A Christmas TaleYet again, the Christmas lights were up round these parts back at the end of August. And Santa was to be found collecting catkins for the harvest festival.And once again, with the actual date almost upon us, church leaders up and down the land are trying to remind an audience that won't listen that Christmas is more than getting hog-whimperingly drunk. It's more even than having to think of something appropriate to say about your new socks.And it is certainly more than sitting in front of The Great Escape, after lunch, wondering why your tummy button, which for 30 years has been an 'inny', is now an 'outy'.For those who think Christmas is all of these things, I should remind you that in fact it's a religious festival which takes its name from the birth of someone called Jesus Christ who went on to do many good deeds: bringing people back from the dead, walking on water, turning water into wine; that sort of thing.While mulling this over the other day, I found myself wondering how things might have been if there had been cars kicking around back in the year dot. What would the key players have driven?Well Joseph, of course, was a carpenter, and so it's a fairly safe bet that he'd have had a Vauxhall Astramax van.The Bishop of Durham would have us believe he was a bit gullible, which is why, I daresay, his van would have been propelled by a diesel engine. But that's OK because the Astramax is the only vehicle made where your choice of engine has no effect at all on performance.Whether you have petrol, diesel or fuel made out of donkey droppings, the Astramax is faster than anything on the road. No matter what car I happen to be driving, I have learned that it's best to pull over and let the guys in the Vauxhall van go by. I have seen these vehicles on the M1 doing 170 mph, which would make Joseph and Son very much the people to call on if your TV cabinet broke just before The Great Escape.The question is: would he have been using the van when Mary was obviously close to the big moment? Would he have had a car as well? I think he probably would. And I think it may have been a Nissan Bluebird.I don't see Joseph as a very successful carpenter and have him clocked as the sort of bloke who, to make ends meet, might do a bit of mini-cabbing on the side. That's why he'd have gone for the Bluebird which may well have been one of the nastiest cars in the world but which, when all was said and done, was reliable.Plus, I don't see Joseph as the sort of man who would be all that bothered by a need for a flash set of wheels. If he was prepared to rest up for the night in a stable, we're not talking about someone with a Golf GTi, are we?The shepherds, on the other hand, were almost certainly members of the local rally club. I know this because here we have a group of guys on a hillside, seeing angels in the night sky.That makes them drunk, and that makes them young farmers and all young farmers are in a rally club of one sort or another.At home, all these boogaloo dudes would have Escort RS 2000s and XR2S but as they were out and about, I figure they'd have been on quad bikes. This would also explain how they managed to reach the stable without being stopped and breathalysed by the police.The police, of course, in those days were Romans so they would have had Fiat Puntos, with police written in Latin on the doors.There is, as far as I know, no record of any police involvement at all during the nativity, but there were some wise men from the East. And the East, as we all know, means Arab land.Now these, we must presume, were rich people because they brought gold, and frankincense and myrrh which I bet was bloody expensive. You can't get it at all these days. Even in Boots.So, if they were Arabs and rich, we can assume there were some pretty tasty wheels on the streets of Bethlehem that night.I wonder what the innkeeper thought when he noticed that the people who he'd just despatched to the stable block had friends turning up in a Lamborghini Diablo, a Mercedes 600SEC and a Ferrari Testarossa.Serves the vindictive little twerp right. If only he hadn't been so snobby as all people with Granada Ghias are he would have found Joseph and Mary a room, then all their rich, and drunk, mates would have filled his tills in his bar.I mean, if someone follows a star for thousands of miles, thinking it's talking to him, you can bet he's going to be in the mood for a party when it turns out he was right.And there's nothing the Arabs like more than a good party. Except their cars, which is why I see them in the Ferrari, the Lambo and the S Class, all finished I suspect in white, with white leather, white carpets and white trimmings, except perhaps for the centre of the steering wheel which I see as gold. Don't know why. Just do.So that then completes the scene at the birth itself. But what about various other biblical figures? Well, with the same certainty that Galileo would have had a car with a sunroof, I just know that Moses had an amphi-car.Herod would almost certainly have had a Porsche with a car phone. I can see him now, in a stripy shirt barking half-formed thoughts and orders into his Motorola. 'I want everyone under the age of two killed.' Only a Porsche driver could come up with that one.Caesar would have had a Lancia Thema, bullet-proofed I suppose. Well spear-proofed anyway they didn't have guns back then, did they?And what of the disciples? Well, call me old Mr Cynical Trousers but I've always had Peter clocked as a bit of a drip. He was always doing the moaning about there not being enough fishes, and how it was dangerous to try to walk on water. And let's not forget about his behaviour, three times, before the cock crowed. No, he was a wetty and I can see him now, in a pair of pressed trousers and an apple-green, bri-nylon shirt, behind the wheel of a Mini.Darren was altogether more gutsy, and without any doubt at all had an Escort Cosworth. Thomas, I feel equally confident, had a Volvo of some type. We know he couldn't make up his mind about things, and the sort of guy who dithers about at road junctions almost always has something large and Swedish.And Judas? Well Judas is the easiest of the lot. Judas had a BMW. Fact.
