What I'm trying to say is ...
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The Assassin, The Lifeguard, & The Series Of Unfortunate Tests

Joe Baron
20th December 2018

15 rating






THE INTRO
THE FIRST TEST
THE SECOND TEST
THE THIRD TEST
THE WHEELS OF INNOCENCE
TURNING POINT?
FORK IN THE ROAD
THE FOURTH TEST
HAZARD LIGHTS
REFRESHER LESSONS?
THE FIFTH TEST
THE FINAL TEST ...




 



THE INTRO

In 2005, somewhere in the quiet tranquility of the Great British countryside, a lone dandelion seed drifts over a field of lightly swaying hay in a cool calm breeze. It drifts past a pair of butterflies tumbling and frolicking in mid air, over lush green grass that flows between groves of leafy trees, before rolling gently up towards the top of a sloping hillside, where it naturally comes to rest ... don't worry, it does get better.

They do get better - Rufus from Bill & TedClick the photos for fun links ...

At the base of the hillside, a tiny bird lands upon a haystack, taking a few moments to get acquainted to its surroundings: jerking its head to different orientations in the way that birds do, before tweeting chirpily to himself once he was comfortable that his environment was safe. Under the bright shining sun and white wispy clouds of the deep blue sky, nature was at peace.

Do you remember the Shire Mr Frodo

Suddenly the tiny bird stopped tweeting, leaving what appeared to be a stretch of silence in its place. Only it wasn't silence: if you listened hard enough, as the tiny bird was doing, you could just about pick out a buzzing in the air.

The lone dandelion seed at the hilltop, suddenly floated up into the air once again attracting the tiny birds astute 20:20 vision.

The tiny bird looked down at his own two feet, "What the fuck?" he thought to himself ...

What? You were expecting him to be well spoken? Trust me, that says more about you than of he. The lone survivor of a tough upbringing, his intelligence had been pressure tested against the brutality of nature without the need to be veiled by elocution. And, this bird wasn't just smart, he had balls ... Do birds even have balls? I genuinely have no idea? I should have researched it really ... But it matters not, for I mean it strictly in the metaphorical sense. He was brave.

Chicken Balls. Ouch. Poor Chicken.

And don't be fooled by his size either. Although small, if he wanted to be, he could be every bit as tough, hard, and in your face, as any one of Dolly Parton's famous prize winning tits.

obviously I was talking about her bird collection

He could feel that the haystack he was on was vibrating. That was why the lone dandelion seed had floated up atop the hill; the hill was vibrating too. The bird knew that something was heading this way, and it was getting closer. The buzz was getting louder, the vibrations stronger. The bird remained unperturbed.

"Something's fuckin comin," he thought to himself.

All of a sudden, as if out of nowhere, the buzz transformed into a ferocious roar that cracked across the skies.

The lone dandelion seed was brutally whipped aside in an instant as a huge silhouette exploded onto the scene from the hilltop. The overload on the tiny bird's senses caused it's mind to switch to acute survival mode: the sound was instantly muffled to a low elongated drone to permit his other senses to kick in; everything seemed to be going in slow motion.

Matrix Lift Lobby

As the giant metal beast sailed through the air in slow motion, a mix of mud, soil and grass, churned up from the surface of the earth, cascaded through the air behind it; like slow fireworks made of earth.

The metal beast crashed down to the ground in real time again, splicing up the lush green grass, ripping it from the surface and cutting huge tracks in the Earth below.

As the beast found its equilibrium and caught its intended trajectory once again, the tiny bird had just about managed to propel itself into flight, before the beast smashed through the haystack it was sat on, and then continued to tear off into the distance leaving a trail of carnage behind it in its wake.

"Fuck me," thought the bird, "that was close."

They dont come any closer than that - The Last Crusade

Down at the bottom of the field, the black Mini Cooper had finally found road once again, slowly coming to a halt with the strangled sound of an exhausted clutch and the heavy handed crank of a strained handbrake. The car had been taken to its limits: hot steam hissed from the bonnet; the wheels were covered in grass and hay; mud and scratches were scattered up the exterior of the chassis; and thanks to the tiny bird, there was even a fresh bird shit on the windscreen.

Daddy ... the top came off.

Parked out in the middle of nowhere, with no other people or cars to be seen or heard, the 2 people inside the car could finally feel safe once again. They both took a moment to appreciate that fact. It was finally over.

The old man in the passenger seat didn't say a word. He didn't have to. It was perfectly obvious to both of us, that I had just failed my first driving test ...

Go for it Stephanie - The Naked Gun



 



THE FIRST TEST

Ok, my first driving test wasn't quite that bad, but you wouldn't know it from my first driving test examiner.

The small, skinny old conservatively dressed man with a clipboard, gave me 11 minors and 3 major faults. Said I drove like an absolute maniac: heavy acceleration; over revving; slamming on the brakes late; narrowly avoiding parked cars; he said that he was getting thrown all over the place in his seat. He told me I drove like a rally driver, but then I suppose he had to say at least one thing that was positive ... I thought his assessment was a bit harsh. I felt confident, had fun, and I didn't hit anything. I genuinely thought I did pretty good ...

Cue some wavy lines to take you back into the past.

flashback

The 1980's ... back to a small me. 1984 to be precise, with me sitting at my BBC B Microcomputer playing a game called REVS. I would have been 7 years old at the time. REVS was a formula 3 simulation game, and my first experience of 'driving'. Ok it wasn't real driving but it was as close as I could get at 7, and indeed as close as you could get for a 'simulation' on my BBC B at the time. It's hard to believe now, but REVS was hailed at the time as a great racing simulation. Obviously now it has severe graphical, audio, and game play limitations, or in other words it's total shit ... I actually cringe at how bad these BBC B games are now by today's standards. But at the time, believe it or not ... it was met with critical acclaim.

REVS for BBC B - my first proper racer.

Accelerate, brake, gear up and down, and a rev meter to know when to change gears. That was the cool thing of the time, the focus on the rev meter, and how that indicated when a gear change was required better than speed ... hence the name obviously. The difference in traction when over revving and coming off road was also simulated too. Or at least it was attempted to be. In reality what this meant was that if you ever over revved or came off the black stuff, you'd automatically enter a spin faster than Michael Jackson on a tea cup ride.

Michael Jackson spins.

Speaking of coming of the black stuff, and to add a contemporary touch of the time to the proceedings, Michael Jackson still had black skin in 1984. His 6th album Thriller, released in 1982, had already become the best selling album worldwide, of all time, by this point in 1984. A record it still holds today in 2018. I cant help but recall all the criticism he got in the press when his skin started losing its pigment and going white after that time. He said he had Vitiligo right from the outset but, with media reports and speculation that he deliberately bleached his skin to turn himself into a white man, along with his obvious vocal chord stretching, nose thinning, and chin widening surgery over the years, no one ever believed him.

Aside from the obvious fact that there's never been a white man in history that looked or sounded like that ever, or indeed even wanted to, it seems pretty clear to me that he was actually trying to look and sound like his sisters. I'm not saying he didn't enjoy cupping little boys balls in the palms of his hands, or that he did (which I must stress), but the fact is, the autopsy reports when he died in 2009, did indeed confirm he had Vitiligo all along. Probably why he wore the single glove at one point in time. And it probably got to the point where white powder was more effective a cover up than brown for him. By all accounts, it sounds like a difficult condition for a person to live with mentally. And if having the condition itself wasn't bad enough, you had the pleasure of other people making it worse by calling you a liar, insulting you, and calling you a disgrace to your heritage just for having it.

If there's a connection to be had to this article, I guess it is how willing everyone still is to throw anyone under a bus (people drive buses) in the name of gossip even when they are actually telling the truth. I don't think people will ever realise how much damage can be done to a person that tells the truth only to be branded a liar by society at large in spite of the evidence ... even if they are a fucked up kiddy fiddler made of plastic. I said 'if'.

At the time, I didn't understand why people cared so much about the colour of his skin anyway. Even now, it never mattered. As an adult, I know that skin is just a bag that hold your insides in that comes in different colours and with varying amounts of fur on it. It's an organ that we all have in common. As a kid in primary school, I didn't even notice people's 'colour', I just saw a great dancer with a high pitch singing voice and a fucking weird head. But that was down to surgery, nothing else. He was a fantastic performer. The guy had some crazy silky smooth moves. A smooth criminal ... or not for liability reasons.

Michael Jackson 1990.

But back to 1984 and REVS, critical acclaim aside, REVS was actually incredibly infuriating to play as a kid. As a 7 year old, I could never really get my head around the rev meter or the lack of a speedometer. Which was probably why I much preferred playing 3D Grand Prix at the time instead, which also came out in 1984, and which was also total shit by today's standards.

3D Grand Prix for BBC B

It was a much more arcadey affair, with a speedometer, and you didn't enter a flat spin every 5 seconds or so. It had it's frustrations, but I remember finding it an enjoyable racer for the time. Unlike REVS at least you could actually manage to race! Well sort of anyway.

Looking back, racing games were where I first became accustomed to the layout of famous Grand Prix circuits. As basic as those old games were, they still effectively drilled in the layouts of tracks, and that transferred to knowledge when watching the actual sport on tv in later life. It's smart. Something that I'd strongly wager is even more the case for kids today given how ridiculously accurate Codemasters brilliant yearly F1 games are today. It's incredible what Codemasters have achieved with it. And it's just as well, because gaming is absolutely crucial these days for keeping sports like Formula 1 accessible and relevant to younger audiences. F1 2018 with a wheel and pedal set up on PC even got me interested in Formula 1 again this year after a long hiatus. It's that good.

f1 2018 on Steam

But back to 84, it was a time of Star Wars and He-Man, but cars also featured heavily in toys when I was young in the 80's thanks to Transformers and Top Trumps. They gave me a general awareness of cars of the time. Everyone loved Bumblebee, the Volkswagen Beetle, but I also remember Jazz, the Porsche 935 Turbo car being particularly cool looking.

Jazz transformer - my first Porsche

Jazz was so cool, they deliberately made him sound like a token rapping black guy in the cartoon. The 80's was pretty bad for doing things like that. If you don't believe me, just look up poor old John Barnes in The Anfield rap when he played for Liverpool in 88. He never should have been rapping. He was probably the worst rapper in England. And yet he had the main part. You get the feeling that rap was only chosen for the song because Liverpool's cherished pride and joy at the height of their un stoppable powers in the 80's, was a black man. This was unusual at the time. Although clearly toungue in cheek, it still felt like the musical equivalent of a scouser putting their arm around him, pointing a finger at his face, and saying, "Look how inclusive we are here at Liverpool ..." They even had to throw Jamaica and bananas into his lyrics for fucks sake, in a time when bananas were literally being thrown on the pitch when he got the ball. Terrible. To be fair, there was much, much, worse things going on in English football racism and hooliganism at the time. This song was nothing; it at least thought it was doing a good thing.

John Barnes Anfield Rap

But even cooler than Jazz, for me anyway ... were the Lamborghini Countach characters. Of the car Transformers, Tigertrack, the yellow Lamborghini Countach was my favourite. But you also had a red one (Sideswipe), and a fire chief one (Red Alert). All of them were so cool just because they turned into a Lamborghini Countach. It was my favourite car by a country mile in the 80's. It's not that I knew anything at all about cars, it's just that I thought it looked so cool.

Tigertrack transformer - yellow Lamborghini Countach

The Lamborghini Countach was my favourite car in Top Trumps. I don't remember if was actually the best card, but it was my favourite. I can't really explain why, like I said, I knew nothing about cars at all ... just like you know nothing about a woman when she catches your eye: the combination of curves, angles and shadows that commands your attention in a way you can't quite put your finger on; you know you are compelled; you know you are interested; you know you have absolutely no idea why; you're helpless; total logic combined with absolute subjectivity; you try to work it out, you can't, it's an impossible conundrum; those curves, angles and shadows; you're not meant to work it out; it's meant to lead to chaos; it's meant to tempt you onto the roller coaster ride, away from your current safe, easy life ... Basically, when something is designed well to you, it has this effect on you, whether you want it to or not. You are powerless to it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I just personally really liked the design of how the Lamborghini Countach looked as a kid. Particularly in yellow. But I had no idea why. It was just an awesome looking car for the time.

Top Trumps Lamborghini Countach

Following on from the 1960's and 1970's, before my time, cars were still very prominent in tv and film in the early 80's. Trends always change as the decades pass, but I think it also had a lot to do with the fact that it was before the days where technology could create decent special effects from scratch. Before they could credibly create anything that the mind could imagine. In those times, computer graphics were so shit, flashy cars and car chases were the best way to include exciting 'action' in films. Fast paced action that could all be created on camera as opposed to computer, which of course was yet to be capable of such things.

You had Dr No in 1962, and every Bond film ever since, most notably the DB5 in Goldfinger in 1964;

James Bond Aston Martin DB5 toy

The Batmobile from 1966;

The 1966 Batmobile was a custom 1955 Licoln Futura concept car ...

The Italian Job in 1969;

Mini Coopers, a Lamborghini Miura, an Aston Martin DB4... The Italian Job was pure class.

Steven Spielberg's first film, The Duel in 1971;

The humble Plymouth Valiant VS the monstrous Peterbilt Tanker... The Duel.

