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Sunday, 05 June 2016

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I liked the shows they used to have, showing how different things are made. But this may be just too sophisticated for me. One bit got me excited: a glimpse of a cute female cameraperson.

Hi Mike, yes James May is a national treasure - he represents all that is best of British blokes. Come over and visit Britain, you would like it. Rod

I am always amazed at the absolute rat's nests of "hairdos" which English men will proudly sport in public, like this guy or film maker Tim Burton. I wonder if it's neo-rebellion or spectacular cluelessness? Or as author Allan Moore puts it himself, rampant apathy?

Pedantic point here (That's what my initials refer to): The Stooge in question is Shemp, not Shep.

Patrick

[Fixed, thanks. --Mike]

Always is a very long time indeed. Let us hope that you are correct.

I think the second programme, re-assembling a dial telephone was more interesting than the electric guitar in the third.
And if there is to be a team to drive our 'steemed host around this sceptred isle, please put my name down.

"The adjustable spanner is the tool of the charlatan".

Really, I'd happily watch more shows of James May rambling on and putting something together.

I thought that Top Gear was already morphing into "Last of the Summer Wine".

[Ouch! --Mike]

Mike, I've just discovered "The Detectorists". Same tone, nothing much happens but delightfully entertaining. So bloody english. Try it on Netflix. I think you'll like it.
Cheers,
Kelvin
(an ex-pat in LA)

Quite enjoyed that. Have you ever estimated the thousands of hours people have devoted to watching your links?
One for you- Ronnie Sulivan turning down a relatively easy 147.

[Saw it right after it happened, but thanks anyway! Ronnie is sui generis. --Mike]

Another fundamental difference there Mike, my opinion of the BBC fell and of Clarkson rose on that.

Ronnie is sui generis - I suppose that's what the guy who had a bet on him making 147 thought.... ;-)

I can't believe I watched the whole thing, really, the whole thing!

"subjects that are totally mundane can be strangely fascinating. This puzzles me to this day"

You're joking, right? Or being ironic? The fascination of the mundane could apply to entire genres of photography. Not to mention a great deal of celebrated poetry, prose, gallery art, public sculpture, music, theater, etc., all those fishing shows, and then of course there's youtube.

Perhaps you should also have a look at Wallace & Gromit 'Cracking Contraptions'...........

By all means get over there. I've made the trip three times. Would be there as of last Friday save for a scheduling conflict. Your concept of "old" will change dramatically...


I've never taken the wheel over there but I've been tempted. I suspect the trepidation over the switch to the other side of the road is mostly in my head but then just remembering which way to look when crossing a road on foot is challenge enough.

[I'm convinced that if I were to move there, I'd die as a pedestrian, looking the wrong way. I'm absent minded and a creature of habit. As far as driving is concerned, it's not so much how I do over there that worries me, but that I'd remain confused when I got home again, and occasionally set off down the wrong side of the road here in my home country where I've been driving for 40+ years. :-) --Mike]

Technically, Clarkson was not fired by the BBC. The incident with a producer occurred when his contract was due for renewal, which the corporation opted not to do. A fine difference, admittedly. The BBC did try to get Hammond and May to sign new contracts for the next series of Top Gear, but they preferred to remain with Clarkson.

Having watched enough top gear, I'll say this about clarkson: he's a thirteen yearold as*hole in a man's body and as charming as a boil.

Still watching old "Top Gear" episodes on Netflix.
The three of them sure have a good time.
And more importantly I learned the meaning of a new word "quotidian". Photographer and lexicographer perhaps your blog could be called TOP&L

cheers,
Joe

I find driving on the left and hitting a double roundabout to be especially tricky the first couple of times. Shout out to the one in Auckland.

This may not be exactly on topic, but I once knew a guy in St. Paul who'd drive around to trash transfer stations and look for abandoned lawnmowers. He found a lot of them, and most of them, he claimed, were perfectly good if you cleaned the fuel and oil lines, replaced all the filters, and spruced them up a bit (sharpened the blades) -- but American men don't know how to do that anymore, and when the mower stops running, they take it to a transfer station and then proceed on to Walmart, where they buy a new one. He'd resell the mowers for $50 to $100 each, and give you a ten-minute lesson on how to keep them running.

