A beautiful place to crash for the night?

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Life

 

I’m going to set the scene early. The Bonneville Salt Flats. A vast expanse of open flat land, which was once a salty lake in western Utah, USA, but is now dried up, lifeless and empty, very much like Jessica Simpson. We are rolling down Interstate 80, heading west towards Wendover, a party town on the border of Utah and Nevada. The two lane highway is pretty empty, the two lanes going east back towards Salt Lake City are also pretty empty. The cruise control is set to 75mph, the sun is going down, the tunes are playing on the ipod and it’s a spectacular place to be. It’s also a desolate and cold place to be. Nearest towns are miles and miles away at this point, and only occasionally, cars and trucks containing actual other people appear, then vanish again into the distance. But you do have phone signal. O2 and Vodaphone should take a leaf out of  American T-Mobiles book, because as we Brits all know, should you wish to discuss something with a friend or colleague on a British phone, and accidentally stray too near a tree, or a lamp post, or even a mobile phone mast, it is almost certain that you will lose all communications to your mobile telephone, with immediate effect. Here however, in a high desert, mountains in the far distance, surrounded by salt, tumbleweeds, and absolutely nothing else, phones work perfectly.

This is good, because when the Chevrolet Silverado truck began swinging around in my rear view mirror, I thought that calling someone like maybe, the Highway Patrol, might not be too bad an idea. A $60,000 truck, with a $4000 suspension lift kit and big tyres is a beast of a vehicle. Normally a 6.0 V8, it has power, and even more intimidating, sheer size. One would need to be thinking clearly whilst driving a vehicle of this size. The guy drifting from lane to lane to shoulder to lane was clearly thinking about something completely different, so I notched the cruise control down a couple of miles per hour so he could get past me and I could keep my eye on him.

He fell back, so I sped back up to 75mph, and watched in the rear view mirror as he slewed slowly from lane to lane. This guy was either high, or drunk, or just messing around on an empty highway. Either way I pulled  ahead of him and out of the danger he was putting us in. We made a call to the Highway Patrol, as the swerving became actually rather frightening, and continued on our way, keeping my eye on what was happening behind.

It was then, that in the rear view and from a distance of about 500 yards, I saw the truck veer off the road completely, and roll end over end violently off into the salt flats, coming to a big stop in a cloud of dust, salt, diesel and fury. It was a spectacular wreck and our first thoughts were to stop, but as the cars behind the accident slowed to help, an eerie anger overcame us.

You see, this unimaginably stupid American imbecile, had thought so selfishly that he could go play with other peoples lives, and also had been swinging his bitch-tits around less than twenty feet from my rear bumper not five miles previously to him doing his best Colin McRae impersonation, that we decided to keep going. We couldn’t stop and back up that far anyway, the Highway Patrol would have me for that. So we pushed on, made another call to alert the cops that the guy we called in ten minutes ago was now upside down in the salt, and contemplated what had just happened.

A few hours later, we met a cop at a gas station in Wendover. He had called us asking for a written statement, which we wrote and signed, whilst he told us the guy was alive, which was great, that he had to be cut from the wreckage, which was scary, no other motorists were taken out by him, which was excellent, and that he had been guzzling Crown whisky in the truck, which was unbelievable! It was all over the interior of the truck when the rescue team cut him out, apparently. Officer Talkalot told us that in his experience, this guy was the most intoxicated he had ever seen, and it was only that which ironically saved his life this weekend – because rather than tensing up during the crash, he had gone all limp,  the dribbling, stuttering, brain dead, redneck, hill-billy scum-bag. The eerie anger came over me again, and as nice as the news was that this guy was not dead, I really wanted to know that his punishment for bringing his disgustingly ignorant behaviour to within twenty feet of my rear bumper, was going to be severe enough. I guess I will never know.

However, small joy  is waking up the following morning, quite correctly assuming that this guy was not only in hospital with some harsh injuries, had wrecked beyond repair a hugely expensive truck, was in a vast and cavernous pile of trouble with the police, will probably lose his job and go to prison a bit, but the cherry on top is that he would have the worst hangover in the history of the world.

