"Nonstop imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite....
In an era of information overload, the photograph..is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb."
(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others 2003)

08 November, 2008

Top Gear - Is addiction grounds for divorce? Jeremy Clarkson, the complexities of bad taste jokes & the etiquette of eavesdropping

This image copyright BBC

First: an apology. This post is late, more than 24 hours late & it's entirely my own fault. I seriously underestimated quite how long I would actually spend trawling through the intermittently coherent posts on one particular webpage, URL something along the lines of: http:// forum.jeremyclarkson.co.uk/discussions/html...you'll find it, if you really want to. Just imagine if all the chuckling sycophants gathered in the Top Gear TV hangar suddenly decided to "contribute to the on-line debate". No, it's not an edifying read but it is somehow morbidly fascinating - as I found out for myself.

Apology out the way, here comes the confession: I don’t like Jeremy Clarkson. There, I've said it & it's quite a relief. I don't mean it in a nasty way. I’ve actually met Über-bloke a few times, professionally & socially, and he is almost perfectly personable, (but in that: “I can’t really believe she’s still married to him - but I do sort of understand why she did it in the first place?” way...)

Yet I used to be a big fan. I looked forward to his Sunday Times column, in which he distinguished himself from the rest of the contrarian rabble (Liddle, Gill et al) with his “edgy” yet perceptive humour. One JC suggestion which still makes me smile was his proposal, a few years back, to modify overhead lockers on airplanes, all the better to accommodate bawling infants.

Sadly, I fell seriously out of love with JC & his Top Gear sidekicks a couple of years ago. Did it perhaps have something to do with those long dark Sundays? When my other half sat in front of the 42” plasma, giggling and guffawing, like a school boy in the lingerie department, while I sat, at the other end of our converted barn, on the uncomfier sofa, draped in malodorous hounds, watching repeats of Midsommer Murders & Morse?

Then, I just presumed that the whole Top Gear conundrum was just another case of Mars vs Venus. Ergo: no point posting about my Sunday evening bloke time envy?

Yet, earlier this week, when the “JC, lorry drivers, tasteless joke” meme began to flitter through the blogosphere, I was heartened to note that more than a few male commentators whom I really respect had never bought into the whole Überbloke/TG thang.

Still, I resisted. Then, earlier this week, I ended up in an east London eaterie, within spitting distance of two very Grande Dames de Fleet Street. Over the Dover sole, GD1 (editor lady) asked GD2 (columnist lady) which thorny subject she was thinking about tackling in her weekend column. “Top Gear, of course. I'm sticking up for Clarkson,” announced the latter confidently, adding she felt that JC now performed a vital role as a “societal safety valve”.

OK mea maxima culpa - I was indeed, eavesdropping but, it led me, initially, to a responsible conclusion: best leave JC/TG to GD2 - with her thundering, highly rated, op-ed page, weekly column in a national newspaper. Elegantly written & rationally argued as ever, you can read her pro-TG thoughts here:

Personally, I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on JC/TG et al. Yet I do remember that in September 2006, I was in a hospital room in Yorkshire, with Fred, my father, an 86-year old D-Day veteran, who was then fighting for his life. At exactly the same time, JC acolyte & TG regular, Richard "the Hamster" Hammond (b.1969) nearly died in a 288 mph crash, a stunt filmed for & eventually shown on Top Gear.

Then at the end of last week, I entered a well-known high street store (which will remain unidentified but which recently posted a 30% drop in last half profits) and practically walked into into a gargantuan, intractable wall of Top Gear merchandise, from the Stig Remote Control Go-Kart (£15) Top Gear Stunt Carts (£15.00) Stig Bubble Bath; Stig Key Ring etc., etc. Petrol head present paradise and much of it aimed at kids of all ages. So don't forget to tune in to JC, Hamster, James May & all the usual Top Gear fun & malarkey on Sunday night now, will you?!