Richard Hammond lives 130 miles from our office. I live 1.6. There are benefits to Hammond in all this; he has a much bigger and nicer house than me, more garden, better and more scenic roads for driving and riding bikes, immediate access to the land of daffodils, and much higher exposure to rustic home-made chutney and wife-carrying competitions.
On the other hand, I can go to work on the bus. I suppose Hammond could, technically, in the same way that I could walk to India, but it would take him a bit.
Meanwhile, I walk to the end of the road, get on the bus, swipe my debit card on the magic circle and, for a quid, ride all the way to the workplace. It’s a bit 1950s (ignoring the swipe card) but it works; if there’s a car for me to take away from work and try out, I avoid ‘vehicle scatter’ with my own stuff.
I have to be sure to get on the right bus, because dozens use that stop – there’s a massive chart on all sides of a post, meaning I have to do a Maypole dance to work out which one I need. If I get the wrong one I look up from iPhone battleships and find myself in an uncharted world of inter-war housing that I didn’t know existed. Then I have to work out which bus to catch to get myself back on course. And it’s a lifetime’s work.
On the whole, though, I like it. On a grim day like today, when the sky gleams like mercury*, it’s cosy, comforting and pleasantly communal. Clarkson would claim that it will give me a disease, or that I’ll be murdered by a lunatic, but so far this hasn’t happened. No industrial-era bronchial disorder has been transmitted to me by a young mother and her child, and I’ve checked my torso for the handles of knives sticking out. There aren’t any.
Clarkson is also fond of quoting Margaret Thatcher, she who (allegedly) said, ‘Any man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.’
But here am I, aged 53, with a happy life and an interesting job, and I have my own Ferrari. So I’m forced to conslude that Margaret Thatcher was talking crap.
*Ivor Cutler, God rest him.