Herbie Rides Again in 1974 (Sequel to The Love Bug 1968);

1963 Volkswagon Beetle ... Herbie was a car with a mind of its own.

The Smokey & The Bandit films from 1977;

Smokey & The Bandit was basically an advert for the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am ...

The Blues Brothers in 1980;

The Bluesmobile is a 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan ...

Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985;

The General Lee was a 1969 Dodge Charger. Daisy Dukes was raw sex on legs ...

Knight Rider from 1982 to 1986;

KITT is a 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am. Hasslehoff is a parody of himself ...

The A Team from 1983 to 1987;

The 1983 GMC Vandura van and the 1984 Corvette C4, both with red stripe. So cool ...

Back To The Future in 1985;

The Delorean Time Machine.88 miles per hour !!! ...

All of them revolved around cars. Although I had no interest in "real" cars at all, I hugely enjoyed all the Saturday afternoon tv shows and films from the list above featuring these fast cars of the time and ridiculous car chases in them. Obviously I had no clue as a kid, but it's clear as day now, that all these films and tv shows made blatant deliberate use of iconic cars in them: that is the style of the cars used deliberately helped to make the show, almost as if the car was an extra character in itself. In fact not 'almost', it actually was. And what a character it proved to be. You don't get that anymore.

It was a thing of the 60's, 70's, and 80's I guess: before special effects were good enough to be able to do other things effectively. Or you could argue, before tv writing got much better ... Either way, cars, car stunts, and car chase scenes, were very prominent in tv and film in the 80's, especially in American shows.

And make no mistake, kids needed American tv in the 80's. There was nothing else to watch otherwise. There was much less new content made for tv back then, so even with just 4 channels in the UK, tv still had lots of scheduling space to show reruns of series and films from the decades past, as well as the latest new shows. Like today, even back then, it was not uncommon for a British show to only have around a measly 4 to 8 episodes in a 'series', whilst US shows would have a whopping 20 plus episodes per 'season'. So American shows were much needed padding, particularly as Saturday entertainment, to fill the tv schedules. And we were all incredibly grateful for it to be honest. Computer games weren't as all consuming as they are these days; and that's coming from an avid gamer of the time. There'd simply have just been nothing to watch or do otherwise.

So right from a young age, in games, toys, film, tv; to me as a kid; cars were always for looking cool in, racing, having fun in, and for doing insane stunts. Cars had nothing to do with safety and practicality at all, or for getting from A to B. They were about pure entertainment and fun. And that was infinitely better than the reality of being wedged between my brother and sister as the youngest of three, on the middle hump of the back seat with no seat belt, as my dad smoked like a chimney whilst driving, in an attempt to curtail the boiling over frustrations of my mum getting all the directions wrong, as we got hopelessly lost to where ever it was we may have been heading.

Fortunately since then, smoking in cars is banned, seat belts are compulsory, we have Sat Nav, and my parents are divorced. And whilst the reality of driving that was projected upon me as a kid in the 80's was much to be desired, the projection of it on tv, film, and computer games ... was fucking fantastic! So in my weak defence ... it's no wonder my first driving test went the way it did.

The Delorean Time Machine.88 miles per hour !!! ...



 



THE SECOND TEST

In the Autumnal breeze of 2005, my second driving test was nothing like the first. With one under my belt already, I knew what it was all about now. And whilst it had took me a while, I had finally realised that my first examiner saying that I drove like a rally driver, was in fact supposed to be an insult ... not a compliment. Your driving test was not supposed to be like Smokey and The Bandit. I got that now.

Burt Reynolds - The Bandit ...

I was switched on now. Excessive caution was the name of the game at all times. It wasn't ever enough to just look in the mirrors, you had to be seen to be looking in the mirrors. You had to ensure both hands were on the wheel in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions at all times on straights, and you had to feed the wheel to each hand at all times when turning.

Far from looking like Sean Connery in James Bond, if you were driving as the examiner wanted you to in order to pass the test, to an outside observer, you should look like a rigid robot with limited arm motion, as you adhere to the 10 to 2 rule at all times, whilst suffering a chronic neck malfunction, as you constantly pivot your head from mirror to mirror like the Rain Man from 1988.

Rain Man Lamborghini Countach

You didn't even have to actually look in the mirrors, you just had to be seen to be looking in them ... that is more important in your test. Actually check them with just a quick efficient glance of your eyeballs, and you'd be guaranteed to fail in a heartbeat ...

Roger Moore - James Bond ...

I was going to play to win this time. This was no different to a computer game. I knew the rules. I was going to perfect them. Test 2 went amazingly well. I knew I'd totally nailed it as we drove back to the test centre nearing the end of the 45 minutes. Extreme confidence was with me. I didn't think I'd passed, I knew I'd passed. It was in the bag.

Morpheus - The Matrix - Don't think you are ... know you are

On the approach to the road we had to turn into to arrive back at the test centre, the examiner asked me to pull over to the left. So I did. I put the handbrake on and put it into neutral; all was good. I was about to be licensed. Then he asked me to pull out when I was ready, to head back to the test centre to conclude the test.

I could see in my mirror a stream of traffic coming up behind so I waited. It was a long queue. I waited. Extreme caution at all times. I had this.

I could feel his eyes on me. It felt like a lifetime. I didn't like it. I could feel the anxiety building. The anxiety was becoming disproportionate to the situation. I knew he was just looking at me to make sure I pulled out safely, but in that situation, it felt like he was an intoxicated uncle making burning eye contact with me as he slowly pulled his trousers down ... It was awful.

Michael Jackson...

It was just pulling out and driving off. Nothing else. But sat there waiting, all eyes on me, I was feeling the stress of the test situation. I was heating up. I was starting to sweat. My balls were sticking to the inside of my leg ... The awkwardness of the situation was causing me to be distracted by little things that shouldn't have even been entering my mind. Then, sure enough, an opening came. I swung my head across all the mirrors, just to make sure he could see that I had checked them, and then lifted the handbrake ready to go ...

The car rolled back just a fraction before I caught it with the brake. It was still in neutral and I was on a hill. Right at the very end, I'd fucked up and I knew it.

I'd fucked up and I knew it ...

About a minute later back at the test centre, my examiner congratulated me on an excellent drive, before apologising to me for the fact that he had no choice but to fail me as rolling back on a hill was an instant fail as there could have been someone behind me. There wasn't of course. Nothing happened. There was no one there. But rules are rules. I had to fail apparently. He had no choice. I was gutted.

And just like that, after a perfect drive, with ZERO minors, and only one fault right at the very end ... I had failed. It was at that point I realised the driving test isn't an assessment of your overall driving safety at all. They had statistics to meet as well. They had to fail a certain percentage of people as part of their job or else ironically it would look like they were not doing their job properly.

I realised that the examiners were actively looking for any opportunity to fail people, not to check for driving safety per say. They still are. The test is more about just going for 45 minutes without making a mistake ... even if another driver forces you to have to make that mistake. Drivers make mistakes all the time on the road. And I'm a guy that can't even write a single side of A4 without crossing or scribbling something out. I was going to find this difficult. I had a game plan. I perfected it. And yet it didn't work. How could I drive better than that?

flashback

Things always get better. Even at 10 years old, I knew that if there's one thing guaranteed with technology ... it was that. Whilst Michael Jackson released 'Bad' this year, leaving people to both enjoy the music, and speculate what the fuck was happening to his head, more fun driving games came out on the BBC B such as Crazee Rider and Grand Prix Construction Set in 1987. I loved driving games ... even if they were total shit by today's standards.

Crazee Rider BBC B

I was a happy loner with a good imagination, so I think my brain could easily work around all the flaws of early video games, where as other 'cooler' kids may have thought, 'what the fuck is this?' and gone out and rode their bike, backwards and forwards, up and down the street instead. I didn't like playing out. I didn't find it overly stimulating. I liked playing in. I liked playing computer games.

Computer games posed near impossible skill challenges back then, that riding up and down the street didn't. Fuck me games were hard back then. For people that didn't know how to quit like me, they were a compulsion. A curse almost. Looking back, I'm not sure whether I enjoyed them, as much as I just had to find a way to beat that fucking, mother fucking cheating fucking bastard, that kept beating my mother fucking arse!! I didn't take losing well back then ... I totally empathise with John McEnroe and what he went through in the 80's, and for the fact that despite people always blaming video games for these kind of frustration based outbursts in the overly compulsive and overly competitive few ... McEnroe never played video games. His youth pre-dated them. Makes you think doesn't it? Unlike McEnroe though, by putting me through it, I think gaming actually helped me to grow out of it.

John McEnroe predates space invaders!

Grand Prix Construction Set even had the ability to design your own race tracks and race split screen against a friend. Of course the graphics and sound were still severely limited in both games, this was still the BBC B after all, but for their time they were fun arcade style racing games that were actually very addictive. I enjoyed them, and they inadvertently instilled more race track layouts in my brain.

Grand Prix Construction Set 1987 BBC B

But, as with all games, the arcades significantly trumped driving games on home computers and games consoles at the time. And not just with graphics and sound, but with playability and control methods too as they had steering wheels and pedals, and even a hi/low shifter stick too. Unlike now, arcades were always light years ahead of home equipment back then. Even in the 80's, unlike my BBC B at home, the graphics and sound back then in the arcades are at least still in some way acceptable even today, 30 plus years later. But at the time ... they were mind blowing; cutting edge; the best that had been seen in the whole of human existence. However hard and inconceivable that seems to people now, or in the future, the truth is, it really was the best that had been seen in the whole of human existence at that point in time. The pinnacle of technological achievement.

Out Run arcades 1987

Sega's instant classic Out Run in 1987 was easily the most popular racing game ever at the time. And deservedly so, it was a great game with exceptional graphics, sound, and playability for its time.

And then there was my personal favourite arcade racing game of the time, also out in 1987, Continental Circus. So good, it even had pit stops. You got a real adrenalin buzz playing these games.

Continental Circus arcades 1987

Sega had also released a worthy port of Out Run on their Sega Master System home console in the same year. And although not a patch on the arcade version, it helped to sell the Master System by the bucket load. I got to play it at a friends house a few times. It was actually pretty good for its time, but as said, not a patch on the arcade. Home consoles, or computers, were simply not powerful enough by some margin to match arcades back then.

Out Run - Sega Master System - 8bit

Not to be outdone, Nintendo released its own version of Out Run too in 1987, in an attempt to counter Sega's success. It was called RAD Racer and it was for the NES only.

Rad Racer 1987 - NES - 8bit

I bought this game with high hopes around a year after its release once I owned a NES, and whilst it was similar and provided great fast arcade racing fun ... like the Master System port, it was never as good as Out Run in the arcade by some margin. Unfortunately, knowing how much better the arcade version was, actually made these games slightly depressing to play at home. Although obvious now, as a kid, I just didn't understand why they couldn't produce the exact same games at home as they did in the arcades. Whilst it was great having home computers and consoles, there was just no escaping it, arcades easily led the gaming world in the 1980's.

The only problem with arcades in the 80's was, we only ever got to go to them once a year when we went to the beach at Southwold on holiday. I loved those holidays, but not for the beach ... for the arcades! I'd spend much of the rest of the year thinking about those games and looking forward to going back and seeing what was new.

Aside from undressing my sisters Barbie's only to find out that they had no genitals, I hadn't played with toys for some time by this point. My Transformers had all been given away to church jumble sales or else sold off at car boot sales to buy computer games instead. Sounds an odd thing to do now, but there was no home internet back then let alone eBay. Car boot sales were the only way to make a bit of extra cash out of your unwanted's. I remember I'd go with my mum and Aunty. My Aunty would take us as my mum didn't drive. We'd spend ages setting up a stall, and then wait at it all morning for customers. As a kid I'd imagine going back home rich from all the things I'd sell ... trouble was, you always ended up giving your stuff away for next to nothing. A Transformer for 50 pence. A Star Wars figure for 30 pence. As a kid you were blind to that fact that your parents had to pay for the slot too. And there was always a haggler you wanted to punch in the mouth. As if they weren't getting one of your toys cheap enough already? I remember too my mum and aunty often being miffed about people buying clothes from their stall, and then selling them for more on their own stall. People moan about Pay Pal and eBay fees today, but if they were old enough to understand the opportunity cost, a car boot sale ... thank god we have eBay and Pay Pal these days is all I can say. Trust me, car boot sales were a bloody awful way to waste a Saturday or Sunday morning. And I never went home rich ... I'd make about a couple of pounds. Sometimes, when it was even less than that, my mum would even feel sorry for me and double it. Those toys would sell for good money today on eBay. Basically, car boot sales are simply not what cars were designed for.

80s car boot sale before ebay existed

By this time, at the end of the 1980's, all of those car chase tv shows had come to the end of their runs too. They were still repeated for some years to come however, helping instill them in people's minds as the cultural 80's tv classics that they are today, whilst also simultaneously continuing to hide the lack of quality new home grown shows in British tv scheduling. But by the end of the 80's you could definitely sense that the good old car chase was on its way out.

So long, Hoff ...

In cinema, car chase theme's had become much less prominent by the end of the 1980's too. Not only had it been done to death for the last 20 years, technology was finally starting to allow special effects to be able to create whatever the mind could imagine. It was still early days, and CGI technology was incredibly expensive for film studios to use, but it was there, and once it was ... it was there to stay.

