No malaria, sun cream or funny tummy… ah, UK

MANY of us are sad to think that for the second year running, we might not be letting it all hang out on a Greek beach this summer.

But we should turn our frowns upside down because if you peel away the goggles of familiarity, the UK is truly spectacular.

Prettiest country in the world? Not far off.

I’ve just spent ten days filming the next Grand Tour Special. Which wasn’t special, or a Grand Tour, as we shot it entirely in England and Wales. But oooh, it’ll look good.

I began by driving from my house in Oxfordshire to a town I’d never heard of, and can’t pronounce, in the middle of Wales.

And there wasn’t one view on the entire three-hour journey that wasn’t jaw-droppingly spectacular. Or sack-shrivellingly beautiful.

Over the next three days, we whizzed around in Wales, and there’s no getting round the fact that in the spring, on a sunny day, some of their scenery is very nearly as good as the stuff you get in Yorkshire. (I’m bound to say that obviously.)

Then there was another pretty drive to Leamington Spa, which sounds like it’ll just be a provincial hell-hole full of vomit-speckled pavements and Subways. But it was a Regency gem, as awe-inspiring as Florence. Only without the boring art you feel duty-bound to go and look at.

After a night in a cracking hotel just outside Rugby, we toddled off to Kent, which I always thought was full of nothing but mobile homes and bewildered Syrians.

Again, I was wrong. It rolled and bristled and was bursting with pubs I wanted to stop at.

Then, we drove along the south coast to the spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs before turning right and heading for Suffolk with its weird and timeless villages and yet more pubs that tugged hard on my steering wheel.

In ten days, we did not see a cloud. But despite this, no one needed to waste an hour every morning plunging their heads into a bucket of sun cream.

No one caught malaria. And we didn’t have to wait around every morning for Richard Hammond to get over the funny tummy he gets every time we go past Calais. Everyone drove on the correct side of the road as well.

I’m not going to say it was all smooth sailing. On the way home, some out-of-practice herbert had crashed on the M25 and I had to divert through the back streets of Harlow, which was a bit rubbish.


But hey, France has got Nancy in it and that’s no beauty spot, either.

I had hoped later this year to spend a couple of weeks in the South of France. I like it there. And I suppose it might still be possible.

But it’s also possible I’ll make the booking and then lose all my money.

So instead, I’ve got my map of Britain out and I’ve got to be honest: Scarborough is winking at me.


IT was suggested this week that the mental health issues suffered by children who spend all day on social media are no worse than the issues caused by television when I was growing up.

There may be some truth in this. I certainly had FOMO when I saw Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, whizzing about in that Aston Martin and Ferrari in The Persuaders.

And when I clocked Joanna Lumley in that catsuit, and then looked down at my stick insect body, I could easily have developed an eating disorder.

The difference is that today the results are called “mental health issues” and we are expected to take them very seriously.

When I was a kid, it was called “being unhappy”.

And it was OK because occasionally you have to be down.

Life’s like that. Always has been. Always will be.


ON Bank Holiday Monday – or November 17, as it used to be called – I went to my local pub for lunch.

I’d booked a table next to the open fire, which meant that one side of me froze solid and the other was more smoked than the salmon I ate, and more covered in ash than Pompeii.

I’m not moaning though. It was great to be out and eating food I didn’t have to cook.


I DESPISE all forms of recreational flying and would imprison, for life, anyone with a private pilot’s licence. Including Transport Minister Grant Shapps.

That said, I do like to see – and hear – a World War Two Spitfire roaring by.

Last weekend, one of them was in the skies above Bedfordshire but I was horrified to see its wings had been clipped.

I know that this is authentic and I know that the soon-to-be-imprisoned flying community say it improves some aspect of the handling.

But clipping a Spit’s wings so it can make tighter turns is as wrong as cutting off Cate Blanchett’s ears so she can get through doors more easily.


OH dear. The number of electric car chargers installed in the UK dropped by a third last year.

It’s also emerged that only 3,880 out of the nation’s 20,775 public chargers are so-called “rapid” devices that can charge cars in half an hour. The rest take about a fortnight.

The Government, which has announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel powered cars in just nine years’ time, said the slowdown was as a result of Covid.

Ha. Really? I only laugh because the virus didn’t seem to stop anyone building cycle lanes on every foot of road in the land.


LIKE just about everyone else in Britain, I sat though Line Of Duty wondering how an AFO in AC-12 could have a CHIS and without consulting a TSG or the NCS, let a UCO know that an ARV was inbound.

I admire Jed Mercurio, the writer of this series, enormously. One of his first shows, almost 20 years ago, was called Bodies and it remains one of the best-written dramas of all time.

But God-all-bloody-mighty, he didn’t half lose the plot with season six of LoD.

They all just sat in a room, taking it in turns to speak, and when they did, it was incomprehensible nonsense.

Small wonder the suspects only ever said: “No comment.” They didn’t understand the question.

Many people are complaining about the ending, but I reckon the real problem was everything leading up to that.

We are told that it was an accurate portrayal of how policemen and policemen-women speak these days, to which I say: “Well, that explains why normal people don’t see plod socially.”

After it was over, I started to watch Kate Winslet in an HBO police drama called Mare Of Easttown. And then it was four in the morning. And I was thinking: “Just one more.”

She was brilliant. And it was brilliant.

Because the dialogue wasn’t Super Heated Internal Twaddle.


GOOD news. It’s now possible to change sex for just £5.

The Government has reduced the cost from £140, which means we can now swap over for the lavatory queues at Wimbledon, and then swap back later that night, when we’re in the boozer.

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