon.

 

But what does Clarkson care? Clarkson’s Times car reviews have now become stylised to the point where he almost fails to mention the car under review. They are ego-stroking sonnets to himself in lurid prose, full of elaborate similes. He has the capacity for enthusiastic bombast which is often refreshing. But he is largely negative. Especially if reviewing any car that fails to meets his exacting demands of speed and white knuckle thrills. Typically he’ll talk about the excavation of an anal boil by some celebrity pal, using a rusty pin and without anaesthetic, for the first 950 words, and then, for the volta, in the last short paragraph, mention the latest car from Kia that he’s been begged to review. And I thought the festering, septic boil nestled inside my ring piece was bad… Then I sat in the Kia Margarine…

 

It’s an embarrassing fact that motoring journalism is over-populated by wannabe Clarksons. The Clarkson philosophy has become standard. It has been taken up by men who claim to feel the minutiae of sports suspension and ride capability. Who despise under steer, who live for rear wheel drive, who are appalled by turbo lag. Because the world loves a fucking expert. Except that experts are simply often over-opinionated twats who have no facility for self-irony and over-estimate their own abilities. And motor journalism typifies this. Motoring journalism has become a Jeremy Clarkson impersonation industry. Take Tom ‘The Wookie’ Ford from Fifth Gear, created in a petri dish by Tiff ‘I used to be a real racing driver, you know’ Nidell from a spent fatty gobbet of Clarkson flem recovered from the rear valance of a Jaguar XKE and a fistful of Vicki Butler-Henderson’s hair, ripped out during some rough coital encounter on the back seats of a Range Rover Sport TDiV12M while off-road riding across Dartmoor in a race against a hang-gliding nun. Tom Ford is Clarkson on Vitamin C. A chubby, bullish lad’s lad who likes his motors like he likes his women – loud and fast. He is more optimistic than Clarkson, and isn’t fuelled by Clarkson’s gloomy Yorkshire fatalism, but the attitude and principle is the same. The hyperbole revs stamped on until the red line screams like a monkey with it’s balls trapped in the door sill of a Porche Cayenne. It’s an attitude of let’s turn off the electronic stability programme, let’s rip out the traction control circuit board, let’s pop the speed regulator chips, let’s taking motoring back to its muscle-power basics, and let’s glam all that up by comparing the car to the sexual organs of Marilyn Monroe. Anti-locking braking – pah! Power-assisted steering – tush! Air bags – fucking air bags???!!!! You don’t want steering that takes you ‘round the corner comfortably, you want to rip the apex apart and cling to the g-force as the car slides out of your control. And Ford is just one of hundreds writing for Evo Magazine or Top Marques, or Big Dick/BigMotor that ape Clarkson in a desperate attempt to be as opinionated, rich and as famous as he is. What next? Pull out the seat belts and have no speed limits?! Let’s be power-sliding on the way to Tescos, struggling to hold onto the road as you head to get your four pints of milk and a pack of Toffee Crisps, because the ride of the Focus ST is like making love to Marilyn Monroe on a bed of barbed wire – it hurts, but you just have to keep going.

 

And it is total and absolute fucking bollocks. People don’t drive like that. When you hit a roundabout do you really want to feel the intuitive relationship between your tyres and the tarmac be pushed beyond its absolute limits? You do? Tell that to the physiotherapist on the Douglas Bader Memorial Ward when you can’t feel your slippers. Contrary to the apparent mindset of such chest slapping wankers we are not living inside an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. The standard motorist will not need to call on enough torque to stop the earth spinning on its axis on their trip to work and back. Let me see the ‘fun’ on that man’s face as the back end swings out of control on the tight bend as the M1 (North) joins the M62 (East) and he realizes he’s not going to make it. Snap a Polaroid of him in that moment. The moment when his philosophy falls down on top of him from a height of ten thousand feet. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw!!!!!!! Booshta! Straight into and over the central reservation, a triple salco and then side swiped by a lorry driver munching on a Yorkie, just wondering whether to pull in to Hartshead Services to play with the misper tied up in the back, or hold onto the anticipation for a little longer and drive through to Burtonwood. Where will Daisy Duke and her hot pants be then? On her way to A&E on a spinal board with facial injuries and partial brain damage. And where will you be then, Clarkson, eh? You twat.

 

Obviously, I’m bitter. I drive an Audi.

Did you know…?

Morning coffee

‘Morning Coffee’ biscuits are still stamped with an original design by Victorian art-critic and philosopher John Ruskin. The lamb-chop sideboard-wearing Ruskin, author of The Stones of Venice and a keen exponent of baking, etched out the design during a visit to the biscuit factory in 1875.

This sugary baton of artistic heritage was picked up by quirky Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, famous for his paintings of oddly shaped women, in 1913, when he too created a design for the legendary teatime treat. However, the Picasso biscuit has never gone on general sale and its distribution is limited to directors of the company, making it the world’s most highly prized item of confectionary; even surpassing the richly desirable, special edition Matisse ‘Wagon Wheels’. The biscuit is only baked in small numbers once per year, each one numbered, for consumption at the firm’s Annual General Meeting at their Manchester headquarters. Legend has it that one Picasso ‘Morning Coffee’ was sneaked out of the boardroom in 1963 and is now in the hands of a private art collector in New York, albeit somewhat crumbly at the edges. It is not thought to be edible.

‘Morning Coffee’ are still the biscuit of choice for artists, and it’s believed that Yorkshire-born avante garde charlatan, Damien Hirst, gets through three packets a day, usually dunked in milky cocoa.