The Abyss in 1989 was the most groundbreaking example of what would lead to what is common place use in every action film ever made these days. It was the first film to feature a fully 3 dimensional (3D) computer generated character.

1989 - The Abyss had first fully computer generated 3D character ...

The same effect was used a couple of years later for the T-1000 in Terminator 2 that really showed the world what was possible with this technology. Used only where necessary to avoid cost, these effects were totally ground breaking in cinema in their day. So was the film in fact. In many ways I wish film directors could go back to doing more stuff just with the camera, and only using CGI where it is absolutely necessary like they did in T2. In my opinion, like many things today, CGI is way overused these days.

1991 - Terminator 2 took action films to a whole new level...

Cinema was evolving across the board, ever trying to create the new buzz, as it continues to today. These new effects made the old staged car chases in films look very heavily dated. Of course films still had car chases in them, T2 had a great one; well truck / bike chase to be more precise; but not of the same style. Cars had gotten faster and more powerful. Cinema was pushing to look more realistic at all times. Of the few chases that did occur, they became more 'serious'. And by 'serious', I mean still totally ridiculous to real life, this is film after all, but in that there was actually an impending threat of death in the proceedings. The chase was used to facilitate the film, rather than the film being used to facilitate the chase.

1991 - Terminator 2 - chase were getting serious now ...

The mass car chase and pile up was no longer the main draw, or deemed entertaining anymore; it had seemingly been confined to history. Car chases had been seen and done so many times before, to the point of total parody in fact, that viewers were tired of it. This 3D CGI was new. We wanted new ways to explore action on screen. And we got it.

Like I said, if there's one thing guaranteed with technology ... it's that things always get better. There is never any going backwards.



 



THE THIRD TEST

October 2005, and I seemed to be going backwards. It seemed things could only ever go from bad to worse. Progress had done an emergency stop and sods law had shifted things into reverse. I failed test 3 because some dirty old ... I mean some nice lady, was approaching a zebra crossing slower than a sloth after a heavy night out.

Beuford T Justice

The annoying thing was, she wasn't even actually at the zebra crossing, only approaching it. After clearly observing her status, and where I tried to drive on safely, the examiner slammed on the emergency brake to stop the car with an abrupt jolt. Instant fail. But I'd clearly seen her and assessed the situation ... she wasn't even at the crossing yet by the time I was driving past. It was perfectly fine to continue. But ironically, the reason that my examiner hadn't seen that I'd seen her was because he was looking at her and not me. Although I still don't understand to be honest because she simply wasn't at the crossing yet. I was robbed.

"Did you not see the woman at the crossing?" he quizzed in an annoyed tone.

"Of course I fucking saw her you fat stupid bastard!" yelled the voice inside my head as I remained quiet; I was still slightly in shock of what this all meant.

We then proceeded to have to wait for the old bitc ... I mean the nice lady, to finally reach the crossing, before taking about 5 minutes to actually cross it. It was hell. I felt like slamming on the accelerator and bouncing that blue rinse off the bonnet over the top of the car.

Beuford T Justice

And all this happened just 3 minutes into the test. I may as well have just drove directly back to the test centre or gone for a joy ride after that. I already knew I'd failed. Total waste of time and money that one. Having to drive around for another 35 minutes or so sat next to that obese, grotesque, balding, hairy bastard of an examiner was not nice. He was so fat his forearms resting on his belly hung over the handbrake meaning I had to adjust how I went to grab it. I could feel the hairs on his arm brushing against mine, and even the warmth emitting from his swollen over insulated body, every time I had to change gears or use the handbrake. It was grotesque.

To make matters worse, once it was all over, he even congratulated me on a great drive! The bastard. I was angry. I felt cheated. I was cheated.

I couldn't believe it. All the lessons I'd already took after long days at work, all the tests that I'd already done, all the weekly refresher lessons between the months I had to wait for retests ... and now this. What else could I do? I couldn't afford all this. It was costing me a fortune. The time, the cost, the stress. I was also having to put up with lots of irrational stress at home from my girlfriend at the time too, who wasn't particularly impressed that my failure was affecting her plans. Things couldn't get any worse than this. I was beginning to hate driving with a passion now.

flashback

Things couldn't get any better than this! I was beginning to love Super MarioKart with a passion now. It was the ultimate driving game. Released on the SNES in 1992, it offered 4 different types of kart for 4 very different racing styles across eight of Nintendo's most well loved colourful characters. And with it's Mode 7 rotational and scalable 3D graphics, it was totally groundbreaking for home consoles at the time. It was at the crossroads in time between 2D and 3D gaming on home consoles. And the music, as always with Nintendo, was fantastic too. Nintendo had really come up with a winner here. It was just pure fun.

1992 Super Mario Kart Snes

The Grand Prix mode was hard as nails on 150cc, which made it so adrenalin rush rewarding to complete on your own, and the time trial mode with ghost was ridiculously addictive too. One tiny mistake and your time was brutally punished; this kept you both on edge of your seat throughout, and tearing your hair out screaming whenever you cocked up by clipping a tube or miss timing a power slide ... which was practically every time. Games were much harder and much less forgiving back then than they are now.

But it was the split screen 2 player battle mode with a friend that made it such a timeless classic. It was so much fun. I'm talking endless hours of competitive laugh out loud fun. At the time, it was the best fun you could have with a driving game, or any game for that matter, on any system without question. I loved it. The red shell instantly became as ingrained and recognisable in video game culture as Super Mario himself. Interest in any driving game that came before it had suddenly totally collapsed. Mariokart was just too good. It reset the bar.

1992 Super Mario Kart Snes

And speaking of just too good, a couple of years later in 1994, just as they had done with Out Run before, Sega released Daytona USA in the arcades to once again reset the standard in arcade racing games for years to come. And this time they set it ludicrously high. It was at least a whole decade ahead of its time for home equipment. The game could link up to 8 players locally in the arcades; each player with their own dedicated screen and car set up. Pivoting seat, steering wheel, pedals, and not just hi/low gears but an actual 1 to 4 gear H-shifter. Insanely good 60 frame per second hi res graphics and fantastic sound booming out from the speakers either side of your seat headrest. It was incredible. And the races were fucking fantastic. Fast, fun, competitive, high adrenalin, roller coaster up and down joy rides. By this time, arcades with multiplayer car set ups were in local shopping centres, so they were much more accessible to play regularly. I was 16 at the time, and can honestly say that multiplayer Daytona USA in the arcades was the most fun you could have with your pants on in the 90's ...

Some friends I knew were getting real driving lessons paid for by their parents shortly after that time. But, without the luxury of the bank of mum and dad, and although I had a part time job, I wasn't interested in driving lessons. It was the polar opposite of racing. I remember saving up to buy a keyboard instead. Worth every penny.

Everyone seemed to want to grow up so fast. I didn't. I thought growing up was overrated. Still do. And besides, I had nowhere to drive to anyway and much preferred the competitive multiplayer adrenalin rush of Daytona USA racing. It was just so much fun!

1994 Daytona USA arcade



 



THE WHEELS OF INNOCENCE

I had no idea what toys were doing in the 90's as I'd grown out of them. But I can say that tv had long since forgotten the car chase. It hadn't been the big thing in Saturday afternoon tv for some time by this point, or cinema. Screen action and entertainment was being explored in different ways. Or was it just that my interests were being drawn in new directions?

We take a slight detour from cars and driving here. Ease off the throttle a little to take a look at the scenery passing by. As one of my favourite films of the time informed me, life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while ... you could miss it.

Ferris Beaulers Day Off

I was still happily riding with the wheels of innocence fully intact at the start of the 90's, but as with all of us, they were soon to fall off. Puberty is like an early pit stop that we all have to go through to enable our car to be better equipped to continue the race. It happens to us all, but the way society changes, unable to ever go back to what it was before over the years, it provides a different story for each of us ... and it's seldom, if ever, 'cool'.

But puberty is nothing to be ashamed of. It's the driving force of nature in mammals. Puberty is like the fine tuning of your car before you are ready to turn the ignition key and feel and hear that engine rev after all the upgrades. Its takes place over the space of a few years, but when it's ready, and once that ignition key is turned for the first time, you're instantly fired up on all cylinders, revving, just bursting to go. The world is your oyster. Once you get to my age, you have to turn the ignition key a few more times just to get it to start up, the gearstick creaks a little, and the engines lost a bit of power ... but it can still get from A to B!

Don't believe what you see on Instagram and Facebook ... puberty and adolescence are tragic times for most human beings. In relation to driving, you should have a learners L plate stuck to your forehead at all times. Most people are in a period of total loss of self awareness and confusion in those times, but desperately trying to show that they are not: much like when you first try to co ordinate using a clutch and a gear stick at the same time and you fail miserably. A total psychological and physiological car crash is happening inside your own body and mind. And the best part is, you have no control over it. You are natures beatch.

Real life is nothing like tv and film; it's much more pathetic ... or at least mine was at any rate! But I'm not ashamed of it at all. It was before Facebook where everybody feels that they have to portray that everything is amazing all of the time bollocks ... and I'm glad of that. That is not how history should be recorded. Things were most certainly not amazing all of the time, just the same as they are not today. It was what it was, it was real, and it was me.

In the first half of the 90's, I was enjoying watching the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Saved By The Bell, Trans World Sport, and The Xmen Animated series. And The Delorean was no longer even the preferred method for time travel. I had moved on to Dr. Sam Beckett, Ziggy and Al, for weekly time travel escapades on tv in the brilliant Quantum Leap.

Quantum Leap was excellent

And B.A. Barucas's big muscles and GMC Vandura van had been swapped for the big muscles of The Gladiators and Pugil Sticks as I enjoyed watching them beat up budding contestants on a weekly basis.

Tv racism was finding more ways to express itself too. Things had changed a lot since the 80's : Rather than Lando being the only black guy in the galaxy as in Star Wars, or naming the only black guy on the show, 'Bad Attitude', as they did in The A Team, the producers of The Gladiator's in the 90's thought it much more acceptable to call their 4 black Gladiators 'Shadow', 'Nightshade', 'Saracen', and 'Rhino' instead. And the horn was not on his head ... Just as well there wasn't a fifth one, they probably would have called him 'black bloke' or 'Chicken n Rice'. What were they thinking!?

John Barnes even got another opportunity to show off those incredible rapping skills that all black men apparently possessed from birth, but for England this time, rather than Liverpool ... How inclusive we were in England eh? Again, what were producers thinking back then?

John Barnes rapping again in 1990

At the time no one noticed, I'm sure even the name designers and producers didn't realise, but if it was today in 2018, Social Justice Warriors would have had the show taken off air, and angrily campaigned for the producers to be castrated and hung drawn and quartered on live tv as a result of their evil unwokenness. Because that's the modern way of resolving issues apparently ... In under 30 years, we've gone from one extreme to the other.

SJW's - nothing like a rational debate ...

I really liked Gladiators, I tuned in every week; it came at the perfect time for me. I'd already started going to the gym to try to gain a bit of muscle; along with many other unwanted side effects, puberty seemed to be stretching me upwards, but not outwards in any way. Cinema was also full of action hero's like Arnie and Stallone at the time too, so going to the gym felt like a good thing to do. I was tired of having the piss taken out of me by smart alecs at secondary school for being a 'lanky cunt' amongst other things.

I remember being in total awe of Shadow from Gladiators, particularly when armed with a Pugil Stick. He was fucking amazing. A total beast. It was like watching Mike Tyson with a giant cotton bud. Brutally efficient. And speaking of brutally efficient ... Jet playing Hang Tough.

Oh Boy ... There may have been less cars on tv in the 90's, but you certainly can't say it was less racy. As I progressed further into my teenage years, what I would have given just to be beaten by Jet on Hang Tough. I remember thinking that I would have just dangled and let her come and get me. Jet may have had a clean sheet on Hang Tough but I certainly didn't watching her ...

There were no cars in Gladiators, but that didn't stop Jet from driving teenage boys imaginations crazy. I was no exception. You've got to remember, this was all pre-internet, and I was just a completely ordinary bog standard teenage boy with a vivid imagination ... 'I'm just going to my room to watch Gladiators mum.'

UK Gladiators - Jet

But pressing rewind on the VHS player, I want to take us back to just a few years before, to 1989; before I'd even watched or heard of Jet; a time where I was much more innocent. I remember cars first making way for the red swimsuits and sun drenched beaches in Baywatch. What a difference a few years makes at that time in your life. And, just like every other teenage boy in 142 countries around the globe, I wasn't complaining. Just as he had done with Knight Rider in the 80's, David Hasselhoff had once again successfully sucked in his gut and puffed up his chest to take Saturday afternoon tv by storm. Only this time he had ditched the good looking talking car, and swapped it with good looking talking people instead.

The Hoff returns - Baywatch

To be fair, the first few series of Baywatch were actually really good tv. It was great Saturday afternoon entertainment. I used to look forward to watching it each week. But you have to remember this was pre por ... I mean pre internet. And I was entering puberty. So Baywatch had quite an impact. But not just to me, to teenage boys all around the world. Even today, as it was popular in over 140 countries worldwide, it remains the most watched global tv show of all time in The Guinness Book Of Records.

But you don't get those kind of viewing figures with just boys and Dad's watching it. Oh no. With the very likable and all round good guys, Craig, Eddie and Cort, all running around the beach topless in tiny red shorts most of the time, it was a firm favourite with girls and housewives too. Whilst the guys would enjoy the show and maybe get a quick fix for later out of it, the girls would begin to look their boyfriends and husbands up and down and wonder why they didn't look like that?