On yet another topic, one of my best friends, a well-known newspaper editor named Deborah Howell, was killed in New Zealand when she looked the wrong way and stepped in front of a car. In London, the intersections have painted signs on the pavement that say, "Look right" or "Look left" with an arrow, to tell which way the car that's going to kill you is coming from.

[That's awful. Pity we couldn't have standardized that from the beginning.

Re the lawnmower, I bought one of those junkyard refurbs once, using $80 I could ill afford to lose. The seller was a swindler--one wheel was stuck on with bondo, disguised with silver spray paint. By the time I realized the thing was useless, it was too late.

It's peculiar how hard it is to buy a good lawnmower--even when you're trying. I heard Hondas were the most reliable, so I bought a Honda, or rather a lawnmower that said "HONDA" on top of it in big letters, but it turned out not to be a Honda at all--it was a generic lawnmower with a Honda engine. I had it serviced three times by a guy who had an interesting business--he had a complete shop in the back of a step van. He'd come to you to service your mower or snowblower or whatever. Saved him overhead on a physical shop. The third time it broke I opted not to invest yet another $1XX for service.

I have had singularly bad luck with lawnmowers--I've paid a cumulative fortune for a succession of them, from very cheap to very expensive, and never once got a good one. Not even once. In fact I'm not certain there is even such a thing as a good lawnmower. --Mike]

Have had great amounts of fun watching Top Gear, but Clarkson was often rather annoying. Some of their big adventure trips were amazing, though some were spoiled by stupid challenges or questionable conflicts (often initiated by Clarkson). Have to check out the new May show, might be fun.

I've driven in England and New Zealand and Australia, mostly in manual-transmission cars. The very first time was being dumped in Auckland New Zealand in time for morning rush hour after coming over from the USA (Boston, in fact; a long trip). I got to the hotel without hitting anything or even, I think, scaring anybody too badly, but it was a bit challenging at times.

What I found most challenging about driving on the wrong side was two closely-related things: It's just weird to push the shifter away from your to get to first gear (and I had to consciously think about the pattern being inverted most of the time). And it made hugely more difference than I would have predicted ahead of time to be using the arm and leg on the sameside of my body for shifter and clutch (same-side activity rather than cross-body activity). (For those that haven't run into it -- the shifter pattern is the same, but you're sitting on the opposite side of it; and the pedal order is also the same. So, left foot still on clutch, but left hand on the shifter, but it still goes left to get into first gear, which is away from you now. Ouch.)

That was great. Aside from the hair and clothing differences between UK and US, can you imagine what the garage would look like if this were done for a US program? It would be an ersatz glitzy recreation, not an actual messy, dirty, poorly lit garage. It was the same thing when James was doing his "cooking show" on "Unemployment Tube" (UTube) - in a very modest kitchen.

Today is the payoff day for following The Online Photographer all these years, enduring all that inconvenient talk about cameras and f-stops and other such drivel. The gem has arrived. Thank you.

"BBC Four Goes Slow" might also fit into this particularly English type of programming. Unfortunately the longer programmes aren't on YouTube so I can't share them here, but one took its viewers on a two hour narrowboat journey and in another viewers were treated to an hour of dawn chorus recorded in Devon - all without voiceover, score or any other effects (save a few captions here and there).

The shorter "Handmade" programmes are on YT, though divvied up - https://youtu.be/ntDBoaFspXU?list=PLM4S2hGZDSE5vEV6_wVH4SCBg_Q6lzBRT

There's more info about the series on Wikipedia too, of course: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Four_Goes_Slow

Mike, here in London we have "look left" or "look right" written on the road in front of all road crossings to help locals and visitors. I've driven over in the states and Canda and driving on the wrong side isn't that difficult, you get problems at the end of the day, when you get tired and you make a turn when there's no traffic around to follow. I did surprise a Canadian one evening outside Halifax, fortunately I had time to sort it out.
The big problem a lot of North Americans have over here is the lack of automatics for hire - most cars are manuals (stick shift)

Gavin

[Gavin, I might even have trouble with that, even though all my cars save two have been manual. The steering wheel being on the wrong side, the shift lever would be too...and where's the clutch on your cars, on the right or the left? That is, are the pedals mirror image, or just moved over and set down in the proper order? It's all an insoluble tragedy as far as I'm concerned.

