Love him or hate him, Jeremy Clarkson is leaving his mark on the motoring journalism world. Among his numerous aphorisms, one states that a carefully renovated cottage should always have a classic British car parked in the drive.
His argument was made during one of the more extraordinary episodes of Top Gear ever to be aired. An ode to the e-Type on it’s 50th birthday. To paraphrase a man his friends call “The Orang Utan” and gifted with tremendous imagination for deliberate controversy: “why is it that you almost need a special permit signed in the Queen’s blood to change the door handle or a broken window in a listed home, but can then park any automotive atrocity outside it without having to answer for the crime?”
Try as I might to counter the reasoning of a man who has verbally gone too far too often on motoring-populist ground, this one seems to defy adverse scrutiny. There’s inevitability to that logic that requires bad faith in spades to completely deny.
But you could understand why someone passionate about heritage might not be into swanky motors. Mutual exclusivity doesn’t rattle my cage or contradict my experience in any way.
One of my fondest “motoring” memories was walking round “the block” where my grandparents lived, near Guildford, and past a lovely thatched cottage, owned and immaculately maintained by an elderly gentleman who also nursed something special in his garage. Every so often, he would open it to polish an Aston Martin DB 5 and take it for a spin to the shops. To him, it seemed normal, and little did he know the shivers sent through the spine of a young French passer-by.
But neighbours in equally other-halfly accommodation went about their grocery runs inside very unexciting metal boxes. Sadly, the Aston was very much the exception rather than the rule.
So I’m willing to accept the lack of correlation between a love of fine ol’ brit homes and a love of fine ol’ brit motoring.
What tickles me pale red is an unexpected, yet as statistically significant as Cheddar + Branston, correlation between houses that would not look out of place in a Downton Abbey sequel and cars that would look the part in a Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick special. What’s that about?
Don’t get me wrong. This frown is a surprised one, not unhappy. If sauerkraut mixes with beer, why couldn’t Beemer adorn Victorian or Mercedes beam and stucco? As post-Covid European financial recovery proves (as if more proof was needed, really) collaboration between countries always, systematically, without exception, trounces petty nationalism. And cars in the sportier echelons of clan VW haunt my dreams. The one below, in spite of its rejection by purists, was particularly guilty for my lack of teen sleep.
Besides, in spite of jaw-dropping swag and healthy James Bond bad guy credentials, a Jag would have some trouble passing as a truly British car, these days. Let’s be honest, the balance of sexy has drifted seriously Eastwards when it comes to emotions on wheels.
Yet, it troubles me not to understand.
My very limited experience of such poshly antiquated dwellings, mainly B&Bs for me, I must confess, tells me that they are a pig to maintain, keep warm, keep mold free and that you need to enjoy an Aga more than sunlight to spend any extended period inside one. As gorgeous as they are to the casual glance, ownership of such houses requires dedication to traditional in equal measure to serious dinero.
And it seems to me that the sort of cars so frequently found in the drives of those twisted wood & brick pieces of architectural history, labour-of-love cottage-garden and all, would appeal to a complete other set of psychological drivers.
What can look more modern than a recent S6 Audi? While you can accuse in-house designers to rehash the legacy look over and over again to levels that would make even Aston pale, there’s no denying that the muzzle of a recent Audi smells as fresh as morning dew and feels as edgy as Iggy Pop in spandex shorts.
At what point do the two trajectories possibly meet?
Maybe being outside the financial circles for the possession of either disqualifies my ability to judge and understand. That is quite possible. So I question this purely on the basis of New meets Old. Or New clashes Old, in my naive appreciation of it all.
Are both simply coincidal fashion items ? Does the age of one naturally call for a countermeasure of new ? Does the reassuringly comfy cottage appeal to those who value perceived quality and safety in their steeds? Is my sample village simply too accidental for a meaningful questioning of the phenomenon?
I suppose it matters very little, since it gave me the opportunity to enjoy picture-making (had I thought of making a series of it, I’d have tried harder to capture more such pairings, as there certainly were plenty more to consider).
But I ask you nonetheless. Our friends (not) at Google tell me the largest readership for DS is from the US, followed by Germany, then the UK, a close third. Perhaps readers of the latter two can weigh in on this mystery, compared to which Atlantis, Stonehenge and Kim Kardashian seem self-evident.
How do you explain the odd pairings?
(all pics 100% made of Swedish-bred photons collected by a Hasselblad X1D with an XCD 45 lens, in distinctly crossbread hands)
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