Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Jaguar’s birthday

Later this summer, Ferrari is celebrating its 50th birthday in Rome with a party that will make Elton's half-century look like an old people's whist drive.

They say that Rome will be brought to a standstill by 10,000 Ferraris and that even the Pope will be there. The Pope, for Christ's sake. The Pope is going to a car firm's birthday party.

Check out Q magazine's gig guide and I doubt you'll find a single rock'n'roller on stage that night. Eric Clapton, Chris Rea, Jay Kay and Rod Stewart have each bought a 550, and the word is they'll all be in Rome, talking Armani and quad-cam motors.

Me though, I'm not going. I have decided that I shall be at the Coventry British Legion that night where Jaguar is celebrating - not its 50th - but its 75th anniversary.

That's not fair. The ball, in fact, is being held at the Brown Lane factory and 1,000 people will be there including er... David Platt... possibly. The Queen - our equivalent of the Pope - is sadly unavailable because she's opening a computer park in Telford that day. Or is it a dog food factory in Cwmbran?

Honestly, it's pathetic and it isn't Jaguar's fault. In fact, they've done bloody well to scrape up 1,000 people who are prepared to get out there and celebrate the birth of what we're told is a bunch of wires, some Zyklon B and a slab or two of metal.

It's amazing. Since British Aerospace handed Rover over to the Germans, I've had hundreds of letters from retired majors in Bognor Regis, saying that it's all deplorable, hardly worth fighting the war... etc... etc...

But people in the UK are told cars are dirty and that we're no good at making anything, and we shrug and accept it. We accept almost anything.

Some years ago, the EC, as it was called at the time, decided that all beaches must achieve a certain standard of cleanliness, which was not one of their more idiotic ideas.

Naturally, the British delegation dispatched beardy types in parkas to our sandier bits where, to their horror, none met the new requirements. Cue the Daily Mail with all sorts of headlines deriding Britain as the dirty man of Europe.

But, according to my sources, this isn't an entirely fair picture because the other countries had simply gone home and done... precisely nothing. No beardy types had been sent out to check; they just said ‘Our beaches are all clean'.

"People in the UK are told that cars are dirty and that we're no good at making anything, and we shrug and accept it"

So hey, it turns out that the unspoiled wilderness in northern Scotland is filthy while that turd-infested expanse of litter-strewn shingle called Greece is dew fresh.

Continental types treat rules with exactly the right amount of disdain. Because Italy has had so many rulers this millennium and so many governments since the war, they've learned to treat authority as though it's something they've trodden in.

What's the point of obeying one new rule when next week, Hannibal is coming over the mountains with an elephant and an entirely new set?

Over there, you can run around waving your arms in the air, telling anyone who'll listen that Ferrari is a symbol of the unacceptable face of capitalism, and that cars are killing children. No one will give a damn.

The same happens in France. When the government tried to impose new taxes on truckers they didn't have a puny strike. No. They blockaded motorways and stood around smoking Gitanes, until sense prevailed.

Even the Belgians are out and about throwing rocks as I write because Renault is closing a factory down.

But here, apart from a bunch of long-haired ne'er-do-wells with suspicious stains on their trousers, no one ever complains.

This is why, in Italy, the whole country will be out on the streets celebrating Ferraris, while in Britain, Jaguar's birthday will be marked by one person in every 56,000.

We shouldn't expect more really because if you went into the street and put up bunting, a council official would tell you to take it down again.

And if you held a street party, number 54 would ring the police who'd ask you to turn it down a bit.

The only consolation is that things are worse in America, I'm told that in Los Angeles nowadays, it is illegal to consume alcohol after two am... even in your home. I bet GM's big birthday party will be a real wow.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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