But then I was still getting lower-case B's and D's mixed up in third grade, and I was the last kid to learn left from right in kindergarten. --Mike]

I'll take Red Green from Canada over anything Britain has ever produced. Possum Lodge lives forever!

James May is a lot like the early Julia Child. They may be the same person.

Oh, how I love James May! My car is named after him:

My TARDIS, April 09, 2014

My wife and I spent a week of vacation in Turks and Caicos this winter, a British Protectorate with driving on the left. We rented a car while there that had the steering wheel on the right of the car, as one would expect. While I managed the left sided driving and "reverse" directions in the traffic circles well enough (requiring real concentration and avoidance of all alcohol), what really messed me up was the reversal of controls on the steering column. Every time I went to make a turn I turned on the windshield wipers!! That part of my brain is so firmly wired into automaticity that I could not override it except by planning consciously each time to do so. Turned into a running gag for my wife and me--driving around on a sunny tropical day with the wipers on....

Seems to me that Flanders and Swann fit the quintessential Englishmen mold. Their take on your title:

'"There'll always be an England". Well, that's not saying much, is it? I mean, there'll always be a North Pole . . .'

Best three and a half minutes of TV ever.
Every frame a delight and the embedded significance of the extras are a delight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q0Svvdrx_E

Bear in mind that when this went out just before 2100 on a Sunday evening it was the last of the then current series. The internet was rife with it being their final finale.

The new series has just aired its second episode. I watched the first and about the only good thing was the American in a very British car....

Well, I'll second The Detectorists. Fabulous series - preview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZDxo6ZHR0M (just a minute, so worth anyone's click).

Top Gear continues and Americans might be surprised to hear that Joey from Friends is a co-presenter ...

Less is more. In Norway we've set a new standard for "nothing happens" television with a series of minute by minute recordings of ferry and train rides. They've been very popular. The productions are made by the state owned channel NRK which operates just like the BBC.

Here's the 134 hours ferry ride (which were broadcasted live on television in it's entirety) compressed into 37 minutes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uXzkNYsQfM

Now let's get one thing straight. The steering wheel in England, as well as in most other civilised countries, is on the right side. Right. Not wrong. Because the steering wheel is on the right side, it is logical that the cars drive on the left side of the road. So that is also right. Some countries have decided to stray away from this right, correct and traditional way of driving. For whatever strange and unknown reason. But that does not make it right, or the correct way wrong. And millions of Indians, Japanese, etc. would agree. Just saying.

You might be surprised to learn that Top Gear wasn't always presented by those three lads. In fact, it ran very successfully for ten years before they hired Clarkson.

I'm with you on Clarkson's departure: it raised my opinion of the BBC, quite a feat considering I've always had the highest opinion of the company and seen it as a model to imitate.

Clarkson is too much of an abuser for my taste, I can't accept easily childish rages or criticisms or racist jokes. And what he did was unnacceptable. Anyway, the show had become a tired joke as of late, relying too heavily on the lads "magic" and I don't see how it can be improved or continued once you've been to the Arctic, Africa, all the race courses in the world, exotic countries and tried all the cars in history. I subscribed for some time to a classic car magazine until I realized I was reading the same articles about the same again and again, and I feel the same today when I peruse any car magazine, there is not much to be excited about. It may be a succes in one or the other of it's reincarnations, I'd be surprised.

I love May, and he's done very good shows on his own and I look forward to watching this one, that I had so far escaped me...

Since Sunday is devoted to digressions from the photography theme, maybe I can digress even further. When you mentioned Shemp, I was reminded of one of my favorite pieces of jargon, "Fake Shemp." If you enjoy odd terminology and have an interest in the movies, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the subject: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_Shemp

I wasn't at all offended by James May's sexist joke, even though I have some understanding of women and I'm not terrified of them.

It was very appropriate that a bicycle spanner was used at one point; as a child in the 60s I remember that we often resorted to one for all sorts of jobs.

Although you had bad luck with your Honda powered motor, I always like to see a Honda engine on a generator, high pressure washer or whatever. They need little maintenance, and providing that the horrible modern petrol was completely drained from the fuel system when it was put away, even if you haven't used it in a year it will just start.

