06 October 2012

Jeremy Clarkson on: Brits

Why do Brits delight in the misfortune of others? And mock those with supercars?

Jeremy Clarkson
Car image

My Sunday Times colleague and friend, A.A. Gill, recently outlined the difference between American and British comedy. They enjoy laughing along with people they like - Joey from Friends for example - whereas we enjoy laughing at people we don't. The idiots from 2012, Basil Fawlty, David Brent and so on.

It could be argued that this is because America is home to countless simpletons who don't understand irony. And that we are healthily cynical. But I suspect the real reason is that they're actually quite pleasant. And we're not...

A few moments ago, my dog died, and, as an experiment, I announced the fact on Twitter. Now, everyone must have known that when a family pet is put down, the family in question is bound to be upset. So you'd expect a bit of sympathy. And, in America, that's what you'd get.

Not in Britain, though. Moments after I posted my Tweet, a man called Ryan Paisey asked: "How does she smell?" Adam Farrow said the news was "kinda funny". Phil May wanted to know if it was James May's fault, and Tom Green said simply: "Good". All that in less than what Twitter calls zero seconds.

Five minutes has now elapsed, and still it's a non-stop tirade of abuse. Which confirms my theory. Britain is a nation of 6.2 crore complete and utter b*******. We are the country that invented the concentration camp, and international slavery.

Hanging, drawing, quartering: that was us too. And who was it that sent the White Russians home to be slaughtered by Stalin? Yup. Us. My best friend at prep school used to spend every free moment forcing whatever he'd caught in the garden that day down his Mum's waste disposal unit. He was British. And I bet, if you checked, you'd find that, along with everything else, bullying was invented here too.

There is more evidence of our inherent nastiness to be found on the road. Last week, I was testing the magnificent Ferrari 458 Spider, and I couldn't have been more despised if I'd run around a shopping centre in full SS uniform and a Ku Klux Klan hat trying to steal children. The message was clear: "Whoever is in that car has become rich by exploiting the workers, and, as a result, we are not going to let him out of that side turning."

Again, we must draw parallels with the US. Over there, when a tramp sees someone drive by in a Ferrari, he will say, "One day, I'll have one of those." Here, what he will say is: "One day, I'll have him out of that."

This was proved in another experiment I undertook last week. I was in the outside lane of the M40 in the Ferrari, closing fast on some kind of Toyota. If I'd been in an equally nondescript Ford or Vauxhall, the driver would have moved over at the first possible opportunity. But, because I was in the Ferrari, he sat there - and I measured it - for 43 kilometers.

Of course, it's possible the driver had recently arrived from some country where there is no direct translation of ‘lane discipline', but it's far, far more likely that he was just a bitter and twisted Brit who was going to demonstrate to his fat, thin-lipped, socially democratically inclined, big-knickered wife that the show-off in the Ferrari wasn't going to get home any quicker than they were.

You see this kind of thing when you pull into a petrol station in a supercar. Elsewhere in the world, people will bound over, full of enthusiasm. They want to see it, sit in it, know how fast it goes.

Not here, though. Everyone that walks past will say the same thing. "Bet you don't get many miles to the gallon with that." It's as though the average Brit is programmed at birth to find somebody else's good fortune so irritating that they will resort to finding the only thing in the Top Trumps deck where their B-reg Toyota Picnic wins: mpg. "Yes, you're right," I usually reply, nodding at their rust bucket, "but I bet you don't get much sex because of that."

Just recently, the immensely talented and beautiful singer songwriter Amy Macdonald went on BBC Breakfast and announced she'd bought a Ferrari 458. And she was asked two things. Indignantly: "How much did that cost?" And, scoffingly: "Where in Britain can you drive a car like that?" Bitter, bitter, bitter.

People really do believe that if the lovely Miss Macdonald were to not have a Ferrari, their lives would be improved. It's a state of mind I've never understood. But it's very real. It's championed in the Daily Mail, which wages war on anyone who is too beautiful, too rich or too thin. They really believe that if Kate Moss were to develop elephantitis of the face, the life of Mrs Prolapsed-Stomach in Pontefract would be improved immeasurably.

Outwardly, we hated communist Russia; inwardly, it's what 95 per cent of the country wants. Bankers. Estate Agents. Politicians. Journalists. Anyone in a suit is basically evil and must, after they've been sacked, go to prison. Anyone in a donkey jacket? They're basically good and must have a plasma television immediately.

And that's what you need to bear in mind before you buy a supercar in this country. People are going to spit on it, and, when you are not looking, fill it with urine. They're going to run coins down its flanks, and deliberately get in your way. They won't let you out of side turnings, they will call you names and, at parties, women will say - this happened too when I had the 458 Spider - that you must have an incredibly small penis.

They will film you as you drive along and put the fruits of their labours on YouTube. Traffic wardens will single you out, along with the police, for special attention. You will be able to generate more g in the bends but, as you exit the corner in a blizzard of phlegm, you'll be handcuffed and made to spend the rest of your life in prison, not daring to pick up the soap.

I like to think this is where is more helpful than other sources of motoring information. Rival magazines and websites will tell you how many iron filings are in the dampers of a Ferrari 599 and how many valves are fitted to the engine of a Pagani Hneurrgh. But they will not tell you which supercar is best if you don't want to get home drizzled in a sea of goz. We can: and it's the Aston Martin DBS.

Tell someone you've crashed your Ferrari or your Lambo, and they will laugh. Tell them you've crashed your Aston, and they will be sad. A crashed Fezza is a crashed Airbus. A crashed Aston is like a downed Concorde. It hurts. Astons trump our inner Daily Mail. We like them. We like the people who drive them.

Maybe it's because they're grey. Maybe it's because the engine's in the front, where it bloody well belongs; I don't know. But I do know this: an Aston is the only expensive, fast car that miserable, cruel, British b******* actually like. I know that's not very funny. But, as I said earlier, my dog has just died.

Tags: jeremy clarkson, ferrari, 458, toyota, pagani



We make a trip to the north-eastern end of the country to meet a real Jeep, in one that keeps it real from the current crop