How anyone could be so utterly irresponsible, to drive drunk, but not only that, drive a huge heavy pick up truck down a very desolate and in a lot of places, hard to reach highway whilst chugging away on a bottle of very expensive whisky is beyond me. I thank my lucky stars that nobody else was involved, and may we all go to bed and pray for the driver of the truck, not for his salvation, but that hopefully, one day, his head will just fall off.


Last Christmas, I became blessed and fortunate enough to be invited to a pilot training centre, for a blast on one of their thirteen fantastic flight simulators. Now, I’m not talking PlayBox, or XStation3 hooked up to a 50 inch plasma television – oh no, I’m talking something epic, that will blow your mind.

These simulators are fully functioning, completely replicated cockpits from all of the major commercial airliners that fly today, each with full sized and exact switchgear and computer systems, and full panoramic Google Earth quality visuals. What these £10m machines are, then, are real aeroplanes that are fixed to the ground by hydraulic rams, and move around without the inconvenience of mid air collisions and subsequent fireballs from hell killing all on board and no doubt, some fishermen or a cockle picker below. These machines are fantastic.

The software that run these sims is so vast, it has to calculate thousands if not hundreds of thousands of variables every second, including the visuals, that it makes a home video games console look like a stapler. The hardware is so complicated and has so many component parts, and have to make thousands of micro adjustments per second, that it really is a marvel of the scientific and engineering world just watching them from the outside. But when you enter the cockpit, that’s when it really blows your mind.

I sat at the controls of a Dassault Falcon EX Easy, which for those of you, like me, not in the know when it comes to the aviation market, is like one of those Private Jets you see in gangster rap videos by Puff Diddly or Smally Biggs. At this time, I had absolutely no idea what any of these thousands of buttons and dials in front of me actually did. For all I knew, the large white dial to my left under the quarter window was a cup holder. It wasn’t. It was how the jet is steered whilst taxiing around an airports runways at low speed. There were some very expensive looking navigational panels between me and the young chap who drew the short straw and would be flying with me. The aforementioned panel also houses the comms system, and the throttle controls. This panel costs £150,000 alone. Just for the carbon fibre and the switchgear. No pressure, then?

As we blasted down our runway of choice, in this case it was London City Airport, the stereo surround sound replicating the noise and the hydraulic rams simulating the bumps, the perfect visuals showing the scenery and the skyline, whilst steering with the rudder controls at my feet, and desperately trying to keep the Falcon in a straight line, it suddenly dawned on me how utterly frightening this experience was. As I rotated, or pulled back on the stick, the nose of the Falcon lifted and I groaned with pure unadulterated terror.

You see, the visuals alone can trick your mind into thinking you are moving, but when the hydraulic rams that the simulator sits on tilt the whole ten tonne machine backwards, and make it drop a little, the occupants, in this case me, are treated to exactly the type of forces experienced in real flight. That horrible feeling in ones stomach as a plane really leaves the tarmac actually happens in the Sim! This is an incredible feat of modern engineering, and is so life like and convincing I really was in a bad way. The weight of a £150m plane and its occupants rested in my hands, and as I throttled up under instruction, and the City dropped away below us, I couldn’t help but utter the only words I could muster, “fuck me!”

The intensity of take off was so great, and I had become so involved with soiling myself, that I completely forgot about retracting landing gear and throttling down. As I was reminded to do that, my whole world began to drop from the London skies like a stone. Only it didn’t, that’s just the illusion the Sim gives. The other illusion that these wonderful machines give, is that pilots have such a monumental task in front of them, that I really do believe they are superheroes.

So why then, have I heard people describe Airline Pilots as “Glorified Bus Drivers”?

My experience in the Sim was fantastic. I even went back for another go, and one seasoned veteran actually said that I was rather good. Now, this is not my point. My point is, I may have been good at the physical aspect of actually turning the controls at the right time and using the right force, and having a good grasp on how a plane might feel on take off and landing, but if you take those aspects and add them up, it would equate to approximately 1% of the whole job.

Pilots have a biblical task to undertake. £100,000 of their own money just to achieve a Private Pilots License. Then months and months of instrument orientation, before they even get into the simulators, which cost $4000 US dollars an hour, if there’s not a waiting list. If they get this far, and their heads haven’t exploded from the amount of technical knowledge they need to acquire, then they may just be able to spend time in the Sim, and take their finals. They may even get a job with an airline eventually. Preferably an airline that’s not about to go bust.