As for driving on the wrong side of the road, I once turned out of a side road in Belgium, and proceeded to ride up the wrong side of the road. I thought it was okay because the (very tired) French guy on the BMW riding behind just followed me. I think it took the English people on the bike behind him to correct our mistake.

Mike, I'm sure you'd be fine in a right hand drive car and the pedal order is the same as you're used to. We British are used to driving left hand drive cars on the wrong side of the road whenever we leave the country and it really is not difficult to swap over. The most likely thing to catch you out is in a moment of inattention you'll go to change gear, move the wrong hand from the steering wheel and whack it on the door next to you. I recall once hiring a car in California and the engine refused to start because of a warning on the dash reading 'deck ajar'. I sat there for quite some time wondering what the heck the deck could possibly be.

I actually *learned* something from that Reassembler series. (The bit about 3 kinds of screwdrivers.)
I'm not sure whether that makes May or me the saddest human alive, but so it goes.

The new TG blows. Period.

"...which in its own turn is carrying on with new people, a fool's errand if ever there was one."

Top Gear existed long before the Clarkson/Hammond/May combo, albeit not nearly so successfully, so it's not surprising the BBC will try to keep it going without them. The first episode with the new cast wasn't a disaster, so maybe there's hope (which may evaporate once new additional host Eddie Jordan hits the screen...)

Driving on the left or right is just a bit of practice. I live in the UK but frequently drive in the continent. It takes but a minute to settle in and then all's well.

We took the kids on several trips to England and it always was an adventure.
On one trip to Liverpool to visit the Cavern where the Beatles started we got sideswiped by a lorry (big truck). The aftermath would make a great comedy routine - the driver apologizing profusely and being so nice, the rental car company apologizing equally and gave us a new car with no questions. I think my son still has the door handle.
Another trip we followed the trail of King Authur based on a book I picked up at Foyles Bookstore in London - off in search of Camelot. We still the the bottle of water from the purported Chalice Well!
We visited a bunch of quaint museums (one for Aston Martins) in the countryside, another UK phenomenon, but the best was a pet show in a small town. Amazing variety of unusual pets - I have a photo of the kids in front of a booth for the "Pet Rat Society."
When they were old enough we turned them loose in London and they discovered "the London Dungeon" - a torture museum - and a couple of other odd museums.
Ah, memories...

I really must go visit that island some day. (My people mostly came from there, albeit a long time ago). I would have to have someone to drive me around, though, as they do all that backwards and I'd get confused.

Here's my experience with left-side motoring. Our first two trips to London involved only pedestrian excursions. I annoyed my wife by spending the last few hours of a loooong plane ride chanting "walk left, look right." That inculcation, along with the lettering so kindly provided on curbs, kept us safe both times.

Then, last year, we visited Australia and New Zealand, in that order. My wife was presenting at a convention in Adelaide, and her hosts generously drove us everywhere. I took advantage of the opportunity to ride in all passenger positions of their cars, carefully observing how traffic "meshed."

Upon arrival in New Zealand, I picked up a rental Toyota RAV4 which had been specifically reserved for its automatic transmission and all wheel drive. We were flirting with possible heavy weather on the south end of South Island as winter approached there. The change to left side driving turned out to not be bad at all. Of course, there were more sheep than cars in the area, so things might have been different in a large city. If you do ever go to England, I encourage accepting some of the above offered rides, but also suggest you later rent a car yourself. It's an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

Here's my tip should you pursue the switcheroo. Definitely rent an automatic, and make sure it's a European make. Toyota, as one would expect, listens carefully to its customers, so not only is the steering column on the right, turn signals and windshield wiper controls are reversed from US convention too. The only thing that never sunk in after four days of driving in New Zealand was which hand should dart up and push prior to executing a turn. Every single time, I signaled with a mist-cycle wiper swipe. Sitting at the airport departure gate to return home, another passenger told us locals refer to that as "the American salute." European makes, such as BMW, Mercedes, VW, etc., simply move one-size-fits-all columns from their vehicles' left to right sides. Thus, you'd have one less thing to worry about, and could let only your tentative driving mark you as an American tourist. :-)

Mike, the British are wonderful people and you must cross the pond. On our first visit in 1985 my wife and I asked a senior lady at a bus stop for directions. She called her husband over who was a few steps away, and in a high pitched voice said to him "These folks are from the colonies."