Things I hate #9

Georgie Best

People.

 

Misanthropy is the natural conclusion of a rational mind when confronted by other members of the human race in any situation that involves queuing. Cars pulling out on you at junctions from twenty yards away and expecting you to slow down and accommodate them, two people approaching the same door from opposite directions, two vehicles racing to a point where two lanes narrow to one like the final straight in Ben Hur, pedestrians walking across each others’ paths in a shopping arcade, a hoard of people lurching for the only till that’s open at B & Q on a Saturday fucking afternoon; any of these situations will show you that there is no other conclusion to reach than that mankind is a festering boil on the arse of creation.

 

Take Sunday. I was shopping at the Tesco in Hemsworth in the afternoon. I was stood looking for a sandwich when some old fucker ploughed across my path with the biggest trolley available, in which, as far as I could see, he had a trifle and some pan scrubbers. He plainly saw me but pushed forwards anyway. He plainly heard me when I called him a cunt. But neither of us acknowledged one another openly. Because in public situations we are all zombies to each other. We move amongst the animated undead. That family of Mum, Dad and the two feral kids are ghosts to me as they stalk the Fresh Meat aisle. That Renault Clio in the queue of traffic at the lights is driven by an attractive blonde wraith behind the wheel. They aren’t real people in any solid sense. We are all unresponsive automatons. We live in our own virtual reality that’s only shattered by a vicious mugging, a road rage collision or some appalling incident that shakes us awake. We think of nothing but ourselves and our own needs.

 

In that moment as he bent down in front of me with a millimetre to spare, desperate to get hold of a prawn and mayo sandwich, I hated that old fucker with a passion. I could have started punching his exposed bald head until he lay a bloody pulp at my feet. No one would have turned and looked. No one would have queried my actions. A member of staff may have approached with a yellow ‘Danger, slippery surface’ sign once it was all over and done with and blood and cerebral fluid was leaking from his eyes and ears, but that would have been it. Other shoppers wouldn’t have mentioned it to their families when they got home. They may have talked about the offer of Stella Artois, or the deal on McVitie’s biscuits, or the fact that some twat cut them up leaving the car park, but they wouldn’t have thought about the old man beaten to death by the ‘For your convenience’ stand. It wouldn’t have affected them.

 

I left him unharmed. He slavered over his prize and pushed on. Straight into the shins of a pensioner who went skittling painfully out of his way. But I was fuming. I was left hoping that the prawn sandwich that he went through so much to secure was riddled with streptococcus and had him shitting without respite for a week until his ring piece ended up resembling an old, baggy stretched out Manchester United sock (imagine George Best after ninety gruelling minutes of an FA Cup tie against Don Revie’s Dirty Leeds c. 1970). All red and distended. And this encounter was just a start. There were fat people filling their trolleys with huge bottles of lurid-coloured soft drinks, blocking entire aisles unnecessarily. Three bottles of cherry, Pauline? Get four, Wayne, and as many as you want for yourself. And don’t forget the kids. There were slow moving middle-aged women reading the label on the same bottle of ketchup that they’d been buying for twenty years. Just checking it’s still got tomatoes in it. There were the panic buyers who monopolized entire products because they’d read on the internet that there was going to be a world shortage in Oatsosimple. Time and time again I found myself contemplating dreadful acts. I won’t call them crimes because no respectable judge or jury would ever convict me for sending these ignorant morons out of a world they only clutter with their rudeness and their ignorance. I felt like kicking and punching, I felt like swinging my metal basket as if it was a medieval weapon of war; felling all who lay unnecessarily in my path to the tills and a Crunchie. And I know I wasn’t alone. I could feel the pent up aggression all around. That grumbling sense of personal conflict that looms behind the apathetic faces of the spectres that move in front of you. Man’s inhumanity to man extends to even the meekest and mildest when faced with a particularly tempting ‘two-for-one’ offer or the final parking space at Meadowhall. And it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a Grandmother would scythe their way thorough scores of disabled kids in the local newsagents with a sharpened carving knife to grab hold of that last copy of this month’s People’s Friend. Especially if it had some free wool and a decent knitting pattern attached. Put us behind the wheel of a car or in a shopping centre and we are all latent sociopaths who passively subscribe to a form of primitive Thatcherism. We are all animals. It’s part of the over-lauded hunter/gatherer instinct. Because despite technology and the advances in the arts and sciences, despite iPods and toilet rolls and deodorant and central heating, despite any progress that we’ve made as a civilization in flight and tall buildings or the motor car, we are all bald, hairless monkeys beneath the Italian suits and the Berghaus breathable, waterproof fabrics. There is a Neanderthal in us all just waiting to barge another motorist into a ditch or shoulder a blind man out of the way for the last box of Rice Crispies. We have a veneer or civilization which hides manky, rotten chipboard underneath. And altruism is a lie. When anyone offers to do anything with apparent self-sacrifice the first thing I ask myself is – what’s in it for them? And there always is. Without fail. There’s always some little wrinkle that makes the philanthropy worthwhile. Even if it’s just gleaning themselves a bit of spiritual satisfaction from acting the good Samaritan. Even if it’s someone stepping aside to let you get the final packet of Chocolate Digestives. Because they’ll all be broken and they know it, and they’ve just seen the shop assistant go to the back for a fresh packet.

 

People are despicable cunts.

 

 

On which note the news of Boris Johnson’s new ‘X’ crossing at Oxford Circus fills me with dread. Get ready for fight club. Get ready for carnage. It’ll be like a re-enactment of The Warriors.