Baywatch was also a firm house wife faourite

I was 12 years old when I started watching Baywatch in 89, and my wheels of innocence were still intact. It was the year I started secondary school. The year when those wheels of innocence start to get a bit wobbly as nature starts to change you, and life starts to thicken your skin a little bit.

At the start of my secondary school years in 89, like a lot of kids, I was a shy, innocent, lanky, gangly looking thing. Tall for my age. And in my ill fitting school uniform, with my council haircut that my mum had given me in the kitchen with a pair of scissors, I looked like Jaws out of James Bond. I had no idea what I was in for.

Oh, you've had a hair cut ...

And something I found out later was, the similarity didn't stop there ... I even shared the same birthday as Richard Keil, the actor who played Jaws. I can see the funny side now but it didn't instill much confidence in me at the start of secondary school. My brother, 2 years above me at school, was always running around chatting up girls like a cheeky little Roger Moore, and there was me, looking and feeling like Jaws. Brilliant. I remember thinking at least I didn't have metal braces on my teeth ...

Jaws - Hello ladies!

Combine that with knowing nobody at all, being that I was the only kid from my primary that went to my Catholics only secondary school, and it made for a traumatic start to my secondary school life. It took me a while to feel comfortable there to be honest.

The cool kids, which was definitely not me, had a grade 0 on the sides with 'spikes' on top with a bit of gel, or even better, if you had the hair for it, 'curtains'. If you had a 'step' with 'curtains' ... you were the man. The girls would flock around you. My hair didn't move. Gel just cracked off it making it look like I had really bad dandruff. So I didn't bother with that. I just kind of left it. I was a white guy with an afro. Actually no, it was more like brillo pad. You could've polished your silverware to a perfect shine with my hair. It would grow up and out at an alarming rate, leaving me looking like a microphone after 4 weeks, and after 8, difficulty navigating through door frames. I became like an upside down Subbuteo player.

Subbuteo

And along with my love of computer games and computer game magazines ... it's fair to say that I stood absolutely no chance with a girl. Actually, I stood no chance of even standing next to a girl, let alone being attractive to one. Such was my lot. For a guy like me, the closest I would ever get to an attractive girl, was my sister's Barbie collection or the Summer Collection in my mum's Grattan Catalogue. And then Baywatch arrived ...

I was hypnotised by Shauni McClain: those eyes, those eyebrows, that impossibly pretty 80's perm ... wow. What was happening to me? Remember what I said about the design of the Lamborghini Countach? The same thing was happening here with Shauni. Just wow. That was the word. I couldn't explain it. I just knew it. Those curves, those angles, those shapes ... her design had me hooked. She was a Countach. And with her pretty blond perm, she was a yellow one. Perfect. I was as smitten with Erika Eleniak as Elloit was with her in E.T. back in 82. Was it the same girl? It was. Only she'd grown up. And she'd developed these, these things on her chest ... I didn't know such a sight was even possible. I hid it well.

Shauni McClaine Baywatch

But it wasn't just her looks that got me. I don't know what other people's secondary schools were like, but in mine, the attractive girls often tended to be confident, cruel, heartless, and at times, outright evil monsters. Or perhaps thinking back, I was just too shy, sensitive, and an easy target ... Who knows? Either way, Shauni McClain was not only better looking than all of them combined, she was actually a lovely, nice, decent person too.

Shauni McClaine Baywatch - so pretty

Obviously I had no idea she was also a Playboy model and got her kit off for cash at every given opportunity in real life. It wasn't until years later that I realised her skimpy red swimsuit was the equivalent of a full on coat and scarf cover up for most people compared to her normal attire. And she'd clearly had a boob job between the end of Season 2 and her sudden exit at the start of Season 3. Not that I'm knocking her; there's nothing wrong with any of that at all ... it's just that I swear there were nuns out there less naive and less innocent than me in 89.

Shauni McClaine Baywatch - obviously a hot day

So unfortunately for me, through no fault of my own, not only did I look like a ridiculous fictional tv character back in 89 ... I secretly fell in love with a fictional tv character ridiculously out of my league too ... that also reminded me of a car!

Was that some residual mental side effect of having spent too much time playing with Transformers as a kid? Had Shauni become likened to the robot of the car in my mind? I have no fucking idea? But it seemed perfectly normal at the time! I remember thinking the same of B.A. Baracus in The A Team years before. He was like the personification of his van: big, black and bulky, with loads of attitude, and the red stripe on the side reminded me of his unusual haircut. It wasn't just his van ... he was the van. And Shauni was most definitely a yellow Countach by the same reasoning. Those curves, those angles ... my eyes couldn't get enough of them and I had no idea why.

Shauni was an innocent visual delight to me. Like a beautiful sunset on the horizon, that you would sit down to once a week, same time same place, just to be happy to catch a glimpse of. It was just as well she was on tv though, as I wouldn't have had a clue what to say to her in person. I'd have just gawped. But it was all totally innocent. Basically, looking at her back in 89 just made me feel happy inside. I thought she was lovely.

What a mess. I didn't know what was happening. Hormones have a lot to answer for I swear. I often think that it's a miracle that any of us survive puberty to be honest. But like I said, it's a necessary early pit stop in the race of life we all have to make ... whether we want to or not.

Shauni McClaine Baywatch - married Eddie in 92

Shauni was the last innocent crush I can remember. I'm sure there were others too if I think back hard enough, but none anywhere near as memorable. She stood out. She was 80's stunning. After that, the crush's gradually started to come more often; girls at school; other celebs on tv; pop stars ... teachers! And they gradually became less innocent. I always kept it to myself though.

But not because I was shy ... but because I was clever. I could quickly see what this secondary school lark was like. It was kind of a bonding thing to be a bit of a bastard to each other with your mates about secrets in secondary school. I think it stemmed from our Irish roots. There were no secrets among friends ... or the rest of the school if you ever fell for that one! We all got caught out by it eventually though. We all have to be open about things sometime, to someone, somewhere, or else we'd go mad. Sometimes you just have to place your trust in a good friend for your own sanity and peace of mind ... and that was when they got you!

It was funny as hell though for all involved at the time ... unless you were the poor bastard that felt like hanging themselves because their secret was now being twisted for pure entertainment by the rest of the school ... sometimes even by the teachers! But that's secondary school for you.

The worst time it happened to me was when I had bladder stones and had to go into hospital. The doctors had recommended I got circumcised at the same time. A routine procedure they said. As a teenager, it was obviously an embarrassing issue, and not one I really wanted to talk to people about. So I thought I'd keep it quiet. Family and close friends only.

I still don't know if it was my brother or one of my friends, but when I returned to school, I returned to sniggers, and laughter behind my back wherever I went. Other people were looking at me with sympathy like I was a cripple or something. People were calling me 'shorty'. Turns out that word had gotten out that I'd had to have most of my dick removed due to a nasty fungal infection. I was lucky to even have the thimble sized stump that remained apparently ...

Even girls I fancied were coming up to me and asking if it was true. It was bad enough that my mind would normally go totally blank if I ever tried to talk to them under normal circumstances, and that this of all things was the ice breaker, but I then proceeded to make matters even worse for myself by getting defensive, and going into far too much detail about foreskins, reasons for circumcision, and the current state of my penis ...

I'd often imagine scenario's in my head about how to break the ice with some of these girls, and then suddenly, here it was handed to me on a plate, and what did I do? ... I gave them a grotesque science lesson about foreskins and the penis ... I bet not even Jaws was that bad around girls!

It was hell. It felt like a lifetime, but in reality it was all soon forgotten, or at least the damage lessened somewhat, each time some other poor bastards private life became the flavour of the month. Which was a lot. Overnight outbursts of acne, someone's parents splitting up, someone's parents dieing, someone's dad losing their job, under age sex, someone using a crisp packet as a condom outside the school disco, drug taking, a fight breaking out in the playground, kids getting suspended or expelled, teachers having affairs, teachers being sacked, teachers having nervous breakdowns ... there was always something going on for other people to laugh at and use to take the piss out of someone else's pain and suffering.

All teenagers have a lot of psychological and physical traumas to come to terms with, no one is immune to this, so who would have thought that these problems would make such fantastic entertainment for other teenagers? Bastards. Teenagers are bastards. Places of pure evil secondary schools, I tell you. But on the other hand, also a fun, brilliant, unique time of life regardless. It certainly had its ups as well as its downs. I look back on it fondly.

It's a strange juxtaposition, very hard to work out just quite how the things that happened happened once you're out of the loop as an adult, but whilst you're there, it's all totally normal as you don't know any different. It's just the way life is and you just get on with it regardless of the hand you are dealt. All the tests you do at secondary school throughout the years, they're just a smoke screen. You wont even remember most of it. The real test is managing to come out the other side of it in one piece!

Obi Wan had said of Mos Eisley spaceport that, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

He clearly hadn't been to my secondary school, or had to share a room with my brother when he was growing up.

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy ... except in secondary school.

But anyway, back to point, in the early 90's, the way I was thinking about girls was definitely starting to change as nature took it's course.

By the time of Shauni's final episode in 92, my transformation into Jaws was complete ... I had metal braces fitted on my teeth. I couldn't believe my luck. Or lack of it. I also started getting outbreaks of hard painful spots under the skin too. Jaws, circumcision, braces, spots ... it was one knock down blow after the next for me in such a short space of time. I spent a lot of time on the canvas confidence wise because of all this, but you just keep going in spite of it all. I think this is when I started going to the gym. I had to do something that was in my control.

Sad as I was to see her go, Shauni's departure definitely had an unexpected silver lining. The arrival of Pamela Anderson's CJ Parker.

Shauni may have been the quintessential 80's babe, but this was 1992 now. Trends and fashions had changed. The baton had been passed on. CJ Parker was the new girl on the block that caught everyone's attention. Mine included.

I could never decide whether she was like a Countach in Red or just a straight out Ferrari Testarossa? I would get my Top Trumps out and compare cards ...

Was CJ a red Countach or a Testerossa?

I'm joking of course, cars were the last thing I was thinking about when thinking of Pamela Anderson! I wasn't 12 anymore, I was 15. As an adult, 3 years is nothing. Not a great deal changes. But as a teenager, you've just undergone one of the biggest physical and psychological changes in your entire life. A complete metamorphosis. You're a totally different person inside a totally different body to what you were 3 years ago. It's mad.

Pamela Anderson was new. She was something else; like one of my cartoon drawings of a woman. I was used to my imagination often warping features in my mind when thinking about girls ... but Pamela Anderson came pre warped! She was like a shot of pure Nitroglycerin for the imagination. And with the arrival of Jet from Gladiators at around about the same time ... it's safe to say that my innocence was totally dead in the water.

I forgot about both Jaws and Shauni pretty quickly to be honest. The gym was paying off and nature had done to me what nature does with all of us biologically, even if your name is Michael Jackson and you pretend it hasn't. It had made an adolescent out of me. The wheels of innocence had fallen off. And once that happens they can never be put back on again.

And as the latter half of the 90's started to see home computers becoming more commonplace as a result of this new cool way of accessing information called 'the internet', tv trends started changing once again. And whilst the other aforementioned early 90's shows had come to an end, Baywatch was painfully still going. And as fantastic as the first few season were/still are, it had become pretty lame and ridiculous by its latter seasons: Shauni and Eddie left in 92, leaving a gaping whole in the show, and 5 seasons after that in 97, more than enough to cement her in time (and several millions of boys bed sheets together) as one of the most iconic sex symbols in history, even Pamela Anderson had gone.

In 2001, Baywatch, as with all things, had to end. It died a sorry death; should have been put down years before. In truth, it's time had already bum, I mean cum, I mean 'ended' ... when Pammy left the show in 97. The best tits, er bits, had already been seen long before. But to me, it will always remain an iconic show from a more innocent age, and one that I will forever remember fondling, er fondly ...

Pamela Anderson raised the bar too high.

Without realising it at the time, Baywatch spanned a unique era in time in television. The 90's basically. It actually marked the start and end of it. When it started, nobody had ever heard of the internet. When it ended, the internet was about to get into full swing as broadband connections and unlimited data packages had started to emerge across the UK. From that moment on, the world would never be the same again. Unbeknownst to us all at the time, the restricted world of tv scheduling was about to change forever very soon indeed, as thanks to broadband internet, we were about to enter a new age of unprecedented information overload ... whether we wanted to or not. Society was about to undergo a metamorphosis of its own.

And by this time, having long since emerged out of the other side of the lottery of adolescence, thanks to being both a nerd and a gym junkie, and along with a bit of luck, I'd actually somehow managed to turn into an articulate, physically fit, nice natured, halfway decent looking young man. Girls now looked at me totally differently. It was both noticeable and confusing at first, sometimes quite scary with the overly forward ones ... but I figured it was something that I could live with. That early pit stop paid off after all, but a shy bit of Jaws will always remain in me from that period of my life where the late 1980's became the early 1990's.

Who knows, perhaps in some weird, bizarre alternate universe, situated on the edge of innocence, in a timeline of infinite youth, the Assassin and the Lifeguard actually got to make a go of things? Drive off into the sunset in a Yellow Lamborghini Countach with nothing but their love for each other and a pack of Top Trumps to keep them occupied? Stranger things have happened. After all, even against all odds in this universe, Jaws did pretty alright for himself in the end didn't he? The old devil ... The size of him; he must have fired her across the room when he ejaculated!

