Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Iceland

Greetings from Iceland, the land of fire and ice. It's 11 o'clock at night, and outside the sun is beating down on the roofscape of the world's most northerly capital city.

I'm drinking a glass of scotch which cost 12 quid and I've just finished reading the wedding vows I took to see if there's a get-out clause - the women here are just unbelievable. It said in The Times last week that they're good enough to give any one of the top supermodels a complex, but this is a terrible understatement. If Elle MacPherson came up here, people would be sick all over her.

I interviewed Miss World last night and I panted from start to finish. After five minutes, my knees had all the rigidity of custard - and she's the second ugliest girl here, after Bjork.

The producer had only been here five minutes when a young woman, right under her mother's nose, asked if he'd had an Icelandic girl yet. Then she went on to explain why it would be a fine idea. Maybe he'd like to try out her mother!

TV soundmen are normally shy and mysterious, and our man Murray is no different, but as he strolled the streets of Reykjavik at four am, waving his Dougal around, he was Mel Gibson in a diamond jumper, Tom Cruise in Rohans. Young girls wanted to have his babies.

The countryside is beautiful and quiet, geological lunacy from start to finish, and the roads are even more spectacular than the women. Road One is a 1,500 kilometre ribbon of asphalt which circumnavigates the entire island, cutting a tortured, sinewy path through the lava fields and the volcanoes and the vast fields of ash. It may have a 90kph limit, but on most stretches, that's fast enough. And just in case you were wondering, there is no Road Two.

"The countryside is beautiful and quiet, geological lunacy from start to finish"

Of all the cities I've ever been to, Reykjavik is by far the most alive. During the summer, the entire population of 120,000 goes out for a party every Friday and Saturday night. It is held on the streets, in the clubs and in people's houses and it goes on until work resumes on Monday morning. You can get very drunk over here.

But the thing is, no-one drinks and drives. Yes, it's against the law and yes, the penalties are severe but that is irrelevant. No-one drives while drunk in Iceland because there's a strong possibility that you'll know the person you've just run over. And if you don't know them, you'll definitely know someone who does.

Feeling duty-bound to go to the funeral of someone you've killed is a sure fire way of ensuring you take every precaution to make sure you don't kill them in the first place.

The trouble is, of course, that it would never work here. We all live in suburbs and the only time we see our neighbours is when their curtains twitch a bit. Anyone who attempts to open a restaurant or a bar in a suburb can be assured that when they sell it, 10 years later, it will be as-new because suburban types feel that if they go out, it has to be in the bright lights of the big city.

And therein lies our problem. We can't afford to use taxis, the buses are full of the working classes and Jimmy Knapp has finished off what Lord Beeching started with the railways.

The car is our only realistic means of transport - especially for young single women who are fearful of what might happen in a dark bus shelter at three o'clock in the morning. The last reported sex crime in Iceland, by the way, was in 1962.

But you can't take the car because you can't have a very good time if you can't drink. And you can't drink because you're not allowed to drink and drive.

So people either stay in at night with their lamb chops and their TV guides, or else they get into their cars and drive around drunk. And neither option makes Britain a particularly spectacular place to live.

But look, there's a way round the problem. If the best that your village can manage is a trivial pursuit quiz every Thursday down at the local, and every girl in the place looks like a tractor, don't feel you have to move to some dreadful, characterless suburb just so you can be five miles from some Godawful town centre.

There is an alternative. All you have to do is develop a fondness for eating whales and move to Iceland. And if you find our sound man up there, tell him to come home.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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