How to ruin a motor racing formula

This will be of no interest at all to the US contingent, who have mainly never even heard of Formula 1, but they’ve changed the rules this year, and have totally ruined it. Instead of a thumping great V8, the cars now have a tiddly little 1.6 litre V6. That’s about 100 cubic inches for those in the States, and I suspect you have ride-on mowers with bigger engines than that. The ecowarriors’ beloved hybrid Prius has a bigger engine than that.  Admittedly with twin turbochargers they put out a pretty remarkable 700 odd bhp, and there are two energy recovery systems that can store energy from braking and elsewhere, and chip in another 130 bhp or so. So the power isn’t much down on last year’s cars, and to be honest has made for some exciting racing, with the world champion for the past four years being shown a clean pair of heels by various teams who’ve got the technology sorted out while Red Bull struggle.

There are two problems here. The cars are too quiet. The noise from an F1 car should slam you against the nearest wall and threaten to rip off your head just immediately after all your fillings have been shaken loose.

The second problem is the logic here. The organisers claim that the new cars are ‘more environmentally responsible,’ and consume a third less fuel than last year. Then the sport requires 24 cars, associated spares and tools, and 12 teams of 60 people (F1 is very labour intensive)  to be moved from Australia, to Malaysia, to Bahrain, round most of Europe, Canada, back to China. All by air. There’s a company based at Stansted Airport that does nothing but ship F1 round the world. Now that’s not very ‘environmentally sensible,’ is it? The obvious thing to do would be hold the entire season at Silverstone, since most of the constructors are based in the UK, and nearly all of those could pretty much walk to Siverstone because they’ll all round Milton Keynes, which is right next door.

I can’t see it happening in NASCAR. I was watching the other day, and not only was there a grid of 43 cars bellowing away with over 400,000 bhp on tap in total, but there was a flypast by a B52 bomber trailing black smoke all over the sky. I can’t see it happening in IndyCARTS either. Nor drag racing. Not truck racing

Really, in the cosmic scheme of things, the environmental impact of of the fuel consumption of race cars, including F1 cars, is negligible. Do you want to make an impact? Stop buying anything that has been imported. Shipping is the single biggest mechanical source of CO2 emissions. It way outstrips power stations and just about everything else. And if your out of season strawberries didn’t come by ship, they got flown in from somewhere a long way away. And the FIA pretends to worry about fuel consumption. I despair.

‘…lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ (Benjamin Disraeli)

I think this deserves another outing.


I love surveys

Or more accurately I love reading about surveys in newspapers. Because the reports are a farrago of misinformation, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation.

Let’s take this one from the Daily Mail recently. Readers not of a UK persuasion may be unaware of this particular august newspaper. It’s a rabidly rightwing rag, much given to bluster about anyone who isn’t a middle class WASP. The Mail does like reporting surveys. It’s just not very good at it.

‘Eighty percent of the population of Britain would choose the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as their ideal guests at a dinner party.’ Wow, 80%. That’s impressive, yes? Well, no not really. I’ll tell you why. I can hear snoring already as your eyes shut and your mouths drop open but stay with me here.

What the Mail fails signally to grasp is that 80% of the people who could be bothered to respond to a particular survey wanted Wills and Kate round for prawn cocktail, steak, and Black Forest gateau. But where was the survey carried out?

If it was in the pages of Hello! Magazine, I can well believe that fans of the Royal Family, and celebs in general, would vote that way, and would welcome the couple into their hearts and homes. However, if you want to impress your friends, beware the source of the survey. Follow guidance from a lads’ mag, such as Loaded or Stuff, or even the swankier GQ or FHM, and you’ll  likely end up with a couple of half naked young women under the table exploring each other’s tonsils. If you read Guns and Ammo, Ted Nugent is going to turn up in your driveway with a moose strapped to the front of his pickup, and insisting you eat the meat raw. Theodore Anthony Nugent doesn’t drink either, so it may be a difficult night for you.