If you like James May, Toy Stories, is a must. He broke several world records making that series.

Gordon

Not my cup of tea, but I do love British TV via Acorn!

The nice thing about raising your kids in NYC is that they learn to look both ways since most streets are one way. Not only that but there is always some guy on a motorscooter going the wrong way at night with no lights. The bad habit of native New Yorkers walking into the street and only then looking is another topic.

Bye the way, in the long videos of not much happening , nothing comes close to the epic 150 hour video of the entire rail trip from Moscow to Vladivostok.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgTFqyIDpQw

Mike, I've had my Honda mower for 39 years. I had to have something on it replaced this year. I changed the oil one of those years so I had them do it again when I took it in. Maybe the problem you had with yours was that you tried to take care of it? :)

Will

I second "Toy Stories"; true British eccentricity. Reassembler, to my knowledge, hasn't made it to Australia yet.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_May%27s_Toy_Stories

James, whose nickname on Top Gear is "Captain Slow"

Who ironically, has driven faster than either of the other two.

I'm British living in France, and I've learnt never to drive a French car in Britain, and vice versa - you will always instinctively drive on the wrong side. Otherwise, no problem, apart from the obligatory first 2 hours trying to change gear in the door. I also had a problem with indicators and windscreen wipers in a Toyota in South Africa, and it's really infuriating. Next time I'll rent a different make.

We drive on the left in Japan too, and I had little trouble making the change. As I recall, I took to it quickly using an automatic. Over the first few days, I would occasionally get confused when pulling in a parking lot or turning on to another street, but that's it.

Robert E beat me to it, but when I read "Television has already figured out that subjects that are totally mundane can be strangely fascinating", I thought that's exactly how it's with photography.

In three quarter of all the countries in the world people drive on the right side. Centuries ago in the heydays of knights and samurai most (right handed) horse riders had their swords on the left so it became custom to keep left. When people started to use carriages and wanted to use their right hand for using a whip it became more convenient to drive at the right side. Napoleon standardized this in many European countries. Oh, if only he had concurred Britain! We wouldn’t be saddled with sensor sizes in inches and focal lengths in millimeters and traffic at the left in most parts of what once was the British Empire.
Driving left is not that difficult. It only takes a few days to get it into your system. And traffic in England is very civilized as long as you don’t encounter adolescent Top Gear fanboys.

Watched the whole of it in my lunch break and I'm fascinated. So deliciously slow paced, so wonderfully british. WTG!

The lawnmowers I have used can't break down because they have no motors. You push them.

I have driven all over the world and swapping from left hand drive to right and back again isn't as difficult as you think. The biggest problem is not letting a moment of inattention get you.

For me there are two problems with driving in North America and other similar driving countries: auto gear boxes and the somewhat counter-intuitive rules about driving through red lights if you are turning.

I imagine that using a manual gearshift and clutch must be difficult if you have driven an auto all your life but give a thought to the other way around. When you brake with a manual, it's a two footed exercise, often, using brake and clutch to avoid stalling. When I drive an auto, for the first few minutes I'm constantly trying to "brake" by pressing brake and accelerator at the same time. And when unexpectedly stressed, I'm trying to change down a gear with my left hand, frantically scraping at the door... You do get used to it, once muscle memory is overcome but it can be "entertaining".

The being able to drive through a red light when turning right is frankly terrifying and I often refuse to do so because of indecision - leading to angry honking from traffic behind.

I feel that the biggest problem with driving in the UK isn't manual gears or driving on the left but the sheer density of traffic. The motorways are being upgraded to more and more lanes but there aren't any more of them in recent decades and they are often so packed that you find massive tailbacks at 3o'clock in the morning. I drive from London to our place in Scotland several times a year and has been know to take 12 hours or more to drive 350 miles on the motorway.

"Last of the Summer Wine" -- I loved that series. Totally whimsy, complete pointlessness! May's new show is out of my reach at the moment in Papua New Guinea, but no doubt it will be available when I next visit Australia.