Jaws you old Devil...

By the end of the 90's, I'd long since lost the spots and braces, Michael Jackson had long since lost everything after almost a decade of child abuse allegations, and contemporary tv and film had seemingly long since lost it's love affair with the motor car ... Or had it?

Michael Jackson child abuse allegations



 



TURNING POINT?

On the surface, as I remember it, it would seem throughout the 90's, fast cars were just not an in cultural thing on tv at all as they had been in previous decades. There was a general feeling of the time, that car envy was seen as a sad throwback to ridiculous 60's, 70's and 80's machismo that now felt very outdated. Tv had distanced itself from it.

Tv continued to enter new territories in the latter half of the 90's, after the afore mentioned early 90's ones all came to a close (except for Baywatch). Friends and Buffy The Vampire Slayer being the best of the bunch for me. They were great. Actually no ... they were brilliant! But cringe worthy shows like Party of 5 and Dawson's Crack, I mean Creek, also came to be and did phenomenally well at the time too. Emotional teenage angsty people, played by actors in their late 20's pretending to be 16, that continuously psycho analysed themselves to people who pretended that they actually gave a fuck. To me, they were not so great, but I seem to remember a lot of girls lived for them at the time ...

I had a huge crush on Rachel from Friends ...

What ever happened to the 80's action from when I was a kid? Aside from Buffy, who did it masterfully with a Bond Style quip in 90's style issued affordable boots, nobody beat anyone's ass any more on tv. Aside from in Buffy, nobody got knocked out with one lazy nonchalant punch that sounded like they had just slapped a slab of meat with a panel beater. Honestly, Buffy and Angel could have given many of them a good old fashioned 1980's favour in Dawson's Creek. A little less conversation a little more action please. Nobody's car flipped up in the air and exploded before letting them crawl out completely unhurt anymore. In fact, no one even seemed to be seen driving a car in any of these shows let alone give chase. I loved Buffy, and Friends was great too, they could both be deep and light hearted fun, fantastic tv ... but this other stuff? I thought this was supposed to be entertainment? We already had EastEnders if you wanted to observe other people's misery on a weekly basis. All moody nonsense, and no jokes and beating ass. Apart from Buffy and Friends ... what was tv coming too?

Buffy - uniquely brilliant tv

Like I said, just like everything else, tv had moved on once again with the feel of the times. In the 90's, cars just weren't an exciting iconic draw in the tv and film industry like they were in the decades past of the 60's, 70's and 80's ... Or were they?

Whilst we (replace 'we' with 'I') had been kept occupied with boobs, bottoms, and bulges in tight red swim suits and Gladiator outfits, it would seem that there had actually been a behind the scenes swing in motion to make cars cool again; make them a character in their own right again; make them integral to the entertainment again. Just like they were in the 70's and 80's again. Some of it intentional ... some not. But all of it it gathering momentum, and all of it converging.

The 90's was the decade that welcomed the climb and rise in popularity of a very witty, stand out funny, if not somewhat irreverent journalist, on a boring old tv car review show that had been knocking around on the BBC since the late 70's. You may have heard of it; it was called Top Gear, and his name ... was Jeremy Clarkson.

Young and fresh faced, well, young at least; if it was fresh, it was only in the sense of a raw slab of meat that had just been beaten before cooking ... At any rate, Clarkson had got his horrendously unstylish, even for the 90's and that's saying something, cowboy boot laden foot in the door at the BBC. And he had big ideas in mind. Crazy ideas. Even bigger and crazier than his afro at the time ... but at the time, he was keeping them to himself until the moment came. He was a genius in waiting.

Jeremy CLarkson 1990

And whilst tv producers had moved on from car chases in the 90's, epic car crashes and chases in real life ensured that cars still made their way onto tv in the nineties nonetheless ...

You had the terrible tragic news in 1994 of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, the greatest F1 driver of his generation, some say of all time, both dying on consecutive days in crashes at the Formula 1 San Marino Grand Prix in Italy.

1994 RIP Ayrton Senna

You had OJ Simpson in 1995 being chased along the freeway in America after murdering his wife and her lover. Sorry, after 'allegedly' murdering his wife and her lover.

OJ Simpson

And then you had the paparazzi tunnel chase in 1997 where Princess Diana was killed with her rich lover after a high speed chase by photographers.

RIP Princess Di 1997

Somehow, reality was becoming just as entertaining as fiction. And car chases were facilitating it. You couldn't make this stuff up. In the same year that we saw a very curvaceous and aggressively nubile young Ginger Spice in an eye poppingly skimpy leg and bust outfit, cracking onto a bumbling, dithering, Prince Charles, we saw Princess Di and her billionaire lover harassed to death by paparazzi in a high speed car chase. It was bizarre. And this was just the news in 97 ...

Charles and Geri Halliwell 1997

Looking back, perhaps this was all an early precursor for the reality tv invasion that hit our tv screens at the turn of the millennium and has unfortunately stayed ever since?

Trouble is, as entertaining as reality can be as it unfolds, unlike fiction, reality is harsh, stark, discriminate, and finite. As unpredictable and exciting a news headlines these car crashes and chases made, you would rather these events had not happened. The mortality rate in fictional and virtual worlds can be as high as you like in the name of entertainment. But in the real world, even just one is simply horrific. It doesn't bear thinking about. The difference is huge, and one that is so often misunderstood when it comes to virtual worlds, particularly gaming.

It was all pretty surreal to see these car chases back on our screens only in real life as opposed to serial Saturday afternoon entertainment. Where as I usually let news events go in one ear and out the other at that time, these events stood out to me. I think I was starting to become aware of my own mortality; aware of everyone's mortality. In the Saturday afternoon serials of the 80's, no one ever died in a car crash. The cars could smash into each other at 100 mph, flip into the air, roll across the ground, before their doors flew off and their engines blew up ... and the driver and passengers would always just crawl out completely unharmed. If I hit the wall at 100pmh in Daytona USA in the arcades, I'd shout and swear as my competitors whizzed by laughing at me ... but that was it. Everyone walks away entertained and in one piece after a fantastic shared bonding experience. Poor old Ayrton Senna and princess Di showed that real life ... isn't as forgiving.

 



FORK IN THE ROAD

In the early to mid 90's with games like MarioKart and Daytona USA, it was clear the baton had been firmly passed on from tv to computer games with regards the entertainment side of cars. To have gone from REVS on the BBC B in 84, to Daytona USA in the arcades in 94, in just 10 years, was a monumental leap in computer game progress as a form of entertainment. SEGA achieved the impossible with Daytona USA. A far greater leap from now to 10 years ago, or even 20 years ago. The leap in progress was huge. I'm not sure we'll see leaps like that for graphics, sound, and gameplay, ever again inside that kind of time frame. More on that later ... Nevertheless, that was just the beginning of the shift of car entertainment from tv to computer games. The latter half of the 90's would only see this shift accelerate, and continue to take the market from toys too, as it had also been doing for a while already. Corgi, Matchbox, Hot Wheels, Scalextric, Hornby: if they weren't fucked already ... they were about to be.

Although it was no longer cool on tv, by the end of the 90's, without realising it, I think people missed the fun of the ridiculous 60's, 70's and 80's tv and film car chases. I know I did; the cool cars; the chases where the cars piled up and no one ever got injured or hurt. Fortunately, as luck would have it, so did the developers at GT Interactive Software.

In 1999, they released a groundbreaking driving game on Sony's first Playstation home console. And being at University, fortunately I had plenty of time to play it on my housemates Playstation instead of going to lectures. It was called Driver, and it was brilliant fun.

Driver PS1 1999

Driver was basically a game that paid homage to all the old tv and film car chases from the 60's, 70's and 80's that had long since disappeared from our screens and culture. It was a love note to the tv that time had forgot. It teleported me back to a more innocent time in my life. A time of total innocence where no one ever died and everything and everyone was going to live forever. I loved it. Hearing the sirens and watching the police cars pile up in hot pursuit was a genuine treat and thrill once again. The fun feel of watching Smokey and The Bandit and The Blues Brothers cars chases as a kid came flooding back to me. And most notably they had a San Francisco stage that instantly bought the excellent classic car chase from 1968's Bullit back to mind. I'd forgotten how much I used to love all this stuff. Forgotten how much I still did love all this stuff. Driver was simply excellent for its time. Fantastic fun.

Bullitt 1968

Not only did it remind me and others of my age what it was like to be a kid again, for many youngsters, it was their first experience of such things. Only this time, thanks to the marvel of modern day computer games, it wasn't James Bond, the Dukes brothers, the Blues brothers, the Bandit, Michael Knight, Face or BA Baracus in control of the wheel ... it was you!

But just before Driver, came Gran Turismo. The 'real driving simulator', released in 1997 also only on the original Playstation, Gran Turismo really started something special. Taking over 5 years to develop, which was totally unheard of at the time, it was something that neither Nintendo or Sega would ever have produced. That it even happened when it did showed some serious ambition from Sony. So much accurate work went into it that had never been done before. With 'real' licensed music tracks and around 140 'real' simulated cars over 11 race tracks, it was insanely groundbreaking on so many fronts.

In essence, Gran Turismo was the true millennial's successor to Transformers and Top Trumps for kids, for playing with, becoming aware of, and learning, about 'real' cars. Only it was way, way better than both of those combined. It was really good fun to play too.

'Real' cars were on their way back into people's minds by stealth via mainstream media. Just as learning the tracks back in 87 with Grand Prix Construction Set did, 'real' knowledge was being acquired about cars just by accident every time you played Gran Turismo.

With huge critical and player acclaim, Gran Turismo ended up being the best selling game ever on the first Playstation and spawned a long running game franchise that it's later main rival Microsoft was to heavily clone, and then supersede with the brilliant Forza series we have today.

Although Forza kicks Gran Turismo's ass today, it all started with Gran Turismo on the PS1 way back in 1997. As such, it's Sony that perpetually deserves the ultimate credit for daring to make it possible, not Microsoft as you might imagine today. What Sony did was truly ground breaking in it's time.

What kid in their right mind was going to be satisfied pushing a matchbox car around the carpet now ... when they could be racing a 'real' Dodge Viper, on a 'real' racetrack, at 185mph instead?

Gran Turismo 1997 PS1

The return of the car chase furthered in 2000 with a remake of the 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds, and again, more notably, in 2001, when the brand new concept, The Fast and The Furious burst onto cinema screens around the globe. They weren't going for oscars or critical acclaim. Which is just as well as they were never going to receive any.

But they were never intended to be those kind of films. They were simply about attempting to bring the fun and entertainment back to cars and car chases.

The thrill of ridiculous high octane car chases was back in all its cheesy ridiculous glory. Only this time, with the very fast modern day cars of the time, that were much faster and much more powerful than cars in the 70's and 80's ever were. Give me Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleeson any day of the week, but Vin Diesel and crew were more concerned about making car chases and stunts look cool again to a new generation in cinema. And at the grand old age of 24 ... I was already getting too old to be their target market!

This was strongly aimed at teenagers that loved games like Gran Turismo. Teenagers that wanted to see fast cars in action. Not people like me struggling to make ends meet in the working world.

Just like society in general, myself, cinema, and cars themselves, had all changed beyond recognition since the Bandit hung up his hat. These films had to reflect that cultural zeitgeist amongst youth no matter the film that materialised as a result. And I was no longer youth.

There was a lot more stylised cool, and a lot less funny offensive than the Bandit days. I'm definitely more a fan of the latter. Whilst the established critics turned their noses up at it ... it was all new, and it was a phenomenal success with those it was aimed at. The franchise is still going strong today. Shows what critics know I guess.

The Fast And The Furious 2001

And also in 2001, heavily inspired by Driver from a couple of years before it, Rockstar Games released its latest Grand Theft Auto game. Only this time, for the first time, it was in full blown 3D. Released exclusively on the Playstation 2, the best selling games console of all time, and then later on PC and XBox, Grand Theft Auto 3 introduced a whole new generation to the car chase in all its glory. And with shit loads of inappropriate dark humour thrown in throughout to compliment the ridiculousness of it all, it both went down a total storm with kids, whilst simultaneously creating a total shit storm amongst unsuspecting parents once they discovered what their little darlings were actually playing!

I myself never got to play it, my life circumstance had led me to have to leave computer games behind at that point. I was naturally entering a decade and a bit long hiatus from gaming. After the N64/PS1 days, I had other much more boring, but necessary, adulthood things to be dealing with. But fortunately, thanks to my kids, who the first of which was still 7 years away from even being born at this point, the hiatus wasn't to last forever ...

GTA3 2001

At that time at the turn of the Millenium, notoriety helped to fuel popularity amongst kids. Mothers hadn't yet finished tearing their hair out over Eminem after discovering what he was singing about to their kids on his first multi platinum selling album, The Slim Shady LP in 1999 ... and then Rockstar Games had to go and release this!