So there’s a problem with skewed responders. It goes deeper. You have to rely on them giving truthful answers. I’m a bit of a bugger for answering surveys in the street, where market researchers come up and ask you if you’ve got five minutes to answer a few questions. Of course I have, but I’m going to lie through my teeth. My answers will not be accurate. I start off with a false postcode, and then vamp it. I even lie on my Census forms. At the Census before last I was an Afro-Caribbean bisexual, working in the porn industry, and my religion was Jedi. This is highly illegal, and carries a pretty whopping fine and a possible jail sentence. But as long as the Government knows how old I am, and what sex I am, I can’t see anything else is any of their damned business. The chances of getting caught are tiny, anyway, nearly as small as winning the National Lottery. One return out of 60,000,000? I’d have to be pretty unlucky.

You also have to rely on accurate recording of results. Someone gets a bit slipshod with a pen, and suddenly everything goes off the rails. Can you rely on the recorders not telling fibs? If you employ a load of students to canvass shoppers in a cold windy pedestrian precinct, within half an hour they’ll all be in Starbucks or the pub faking each other’s response sheets.

Then there’s the problem of the people you sample. I know a bit about demographics, from my days in advertising. Ask the same questions in an inner city sink estate, and in the stockbroker belt, you’ll get some very different answers.

I’m not a statistician either, but I do know a bit about sample sizes. I don’t have a television, but occasionally encounter one. The channels are awash with ads yelling ‘Voted product of the year.’ Then you read the small print. Out of 212 people, 184 voted for Product X. Not too convincing, is it? Hardly a representative sample. For all we know, the voters may all be employed in the Product X factory.

That’s why I love reading surveys. They are palpable arrant nonsense, and everyone knows this apart from the PR companies doing the organising and fleecing their clients.

One last thing about the Mail. it’s also bloody useless at reporting science and health. Did you know that if you put the light on when you go to the toilet during the night, you predispose yourself to cancer? Nor did I.

This is a paper that carried no fewer than 134 bogus health scares in a three month period, and a similar number of articles extolling the virtues of some new, exotic, and expensive superfoods.

PS Since I originally posted this I have acquired a television

How to annoy lots of people


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I am reposting this this again  for the simple reason that the subject infuriates me. Women can’t have it both ways. They cannot be concerned, quite correctly, about female sexualisation, then do the same the other way round. It’s not right. It just is not right.

Any women out there who disagree? I look forward to your comments. I really do look forward to them. I’ll take you on. Believe me, I’ll take you on. You have a fight on your hands.



That thunder of hooves you can hear is my high horse at full gallop. I am, as my friend Audra would put it, cranky. That’s a drastic understatement. I’m close to being incensed. No, I am incensed. This is one of my very rare serious posts and I am seethingly angry.

Here we go. ‘Real women have curves.’ This is a familiar saying to anybody who spends any time on the internet, and especially on Facebook. It’s supposed to be a rallying cry, women speaking out about societal perceptions of female beauty. Real women have curves. It’s a feminist article of faith.

Well, I’m sorry, it’s not feminist. It’s deeply, profoundly anti-feminist, and here’s why. The women who say this are wilfully ignoring or decrying any of the sisterhood who are not curvy. What this mantra says is that if you don’t have a bosom, and a waist, and a rounded stomach, and a proper arse, and critically if your thighs don’t touch, you’re not a real woman. The proponents of this theory might just as well yell, ‘Hey Titless! I’ve seen bigger currants on a breadboard!’ It’s like being back in secondary school.

It’s a blatant and very hurtful insult to those who are naturally slim or skinny. Not the anorexic Skeletorettes who live on coke and lettuce leaves, but the naturally non-curvy. I went out with a girl once who was 5’8” and weighed 100 lbs soaking wet. She made Olive Oyl look like a Botticelli. She had stick thin legs, thin arms, narrow hips, a 32A bust. Not at all curvy. I thought she was very sexy indeed. At the other end of the spectrum, I had a six-year relationship with a woman who was clinically obese. She didn’t just have curves, she had curves on her curves. I thought she was sexy too.

The odd thing is that while women are banging on about sexual stereotyping of the females of the population, they think nothing at all of perpetuating male sexual stereotypes. The internet is thronged with images of men that these feminist urban warriors have posted. Every single one of these men has magnificent pecs and deltoids and biceps, you can count their ribs, they have a six pack for abs, sturdy thighs, shapely calves. They typically appear wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and Calvin Klein underwear with a pair of socks stuffed down the front. They have no body hair (some designer stubble on the face is, however, curiously de rigueur), and have clearly just had a rubdown with baby oil.

