So while sitting on planes for 20hrs, I picked up an issue of Top Gear magazine. There was an interesting editorial written by Matt Master about owning a Land Rover. It definitely hit the mark in many ways! I thought I'd share:
In Albion, there are rules for night driving: do not slow down for oncoming cars on narrow lanes. Dip lights only when said oncoming cars have speared into the hedge. Swerve to hit badgers. Always drive drunk.
To which end, I have just bought an old Land Rover of my very own. It blends seamlessly with the Barbour, Hunters and rare-breed spaniel. We are now below the rural radar, urban roots invisible. Oncoming cars swerve to avoid us. We're too high to be blinded. We don't even feel the badgers. And I might as well be drunk for all the control I have.
Zen has fallen on our muddy idyll. The dog is delighted by the improved visibility and the physical impossibility of pulling mid-corner g's. I now know that no amount of urgency with the right foot is going to make the slightest difference to our arrival time. Not that we have anywhere to go, or any real need to get there before sometime next week.
We braved the M5 in rush hour on the return trip from buying the car. Anxious moments initially, but it transpires that all that anxiety belongs in the fast lane, where Golfs and Vectras kiss bumpers at 85mph in an angry procession of emergency stops, horns and heart attacks. Drifting in the empty slow lane at 60mph, the dog sleeps the sleep of the dead, and I pull out occasionally to pass a tanker full of ewe's milk or real ale.
The radio doesn't work, but I'm not sure I'd be able to hear it anyway. As the sun sets, I try to find the headlights instead. I drive on sidelights for an hour before realising it's a two-stage switch. First-gen Nissan Micras hurtle past with fuming retirees flicking me dagger eyes before vanishing over the horizon.
The dog makes a silent, lethal contribution to the atmosphere, and I wind down the window. My first hurried act in some time. It sort of falls into the door frame and won't come back up. It starts to rain. I fumble for the wipers. They are sluggish, clunking like a tired old metronome, beating out the rhythm of our new pace of life. And doing little about the spray.
In winding lanes nearer home, I am reminded, for the first time in years, of the sensation of utter helplessness, of fear and abandon, that greets a corner taken too fast. We are only doing 40 or 50mph (the speedo has no real idea), but both feet come involuntarily off the pedals, and my eyes are momentarily shut. Overnight, national speed limits have gone from being unrealistically low to ambitiously high. A short cut to ultimate spiritual enlightenment if ever there was one.
There is a badger in the road. There always is. It is already dead. Shot, almost certainly, by a farmer protecting his herd from tuberculosis. So I run it over to complete the picture. The Landie makes a proper impression.
An oncoming car in the middle of the roads fails to dip its lights. I plough on at whatever speed this is, unfazed, dipping mine only when I am sure he is in the verge. Assuming he hasn't frozen to death, I can always tow him out in the morning. Right now, I have more pressing issues. We're going to the pub to get drunk.
-- Matt Master, Jan 2009, Top Gear Magazine
"Fossil Fuel Rapid Disposal Unit"