Remember then, that pilots who are skilled enough, and astronomically intelligent enough to get this far, still have not actually flown a real commercial airliner! One with real people on board, and real jet fuel filling its wings, and that has the very real possibility of destruction and death from one tiny wrong decision. Imagine that sort of pressure?That to me, commands the most respect of any profession that I can think of.

So, people who think that these guys and gals are glorified bus drivers need to take note. They are superheroes. Without question. The next time you land at Newcastle for your Givenchy hair and beauty course, or you are taken by your other half to Tenerife for a typically brain dead holiday in the sun, remember who got you there, and more importantly, who got you there without the addition of a mile long fireball.


Can I kick it? Yes, you can.

Posted: October 12, 2011 in Cars

I am a fan of cars, as you can probably tell by the amount of tittle-tattle written on here about them. I am also a fan of modified cars, and even as far back as when I was aged five, I would check out anything that had different wheels, or some kind of different extra thrown on to enhance the looks of the original model.

Some people never grow up, like me, but it appears that some peoples taste in vehicular modification does not mature much either. Below are a few examples of the modified car scene, and mostly, I have to say, it fills my lungs with bile, the results that are achieved these days. For example, take this Citroen Saxo below. On the left, a tinny and wretched machine that is as exciting to drive as a phone book, and about as safe in an accident as an origami swan. Then look at the Citroen Saxo on the right. Somebody spent a lot of time and money achieving what looks to me, like a completely undriveable vehicle that now resembles, not a stick thin waif, but one of those little bags that dog owners clean up their dogs poop with. Does anyone think that it looks good? Is it an improvement? Of course it’s not. It’s the brainchild of a person who is the product of too much inbreeding.

Here’s another example of how the cousin-marrying fraternity, take what is a bog-standard and very ordinary Mk3 Ford Escort, and turn it, probably using drug money, the sales of stolen dvd players, and the money from the Dole Office, into a hideous tarts boudoir of a car, which needs to be buried at sea at the earliest convenience.

This kind of modified car scene should really be banned, and everyone who drives or even thinks about driving such vehicles should have their hands chopped off, and be made to work volunteer hours in PC World for all eternity. These kind of cars symbolise nothing but idiocy. I hate to generalise, but they are all driven by idiots, were dreamed up by idiots, and will only ever be passed on to idiots. Can you possibly imagine having a fairly in depth conversation about the world, with someone who drives a car that looks like it’s been covered in glue and driven erratically around Halfords, as these do? No. Like I said, everyone who drives these kind of cars, are idiots. Show me an intellectual, who can wow me about the programme on Radio 4 last night, who has a car like these, and I will eat my laptop, my hands, my shoes, and a modified Citroen Saxo. I promise.

Below is a Volkswagen Beetle, which has been breathed upon in a very tasteful manner. This is the kind of modified car I like. It’s an interesting vehicle to start with, not particularly hot on performance and handling, but then it’s not trying to be. A subtle ride height change and a good choice of wheels brings the mild custom feel to an already cool looking car. I particularly like this one, because shock horror, I owned it, and carried out the mods myself. I certainly didn’t think that a huge aero spoiler would work, or a ridiculous graphic paint job that looks like someone called Dean has vomited his kebab down the side of it.

Another example of the right way to do it, a MkII VW Golf GTi, again, an iconic car to begin with. There is one in standard form on the left, and the owner of the one on the right appears to have gotten it spot on – a better stance and a wise choice of wheel show that it’s been loved, but not throttled to within an inch of its life.

People reading this will of course say that either beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or that if everyone was the same, the world would be a better place, but I disagree in this case. You see, nobody thinks the Escort and the Saxo look nice. Nobody. Except the owners, who are clearly mentalists. The two Volkswagens are not going to be everybodys cup of tea, I agree, but at least they don’t sear ones eyeballs and trigger deep vein thrombosis if you’re within ten feet of one. Readers may also say what a self-righteous know-it-all I am to cunningly slip in a photo of my own car for self gratification. To these people, I say yes, because this is my blog, of course I am going to be right. But take your politically correct baseball cap off for a second and realise something….I am right. You see? Told you.