So are these Adonises with Photoshopped perfect musculature, a back-sack-and-crack job, and a fondness for baby products real men? No. They’re fantasy figures, in the same way that the Page 3 girls and Victoria’s Secret catwalk models are fantasies.

‘It’s just a bit of fun.’ Really? Is it? Are the Chippendales just ‘a bit of fun?’ How come female strippers or pole dancers aren’t ‘just a bit of fun’ then? I don’t find them at all fun, but using this twisted pseudo-feminist logic it would be OK if I did. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, as they say.

Women quite rightly object to the manipulated stereotyping of what is beautiful or attractive as regards their own sex. I’m with them all the way on this one. But the whole ‘real women have curves’ thing is just another way of stereotyping, isn’t it? It excludes non-curvy women, and in this way is even more of an insult because it’s women insulting other women. At the same time these selfsame curvy women feel absolutely at ease with perpetuating a male sexual stereotype of perfection. That’s not logical, and it’s an insult to both sexes.

There. I’m glad I got that off my (slightly hairy) chest.

And our survey said…


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You know me. I love a good survey. Unfortunately there aren’t many around, so once again I’ll have to consider a bad one, and once again I find myself in debt to the Daily Express, the swivel eyed loony man’s National Enquirer.

This particular survey was carried out on behalf of Ronseal. They produce wood preservative products, and this side of the Pond at least are widely and absolutely rightfully respected for a phrase that has entered the lexicon. ‘It does what it says on the tin’ is now common parlance, and I for one welcome this newcomer. No jumped up arriviste, it’s a very expressive term for no nonsense straightforwardness, a much better construction then WYSIWYG.

Six out of ten men do not read the instructions before using a new product. Let’s think about this. The survey is for Ronseal, and their products are really glorified paint. Blokes know what to do with paint. If it’s not non-drip (or thixotropic as we scientists call it,) you stir it, and brush it on. It is not, as they say, bloody rocket science, now is it?

A ‘massive’ 30% of men will not read instructions that are too lengthy. I’m dubious about that figure. Yes, you buy an iPad or some other piece of gadgetry the size of a deck of cards, and the instruction manual is the size of a Stephen King novel, you may not read it all the way through. You find out by trial and error how to make it do what you need, and ignore the other 99% of its capabilities as superfluous, a bit like Microsoft Office. Another, or perhaps the same 30%, don’t read instructions with no pictures. Apparently DIYers are troglodytes, or at least you could conclude that. My conclusion is, ‘For f***s sake! I stick a brush in and slap it on. It’s only a shed! Who the hell cares?’ Maybe it’s just me. Really, all I need to know is whether I have to clean the brush with water or with white spirit. Actually I don’t need to know that either. Chuck it away when the job’s done, and buy new. You know it makes sense.

Now we get a bit metaphysical. Allegedly, 61% of men feel ‘unmanly’ if they’re lost and have to ask for directions. That’s a pleasingly accurate figure, is it not? Sixty one  percent. Not 60, or 65, which look as if you’ve massaged the figures; 61%.

‘Feeling unmanly’ seems to me to be a rather extreme reaction. Also it’s not clear to me if that’s a subset of the remarkably precise 60% who don’t read instructions. But the only reason men will not ask for directions is because they don’t want to end up on a murder rap for killing a complete stranger, and they are murderously inclined because their girlfriend or wife (or both, depending on how freewheeling the relationship is) cannot read a map if you’re going south without turning the bloody thing upside down. Women do not have the faintest idea how infuriating that is to men.

Now a true revelation. Men lie about DIY; 72% (pleasingly precise again) have paid a professional to do a job, and then claimed they did it themselves. Boohoo! Liar liar pants on fire!

A spokeswoman meandered on about how the urban myth of men ignoring instructions ‘…is now fact.’ No, it’s not. We know this survey is badly flawed because over 70% of the panel are pathological liars, and those are just the ones who owned up. That level of fibbing must skew your results a bit, surely?

PS Remind me at some time to explain the difference, in scientific terms, between ‘precise’ and ‘accurate.’