Slim Shady LP 1999

It's weird to think in my youth I was playing REVS on my BBC B and listening to Michael Jackson, where as in 2001, youths were listening to Eminem and playing Grand Theft Auto! Many jumped to the assumption at the time that this indicated falling standards in morality. What the hell was the world coming to? But I didn't. And I didn't for one very good, glaringly obvious reason, that these people all seemed to be overlooking ... it was total bollocks. I was there in both times. Morals are the same then/now as they always were.

bollocks

Even to this day, so many people fail to understand that saying or playing something is totally different to actually doing something. For instance, neither the employees at Rockstar Games nor Eminem, would be able to tell you what it feels like to rest a small boys scrotum on the palm of your hand. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of select folk that worked at the BBC, and a 'not mentioning any names' certain pop star of the 80's, or even many priests in the Catholic church! Joking about something and actually doing something are two totally different things. Dark humoured jokes only work because there is an element of truth to them that no one likes talking about. That's a large part of why GTA and Eminem were / are so successful. If this type of humour offends you, you should focus on changing the awkward truths that allow it to be, rather than trying to shut down humour because it makes you feel awkward. Like I said, morals are the same then/now as they always were.

Ali - truth is the funniest joke in the world

Parents, sorry that's being disrespectful to dad's, mothers, took it upon themselves to assume that the same type of behaviour in real life would be instigated as was going on in the music or the game. They acted like all this stuff was some sort of recruitment tool, an instruction manual of sorts, designed to turn their kids into gun toting maniacs. They were of course totally wrong ... that would be religion they were thinking of. Bin Laden knew this, and he used it in the same year to make suicide bombing mainstream when he got a couple of new recruits to blow up the Twin Towers in New York for him. Just like Grand Theft Auto, suicide bombing became all the rage after that.

I often think about this even today when I see some angry mob on tv firing off rounds from their AK47's into the sky, burning flags, and ranting about something or other with fervour and gusto. No one knows what they are saying, because annoyingly they keep firing their guns whilst they are talking, but it doesn't matter anyway, because I'm thinking, surely if they were sat at home playing Grand Theft Auto on the PS4 instead, surely they'd be a lot happier? A bit of virtual wanton destruction in the West before bed to help get it out of their system a little bit? At any rate, although I can't be sure, I'm pretty certain that it's not games like Grand Theft Auto that has gotten them all in a tizzy?

Religion and gaming are both forms of virtual insanity. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. The difference is, gamers don't try to carry it over into the real world like a total ass hat. They know what they are doing in the game would be insanity in the real world. It ends when they put the controller down. Personally I would definitely recommend a games console or GTA, over religion or a gun any day of the week; terrorist or otherwise. Unlike religion, gaming is fun, it's inclusive, and we can all play together.

Thomas The Dank Engine - Biggie Smalls

Once again, angry motherhood backlashes called for bans on certain video games ... as dad's across the land secretly bought it for themselves to have a quick go on whilst their other halves were out ranting, and getting together to wave their arms around frantically in the air like an angry Indian mob from The Temple Of Doom ...

I honestly can't recall how many times I've seen this happen over the years; and, just as they did for Eminem's record sales, only served to help Rockstar Games sell even more copies of their game. All that free publicity ... it was the best advertising going! Some mothers, eh? They'll never learn. Imagine if they'd realised what DC comic book content had been like for decades before computer games even existed? Some of the dark fucked up shit in Batman makes GTA look like Thomas The Tank Engine! ...

Fortnite ban? 2018

Rockstar Games clearly understood everything that had led up to this point in time, both in the video game genre, film and TV culture, and society at large such that they could create a perfect interactive parody of it all. With it's detailed open world play, very funny, laugh out loud, cutting humour, and fun game play, it was no surprise at all that Grand Theft Auto going 3D was both met with very high critical acclaim, and was an instant smash with gamers around the world. The game legitimately carried an 18 rating, but that was just for society to hold face, kids were playing their dad's copy in droves and laughing their heads off.

The changing times had clearly left a huge gap in the market for such type of irreverent fun with cars, guns, and explosives, where nobody ever got hurt. It was in demand. Fun was in demand. Computer game sales were hard proof of that, and developers were working hard to fill and capitalise on that gap. But, thanks to changing tv trends in the 90's, there was also a much bigger gap on tv for it too. A huge monstrosity of a gap. And there was only one man at the time that could clearly see this.

In 2002, fronted by the irreverent Jeremy Clarkson, that boring old tv programme that reviewed cars on the BBC got a major revamp. And by the second series in 2003, Jeremy Clarkson, with returning first series co-presenter, Richard Hammond, and new co-presenter, James May, had found the winning Top Gear formula that we recognise today.

You didn't even have to like cars to like the new Top Gear. It was the dynamic comedy relationship between the 3 hosts that made it pure British tv magic from the outset. It was funny. Very funny. They could have been talking about anything really and people would have tuned in, it just so happens that they all loved, and knew, an awful lot about cars. It had gone from a programme that reviewed lots of cars, to an entertainment show with lots of cars in it. The laddish dynamic relationship of the 3 main presenters was so refreshingly fun to watch, it was impossible not to like. It became a bit of a cultural phenomenon.

Clarkson was basically a mix of Beuford T Justice, The Bandit, Roger Moore, Driver, Gran Turismo, and Grand Theft Auto all rolled into one. He was knowledgeable, irreverent, funny, did crazy shit in cars, and didn't give a flying fuck what anybody thought about what he had to say. Even people with no sense of humour knew he must have had talent, as a face like his would have traditionally had to have been confined to BBC radio otherwise. He was entertaining, and he knew it. And that's what it was all about. Entertainment. If people missed that point, that wasn't his problem. And the BBC certainly didn't seem to mind either.

Clarkson's humour got a lot of complaints over the years, but as said, the BBC just ignored them. After all, not only did he get them huge global viewing figures, compared to all the 'real' dark horrors they'd been covering up for decades, which was yet to be found out, Clarkson's bullish charms were nothing but harmless words written for fun.

Top Gear now had massive universal global appeal. Celebrity guest race leader boards, The Stig, ridiculous car stunts and challenges, and of course car reviews. If you liked cars, you were going to love it. If you didn't like cars, Clarkson was going to make you. And you were still going to love it. It was that simple. It was no fluke that Top Gear became the most widely broadcast factual tv show in the world. Cars were becoming cool again. Just like it was with tv, cinema, video games, home computing, internet, and everything else, technology was changing cars at such a rapid rate, and this was how you wanted to find out about it for cars.

Top Gear was a huge success for the BBC and was met with universal critical and audience acclaim for many years to come. And it deserved every bit of it. Amongst all the hundreds of cable and satellite channels that were emerging and with the onset of internet broadband ... Top Gear on the BBC was a glimmering diamond in the rough. It caught everyone's attention around the globe. And as the 'naughties' advanced after the millennium, cars, it would seem, and the fun you could have with them ... were becoming cool again.

Top Gear began for real in 2002



 



THE FOURTH TEST

This was not cool; or fun. I didn't deserve this. End of November 2005, and several refresher lessons later, I'd failed Test 4 as I'd followed a car right at a junction. Nothing happened at all. My examiner just thought I should have aired on caution and waited for head on traffic ... that was still completely stationary! Apart from that, another great drive apparently.

Failed again ...

This was just getting ridiculous now. I felt so disheartened. It felt like I just wasn't cut out for driving; like I was never going to pass. I had a deep intense dislike of driving now. It was nothing but unwanted stress for me and the tests were making me feel like an abject failure. At 28, not only had I had to leave learning to drive until a relatively later age in life than most due to finances, or rather lack of, no one else I knew had failed 3 times, let alone 4 times. It, and everyone else, made me feel like such a loser.

I had friends that had been driving for 10 years already by this point. It was a very belittling experience. Why the hell did I buy that keyboard when I was 17! This driving lark was a money pit that I simply couldn't afford ... and I hadn't even started driving for real yet!

How many more refresher lessons and tests was I going to have to keep paying for? How many more months was this going to be ruining my life? How much more was my confidence in driving going to be completely smashed to bits by being repeatedly made to feel like a failure? What had started out as a positive experience had turned bad. Very bad. I absolutely hated even being in a car now. I couldn't stand it. There were several other external contributing factors going on, but the end result was that I'd lost faith in my own competence. This was turning into a franchise of bad movie sequels that were destroying the main protagonists career.

Wavy lines taking us forward in time ...

Back to present day at the end of 2018, and a lot happened in the 16 years since our last wavy line foray into the past at the turn of the millennium, ending with the young Jeremy Clarkson and the advent of the 'new' Top Gear BBC love affair. The BBC sacked him in 2015 for starters, sorry, 'failed to renew his contract', pretty much for the exact same reasons they loved him in the first place. Once again, it just goes to show how times change.

But that's nothing compared to the rest of it. So much happened, I'm not quite sure how, but it happened nonetheless. It all seems an unmemorable blur now.

I was forced to grow up for starters. I got a job, got married, had kids, got divorced ... basically 4 Weddings and A Funeral stuff like everyone else. But that's enough about that, everybody does that, there is nothing unusual about any of that at all, it's just about as common place as you can get in life ... we're all just like programmed ants. Nature makes sure of that. That's boring. Back to the more interesting unique changes over that time that will never occur again in the course of human history.

Digital technology and the internet turned out to be pretty efficient and ruthless bringers of change. Society hadn't changed this fast since, well, since the invention of the motor car I guess. The rug was swept away from the table, but the flowers were still standing. How about that eh? Isn't that amazing? Now you don't need a rug anymore ... trouble is, a lot of people quite liked that rug. They were used to it; it added warmth and cohesion; added meaning. Sure we only had to focus on the pretty flowers now ... but a lot of people started to miss the rug.

charlie brown rug ...

Basically, everything technology wise got faster, smaller, more powerful, and more portable. Everybody had their faces glued to an infinite information window, that itself was glued to the palm of their hand. And this altered the whole of society, and us, in very peculiar ways. But that's really too much to go into here, so just sticking to the context of this article, since the turn of the Millennium, what really is noticeable looking back over the years, is just how much preference was given to rehashing ideas from the 80's, 90's and the turn of the millennium, over and over and over, rather than creating brand new concepts.

In tv, cinema, and games, forget new ideas, everything became about sequels. Less risky for investors: people seemed to quite like that one ... lets shove another 10 sequels down their throats! It's actually an updating model that derives from car manufacturing. Rather than bring out a whole new car, bring out the next, slightly improved one in the range.

Top Gear had over 20 series, it even repeated the same jokes over that time(!), and by 2017, The Fast & The Furious had reached a whopping 9 film sequels. Sadly Paul Walker, one of the franchises main stars, died himself in a car crash in 2013 ... and there was even another sequel after that! And I've a feeling there'll be at least one more to come. And whilst Airplane II joked about there being 3 Rocky films back in 1982 with a Rocky XXXVIII poster on the wall of a shop ... even Stallone came back for a forth and fifth film, another sequel 16 years after that, and then another 2 spin offs 10 years after that!

Rocky XXXVIII ...

And there's so many Star Wars films now I'm beginning to wonder if it's a soap opera rather than a film franchise? It's totally baffled my kids as to what order they are supposed to be in. So much so that they're not interested. They just watch Harry Potter instead now. And as for superhero films ... please stop now, there's just too many to count! How many times do you need to re tell the story of Peter Parker getting bitten by a radio active spider for fucks sake? And Christopher Reeves as Superman was still better than all of them put together anyway. Move on please.

Christopher Reeves as Superman ...

Sequels were occurring everywhere, so much so, that even spin offs of sequels had sequels. Even Michael Jackson's child abuse allegations had sequels, spin offs of the sequels, and then sequels on the spin offs ... and he died 9 years ago! There really has been a lot of allegations hasn't there?



 



HAZARD LIGHTS

At this point I'm going to cut Jackson some slack and get serious as a grown adult for a moment. I've used him as the but of an ongoing joke throughout this article as it's funny and he's easy pickings: he's dead. But as a middle aged man, that grew up with him in the media since I was a young boy, do I believe he's guilty? ...

It doesn't matter what I think. Only a very select few people on this planet know the actual truth. The people who were actually there. And there's one less of them now as said. There's so many stories to support either side, there seems to be more with every year that passes, that the truth is now impossible to find beyond reasonable doubt. My tuppence worth isn't going to help. I know nothing: I wasn't there.

Some people have been waving their arms around like an angry Indian Mob from The Temple Of Doom, saying that his music should banned on radio and stuff like that. Truth is I only really like his Jackson 5 stuff anyway, and the only ten year olds balls he could have possibly had in the palm of his hands at that time ... were his own. He's been dead for almost 10 years already, innocent or guilty, give it another 10 years and the man will be forgotten anyway. Just look how quickly the British public managed to forgot that their Prime Minister once slipped his dick into a dead pigs mouth ...

David Cameron pig ...

The music that was good enough will live on just like every other musicians music out there. It transcends the person. Music is one thing that can't fool time. If it's good enough, it lives forever. I'm still going to enjoy playing the base line of I Want You Back on my guitar till the day I die I should imagine. Best bass line ever that.

Jackson 5 I want You Back ...

But there is a clear moral to this story ... don't leave your kids with strangers. No ifs, no buts: Simple. Especially not if they happen to display very odd behaviour for a grown man and surround themselves with children all day even though they have no kids of their own. And especially not if they work for the BBC or the Catholic Church!

jesus objects ...

