Clarkson on: road signs
As I write this column, big juicy snowflakes are tumbling out of the sodium-dulled sky, and an eerie softness has descended on London. It is beautiful out there. Absolutely beautiful.
There are children skipping about with red noses and rosy cheeks. There are bewildered-looking men hunched over the counter in perfume shops, not knowing how much anything costs or what's suitable, and the streets are full of people with bright packages, going home to their warm, comfortable houses.
It's like a Christmas scene from the years before the climate started to change. No. hang on. That's not right. But whatever. It makes me feel all gooey and warm and well disposed towards my fellow man. Apart from Piers Morgan obviously. And Peter Mandelson.
And this gooiness is why I didn't actually empty an entire magazine of 7.62mm ammunition into the driver of the Nissan Kumquat that got in my way for 15 miles this morning. The driver was very old, and the temperature was very low. So although I could see the road had been gritted and was no more slippery than a sheet of salty sandpaper, I accept that he knew his reflexes were not as they had always been and that as a result, 20mph made sense.
It was much the same story with the mini-cab chap who picked me up in his Toyota Prius this afternoon. Of course, this is a silly car with two engines and I'm sure he knew that when he paid for it. But I'm also sure he knows that these days, there are many environmentalists who crave the days when we used to have snow at Christmas and who do not wish to be driven home in a Mercedes-Benz. Plainly then, mini-cab man has a wise business head on his shoulders and I respect him for that.
I also respect the chap who went on the Radio Two PopMaster quiz this morning. He was a fireman - or fire-fighter as we must now call such men - not a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon. He had never been to Harvard University and probably has no qualifications at all. But his knowledge of music was breathtaking. Can you name Twiggy's only number one - in five seconds? Nope. Neither could I. He did though.
We see evidence of this intelligence everywhere we turn. Of course, there are still idiots who drive through villages at 90mph on their stupid sports bikes, and there are still people who defy logic and buy Peugeots, but for the most part, all of humankind is bright and sassy and clever.
No really. Just the other day, we were told that scientists had discovered an octopus which carries coconut shells over short distances so that they can be used near coral reefs as shelter. What? And we are supposed to be impressed by this? Us? Why? We can carry coconut shells over any distance we choose, on a hovercraft if that's what takes our fancy.
We are told that dolphins are intelligent because they can plant magnetic mines on enemy battleships. I'm sorry. This is not a sign of intelligence. It's a sign of rank stupidity. And then you have elephants who, it's said, never forget. Yes they do. That's why they keep being poached. They forget that the long pointy thing with a fat American at the other end is a gun.
"They think we are octupi, just capable of steering, but not at more than 70mph, and not if we’re reading a sign at the same time"
And yet, despite the human's massive superiority over everything else, our Government still treats us like we cannot even wipe our bottoms without making a mess.
As you know we now have electronic signs above the motorway to warn us of hazards ahead and let us know how long it will take to reach a specific point. Very nice. A good use of our tax money. But sometimes when the traffic is light and the roads are free from what used to be called accidents but must now be referred to as ‘incidents' - as there is no such thing as a road ‘accident' any more - they are used to tell us not to drink and drive.
We know already. There isn't a soul above the age of eight in the country who thinks it's a good idea to down a litre of vodka before taking the kids to school. The sign might as well say, ‘After breathing in, breathe out'. Or ‘Do not jump from a moving car'. Or ‘Try not to be fat'.
If the man with access to the laptop that feeds these signs has nothing useful to say then why encourage him to say anything at all? Why not just send him home?
The problem of course is simple. In the past 12 months, the government has taken on 26,000 more people. And all of these people have to be given water coolers and computers and offices and pensions. That's one of the reasons why the country had to borrow £30,000 million in November alone. It's one of the reasons why we are now a staggering £2,200,000,000,000 in debt.
What's more these people have to be given something to do, like, for instance, sitting in front of a laptop thinking of messages to send to people who are going home for Christmas. That's right. You are paying someone to sit in a heated room with a pension and a ready supply of coffee that you paid for also, just so he can tell you something that you've known for 40 years.
Why, if we have to have him sitting there, couldn't he tell us something useful? Like what sort of scent our wives like for Christmas. And why red underwear is never a good idea. Why can't we have the messages in French? That way we could at least learn a language as we drive along. Why drinking and driving? It's just so unbearably worthy.
The fun-suckers who run the show would argue, of course, that you can't distract drivers when they are trying to control two tons of speeding metal at 70mph. This is because they cannot accept we are intelligent. They think we are octopi. Just about capable of steering, but not at anything more than 70 and certainly not if we are reading a sign at the same time. Unless of course the sign has an earnest message. Like, for instance, ‘strength through joy'.
The next few years are going to be terrible. There will he hardships not really seen in this country for 40 years. Unemployment will go through the roof, companies will fail. And to keep the battered banks afloat, more and more money we simply don't have will need to be scrounged from the Chinese. It'll be hell, no matter which party wins the election in March.
But we, as a nation, do have a wit that bubbles to the surface at times like this. And I'd like to see it being applied on the motorway signs. This is why I'd like to finish with a suggestion.
As the recession bites, people will be unable to afford to go out very much. This means there will be many stand-up comedians struggling to pay the mortgages on the lovely homes they bought when times were good.
Surely, these comedians could be used to keep the nation amused as house prices tumble and jobs are lost. And what better outlet is there than the overhead gantry? We could give Jimmy Carr the M1 and Stephen Fry the M4. Maybe Stan Boardman could get a Northern motorway like the M62 and Billy Connolly the M8. I quite fancy reserving Michael McIntyre for my run home on the M40.
"Checking out at Argos is like bingo where you win what you've already paid for".
I'd slow down to read that. And then everyone would win. The fun-suckers, and the rest of us who know that the only way to get through the months that lie ahead is to have a good laugh.