How to live longer


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I’m a bit lazy today, not least because I cranked out about 7500 words yesterday on various projects I’m working on, so this isn’t a new piece. It’s one I found in the B Warehouse. If you don’t understand what the B Warehouse is, read to the end and you’ll find out.

Once again I am indebted to the work of the august journal the Daily Express for some invaluable advice.

‘Scientists’ have ‘recently’ discovered five simple lifestyle changes that will control hypertension with no recourse to drug intervention. Allegedly these changes can add several years to your life. Now I’m a pensioner I’m troubled by feelings of mortality, so I read the article with great interest.

Here’s what you need to do. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Cut down on your salt intake. Exercise regularly. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit. Wow! Groundbreaking stuff! Whoever would have thought it? I mean to say, I started working in the pharmaceutical industry in the mid 70s, and all these factors in hypertension were known then. Nearly 40 years on ‘scientists’ have ‘recently’ discovered them all over again. Blimey. It must be true.

There’s a catch though. As ever the Excess confuses epidemiology with the health of you as a specific individual. There is absolutely no guarantee that however healthy you make your lifestyle you will live longer. A population following this ‘new’ advice will certainly have a higher average life expectancy, but it may not work for you as a person. Harsh but sadly true. It may be that time’s winged chariot flies a bit faster for you no matter what you do. It might be worth a shot of course, and good luck to you if you give it a whirl, but you may actually be on a hiding to nothing.

It’s not all bad news though. According to another article in the same paper, eating oily fish twice a week is good for you. That came as no end of a surprise to me, I can tell you. Never heard that before. But the jugheads at the Excess go further and actually quantify things. Eat oily fish and your life expectancy goes up by two whole years! Caramba! Fat City!

Except it doesn’t, of course. It’s epidemiology vs individual again. So it may be good for you, and I have no issue with that, except you can die of boredom instead of heart disease or cancer or pestilence. But you as an individual cannot expect to live two years longer than you would have. Sorry about that.

Nearly forgot. B Warehouse. This is slang for the back pocket where you keep your emergency tenner for when you run out of cash in the pub. In this case, I’ve used it to describe the mountain of unposted blogs I have in a file called Pending. But B Warehouse is a bit more fun, isn’t it?

Gardening for Beginners


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I’ve had this as a post for yonks now, but it went up pretty early on in my blogging career, so I think probably not many people saw it. With the advent of some weather that at least suggests Spring may be on its belated way, I thought I’d dust it off.

Do you have grey fingers? Can’t tell your aster from a hole in the ground? Reflecting the current attitude that gardening is the new rock and roll, this tells you all you need to know.

Gardening Term What It Really Means

Agent Orange

The gardener’s friend. Except it doesn’t work on weeds only on flowers.


Plant equivalent of the disposable lighter. Chuck it away when it’s finished (ie as soon as you get it back from the garden centre.)


Domestic animal that is the only one known to be able to dig in a flowerbed without the use of heavy equipment.

Cat trap

See Ponds.


Evil smelling brown sludge in the bottom of the binbag full of grass cuttings you forgot to take to the tip and left in the garage over winter.

Failure to thrive

Common condition found in flowers  bought from the garden centre, but rare in weeds.

First cut

Early Spring ritual where the lawnmower is used to scarify the lawn.


Something you do want to grow in your garden, but it doesn’t. Also any plant that is attractive to slugsvine weevilsgreenfly. See Weed.


Strip of barren earth resembling the dustbowl conditions in the American Midwest in the 1930s. Except there’s a lot more grass. Turns to mud after minimal rainfall.

Garden centre

Commercial concern where hapless gardeners are taken for every penny they have. All legal, surprisingly.


Strange quadruped born after a foggy night on the plains of Africa.


Any narrowleaf plant of the family Gramineae that will grow profusely in a flowerbed but not on a lawn


Whoever named them had clearly never seen how non-ecofriendly they are. Insect equivalent of Agent Orange.

Grey fingers

The opposite of green fingers. Uncanny ability to kill perfectly healthy flowers simply by being in the same postal district.

Grow bag

All the dead stuff you threw away last year, conveniently repackaged and sold back to you at nearly the cost of the original plants that died on you.


