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Nick Mason's Column: The Enthusiast

  • Nick Mason's column: the enthusiast - Nick Mason March 2008 - 0
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I was trying to get a minicab out of the new Wembley stadium the other night.

I was trying to get a minicab out of the new Wembley stadium the other night. What a nightmare! I managed to get to the ground floor area, where a number of cars were lining up, but unfortunately chose a rather sporty-looking yellow one, with this lunatic driver wearing a motorcycle helmet at the wheel. He was clearly in the building trade, as he had a bunch of scaffolding wedged into the cabin which he was not prepared to move.

He didn’t seem to speak English well, and he certainly hadn’t studied The Knowledge. He took me on the most absurd wiggly route at an insane speed, ignoring all my route suggestions, and ended up nowhere near my destination. If he thought he was going to get a tip he must have been mightily disappointed.

Despite me reporting this Mattias Ekström character to the authorities, they simply gave him a massive silver cup and declared him the winner of something called the Race of Champions. One of his rivals appeared to be a German cabbie called Schumacher, who is apparently famous for commandeering other people’s taxis for the odd airport run. Frankly I didn’t think there was much to choose between any of them. They all need to be re-directed to some other trade, in my opinion.

I have recently been reminded of the advantages of two-seat cars. I now have yet another driver in the family, and am appalled at the lack of respect meted out to the most senior motorist. I had become used to Mrs Mason’s WRC style of co-driving – partly engendered by a propensity to leave late for any appointment – that involves a lot of those exhortations better suited to a Formula One team radio connection, with a lot of commands to ‘Push now!’ or ‘Use the overtake turbo button at the Marble Arch lights!’ This is coupled with an open discussion regarding the quicker route we should have taken, and sometimes rather alarming suggested lane-changes that would involve treating the pavement as an overtaking facility.

My son’s attitude is equally critical if rather different. Apparently there is some document called The Highway Code, which I do seem to recollect from a distant era, and I don’t always adhere to it. There is a lot of tut-tutting from the rear seat and I am now horribly aware of the fact that my positioning into roundabouts is shameful, my use of indicators leaves much to be desired, and I kerb more magnesium wheels than anyone else. Apparently the examiners will not be impressed, either, by the use of a handbrake turn instead of the three-point variety.

It was rather a relief, therefore, to finally hear from my boy’s lips that gasp of outrage, followed by remarkably coarse language at the behaviour of some other road user, and to realize he was at last truly inducted into the motoring brotherhood. I shall now be able to teach him the more advanced gestures that are sometimes required to communicate with less able drivers.

He now has that sense of freedom that comes with access to a motor car, unaware that I feel it even more than he does, being released from that endless round of trips to school, football pitches, pubs, clubs and friends’ houses. Best of all, it means he might even be able to repay all those journeys by collecting his parents when they’re over the limit.

A new driver has made me start to look more closely at alternatively powered vehicles. I don’t think I’m quite ready to head down that route yet, for I suspect that, rather like digital cameras, of which I now have a hard-to-dispose-of euro mountain, the range and cost of these devices is going to improve rapidly over the next few years, and the current models will then look like Sinclair C5s. I’m beginning to feel less confident that the pair sitting in my office are in fact going to become the Ferrari GTOs of the electric revolution.

But bio fuels could be good, and perhaps we’ll see a remarkable resurgence of inner-city allotments when it becomes possible to grow your own fuel as well as those prize winning marrows and tomatoes. In fact, the goal of dealing with over-production of automobiles is that by 2050 an owner will have to eat their existing car before they’re allowed to purchase a new one…

Finally, it seems that this year there’s a conflict between Classic Le Mans and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Despite my predilection for circuit racing over hillclimbing, it looks as though I may get another works drive from Audi, in which case predilections will naturally be eclipsed by practicalities, economics – and a desperate desire to show off.

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