The revelations that have emerged in the world today simply have to make you more cautious as a parent. They have to. As a parent myself now, that is just obvious common sense to me. Better to be safe than sorry. Better to be overly cautious than paying the price. It's not about accusing anyone, it's simply about taking due care to protect the innocents that are in your care. Innocence is so precious. If you've read each section of this article, you'll already know that I happily lost mine thinking about girls from school and the likes of Pamela Anderson and Jet as a teen. I can't imagine what memories I would have if I'd lost it by the hands, or even toungue, of Rolf Harris or Jimmy Saville or the local priest as a 7 year old boy. It's grotesque. It's enough to make you want to cry just thinking about it. It's truly horrible. Children's innocence is not for gambling. How the parents at the time didn't realise this is beyond me? All I can assume is that they were blind sided by social status and institutional reputation, and maybe even money.

Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, Michael Jackson ... they all ticked all the boxes of concern. The only difference is, Jackson didn't work for the BBC. But all of them were very famous. And they were all worshiped and treated like modern day saints before the bombs were dropped. Harris and Saville even had bloody knighthoods from the Queen of England for Christs sake!

But as they're all now either dead or outed, the threat is removed so long as you follow the basic above logic as a parent. You have a responsibility to do that as a parent.

But then that's what troubles me. Those rules are still not being adhered to. I remember when I used to turn on the TV when my kids were young, and I'd see Mr Tumbles clowning around with disabled kids on BBCs CBeebies. He actually made me feel uncomfortable as a parent, as I couldn't help but think about this logic observing his bizarre behaviour. There's probably nothing to worry about, but the hazard lights were flicking on and off in my head all the same. There was just no escaping it, he ticked all the boxes. There's no way I'd have have left my two with him. No way. I remember thinking that I was watching a tv showman performing a clown persona directly aimed at young children. Kids could happily live without his form of entertainment, mine certainly did ... but I doubt he could. I could see the persona, but I just didn't know this man at all. And the little I did know of him ... unfortunately ticked all the boxes!

But I want to make this absolutely clear, I'm not saying he's guilty of anything, I'm not accusing him of anything at all, I'm just being honest about what I was thinking at the time as a direct result of the shocking revelations that had happened in the world that I wouldn't have thought possible had it not been exposed in so much detail. And the BBC were one of the worst offenders with the amount that was covered up, along with the Catholic Church.

In all seriousness, in my opinion, no ifs, no buts, parents still need to be more careful with who they leave their children with.

It's not accusing anyone, but certain things really should trigger hazard lights in your mind. It's not enough to give people the benefit of the doubt with your kids innocence anymore. Those times have been betrayed and ruined by ruthless, devious, sexual predators, and utter immoral bastards that covered it up to keep the gravy train going. Trust no one. Better to be safe than sorry. You wouldn't leave your car keys with a stranger would you? So why would you leave your children with one?

Mr Tumbles ...

Oh how I long for the innocence of the Grattan Catalogue days once again ...

Grattan Catalogue ...



 



REFRESHER LESSONS?

Sequels were all the rage in religion too. We've had countless suicide bombings all around the world ever since. Suprisingly, it's still all the rage? Seems everyone in a towel is bundling in these days, using a variety of different vehicles to deliver themselves too. It's like Top Gear gone wrong ...

So much so, that people have just become indifferent to it. It's just not achieving anything is it? Waste of towels if nothing else. It's not even a shock factor anymore; so much so that the previous words will deliberately stimulate more shock upon reading, than watching the actual real live event on tv ... that's why I said it SJW's; which is worse you brave noble warriors you? Truth is, people just switch channels nowadays: totally indifferent to it all on tv.

Personally, I think it's insane and very sad that we are now all indifferent to such horrific tragedy's. But, much as you want to, you just can't help these people. They'd laugh in your face if you told them religion was just an outdated social control construct: just like a small child that laughs at the prospect that Santa Claus isn't real.

False beliefs own them from the moment they are born. As a humanist, I don't think this is right, and I wish I could make it so that it wasn't so. But I can't. But then there are others out there that also know this, that blatently and ruthlessly jump in there and manipualte their beilefs to their own political will. It's sad. It's tragic. I wish I could change it to help the unfortunate people involved, but I can't. Religion is a perpetually wickedly effective tool for cowards to get others to carry out their hatred in thier name. It's not all it is, but it is still a fact. Can't see the appeal myself? But then I've never followed crowds so it's easy for me. We're all different.

Meanwhile, Eminem is a justified established pillar of the music industry, and Grand Theft Auto still entertains millions and rakes in tens of thousands of viewers a day on Twitch, and not a single person has been hurt ... I told you they would have been better off gaming. Nobody ever listens to me ...

But gaming was not immune either. Turns out Gran Turismo both broke the mould, and set it, for 2 decades to come in 1997 by spawning a franchise of 5 sequels, with each adding incremental improvements to what came before.

Grand Theft Auto 3 had another 6 sequels. Although I never actually owned a GTA game until Grand Theft Auto 5 after I bought a gaming PC this year, from what I can tell, each of the 6 new versions of the game since the third, basically incrementally added and built upon the strengths of the game that came before it. The game play remained very similar in all.

And this similar trend was happening to all video game franchises as the years passed. Assassins Creed has had a ridiculous 11 main games and 17 spin off games in 10 years. There's been 5 main Far Cry games with 2 spin offs. 4 Just Causes. 3 The Witcher's. Resident Evil is on 7 but I'm sure there's been more than that, and apparently they are remaking RE2 for next year? 15 main Call Of Duty games ... the list goes on, and on, and on. You'd need at least 10 life times to be able to play them all through. And there are actually people out there giving it a damn good go! You can surely have too much of a good thing?

And driving games were no exception to this trend. Just with the driving game franchises that I've played alone, you saw it with Mariokart Wii in 2008, to Mariokart 8 on the Wii U in 2014, to Mariokart 8 Deluxe on the Switch in 2017. You saw it with F1 2009 up to F1 2018. You saw it with Forza Motorsport in 2005 up to Forza Motorsport 7 in 2017 and you saw it with Forza Horizon in 2012 up to Forza Horizon 4 in 2018 ... and they'll all keep on going I should imagine. The same ideas just keep getting a refresh. But is there a lesson the industry should be learning from this?

Whilst these driving games are without question absolutely brilliant in every way in their own right; the jump each time is also definitely much smaller too, and they are just not new anymore for most gamers. It's the relative change to what came before that provides the thrills in gaming, not just the absolute measure of whether it is better or not technically than what came before. That's boring.

I mention these driving games in particular, as after a long hiatus from computer games since the N64/PS1, I jumped straight back into the latest versions of each of these this year in 2018 (except for Mariokart which I've played with my kids for a few years now since picking up a cheap second hand Wii in 2012).

And, as I'd had significant time out of mainstream gaming, I have to say, the jump in quality of driving games was massive. Very impressive. But to those that have been buying each iteration of new games console and game sequels over the years since then, I'd wager the changes will have been much more under whelming, sometimes even disappointing, as each new version came out. As said, as the years go on, whilst you can't deny the absolute shit load of long, hard, specialist work, that these ridiculously talented developers put into these games, you still have to question how much added experience endless sequels can possibly provide to gamers as time goes on?

Surely, endlessly refreshing the same idea is not a good strategy? Surely eventually people will also need some kind of added experience to keep things feeling fresh? There's VR which does look good, but which I haven't tried yet due to cost and heavy equipment and cables that won't go well with small kids. Something for the future maybe. And there's also steering wheel kits for driving games. Now that I really do recommend.

Because everything is relative to your past experiences, and as I knew the pleasures of Out Run and Continental Circus in the 80's, and Daytona USA in the 90's, I just had to buy a wheel, pedals and H shifter for my new gaming PC. Nothing else would settle for me.

As a kid in the 90's, I never would have dreamt it possible to have a racing set up at home similar to Daytona USA in the arcades. And yet these days, that's exactly what I have, only affordably and with much better racing games. I would have sold my own grandmother to the sex trade to have had that at my kids age ... and yet my kids on the other hand just take it for granted. They're not even interested compared to Fortnite or Minecraft to be honest. It's amazing how times change. And rightfully so I guess; it's their time, not mine.

Wheels improve the video game drivin experience ...

Without even realising it as you grow up, so much in life becomes relative to your childhood years. Your mind is so full of memories, that it has to compress them, and cache them, and bury them just to cram them all in there. And the childhood ones are the foundation at the bottom of it all.

Whilst nostalgia can work as a key to unlock memories you forgot you had from any time in your life, somehow, all your memories still seem to remain relative to those underlying childhood ones. That haloed childhood years zone in your mind ... Every boxing match gets compared in some way to the thrill of first watching a young Mike Tyson; every film gets compared in some way to the joy of first watching Star Wars; every fighting game gets compared in some way to the joy of first playing Street Fighter II, every 3D shooter, Goldeneye 64. It's all relative feeling rather than absolute.

And as a result of this, despite all the change for the better in driving games since I started playing them with REVS over 3 decades ago, and despite all the changes in society and in cars themselves over those same 3 decades, what was the first car I saved up my credits to buy in the Forza games? The Lamborghini Countach. And what colour did I choose? Yellow.

Yellow Lamborghini Countach Forza Horizon 4 ...

After well over 30 years ... I was in control of Tigertrack in disguise again. And I suddenly, completely out of the blue, found myself thinking about Shauni McClain for the first time in decades too. Those eyebrows, that perm. How did I ever forget? And then Top Trumps, and then Jaws ... 41 years old, and I find myself feeling like a young boy again, thanks to a modern computer game. That's priceless.

And let's face it, I'm never going to own a real Lamborghini Countach, and nor do I actually want to either. I never did. It was always a fantasy car in my mind, I don't actually want one at all. I was more interested in the Top Trump card than the car! I'm just happy for the memories.

Interestingly the word Countach comes from North West Italy, and translates to 'wow'. I see now that it was never meant to be in my grasp. It was always meant to be best admired from a far, just like Shauni McClain. And from reviews that I've seen of it since, it seems that even if you could ever afford to purchase one, as nice as it looked, the illusion would be abruptly shattered as you very quickly become annoyed by all its impossibly impractical design faults.

As such, and being that he was Italian ... I'm certain that the chief designer, Marcello Gandini, must have had a women in mind when he came up with the design of the Countach ... and it wouldn't have been his wife. I'd love to know who it was? Rich or poor, the Countach is meant to be the one that got away. The one who's beauty you desired, but could never have ... even if you were foolish enough to try and purchase it. By its very nature, such a thing can never be owned by anyone. Today, the word Countach doesn't make me think of the word 'wow' ... it makes me think of Shauni McClain from Baywatch all those years ago.

The definitive Countach ...

Past, present, future ... it's all linked. A trail of breadcrumbs in your mind going right back to your childhood. Custom breadcrumbs that are different for all of us. Breadcrumbs that are still capable of being lit up, unlocking instant bursts of happiness through nostalgia, sometimes at times when you least expect it. That is the magic of nostalgia, and one of the great things about becoming middle age.

It also highlights how important childhood is for helping to unlock positive happy feelings going forward in life, and how important it is to keep those good memories still coming in as you grow older too.

And I didn't just stop at the Lamborghini Countach playing Forza. That was just the beginning. I had this urge to look up and race my other favourite cars from all the toys, tv shows, and films I enjoyed in my childhood years too. Memories were being released from their slumber.

The 1969 Dodge Charger from Dukes of Hazzard complete with General Lee skin. Mr T's 1983 black GMC Vandura van and Faceman's White 1985 Corvette C4 from the A Team; both complete with red stripe. Jake and Elwood's 1974 Dodge Monaco Sedan from the Blues Brothers complete with police skin. The 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit. The Plymouth Valiant from Duel in 1971. And of course, James Bond's Aston Martin DB5.

Aston Martin DB5 ...

If I couldn't find them, there was always a very close variant. They didn't have the Delorean, but then I already use that all the time in Rocket League anyway so it didn't matter so much. The past was waking up to play. And it felt fantastic. Nostalgia felt fantastic. The game was only half of it. This wasn't just about what was literally presented before my eyes, my imagination enjoyed making up the other half, and this added so much more on top.

I also looked up the old theme tunes on You Tube and played them on loop in the background whilst playing with each different car for the full nostalgia effect whilst racing. Racing in Prague or the Bernese Alps in Forza Motorsport 7, in an Aston Martin DB5, to John Barry's On Her Majesty's Secret Service theme, with a wheel, pedals, and H shifter, comes highly recommended.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - John Barry ...

I even found myself throwing out Bond style puns in the voice of Roger Moore as I passed other drivers. And of course this got me remembering Goldeneye on the N64 at the end of the 90's too. Great fun.

Golden eye 64 - so good gaming never felt the same again ...

As an extra aside, I also had to Google The Assassin and the Lifeguard; see how they were getting on after all these years. Today, in her 50's, Erika Eleniak still looks attractive for an older mother figure. A MILF, but without the F out of respect to both her and my fond memories of simpler times. And as for Jaws ... he's dead. Richard Keil sadly died a couple of years ago in 2014. I guess the Assassin and the Lifeguard just wasn't meant to be. But then let's face it, it was a ridiculous image that could only have possibly existed in the hopeful mind of a deluded pubescent schoolboy anyway, going through a tough time trying to work out where he fit in in life. As said, reality is always much crueller and much more finite than fiction. Truth is, outside of memories, what you find attractive changes, and no one is invincible ... not even Jaws. But in the virtual world in our head, nothing fades. Nothing ages. Our memories keep things as they were, when they were. And that, is priceless.

