Posts Tagged ‘Top Gear’

If you live in Britain you can’t have failed to notice that the main topic, the front page headline grabber – both tabloid and broadsheet – and the top TV news story that has dominated our lives over the past few days is that of the spat between the BBC and one of its top presenters. We’ve been swamped with it.

I’m referring of course to Top Gear’s frontman, Jeremy Clarkson, who the BBC has suspended after he allegedly punched his producer at the end of a day’s filming in the north of England. As a result of this boorish behaviour the Beeb will fail to transmit this weekend’s show and it has pulled the rest of the series. The future of Top Gear hangs in the balance.

Apparently Clarkson, after arriving late at his expensive country house hotel stop over, threw a tantrum when he was offered a cheese platter as sustenance instead of something cooked because the chef had left for the evening. It sounds like an episode of Fawlty Towers, except, as it turns out for Clarkson, not very funny. According to co-host James May, (who wasn’t actually there) it was “just a bit of a dust up” – the kind of laddish behaviour we have come to expect from the Top Gear team.

And that’s just it. The whole ethos of BBC2’s most successful factual entertainment programme ever is based on three middle aged men behaving badly. Like yobbish school boys with Clarkson leading the charge in the playground. The programme has developed a winning prescriptive formula with the undoubtable chemistry between the presenters at its core. For its faithful followers, to contemplate Top Gear without Clarkson is akin to Morecambe without Wise. Love them or hate them, Clarkson, May and Hammond have become an institution.

The show has a reported global following of 350 million so we can begin to see the predicament in which the BBC now find themselves. The corporation, rather like Dr Frankenstein, has become a victim of its own creation. How will the powers that be handle this situation: will they back track and reinstate Boy Wonder or will it be deemed time for change and risk shelving their winning and very lucrative formula to save face? Not only that, can the Beeb be seen to be condoning violent conduct by an employee? What sort of message does that send out?

And is one person ever bigger than the brand? The BBC have actually been down this route before. Angus Deayton, the hugely popular host of ‘Have I Got News For You’ was sacked after alleged drug taking. The show went on without him. It took a while to accept a new face in the chair and it was years before Deayton appeared on our screens again – but the show went on.

So what about Clarkson? Is he likely to disappear into the ether without trace? No chance. He writes weekly columns for The Sun and The Sunday Times. He presents factual documentaries. He has his fingers in plenty of pies. According to press reports, his BBC contract is up for renewal within the next couple of months. If I wasn’t so cynical I might think that this whole scenario has been orchestrated by Jeremy himself to drum up more than a little publicity and gauge public opinion. Perhaps he and his co-hosts are planning a defection to a rival channel. With an online petition to reinstate Clarkson and an endorsement from the Prime Minister no less, I can’t imagine he’s losing much sleep.

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Anyone enjoy food shopping? I don’t. I positively hate it but as we all have to eat then it has to be done at least once a week in, as far as I’m concerned, as little time as possible. Which is why I trail begrudgingly to the supermarket: because it’s convenient.

Or at least it was. Our local store has recently undergone a major refurbishment to for all intents and purposes provide us – the customers – an improved shopping experience. Well, it hasn’t worked for me.

So we now have, on the outskirts of our small country town, a behemoth rivalling the size of an aircraft hangar. The range of goods of course is much wider – one third of the selling square footage is given over to home wares and clothing.  (I can’t bring myself to call it fashion, even though there is a range allegedly designed by Gok Wan).   From boxed dinner services to wooden boards, glassware, utensils, bed linen and plasma screen TV’s to gardening accessories, toys and bath towels.  As if I’m going to rush in and buy a duvet and curtain set from a food store on a whim; it’s just never going to happen.

I don’t remember on any of my prior pilgrimages to the store’s previous incarnation ever being accosted to fill in a customer questionnaire asking if I’d be interested in buying this superfluous stuff while I’m filling my trolley with comestibles. I’m assuming they’ve done their market research and have somehow come to the conclusion that it’s what we want but the general consensus amongst my work colleagues is that it’s anything but convenient.

