Saturday, December 3, 2011

The God like status of Jeremy Clarkson

The recent controversy about Mr Clarkson's remarks about shooting public sector workers in front of their families reminds me of one of the more surreal moments of my life.

I was being driven down a very, very steep slope in Tuva in Siberia in a 'rugged' Russian 4x4 as the first snow of winter sprinkled fitfully down. The driver was talking about 'Top Gear' which, apart from the smoggy streets of London staple of Russian 'English' text books and Princess Diana, was the only piece of England to have made any impression. Indeed the only time I have ever watched 'Top Gear' (the BBC's most successful export) is in a Tuvan mayor's house - the house itself dwarfed by its giant satellite dish!

I told the driver that I had met Jeremy Clarkson (though I did not reveal this at the time, on a train). I thought in the driver's excitement we would crash into a tree. "What kind of car does he own?" he eagerly asked. I thought it was too dispiriting to the driver's 'Clarkson image' to respond that I had seen him only on a train! "Too many to count," I replied. "Wealthy man," I proposed.

At this juncture, my companion decided to risk all our lives by adding to the driver, "Nicholas has met His Holiness the Dalai Lama too!" (whose photograph adorns every Tuvans' house, their being Buddhists, and indeed the Dalai Lama had visited Tuva).

Shock and awe passed over the driver's face as he dangerously gawped at me, oblivious to the descending track weaving between the trees, any one of which offered itself as wrapping.

"Clarkson, Dalai Lama' the driver happily chanted periodically, shaking his head in disbelief.

Thus was I introduced on arrival at our destination - a collection of family yurts being disassembled for the winter as the family moved to their winter quarters - the man from England who encounters divine beings - Clarkson and the Dalai Lama.

I can barely imagine a more unlikely combination (though his Holiness is, I believe, fond of all things mechanical)!

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