Greenslade Music and CarsIt is a commonly held belief that the average speed of traffic in London is 9 miles per hour.That makes for some great stories in the newspapers because 9 mph means we are now moving around more slowly than the Victorians. 'Why not walk?' scream those in open-toed sandals.Well, I can give you one very good reason. The average speed of traffic in London is not 9 mph. It is, according to my on-board trip computer, nearly 18 mph and I just can't walk that fast.Yesterday, however, I rather wished it was 9 mph because then I would not have arrived in the West End twenty minutes before my appointment. I would not have been able to browse through the racks in Tower Records. And then I would not have wasted twenty quid.But because I averaged 18 mph, I did have time to do some browsing and now I have an album, recorded in 1973, by a band called Greenslade.It has a cover by Roger Dean, which should have been a warning, but it wasn't enough. I recalled seeing Greenslade live and worse than that, I remembered enjoying the performance.So, when the subsequent meeting ended, I slipped the CD into my autochanger and sat back to let Dave Greenslade's melodic synthesiser fill the leather and wood cockpit of the Jag.At first I thought something had gone terribly wrong with the stereo, but this proved not to be the case. In fact, something had gone terribly wrong with my memory. Greenslade's first album may have been wild and different in 1973, but in the intervening 22 years we've had the Pistols and the Police and Madonna, so that now it sounds somewhere between awful and odd.The message, then, to all you ex-public-schoolboys out there is clear. Do not, when you have time to kill, wander into a record shop and fill your basket with albums that you used to enjoy, late at night, in study eight. Snow Goose sounds daft. Yessongs is idiotic. Focus are now a bunch of hasbeens and Golden Earring only had one hit for a reason. But Greenslade are the worst of the lot.And it's the same story with cars. Just because you remember your Alfasud so fondly, do not imagine that you'll get the same thrill from it now, after you've been exposed to the delights of a Golf GTi and a BMW 325.Your first car may well have been an MG but drive one today and you won't rekindle a lost youth. You'll simply get a headache and wet. And then it will break down.However, there are some albums which, through punk, disco, grunge, rap, Wet Wet Wet, techno and heavy metal, continue to sound fresh and pertinent. I'm listening to Crime of the Century right now, and Dark Side of the Moon is another case in point. And that's without dipping into early Stones, Who and Led Zep. Or even James Brown and Beethoven for that matter.Some bands and individuals, for whatever reason, just don't date.So what about cars? Are there any which, if you could buy them new today, would not feel disgraced by modern-day techno marvels?Assuming that we could do the automotive equivalent of digital remastering, by which I mean building them properly and incorporating air conditioning and electric windows, is there a single car out there which wouldn't feel as dead as something dead?I'm struggling here. I recently drove an Aston Martin DB5 and can only liken it to Barclay James Harvest's live double album from 1974.My first car was a Fort Cortina 1600E which, though I haven't driven one for seventeen years, I'm sure would feel like Rick Wakeman on wheels.However, I have ended up with a list of four cars which have managed to bulldoze their way through fashion and the sea of technological change. Sure, they've been digitally remastered along the way and are now bought on DAT rather than scratched vinyl, but they've made it.All are still in production even though each has remained basically the same. And they are the Porsche 911, the Mini, the Range Rover and the Jaguar XJS.They are the motorised supergroups. Here we have Jagger and Richards in metal. By keeping fit, staying alive and adapting, they feel every bit as good today as they did when Labour were in power.And that makes me wonder some more: what if they'd persevered with, say, the Volkswagen K70? What if it was now available with a catalytic converter and fuel injection? What if they'd changed the dashboard a little bit every now and again and added height-adjustable seatbelts? If they'd done all this, would the K70 feel good today?No, I don't think so. Here we have Dave Greenslade with an engine; a car that would only be available on import to sad, sad old hippies who liken modern cars to modern music and dismiss both groups as characterless rubbish.It was while I was sitting watching the Doobie Brothers qat Wembley last week that the answer came. Old cars are fine... so long as they were made yesterday.
20 Things You Always Wanted to Know about Jeremy ClarksonWhat is your everyday car?Ford EscortHow many miles a year do you drive?2030,000What's the most fun you've ever had in a car?Doing the Rubicon Trail in a Jeep WranglerDo you prefer front/rear/four-wheel drive and why?Couldn't care less handling is unimportantWhat one car, cost no object, would you most like to drive every day for the next 12 months?Aston Martin VantageWhat car should never have got past the prototype stage?Nearly all cars in current productionYou've got a CD stacker in the boot of your car and a drive across Europe planned which six CDs do you take?Bob Seger Night MovesBob Seger Nine TonightBob Seger Live BulletBob Seger Fire InsideBob Seger Smokin' OPsDoobie Brothers Captain and MeIf someone borrowed your car, which tape or radio station would they find playing?Radio Four, I suppose, 'cos my wife likes itWho is your hero?Auberon WaughIf you were a car, what car would you be?1979 Ford Granada GhiaWhat is your favourite quote, or line from a song?Then ten years have got behind you,No one told you when to run,You missed the starting gun(Pink Floyd, 'Dark Side of the Moon')What did you want to be when you grew up?KingWhat was the worst job you ever had?Road-testing the Toyota CorollaWhat is the bravest thing you have ever done?I never do brave thingsWhat is your greatest achievement?Going five years through public school and never once playing cricketWho would you most like to see gunged?Lynn Faulds-WoodWhat was/is your favourite 'children's' TV programme?Paddington BearWho or what always makes you laugh?Auberon WaughYou're in a rapidly descending hot-air balloon with Jeremy Beadle, Jeremy Clarkson and Jeremy Paxman and you have to throw one out to stop it crashing who goes first?This is not fair