James May

Out of control: terrorist boot illustration

Out of control

Some years ago, in a series of events known as ‘the atrocities of nine-eleven’, a bunch of terrorists boarded some aeroplanes with knives, murdered the crews and then knocked some buildings down.

As a result of this, I’ve had the small pair of nail-clippers that I kept on my key-ring confiscated by airport security, on the basis that I might be overcome with religious zeal on a trip to the States and clip the captain and first officer of a 747 to death, starting with their little finger-nails.

Meanwhile, the real bad guys had moved on to shoe bombs. Once these were discovered, it became necessary for me to remove my 28-hole Dr Marten boots every time I want to fly to Manchester, in case I intend to blow up a load of fat blokes with laptops en route to a conference about the future of plastics.

This measure was never going to catch any real terrorists, though, because they’d since developed two-part liquid explosives disguised as Hammond hair product or some such. Because of that, I now have my deodorant stolen every time I pass through Heathrow with hand luggage only, in case it’s a nerve agent and I’m intending to kill a sixth-form netball team on its way to Frankfurt. All that really happens is that I become a bad ambassador for Britain by walking around foreign countries with BO.

This sort of thing drives me up the wall. Because of the anti-social behaviour of a few, I’m being made to suffer enormous inconvenience and the general ruination of my smooth-running existence.

It’s the same in my private life. I’m currently making one of my booze series with TV’s Oz Clarke, and there are quite a few issues with what the BBC calls ‘compliance’. We are in danger of promoting excess drinking and inviting the censure of the board of governors or health groups, and why? Because a small handful of pikeys are getting bladdered and then stabbing each other.

“I’m not bothered about people who drive a bit too slowly.  What bothers me are those who drive like prats” 

This is ridiculous. All we are saying is that enjoying a glass or two is perfectly acceptable amongst normal, balanced people and that if they end up a bit squiffy, that’s fine. Everyone I know likes a drink, but none of them has ever knifed me or beaten me up on the way home from the pub while someone else makes a happy-slappy video.

Yet government ministers insist that we should have smaller wine glasses in order to curb our terrible drinking habit. Rubbish. We’re just being made to suffer for a minority of half-wits who would be out breaking rocks in May’s Britain.

This brings me to some of the traffic-control measures that have been introduced near where I live – extra traffic lights, islands with one-way priority, alpine speed-humps, fatuous mini roundabouts, millions of cameras, all the usual truly tedious stuff that seems to make driving more trouble than it’s worth.

Yet most of it is completely unnecessary as far as the majority of drivers is concerned. We instinctively drive slowly and vigilantly past the school, or let the bus pull into the outside lane on the run-up to the bit where the road forks, or let the other bloke go first when we come head-to-head on a narrow road where there’s insufficient room for two cars. We all stop at red traffic lights rather than accelerating through them as if it’s somehow going to make everything all right.

But because a small number of people can’t work this out, or more likely can’t be bothered to, the rest of us must endure endless interference in an activity that is really quite simple and should be fairly relaxing – i.e. driving a chuffing car. I’m beginning to wonder if a few thousand people have spoiled driving for the other 30 million.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m not bothered about people who dither, or drive a bit too slowly, or who can’t make up their minds about where to go or who forget the indicators. I don’t even care if some people drive in the middle lane of the motorway for 500 miles or tow caravans. What bothers me are those people who treat the machine I love with contempt and drive like prats. If the car is such an awful experience, then give it up. The buses and trains are excellent these days.

Meanwhile, the airport security issue is easy to resolve, courtesy of my mate Nigel. He is prepared to sacrifice his future, his career and maybe his life by checking in wearing explosive pants. He may end up being destroyed in a controlled explosion, but as a result of his action, we will all thereafter be required to remove our pants before passing through the X-ray machine.

At least that would be amusing.



James May, Column

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