Takes two weeks to die. See Tender.


Also known as a busy lizzie, ideal for shady wet areas, where it forms a dense low growing carpet of rotting vegetation.


Creeping, fast growing, evergreen broadleaf plant your neighbour feels makes his house look rustic, but which is loosening your ridge tiles.


              I.      A area of smooth, baize-like grass used to break up flowerbeds.

           II.      A wafer thin veneer of sickly turf, barely covering the builder’s rubble.

         III.      Ant haven.

Lawn rake

Device for dragging dead leaves and most of the grass out of your lawn. Much like a low tech lawnmower.


Device for digging long parallel grooves in your lawn. Also good for taking the tops off ants’ nests.


Plant that dies back in the autumn and would grow again next year if you hadn’t forgotten it was there and dug it up by accident. See Annual.


Haven for all manner of wildlife, all of which are predators for the 500 quid koi carp you bought last week. Also a haven for all sorts of wild plants, which will choke off your lilies. Also known as a cat trap.


Used to help break up soil in a flowerbed, making the life of the cat easier.

Slug pellets

Gourmet feast for slugs. They will come from miles away simply to gorge themselves before tackling your prized hostas for afters.

Slug traps

Sunken jars full of beer into which slugs fall and drown. Slugs, being the gourmets that they are, can be a bit picky about their booze, and prefer premium lager to the Tesco own label bitter most gardeners use. When full, the contents of a slug trap can be simply disposed of over your neighbour’s wall, though this is an unpleasant task.


Molluscan equivalent of a mugger. Takes everything, then comes back next day to see if you have anything else of worth. Vile. Carry a pair of scissors at all times, and be ruthless. Salt’s good too, though it will poison what little decent soil you have. A blowtorch works, but may not be for the squeamish.


Dies in the car on the way home from the garden centre

Thinning out

Removal of healthy plants so that predators can get at the remaining sickly ones more easily.


Fine, easily draining, fertile soil not found in Essex except up at the Big House.


Strips of grass that are a handy size to be rolled up for ease of removal when they die back.

Vine weevil

Insect larvae that attack the roots of flowers but not those of weeds. They operate an Equal Opportunities policy that allows them to eat anything except vines, eg the violas in my garden.


Something you don’t want to grow in your garden, but it does anyway. Distinguished from a flower by being impossible to uproot, and resistant to all known garden pests. And to all known weedkillers.


Something that doesn’t kill weeds, but inflicts horrible damage on flowers with even the slightest spray drift.

Wilted greens

A cookery term that has been appropriated by gardeners the world over. Used to describe flowers after a prolonged period of drought.

How to drive a van. Part deux

I neglected to mention something in my earlier post about the astonishingly talented driver Sabine Schmidt heaving a diesel Transit around the Nurburgring.

The Transit has the aerodynamics of a housebrick, so the producers sent a pace car out to make a bit of a hole in the air to speed things up slightly. They, in their wisdom, decided to use something that would really intimidate the other traffic and get it out of the way, giving Sabine a clear run at things.

They came up with the idea of using a Dodge Viper, an utterly inspired choice. This is one of the most savage roadcars ever built. Even in the maddest days of the 60s Detroit musclecars, nobody would have had the cojones to invent this one. It has a whopping 8.2 litre V10 engine borrowed from a truck. It’s like a Chevrolet Corvette on steroids, and cranked up on angel dust. The Viper is  the scariest car on earth. Even the Top Gear staffers are fearful of it, and they have driven some pretty rowdy cars in their time. No other performance car fights back as viciously as a Viper. It really is a handful. A jet-powered pig on rollerskates. It sure scared the other traffic into moving over in terror at the bellowing behemoth in the mirrors.

Then Sabine came up behind it in a garden shed with 123 diesel powered bhp, screaming into the two way radio ‘Go! Go! Go! Go! Get on with it!

My heart was in my mouth. Fabulous viewing


Oi! Stop that! It’s cheating!


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Papers such as the Daily Express and Daily Mail do this all the time. They do. Unfortunately all the media do it. Even respectable papers do it, the broadcast media do it, even that bastion of careful reporting, the BBC, does it. They all cheat.