I will watch with interest. I am a bloke who built up a car from a wreck in my last 30s just because I could and I had been dreaming about doing that since my teens. Having done it once, I am not about to do it again!

Re driving in Brit-land. I drive on the same sided as they do, so that's no problem, but despite driving very cautiously, I found I was cutting through the traffic like a hot knife through butter! Most of the Brits drive very, VERY cautiously! Driving in London, I was warned to watch out for rock stars and Arabs in Rolls Royces and the buses -- they would not give way. On "motorways" you must keep to the left unless overtaking. I found the Brits took this to extremes, barely past the vehicle they were overtaking, they would swerve suddenly back to the left, so suddenly that their car would actually rock on its suspension! Quite dangerous!

The most hilarious part, though, was their warnings about fuel stops ("No petrol for next 20 miles") and for unsealed roads (well graded, of course, but "Not suitable for conventional vehicle").

I enjoyed Top Gear for a couple of years but as Clarkson got more and more gross and idiotic, I tired of it. He became a kind of shouting ego "look at me, look at me!" and the humor was gone. And the adventures/challenges became just stupid particularly when Clarkson cheated at May's expense. Boring, five year old stuff.

Cheers, Geoff

If you like The Reassembler, another TV series that you might like is 'The Secret Life Of Machines' written by Tim Hunkin, and presented by Tim Hunkin and Rex Garrod.

Made in the late '80s-early 90s for Channel 4, it has lots of hacking, animations, modification etc to show the basics of everyday devices, eg making recording tape with sticky tape and rust powder. IIRC, it's free to download.

"...the people's lawnmower, the lawnmower...that revolutionised the idea of popular grass cutting."

How could I not keep watching after such a statement was made, in the same tone one might present the first fusion reactor small enough to be used to power a single house and provide limitless energy to every household on the planet, thus solving the energy crisis?

Mike, driving on the other side of the road - with a car built for relevant county - is not too hard though it takes a while (about a week) to get used to. The trick is to keep the steering wheel near the centre line and you won't go too wrong.

Mundane TV has it's charms but this may cross a line.
http://dogtv.com/
I wonder if perhaps somewhere in Colorado there is someone watching this channel, stoned out of their mind, slowly starving while waiting for a pizza they forgot to order.

"The Grand Tour" is a neat name, in that it does include reference to GT, or gran turismo, cars. But what the name of the show directly refers to is a tradition the car type (GT) is also referencing.

According to its wikipedia page

The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means, or those of more humble origin who could find a sponsor.

A Grand Tour could last from several months to several years. It was commonly undertaken in the company of . . . a knowledgeable guide or tutor.

So the idea of the new show, I guess, is that the trio will be both our sponsor and our guide for a never-ending Grand Tour, one that will no doubt extend well beyond Europe.

Because I don't watch television, or even own a TV, I didn't discover Top Gear until a couple of years ago when I was traveling. Since then, I've become a great fan of the show, especially those specials where they travel to other continents, but I was greatly put off by the incidents of racist "humor". I don't know if this is what passes for "blokeishness" in their milieu, but it passes for disgusting in mine.

Since Top Gear was by far the BBC's biggest money maker, it says something for them that they would torpedo the whole thing when Clarkson finally went too far.

James May is my favorite, as well. I will tune in to the new show on Amazon. If the group can keep its more offensive impulses in check, it might be worthwhile.

Only May could carry off a line like, "You pair of utter pillocks."

I watched the whole thing. I think the appeal of this show is that it makes you feel like a child hanging out with grandpa in his garage.

I second Ikkla and marc's remarks^^.
Nowadays I generally try to rent an auto transmission on a any trip out of the UK, not always so easy in Europe. A problem with rental cars is you don't have out-of-country license plates, so no-one makes allowances.
I used to be OK driving US-spec Jaguar test cars in England, or manual cars RHD or LHD on the continent, but I'm too old and cautious for that now.
The problem with column stalks still bugs me, though. I've owned VW, Toyota, Honda and BMW as well as British, and they seem to alternate!
Other asymmetries: exhaust pipes tend to be away from the pavement (sidewalk) in the home country of the designers, fuel filler caps the other side.

I would second watching "The Detectorists", it's so low key, you don't realise it's a comedy until you find yourself feeling pleasantly contented after watching it.

