It has been confirmed by Clarkson himself on his Twitter post that the old Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will present a new car show for Amazon Prime Video. The programme is set to air in 2016 and could go head-to-head with the BBC’s revamped Top Gear show presented by Chris Evans. Three seasons have been confirmed so far.
I’m having another baby. But I can’t tell you what it will look like
As you may have heard, the BBC has taken my gun and my badge, and I must admit it’s all been a bit of a shock. For more than 12 years Top Gear has been my life, completely. It was an all-consuming entity, a many-tentacled global monster that was dysfunctional and awkward and mad but I loved it with a passion. I loved it like my own child. Which in many ways it was. But then, one day, I read in Her Majesty’s Daily Telegraph that my contract wasn’t going to be renewed and that they were going to give my baby to someone else.
I felt sick because after I’d lost my home and my mother, I’d thrown myself even more vigorously into my job and now, idiotically, I’d managed to lose that too. The sense of loss was enormous. I used to think about Top Gear all the time. It was a black hole at the centre of my heart. I woke every morning worrying about every single line. And I went to bed at night worrying that the changes I’d made during the day were wrong. Friends would talk to me when we were out and, though I could see their lips moving, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. My mind was always elsewhere. I was comfortably numb.
Two days before the “fracas”, I’d been told, sternly, by my doctor that the lump on my tongue was probably cancer and that I must get it checked out immediately. But I couldn’t do that. We were in the middle of a Top Gear series. And Top Gear always came first.
The hole it’s left behind seems to stretch for eternity. And eternity is a big place. Imagine a ball of steel the size of the Earth. Now imagine a fly landing on that ball once a day, and then taking off again. When it eventually has worn the ball of steel away to nothing, that is just the start of eternity. And I’ve somehow got to fill it.
Playing patience on my laptop is not the answer. Because when you get bored, and you will, it’s still only eight in the morning and you can’t even think about going to the pub for four more hours. And then you have to decide not to go to the pub because that’s the road to ruin and despair.
So you watch the lunchtime news and it’s full of Ed Miliband doing his new Dirty Harry act and David Cameron in a hospital with his tie tucked into his shirt and his sleeves rolled up, and it’s still five hours until the start of Pointless. So you go to the shops, and for the first time you are aware that every penny you spend is coming from a pot that’s no longer being topped up. So you decide not to spend anything at all.
The only good thing is that my son is currently living with me in London, doing A-level retakes. Which means I can spend, ooh, about 16 hours a day reading about the Cold War and helping him with his creative writing coursework. But soon he will be gone, and then the yawning chasm will open up once more.
We read often about people who live on benefits, and it fills us with rage that they are sitting about with a plasma television we bought, eating chocolate biscuits that aren’t bloody well theirs. Yet after a couple of weeks in the same boat (well, all right, mine’s more of a liner), I’m beginning to develop a bit of sympathy. Because what the hell do they do all day to stay sane?
I suppose it helps when all your friends are on the dole as well. You can all hang out in the bus shelter together. But selfishly, most of my friends have jobs, which means that until eight at night I have almost no one to play with.
This means I have to make everything last for hours. I have set aside this afternoon to fill in the membership form for a local tennis club. And then I shall use all tomorrow morning to take it round. The afternoon? Not sure yet. I may organise my jumpers.
And so we get to the nub of the issue. When you are thrust into the world of early retirement, it’s no good living from day to day because then you’re just a twig in a stream. You just get stuck in an eddy till you rot. You need to have a long-term strategy. You need something that will fill the void.
But what? Squash? Really? I’m 55 years old, which means that long before I become good my knees will explode and my ears will fill up with hair. Fishing? Hmm. I’m not certain, when you’ve spent a life being chased across the border by angry mobs and shot at in helicopter gunships, that you can fill the hole by sitting on the bank of a canal, in the drizzle. It’s the same story with gardening. When your Maserati’s done 185mph you’re not going to get much of a thrill from a rhubarb growth spurt.
One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, save to say that his name begins with R and ends in ichard Hammond, decided to fill his enforced leave by training his dog. And now, after just a couple of weeks, he reports that the dog in question hates him and hides whenever he comes into the room.
Things will only get worse because recent studies have found that people who retire early stand an increased chance of developing dementia. They also live in a constant state of anxiety and will die nearly two years sooner than they might had they stayed at work.
At 55, then, you’re in a limbo land where time is simultaneously with you and against you. You are too young to put your feet up but too old to start anything new.
Which is why I have made a decision. I have lost my baby but I shall create another. I don’t know who the other parent will be or what the baby will be like, but I cannot sit around any more organising my photograph albums.
Especially as most of the pictures I have are from a fabulous chapter that’s now been closed. The child is grown. The dream is gone. I have become uncomfortably numb.