John Robb leans on a fence post and ponders a cactus

I was quite enjoying the furore sparked by the TV glove puppet known as Richard Hammond. It was one of those furores that means little even if the Mexican embassy was writing stern letters about it, as if it really mattered what a piece of TV fluff thought about a whole nation.

In a piece of car crash TV where art imitates life Hammond had described Mexicans as ” lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus”. He has obviously never been to Mexico City because there is not much space for cactus let alone a fence and all the Mexicans I’ve ever seen on my travels are anything but any of these clichés. There’s a lot of them and they all look entirely different from each other and are anything but lazy and no more or less flatulent than a TV presenter.
Getting a hard on for machinery is a bit odd. I haven’t watched Top Gear for years. Probably because I don’t drive and have zero interest in cars. A car is a box that get you from A to B when you get someone else to drive it and that’s it.

So I thought I’d have a quick look and see what one of the most popular programmes on TV was about these days.

Unsurprisingly it hadn’t changed. Middle England is not big on change and Top Gear, like the Daily Mail, epitomes this.

This is a strange place where time really has stood still. It had the stale and perhaps, ”Ëœlazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight’ air, of the seventies about it but no cactuses.

Ringmaster Jeremy Clarkson, who is funny, was surrounded by his two cronies who look winsomely and hopefully at his hangdog alpha male face hoping for a nod of approval from the god of middle England.

The studio audience was the lost generation of middle-aged men dressed by their wives who guffawed at Clarkson’s and his bumbling puppets comments.

It was about halfway through though, that I had the horrible thought that these were my people- this was my generation. For far too long portrayed as the generation X of punk rock we were infact podgy, awkward looking, hen pecked, slack jowelled, blubbery men with indefinable faces and pullovers tucked into slack arsed, skid marked jeans who have never been to Mexico and never met a Mexican but all titter at the squeaky little bloke making stuff up about it.
In short my generation looked like Tory MPs.

I had to turn over. The truth is always too painful.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I had the misfortune of catching five minutes of Top Gear whilst flicking channels last night; Clarkson was dribbling something about Frenchmen and cyclists. No-one really thinks he actually gives a shit about these things, it’s just a lazy on-screen persona; most middle-englanders aren’t that dumb, they’d have trouble surviving if they were. Stuart Lee has some great new material about Richard Hammond; how he’s the cowardly one hiding behind the school bully. Richard Hammond is absolutely more disturbing than Clarkson. Something I’ve noticed is that recently comedy club audiences are absolutely made up of Top Gear men; they don’t go to many gigs but live comedy is the new aor rock. They look like Jason Manford and I don’t want to think what they play on their car stereos; probably Elbow or Doves in Manchester (no offence) music for suburban commuter couples.

  2. […] rest is here: Jeremy Clarkson and the strange death of liberal England… | Louder … Related Posts:jeremy clarkson ferrari Driving this Corvette is like taking it off. – Jeremy […]

  3. Car hard-ons are for jerks . . . I’m not sure what was worse, the initial gaff, or Steve Coognan justifying his anger at not being asked back on to register a faster lap time by slagging his ex-mates in a bid for new found anti-nasty-league cred. The I remembered McCorkingdale, or whatever it was called, and wished Rob Brydon had written the piece instead! I look fwd to Coogan’s in-depth analysis of Fernando Torres move to Chelsea and debut on Sky Sports!

  4. Bless, what would they have to live for if they had no one to look down on and feel superior to, even if that superiority is an illusion. Whenever I read people saying it’s only a joke etc. I’m reminded of cricketers Ian Botham and Graham Gooch being filmed walking out of that piss take of the royals in Australia many years ago, it seems that some people can dish out jokes and abuse but cannot take it back. It’s a power thing evidently.

  5. I thought we’d been on all those marches in the seventies and eighties to prevent this sort of shite. Isn’t incitement to racism a crime now?
    The problem is cowardly politicians who refuse to discuss immigration issues openly and honestly in this country which allows this sleazy backdoor right-wing racist behaviour to proliferate.
    I wonder how these telly diddies behave when they are actually in the countries they ridicule. I bet they’re as quiet as mice…

  6. Oddly, I watched this for the first time in years too the other night. The road trip bit to albania was also basically xenophobia in a box. Albanians are thieves, peasants and mafioso and we’ll drive round in a some swanky western cars pointing this out smugly while you chuckle wryly, having your world view gently reassured in a gentle but ever so insiduous self congratulatory non PC way – the stereotyping is comic, for sure, but it’s a bit like a big old load of fart gas creeping out of your telly – it might not be an actual shit, but it’s still not pleasant to experience.

    I can now imagine “podgy, awkward looking, hen pecked, slack jowelled, blubbery men with indefinable faces and pullovers” luxoriating in Clarkson’s fart gas for an hour. Nice.

    I’ve noticed they had an odd habit of switching to a cine reel style of film, as if somehow this might be reassuring or something, you know, reminding all the 40 something middle englanders of youthful films or summat nostagic about the ‘way you used to be able to say what you wanted or something’. That’s my bad attempt at media studies over with for today.

    Although I couldn’t help chuckling at Clarkson in his Trabant and feeling guilty for doing so. He’s quite funny, like you say, just also a proper cartoon cunt as well.

  7. That said, someone on Top Gear obviously has taste ‘cos they used the Chameleons’ Second Skin the other night. Maybe they like the initials of the song, arf.

  8. Didn’t top gear have to apologise to Godspeed You Black Emperor! for using one of their tracks? I’m amazed that GYBE! found out if that’s actually true.

  9. Given your views above John, you’ll enjoy this, Stewart Lee, talking about Clarkson and co.

  10. A friend of mine bought a new pair of jeans a while back, and after wearing them for a week or so, belatedly realised they didn’t suit him.

    “I wish somebody had told me I looked a complete Clarkson,” he complained.

    The campaign to get the expression ‘A complete Clarkson’ into the English language starts here!

  11. Clarkson does have bad jeans, worse than Saxondales. But I reckon dressed by their mums is more like it.
    This nails Clarkson and the Jeans shot at the end is brutusly nut wrangling.

  12. […] views to be scrutinised, examined and ridiculed; Top Gear is arguably the very worst for presenting Jeremy Clarkson\’s short-sighted, thoughtless opinions as fact, and the BBC has failed miserably in allowing them […]


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