It’s not simply a question of editorial stance. That simply skews the interpretation of the facts, and we all sort of expect that and factor it in. What I’m talking about is deliberate misrepresentation of data. You’re exposed to this on a daily basis, and unless you’re a scientist you won’t bat an eyelid about it. Even if you are, you may miss it if you’re a bit lackadaisical.

I can hear the groans. Just what is the idiot savant on about now? I’ll tell you. It’s a crime that in scientific circles is much despised and vilified. It’s called suppression of the zero. You are a victim of this crime every single day of your life, and you probably don’t even notice. I do notice, and it infuriates me.

Suppose you want to draw a simple graph that shows how something changes with, say, time or distance or some other variable. You make the y  axis, the vertical one, show the value you’re interested in, and the x axis, the horizontal one, show the changes you’re subjecting the y value to. You’ve all plotted a graph I’m sure. You know how it works.

To make things as accurate as possible, and to show trends that are easily interpreted, you make both axes as big as the graph paper will allow. That’s obvious, no? The bigger the visual variation the better. Plus it means you don’t have to fret about the way a blunt pencil will obscure something subtle that a sharp pencil might reveal.

Something else you do, if you have any scientific integrity, is have the point where the two axes intersect the zero point for both values. It’s not hard to do this. If you do it properly, then you get a really accurate picture of what’s going on. With me so far? Goodoh.

The media are heroically inept at this. Probably nowhere is this better illustrated than in the way they report changes in stock market values. Anybody got stocks and shares? Ever been really spooked by the frightening looking graphs when some catastrophe wipes the value out of the stock market? Well just calm down, dear.

Say the Dow or FT indices are at 10,000 at the start of trading. There’s a natural disaster somewhere, and the stock market loses 3%. I’ll come onto this phenomenon in another post, but for the time being you’ll all have heard this sort of thing reported.

Now 3% isn’t that big, is it? It’s a bit ‘Ooops. Oh well. Ho hum.’ In the cosmic scheme of things it’s a blip, or what we call background variation. If you thought you had a quid in change in your pocket, did a recount and found you only had 97p, you wouldn’t lose any sleep would you?

Now if you’re the media you want to make this mere bagatelle look a big deal. To do this you draw a graph, and you do not, under any circumstances, start the y axis at zero. You start it at, let’s say, 9950. This is a despicable practice, the suppression of the zero, and in right thinking circles is likely to get you burned at the stake. Because now a tiny change in absolute value looks horrifically big. Zoot alors! That’s bad! Get the troops ready for rioting in the streets.

It’s not as bad as the media would have you believe, and if you doubt me, take a few minutes and run the experiment of plotting a graph of stock market values over a few days, and don’t suppress the zero on the y  axis. Plot the absolute values. However big you make the scale, the day to day variations will be miniscule. Tiny. The thickness of a pencil line. Nowhere near the vicious peaks and troughs that you see every day in the media. At the same time, plot another graph with the percentage changes on the y axis. Be good boys and girls and make that axis as long as the paper allows, and have the bottom value as 0%. It doesn’t look too dramatic then, either, now does it?

You may think this is not important, that suppressing the zero is no cardinal sin. Oh really? Well it will be when your pension fund disappears for no good reason, but simply because some bloke in braces and a stripy shirt spends all his working life looking at misrepresented data. It’s your future they’re buggering about with.

How to drive a van

Some time ago, on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson attempted to get round the infamous Nurburgring race circuit in under 10 minutes, driving a diesel powered car. Diesels, as you may or may not know, do not really lend themselves to racing, despite Audi’s astonishing successes in endurance GT racing using diesels.

Anyway, he was aided and abetted in his efforts by a rather attractive young woman, one Sabine Schmidt. She was born in Nurburg, went round the 12 and a bit mile track for the first time when she three years old, and having got 15,000 laps under her belt is an instructor who clearly knows what she’s doing. Clarkson did manage a sub-10 minute lap, albeit a 9:59. Then Sabine climbed behind the wheel and straight out of the hat, in a strange car, got round in 9:47, no mean feat. But she was relentless in her mockery. ‘9:59? I can drive a van round faster than that!’