Almost forgot this: The first time I went abroad, it was to Australia. The year was 2000, and things there at the time were what you might call relaxed: I was in the north of the country, in Darwin, and decided to rent a car so that I could drive to Uluru, or Ayer's Rock, for the turn of the millennium. I only had my Hawaii driver's license - hadn't bothered to get an international driving permit - and worried this might be a problem, but the guys at the rental counter reassured me with, "No worries, mate."

Having got the car, on the way out of the lot I kept repeating to myself: "remember to drive on the left, remember to drive on the left, remember to drive on the left." As soon as I reached the freeway to head to Uluru, the first thing I did, of course, was head up the exit ramp. Fortunately, I was able to back off the way I came, in reverse and with heart in throat, and lived to drive another day.

Whatever you think of Clarkson, May and Hammond as individuals, each one represented a large subset of the petrol head public. The boorish baboon in the AMG Merc, the excitable youngster in the Subaru and the tweed-jacketed science teacher in the old TR4.

The chemistry, friendly rivalry and good natured banter was what made the show great. Of course the show was scripted, so many of the comments attributed to each member, and their subsequent reputations, is really down to the script writers who seemed to understand each of them perfectly. The chemistry however was real (I know one of the show's long standing cameramen).

The new TG is simply appalling. As you said, trying to keep the same format with new faces is an exercise in utility and Chris Evans has the charisma of a damp flannel, but it's not his fault really. He's expected to deliver Clarkson-like sarcasm and turns of phrase that just don't come naturally to his squeaky chalk-on-blackboard voice.

James May like good Port gets better with age and is best appreciated when you have all the time in the world!

I frequently go to France and have to drive on the wrong side of the road. Easy ...but whatever you do only fill up with petrol from a garage on your side of the road. If you cross over it is all to easy to drive oit and turn into oncoming traffic.

I have an old VW camper and keep it as a left hand drive. It is easier on the continent and in twenty years I dont think I have ever overtaken anything so sitting on the wrong side of the car when driving is not a problem.

James May I fear is in danger of turning into a National Treasure!

I've been watching yet another James May show via my Amazon Prime subscription: "James May's Cars of the People", in which "...he tells the story of the cars he believes are the true Cars of the People."

I could listen to him talk about almost anything, much like I can read about tea when Ctein writes about it.

I'm an Aussie and I'm in Bali. Driving on the left? It's the natural way. All of us do it around here.

Seriously, I'm right handed and you'd think I'd have trouble changing gears and doing things with my left hand. Not so! I'm as dexterous (or should that be sinister?) with my left hand in the car as with my right.

I've often thought about this and it's just muscle memory. Honest, driving on the left is natural and simple and er, right, if you've grown up with it.

I haven't seen the new Top Gear, but isn't Sabine Schmitz now a regular?
I mean, 20,000 laps of the Nürburgring, and she's funny.

As others have said, Toy Stories with James May is a must-see. The Lego house is something else.

Some other classic BBC shows about not much happening:
One Man and his Dog (sheepdog trials)
Fred Dibnah - Homely documentary about a steeplejack and steamroller restorer - you really need to see this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuSW9kOBADo
Pot Black - Snooker, hosted by Whispering Ted Lowe (I'm guessing you know this one Mike). Classic line "for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green."

The concept to really use time by the TV is "Slow television".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_television

"Slow television, or slow TV (Norwegian: Sakte-TV), is a term used for a genre of live "marathon" television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length. Its name is derived both from the long endurance of the broadcast as well as from the natural slow pace of the television program's progress. It was popularised in the 2000s by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, beginning with the broadcast of a 7-hour train journey in 2009."

Interestingly, despite the comments made on the show, I think May is the better driver. He may not be fast, but seems to ba able to handle anything thrown at him. Just watched a clip of them all driving trucks - he was by far the best.

Funnily enough, I know the sound engineer at NRK who made the live Ferry journey shows and she told me the crew love to make them as much as the audience love to watch them. Of course many of us English natives have ancestors from Scandinavia, so perhaps there's an older cultural aspect to this altogether... And I learned to be an engineer from taking things apart and re-building them !
Keep up the good work,
Andy, in London.

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