The inconvenience store…

We now have to walk a distance of about ten miles, weaving up and down the aisles, all now arranged in a completely different order to that we’ve been used to. I’m not even sure the food range has expanded – they just put more of the same onto longer and higher shelves.

And the signage, hanging unhelpfully above – oh, my word. Can anyone tell me, in the name of Del Monte, what the blazes ‘Ambient Fruit’ is? I’d loved to have been around that table discussion when it was decided that this a more appropriate term for tinned peaches. They’ve also done away with the old, exotically entitled ‘Foods of the World’ and gone for a derogatory ‘Ethnic.’

To pick up my daily newspaper I have to push my trolley through the clothing area, past the queues for lottery tickets to the fixture at the foot of the stairway to our new ‘exciting’ restaurant. This establishment is on a mezzanine with far reaching views over harassed shoppers or the newly extended car park. It looks like an airport holding area and is anything but exciting. Quite frankly (and far be it from me to appear judgemental), the calibre of clientele frequenting this restaurant are not the sort to read a daily newspaper.

The car park has doubled in size and they’ve even provided electrical hook-up points because they must have calculated that during the inordinate amount of time it takes to charge up an electric car (according to a recent Top Gear programme) will probably be same length of time now needed for one shopper to get around their newly improved store.

Perhaps I should put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, and stick to on-line grocery shopping: get it delivered direct to my door. Up until now I’ve preferred to select my fresh goods but I could be swayed into not worrying about it.

And isn’t it interesting to note that in the news this week, the shares of this particular supermarket chain, along with one of the other of our ‘big four’ have taken a substantial tumble. Coincidence? Convenience? I don’t think so.

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Confession time

I have a confession to make. I break the law every day and I don’t feel guilty. The confession is rather that I don’t feel guilty than committing the crime in the first place. I break the speed limit. Not by much and I don’t drive beyond my ability and certainly never dangerously but I can’t stand being stuck behind a driver doing the statutory two miles below what is deemed to be safe. It drives me mad.

Something that makes me uncharacteristically competitive is the sign on the motorway which says:

17 miles to Junction 10: 15 minutes.

 Instantly I think, “Hmm, we’ll see about that;” I hear Dad’s voice saying, “Come on JJ, put your foot down,” and I proceed to beat the clock, getting enormous satisfaction if I reach junction ten in fourteen.

Dad taught us all to drive, not to pass the test. He would make us drive round narrow lanes with horrendous gradients declaring that we “could get a bus through there,” if we baulked at a slim passing place with an oncoming vehicle; we’d go out in all weathers including snow and ice so that we learned to control the car if it were to skid; he’d take us down dead end streets then get us to turn the car around, however many shunts it took.  When out in the country and the road was clear, he let us put our foot down.

I don’t have a fast car, I don’t watch Grand Prix racing and I’m not interested in performance models – I just like driving my ordinary, reasonably priced hatchback quickly when I get the opportunity.  How I’d love to go round a track with the Stig from BBC’s Top Gear guiding me round each bend and through every gear change. I wouldn’t even mind meeting Jezza, if only to prove to him that women in cars needn’t be anathema. I‘d show off my parallel parking skills – I’ve always been good at that – something to do with spatial awareness and vanishing points apparently, but I don’t need to know the physics; I can just do it. Better than my husband, as he’d be the last to admit. His luxury car is fitted with sophisticated beepers to help him perform the manoeuvre –like an articulated truck backing into a loading bay – but I think they are annoying, and anyway, if I was behind the wheel, I’d want to defy the beeps, then goodness knows what might happen.

So, if I ever had the opportunity to drive my little car (or one similar) to its limits, in an off-road situation, I’d take it. Perhaps one needs to know what danger feels like before it is fully respected. If circumnavigating a track is out of the question, then a skid pan would do.

Now, that would be fun.

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