Thursday, 12 March 2015
The king is dead, they say, long live the king. Jeremy Clarkson may be waiting for it all to blow over, but I expect he is being courted by every broadcaster other than the BBC out there as the petition to have him reinstated tops the half-million mark (at the time of writing - current status here.). Unfortunately in our fearful, rule-bound, comfortably numb world, the Beeb will maybe find it impossible to retract their suspension and a very rich dinosaur like Clarkson – as would I in his position – might just jack it all in and let others fight for the crown. Top Gear simply couldn't be the same without him and maybe he and James May should just buy an old airfield and cock about running track days for people who would default on their mortgages for a few hours of being insulted by a master.
Nothing lasts for ever and while I will miss Top Gear I won’t miss it for long. In the seventies I thought I’d really missed The Prisoner until I saw it re-run a couple of years ago and realised how much a product of its time it was. Music changes, fashions change and in the end we all change as well… until the day we stop. You know you've finally grown up when you no longer try to be like everybody else and realise it is a mark of callow youth to express your individuality by behaving exactly as others do. Beyond the point of enlightenment you experience an all-too-brief period of grudging respect as you cling to your chronological rocks, your beliefs forged in hardship and joy and your resolute certainties. And you watch as the boat full of young idiots steams off on its own exploration of youthful folly.
But as it sails on out of sight over the horizon you have to wonder if maybe they have a point after all; if maybe they WILL find the life solutions that evaded the scrutiny of you, your generation and every generation before you. Back on the rock you stop the clock and surround yourself with the comforting trappings of your own age. Your precious books, your proper music collection whose latest additions you can trace back to a single decade and your hard-won philosophy, cast in stone in your fully-formed consciousness, solidifying, even as do your arteries, into an immovable set of principles. You stop growing up and begin to grow old.
It is surely everybody’s perverse wish that they could go back and re-live their formative years equipped with the knowledge that takes all their days to acquire. What torture would that be? We don’t really notice or fully appreciate the times we live in until they become the times we used to live in. Why do middle-aged men enjoy the antics of JC and his crew? Because, against the odds they manage to live out the fantasies the rest of us abandoned in childhood but still exist in us as echoes of our golden ages. So, it’s not so much a question of whether Clarkson goes as a question of whether it is time for us to let him. The world doesn't really belong to the young, with their daft ideas about equality and an end to war, but they are the only ones who still believe they can change it.