The assassin and the lifeguard...

But back to driving games, there's no question, the driving games of today are so ridiculously polished compared to when I was a kid. And if you're prepared to immerse yourself, they are great fun too. Audio visual masterpieces that offer an interactive playground for your mind, of the kind that has only become possible at the pinnacle of human existence and evolution ... and that my kids totally take for granted.

I didn't bother showing them REVS on the BBC B ... the original Mariokart is about as far back as they have sampled with driving games, and they weren't impressed at all. And why would they be? They have Mariokart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch now. And F1 and Forza on the PC. Truth is, today's driving games are vastly superior to all that has come before by some margin, and the past is best preserved as memories. I fear that attempting to re live it by playing those games now will only serve to destroy those good memories. Sure nostalgia is a fun warm feeling for the moment, but you can only sample it in small doses before you've got to move on again yourself.

You've got to keep moving forwards, or you get lost in time. You'll turn into to one of those old people in mismatch clothing sat on a park bench that you always wondered about. You know, the ones you see sat feeding the pigeons, stinking of warm piss.

The Far Side Gallery by Gary Larson ...

But even moving forwards, it still never fails to surprise me how much you can pick up about new cars from just playing video games like Forza from time to time; just like you did with Transformers, Top Trumps, and Gran Turismo back in the day. You can actually sound like you know what you're talking about without really knowing anything much at all! I tend to not play it at all for weeks, and then have a massive session with a few beers for several hours on end in an evening. Get right into it. Sounds and bass turned up, trying out new cars, getting competitive in races. My neighbours must be wandering what the fuck is going on next door. It's fun being drunk at the wheel of a 200mph sports car when it's in a video game ... although I wouldn't recommend it in real life unless you want to kill yourself that is.

Mungo Jerry - have a drink have a drive, go out and see what you can find ...

I also sometimes play Forza after watching the Grand Tour on Amazon Prime. It's a great motivator for trying out new cars in the game, and it's a good accompaniment for keeping up to date with cars, both new and old. The new Top Gear is terrible. The Grand Tour is much better. Society and the BBC may have changed it's tune, but Jeremy Clarkson hasn't changed at all ... he is still funny as fuck! Do the BBC still seriously think that people watched Top Gear for the cars and Top Gear brand? ...

The Grand Tour ...

All in all, I have to say, it was a truly unexpected treat discovering all these new driving games since buying a gaming PC for my kids. Enjoying the priceless feeling that only nostalgia of old mixed with the freshness of new can provide, I've found myself really enjoying getting back into video game racing once again; it's fun.

Wavy lines for the last time ...



 



THE FIFTH TEST

I just couldn't get into it. I was not enjoying it at all and it was costing me a fortune. I didn't give a flying fuck about driving anymore. I hated it. But I couldn't stop now, not after all I'd been through. I had to just blindly persist; even in the cold damp, dim January of 2006.

The joys of driving ... It was just like being forced to watch the umpteenth sequel in a bad film franchise: you just know it's going to be absolutely awful but you go ahead with it anyway. But, unbelievably, after losing all motivation for driving altogether by this point, actually hating it with a passion, and totally resigning myself to yet another abysmal failure ... test 5 I actually passed!

The examiner congratulated me on one of the best test drives he had ever seen. No doubt his default pass line for everyone. I felt no emotion. I told him it was my 5th attempt. He was very surprised. He said that he'd bet that I didn't drive like that in any of my other tests though. But the annoying thing was, I actually did. Right from test 2. And with him in test 3.

Turns out that the guy that finally passed me was also the same fat, hairy, grotesque, bastard that failed me 3 minutes into my third test at a zebra crossing. I made him aware of this ... without the fat, hairy, grotesque, bastard bit obviously. He didn't comment, he just carried on filling out his paperwork; his double chin spilling out from under his actual chin as he looked down scribbling something on the paper and clipboard he had resting on his belly. But anyway, it was finally all over. I had finally passed. I finally had a driving license. But I was flat broke, and my girlfriend had gone on holiday without me, annoyed at me with the inconsiderate timing of my retest. She had also thrown leaving me into the mix. I no longer cared for driving at all. I didn't even care to celebrate on my own. I certainly didn't feel happy. I was just glad it was finally over.

I was 28 and that was January 2006. It's the end of 2018 now, and I'm 41. I haven't driven a real car since.



 



THE FINAL TEST ...

There were several reasons for me not driving again. Not needing to and not being able to afford the cost, were actually two very rational sensible reasons for not driving ... but I know it's also more than that. Those reasons are also compounded with me just not wanting to drive as a result of deeply ingrained feelings of driving failure and unconscious mental association to negative and unpleasant experiences in the past. There's a trail of breadcrumbs in my mind that stimulate negative feelings when they are lit up. I think all these reasons combined have led me to have a phobia of driving. That is, even if I could easily afford it, I know that there would definitely be an irrational element of fear involved, if I were to attempt to embark on the the simple act of starting up a car and driving somewhere. The problem is, I know I also can't address that whilst owning and driving a car is still totally unaffordable for me. It's a circle of negativity made up of rational real life circumstance, and irrational negative mental conditioning.

Strangely, using the wheel, pedals, and shifter setup for Forza this year in 2018, was not only what inspired me to write this article, it was the closest I had got to driving since passing my test. And, after 12 years, it actually reminded me that the mental motor control and instincts are all still there ... it's just that the money, motivation, and confidence in driving in the real world is not.

It was a really strange experience actually. At first, there was an unexpected rigid discomfort and cold sweat that arose from the fear that I wouldn't know what to do anymore as I sat at the wheel to play. It was insane. Totally irrational. The fear that I'd forgotten every motor skill from my driving tests all those years ago. The fear that I wouldn't remember what to do with the pedals or gear stick at all; wouldn't know when to shift up or down or where to put my feet ... playing a computer game for fucks sake. Totally ridiculous. Totally irrational. But it was there nonetheless. A near debilitating fear of failure, of incompetence. It was then that I knew that I really did have a phobia of driving. It was definitely real.

The cold sweat nervous sensation passed after the first couple of races. As well as being immense fun, I feel it actually worked as a kind of half measure to reassure me that I really don't have anything to fear about driving at all. The motor skills are all still there. It's just driving, as it always was, before the negativity and fear of failure was drilled into me month after month after month in a very difficult time of my life I clearly wanted to forget; a time I have made myself remember by writing this.

I've removed so many external negative influences from my life since then. With no one to run me down anymore, positivity and creativity is brimming in me these days. And so this is something that I'm very keen to address in the second half of my life if ever owning a car becomes affordable for me once again.

However, until then, or if then never comes to be, I'll just remain very environmentally friendly and healthy by cycling and walking everywhere. Not driving is really not the end of the world. In actual fact, when you look at it, by not driving I am actually both helping to prolong the planet I live on by reducing carbon emissions, and helping to prolong my own life with in it, by being more active. It even allows me to cancel out that second benefit by allowing me to drink as much alcohol as I like without limits any time I choose ...

Like I said, not driving is really not the end of the world, it's just not nice knowing that you have a phobia that most other people don't have. Hopefully I'll be able to sort this one day. Who knows?

Until then, I'll just have to enjoy sampling racing whatever car I want at breakneck speeds in F1 20XX, Forza Motorsport, and Forza Horizon, just for the fun of it.

In the virtual world I can drive like a rally driver like I did in my first driving test without a care in the world.

In the virtual world I can can be Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, or even Ayrton Senna, sampling F1 cars throughout the ages, and racing on any F1 track in the world.

I can be a boy again, racing as Tigertrack disguised as a yellow Lamborghini Countach, remembering my Mum's Summer Collection Grattan Catalogue, and thinking about Top Trumps, Shauni McLain, and Jaws.

I can be James Bond in an Aston Martin DB5. I can be Mr Hinx in a Jaguar C-X75. I can be Steve McQueen in green 69 Mustang. I can be B.A. Baracus in a GMC Vandura, fool. The list is endless.

In the virtual world, I can get to do what only Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond get to do in the real world, whether you drive or not. Only I wont keep nearly killing myself in crashes like Richard Hammond does.

In games like Grand Theft Auto, unlike OJ, I can laugh my head off as I ruthlessly murder my wife and her lover, before taking off down the freeway in a hummer, with multiple police cars and sounds of sirens in hot pursuit, without care of consequence ... before pausing it for a cup of tea and a toasted cheese sandwich.

And, unlike Princess Di, I can not just laugh about hitting a brick wall inside a tunnel at 200mph, I can even try and capture a funny snapshot of it.

Gaming is virtual insanty, that helps keep you sane, in the insantiy of the real world. It leaves your mind happy. The fact that certain people across the globe continue to seek the same outcome by turning themselves into human bombs, or picking up a gun and blowing people away, murdering total innocents and themselves ... has nothing to do with gaming.

Anything is possible in the virtual world ...

I guess what I'm trying to say is, even though I've grown to dislike actual driving, it seems that ironically I'll always enjoy driving and racing in video games, tv, and film. They are fantastic fun and I've grown up with them. And even though both they and I have changed over the years, they have never failed to provide me with lots of adrenalin rush entertainment over those years. There's just something about the freedom of the consequence free virtual world that will always provide a pleasure that cannot be found in the dull, consequence laden, real world. It's a nice escape.

Unfortunately, unlike like the virtual world, the real world is never free and never without consequence. As such, virtual worlds will always make great sources of hassle free entertainment and provide a playground for the mind that the real world simply cannot. The virtual possibilities are limitless.

Contrastingly, confined to the rules of the road; stuck in noisy traffic; pumping out pollution; breathing in pollution; having your money siphoned out of your pocket on a daily basis ... I guess real world driving may never be quite as much fun for me. But then who knows? Only time will tell I guess.

After all, time and technology will eventually change things for all drivers whether they want it to or not. Virtual driving and real driving are already on a path of alignment. They will converge. Society will find another way of sweeping the rug from the table leaving the flowers still standing. Even though so many current drivers won't want it to.

A lot of higher end cars are already replacing manual gear sticks for behind the wheel paddle gears and automatic shifters. And when my kids learn to drive, provided scientists can work out the very real problem of where to get all the extra electric from and how to reduce charge times, it will be around the time of the predicted advent of the electric car revolution. In which case, by the very nature of their engines, all cars would be automatic anyway. And at that time, who knows where driverless car technology will be; or virtual driving; or indeed technology in general for that matter? My whole life I've witnessed how fast things change when technology gets involved ... and the rate of change only seems to be accelerating.

Perhaps Sat Nav technology will actually be inspired by games like Forza? A Sat Nav where you don't have to ever take your eyes off the road. Augmented reality windscreen technology that appears to appear on the road, whilst also indicating if your speed is too high just as it does in Forza? Wouldn't that be great?

Self driving cars are interesting. Perhaps cars will become on demand like those Yellow Yo bikes that you see around? You could order a car and have it self drive to you, drive it as you please, then the car will drive itself back to its depot for someone else to use when you are done. Just a theory deary.

Plus, with ever increasing broadband speeds, and with the latency free 5G on the horizon, it's a dead cert that gaming will eventually move to an internet streaming model just as tv and music has done before it, consigning the current expensive clunky client side model to history. So what's to say that you can't be racing in the latest Forza Motorsport on your actual windscreen to pass the travel time Top Gear style, whilst your car casually automatically drives you safely and boringly to your destination? When you think about it, an actual car would make the perfect gaming set up wouldn't it? It's got a massive screen, seat, a wheel, gear stick, mirrors, and everything! They need to remake Daytona USA for this! Multiplayer with other cars on the road! How much more fun would that make your journey!? And all whilst your actual self driving car is only going a very safe and boring 30mph.

And with the increasing precision to detail put into driving games, and the inevitable digital changes that will be integrated into future car technology as time goes on, who knows, who's to say that one day, it won't even be possible to drive a 'real' car ... with a gaming controller?

James Bond using phone to drive his BMW ...

And whilst that may sound crazy and leave you thinking, why? It's only crazy until you remember we now live in a world where bum implants are actually a thing ...

Does my bum look big in this? ...

Interestingly over the past 10 years, Bristol, where I live in the UK, and where I was unfortunate enough to take my driving tests, has seen a drop of 45% of young people taking their practical driving tests. That's almost half. That's insane. And no doubt largely a result of higher costs of living for the young. Something I experienced myself all those years ago. What this means for the future of driving, I can't say.

But what I can say, is that there can be no doubt, that these days, technology has us all constantly in a high speed pursuit of a future that we can't forsee, whether we want that future or not. It's out of our hands. And it's not a return trip. You can't ding the bell because you want to get off at the next stop. All we can do is adapt to it as and when it arrives the best we can. But make no mistake ... it will arrive. And it's actually a good thing: petrol from cars will destroy the planet otherwise if things don't change, not only from the emissions that are the driving force for global warming, but from war, when the last of the oil starts to dry up. Oil is finite; it will run out. I guess we'll just have to wait and see where the journey takes us. And at the rate things are changing, that may not be as long a wait as you might think ...

So to finish off, from the mouth of the late great Jackie Gleeson himself, "drive safely you sum bitch."

I'm off to jack the bass up on my speakers, get totally trollied, and get competitive at the Nürburgring into the early hours ... The neighbours won't know what hit 'em!

you sum bitch ...