Top Gear being Top Gear, they decided to take her up on the idea, and got her behind the wheel of the van world’s workhorse, a Ford Transit. This is the world’s biggest selling light goods vehicle. I’ve driven loads of them in my time, and I can tell you they are not the quickest road vehicles ever built. Well, not unless you’re Sabine Schmidt…

If I owned a Porsche and got overtaken by something the size of a small house, with a deceptively diminutive young woman getting round me on the inside while opposite locking with only three wheels on the ground, I might just wonder if I’d made a wise investment. I’d be popping down my local Ford dealership and part exing my 911 for a decent second hand Trannie. The insurance would be such a lot less.

She managed a 10:08. 10:08. A mere nine seconds slower than Jezzer had managed after two days of practice in a Jaguar.

It was hysterically funny. And lordie lordie lordie. That woman drives as if fleeing the very hounds of hell.

How not to get killed by an alien


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I have been less than assiduous about posting daily, as I have always undertaken to do. There are good reasons for this, but I’ll not bore you. Anyway, I’ve resurrected this from this very date last year.

There are two types of alien that you may encounter. The first type is the cute alien. You don’t need to worry about these. Think Batteries Not Included. They were cute. Yoda was cute. The ultimate cutie was ET of course. Who couldn’t love that little guy?

On the other hand, any slavering H R Geiger creation with multiple mandibles, razor sharp limbs, and molecular acid for blood is not likely to be majoring in humanities. They’re good parents though. They love their children. They’ll do anything to stop you turning a flamethrower on the brood.

I’ve been chased by one of those suckers, and I can assure you it’s very very frightening indeed. I aged about 10 years in as many minutes.

Some years ago the basement of the Trocadero in London was home to a something called The Alien Experience. They got a load of bits of set and props from the films, and set up a faux scientific research facility, which you could take a tour of. They even got Sigourney Weaver to open it. Sadly, I missed that, which is probably all to the good. I might well have been arrested.

It all sounds a bit naff, but a mate of mine and I decided to check it out. It was rather well done, to be honest. Dim lighting, labyrinthine corridors, alien eggs behind glass. When one of the alien grubs hurled itself at a window, the entire tour party simultaneously jumped about six feet. It was genuinely scary.

Of course then it all went wrong, very badly. An alien escaped. So our accompanying Marine had the task of getting us out safely. He looked well hard, all Kevlar and carbine, so the odds looked, if not good, at least acceptable. There was still hardly any light, just a lot of dry ice smoke and flashing warning beacons. Extremely loud warning klaxons, which were very disorientating. Frightened and confused is not a good combination when you’ve gone to all the trouble of suspending disbelief for a few minutes. At a rational level you know it’s all a game, but at a visceral level it’s a whole different kettle of fish, believe me.

So we’re all scuttling along, scared out of our wits, and we got even more scared when another Marine ran round a corner. Then he disappeared just as suddenly as he was snatched into a side corridor by a man in a fibreglass suit. We now had screams and crunching noises to contend with, and earbleeding automatic gunfire from the strobing carbine of our guide and protector. I actually froze. I did. I was incapable of movement till I got dragged by someone.

We all legged it with our tame Marine blasting away and covering our retreat. That was the point where the ceiling collapsed and another alien dangled down clutching at us. Jeez. Run like the devil’s after you!

Eventually we all ended up in an elevator, and we just managed to get the doors shut before the scary man in the fibreglass suit got us. I’m not kidding, the fear was palpable. We were terrified. By a man in a fibreglass suit. Yes, I know. It wasn’t at all logical, but it was a cause for adrenalin shock. Bladder control was something we could only hope to retain.

Then just as we all learned to breathe again, a colossal banging on the doors, which bent under the impact of something big and annoyed. The doors got prised apart by a pair of very dangerous looking arms, and some hapless soul on the tour got snatched away, and was least seen being carried off down the corridor screaming her head off.

We all piled out into the safety of the Trocadero’s basement again. It sounds silly when I write it down, but it was genuinely frightening. My mate Frank is a Frieslander and stands about 6’7”, 250 lbs of solid Dutchman, and he was shaking like a leaf.

So if you want not to be killed by an alien, make sure you’ve got a trigger happy Marine on your side. Or change your name to Ellen Ripley, or miraculously transform yourself into a little girl called Newt and don’t drop your doll’s head.


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