Jeremy Clarkson

jeremy clarkson

Clarkson on: spending money

Because he's eight, James May likes to invent games he can play when he's not in the bath mending motorcycles or being made to practice the piano by his mother.
 
One of these games is called 'Airport Departure Lounge Dare'. It involves trailing through the shops, trying to make a friend or colleague buy stuff the poor gullible fool neither likes nor needs.

Apparently, Richard Hammond is a complete sucker and now has a house full of compass cuff links, digital cameras, currency converters, inflatable pillows, half a hundredweight of shortbread and God knows how many very expensive orange watches.

Me, though; I'm a lost cause. It doesn't matter how much James stands over my shoulder soothingly explaining that I look great - "very sexy" - in a pink Hermes tie, I will not buy it because I have a tie already. I also have some cuff links, some shortbread and a watch. And I do not need a currency converter because I have a head instead.

Hammond and May spend 86 per cent of their lives looking at old cars, and bits of old cars for sale on the internet, 10 per cent playing 'Airport Departure Lounge Dare' with one another and the remaining four per cent, saying "Right. I'll show you". And getting their cheque books out.

If you paid them in meat, they'd eat it, so because they're paid in money, they spend it. It's why Hammond has 10 cars including a rubbish old Land Rover and a nasty Vauxhall Firenza. And it's why May has 400 old motorbikes, all of which look like they ought to have a sidecar. 

But I'm allergic to spending money. I don't mind blowing it on someone else - that's why I bought May a pair of pink aviators - but I cannot buy something if I have an example of it already.
It's why I have one tie, one hat, one coat, one pair of shoes and most importantly of all, one car. May sees this as a challenge. So, the other day, after he'd tidied his room and fed his pet cat, he started trying to talk me into a Gallardo Spyder.

"It's very you," he said. "Lambos are very now. And you can't very well spend your entire professional life extolling the virtues of the supercar if you don't have one." 

I should have put my fingers in my ears and sung at the top of my voice. But I really do like the baby Lambo, so he was pushing against an open door. And as a result, I got into the car with him, and Hammond, and went to the nearest Lamborghini showroom.

When we arrived, May availed himself of the colour chart and suggested, in soothing, gravelly, hypnotic tones, that I should have sky-blue paintwork, an orange roof, a lime-green interior and purple wheels. This from a man whose Porsche is brown and whose house is beige, with a hint of more beige.

I ignored him and, to get out of there, made a casual deal with the salesman that I'd love to buy a Gallardo Spyder and that I'd be in touch soon to go through the options list. Yet again then, it seemed like May's idiotic attempt to sucker me into his world of 'Airport Departure Lounge Dare' had failed.

But then Hammond went upside down and in the mess that followed I clean forgot to tell the salesman I wasn't serious. In fact, I forgot all about our trip to the dealership, until a few days ago, when I received an email saying my car was about to be built and they wanted to know what colour to paint it. Eek.

"I'm allergic to spending money. I don't mind blowing it on someone else - that's why I bought May a pair of pink aviators"

My word has always been my bond and I had said I'd buy one. So that was that. I was back in the showroom with the options list, speccing up a car that's not quite as nice to drive as a Ferrari F430.

No really, it isn't. Both cars are as exciting to drive as being on fire and then putting yourself out by jumping over Niagara Falls. But in the Ferrari you feel like you're in flame retardant clothes and that you have a parachute. You feel in control; you feel connected. 

Yes, of course, it's all fake. Computers choose the noise made by the exhaust and what the diff does in each bend. But, my God, it works. The F430 is as delicate as the snare drum work on Radar Love.

The Lambo is more smash and grab, more mechanical, more like the drumming you get from Frank Beard on Smart Dressed Man.

It's also a lot more expensive, for reasons I don't understand. You have a sense with the Ferrari that every nut, and every bolt and every gigajoule of computing power is designed specifically for that car and to be as good as current technology allows.

No really, it isn't. Both cars are as exciting to drive as being on fire and then putting yourself out by jumping over Niagara Falls. But in the Ferrari you feel like you're in flame retardant clothes and that you have a parachute. You feel in control; you feel connected.

Yes, of course, it's all fake. Computers choose the noise made by the exhaust and what the diff does in each bend. But, my God, it works. The F430 is as delicate as the snare drum work on Radar Love.

The Lambo is more smash and grab, more mechanical, more like the drumming you get from Frank Beard on Smart Dressed Man. It's also a lot more expensive, for reasons I don't understand. You have a sense with the Ferrari that every nut, and every bolt and every gigajoule of computing power is designed specifically for that car and to be as good as current technology allows.

So I began chomping through that options list like it was a maize field and my youngest daughter was lost and in great danger on the other side. Yes, I want a TV. Yes, I want a trip computer. And, yes, of course I want a hydraulic nose that lifts itself up when it's presented with a speed hump. I kept going so long in fact that the poor girl who'd been despatched to make a cup of tea, made it all the way to Bombay and back with the leaves. And now, all I have to do is wait for the Italians to build it.

The thing is; he won't be quite as pleased as me, because although the European Car of the Year judges have awarded the top prize in 2006 to the Ford S-Max, and Top Gear magazine has gone - for good sensible reasons - for the Jaguar XK, we telly boys think that the best, most fun car to emerge all year was Lambo's new soft-top. And I'll have one. And James May won't.

Apparently, it'll be finished and on its way this month. James May will be beside himself. This will be his greatest ever result in 'Airport Departure Lounge Dare'. It's one thing convincing Hammond that novelty socks are all the rage and that he should have a pair, but quite another talking someone into the orange interior of a £150,000 supercar.

This article was first published in 2007.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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