Richard Hammond

Richard Hammond

Richard gets tooled up

Moaning about commonplace events and facts is something generally best left to my two esteemed Top Gear colleagues. They're possibly the world's best - and I really do mean that - at picking on something that the rest of us cope with quite easily, and ranting on about it for hours, and getting all red-faced and indignant.

On this occasion though, I shall add my own voice to their big, baritone barrage, and pipe up to the effect that I too have found something ordinary and seemingly innocent that stirs my bile.

The cause of my raised blood pressure and unsightly facial blotching is something that I'm pretty sure has more sinister undertones - and that might just herald a deadly blow for a whole tranche of motoring fanatics.

I was mooching about the Top Gear office - trying to keep out of the way whilst Jeremy quizzed the researchers on whether the 49th parallel delineated the border between North and South Korea and James looked on the computer for an old motorcycle to add to his collection - when I found some tools. These called to me like a siren sings to a sailor from a spume-streaked rock on a dark night. Like a lot of blokes - and women, I should add, because my wife shares this particular dark obsession of mine - I am a massive enthusiast of tools in general.

This could be something that has its roots in my childhood when, for the want of a single tyre lever, my bicycle might be off the road for weeks, stranding me far from the sweetie shop and within dangerous range of the big kid over the road with the catapult and the military obsession. What I dreamt of then was being tooled up properly. And I do mean tooled up in the sense of being in possession of the correct tools for repairing my bicycle, not returning fire on the big kid. My current obsession with tools though goes far beyond simple hand tools for repairing a bicycle. I can recall my first socket set with wondrous accuracy and could, if pressed, remember the size of every socket, extension lever, ratchet and break bar contained within its plastic case. 

"I can recall my first socket set with wondrous accuracy and could, if pressed, remember the size of every socket, extension lever, ratchet and break bar"

It made a huge impression on me. I still have it, in fact, though it has since been joined by a more comprehensive set of far, far higher quality. My current armoury encompasses angle grinder, welder, trolley jack, axle stands, engine hoist, torque wrenches and a welding mask that automatically darkens when you hit the gas. And hardly any of it gets used.

No, I'll 'fess up more - none of it ever gets used. I will occasionally wander out to the garage and mope about the place, dreaming of the days when I might have time to wield any of the tools on a car, but the fact is hardly any of them have seen any real action.

But so what? Some people choose to collect porcelain miniatures depicting old country cottages; others will happily leaf through an album full of stamps, for crying out loud. If there's one thing you're definitely never going to use, it's a secondhand stamp. At least there's a chance that one day I might just pick up my welder/socket set/grease gun or clutch puller and use it for real. And in the meantime, they sit there in their respective cases, causing no harm and giving me a most pleasurable trouser tingle whenever I walk past them.

Anyway, back to the terrifying discovery I made at the back of the Top Gear office. Amongst the pile of tools I found was a set of four adjustable wrenches. What in the name of God can be the point of a set of adjustable spanners? I tried to fathom what it was that any of the smaller three could do that the larger one couldn't. And I came up with nothing. The largest will adjust down to a gap of nothing, just as the smaller ones will, and it is then adjustable up to the maximum span of its jaws, thus rendering the smaller ones entirely pointless.

This, then, is clearly a cynical marketing ploy aimed with terrifying accuracy at the hapless tool addict like me. They're onto us. It took time, but the marketing executives have rumbled us and now we are going to be harried by them until we are spent. Within weeks, my garage will be so full of sets of adjustable wrenches, boxes of chocolate blowtorches, crates of wooden welders and racks of lightweight hammers that I won't even be able to fit in there myself in order to dream about finding the time to actually use any of them.

I said my wife was a tool enthusiast. Turns out she is... she married one.

Richard Hammond, Column

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