Clarkson on: the VW Golf
There's two things everyone seems to have overlooked as the dust finally begins to settle in America. First of all, what was Bill Clinton doing with a tobacco product in a Federal building? Second, after the Monica episode, how did he light it?
Then there's Viagra. We know it rejuvenates your old chap and that it'll be made available to homosexuals on the NHS. But what about women? I'm told, unofficially, the results are startling and that even Ann Widdecombe would become a wild nymphomaniac, but there is no bona fide information on this.
I'm interested, too, in Hurricane Georges. It rattled through Antigua, Puerto Rico and Cuba, killing everyone and everything in its path, but not until Florida was threatened did we see any pictures on the news.
I really didn't get this. Helmut Kohl was about to be ejected from office, and with him would go the single European currency. Another plane had crashed in Africa, killing everyone on board and dogs were to be equipped with electronic microchip passports. And the lead item on the news was telling me that it was raining in Florida.
I tell you all this to make a point. I'm back in business. After three years in the countryside, I've spent the last few weeks with my finger on the world's pulse - in London. I've read newspapers, talked with people whose eyes are alive and eaten arugala.
And yet I'm confused. When I left London, there were four restaurants and everyone drove Golf GTis. Today, there are 14,000 restaurants and you can't get to any of them for all the off-roaders.
In the beginning, London's young people drove Alfasuds. Throughout the late '70s and early '80s it was the car of choice for anyone who had been to Sandhurst or Cirencester. It was as much a part of the estate agent's dress code as a pair of braces.
"In the last two weeks, I’ve not seen one. It’s gone. It’s grown up, got fat – like me – and moved out of town"
And then came the City pinstripes' Golf GTi, which was finished in Lhasa green and had mud up the side, thanks to a rabbit shooting excursion with Bunty at the weekend.
All the time I've been out in the country-side, I just sort of assumed that the Golf had weathered Hurricane Tony and was still the de rigeur mode of transport for the opinion-formers of SW10 and down.
But no. In the last two weeks, I've not seen one. It's gone. It's grown up, got fat - like me - and moved out of town.
And in its stead stands the huge four-wheel-drive off-roader. My flat overlooks the Harbour Club car park - well known to Di watchers - and every morning when I peel back the curtains, I can't believe my eyes. Every single car in there is hundreds of yards long and 50 feet high.
And then I get in the car and go to work. Or try to, anyway. Every time I dive down a rabbit-run side road, my route is blocked by someone coming the other way in a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Now look, people; I know the idiotic council has festooned the roads with speed bumps which are uncomfortable and stupid, but you can get over them in a normal car, I promise. You don't need four-wheel drive. And I know an off-roader looks tough, but it's just as vulnerable to parking accidents and nocturnal thievery as a BMW 3-Series.
I've been trying hard to understand why these bright young things have fallen for the charms of a car which is so desperately unsuited to their inner city environment. I mean, these people are not stupid, so why are they choosing to buy a bloody great truck when they know they'll never be able to park, or go anywhere?
And I think I have an answer. They won't buy hot hatches because of that lingering yobbo connotation and they won't buy ordinary cars because they don't sell fertiliser.
The obvious solution would be a so-called sports car but they know, because we keep telling them, that these cars don't cut it. They look great but they need some substance to go with the Ozwald Boeteng styling.
No-one is going to run around in a BMW Z3 because they know that if I'm coming the other way, I'll laugh at them. So, they buy off-roaders, even though if they meet me coming the other way, I'll get out of my car, lock it and force the bastards to back up for once in their lives. London. Does wonders for your temper.