I deteste people who drive modified cars such as the Ford and the Citroen above, because they illustrate precisely the sort of people who are inside them at the time. Without question, they will be buck toothed, incompetent in every important way possible, clearly have a vast and cavernous lack of tasteful dynamic, will undoubtedly have a liking for dance music, and will be a couple of cans of Stella short of a bit simple. People are entitled to be that way but why do they have to do it on the roads? In full view of everyone.

I completely and utterly challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

I have had an interesting morning. I had a very nice, some would say tipsy night at a friends’ house, stayed the night on a sofa bed and made my way home during the commuter rush hour. Because I no longer have a car, I had to do what I dislike doing very much, and ride the bus.

I am a complete snob when it comes to the bus. I would rather walk. Had I been equipped with my more comfortable footwear this morning, I would have done just that. Still, it’s been many years since I rode the bus, even longer since I rode the bus in my home town of Reading, so I thought, let’s give it a whirl. 
Things have changed much in the 18 years that I’ve been elsewhere. Gone are the noisy old rattly MCW buses that cost £0.25p a ride, and in their place, are these fantastic new bio-diesel and hybrid electro powered monsters pictured above, that now cost £1.80p to do the same journey. Inflation, of course, rears its head everywhere, and large public transport vehicles are near the top of the hit list, as is food, fuel, bricks and mortar, and the very cars we buy. I’m sure it won’t be long before Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic film Total Recall will become a reality and we will all be taxed on air. In fact, signs of that are already apparent, in filling stations that have an air pump for your cars tyres. It now costs 20p. For some air. Oh dear.

Anyway, this got me thinking, just how much more economical in terms of fuel consumption, are these new hi-tech buses, compared to the good old days of the rattly diesels, or driving what’s classed these days as a gas guzzler? Well, firstly, I had a look at fuel economy figures, and found that a 1985 MCW Metrobus would return around 5mpg from its diesel engine. Now, that’s pretty bad, but considering the size of it, and also taking into account if the bus is full of passengers paying their £0.25p fares, that is, quite simply, fantastic. The bus is, of course, never full, especially these days. Back then, at least, it was affordable. According to statistics that I somehow stumbled upon like the very nerd that I am, in 2005, the average number of passengers on any bus at any time, was nine. Nine!! In a vehicle that can seat 56 and stand 11. That’s not good fuel consumption per person, is it?
Now, the latest Volvo bio-diesel buses, return approximately 10mpg, and run on 5% biofuel, and 95% standard diesel. The very latest and hi-tech hybrid electric bus that I rode today, is a hugely expensive unit, with digital displays warning you that you’ll miss your stop in a minute if you gaze at that weirdo sitting in front of you any longer. It also has security cameras in case the weirdo tries to steal your shoes. There’s mood lighting, nicely designed and may I say slightly comfortable seats – but only if you are vertically challenged, tall people like myself still have to fold their legs away into a shopping bag if one wants to be seated –  and other such niceties such lowering suspension so that Donna from the Council Estate can get her buggy full of kids off the bus easier. It’s a wonderful thing, but for its hugely increased size, there’s no more seating available than there was on the old MCW’s. It’s expensive too and the facts state, that this eco-friendly bus returns a weary 5mpg. I’m sorry, but are we going backwards?

The maths is there for someone else to do, I’m not a numerical genius and I don’t pretend to be, but it is clear to me that the eco-obsessive idiots have yet again made a complete hash of their point. How can it be more economical to ride along with three other people in a £150,000 hybrid powered vehicle that returns 5mpg and costs the passenger £1.80p to do less than 3 miles, than was ten years ago, or more to my point, than a car? It’s just isn’t. Sure, the emissions spewing out the back of one of these new fangled monsters is certainly less than the clouds of noxious fumes the old rattlers produced, but that is rectified quite simply by catalytic converters and an engine serviced more regularly than every 100,000 miles. The fact is, the new posh buses are still using, as near as damn it, the exact same amount of the worlds oil resources to do the same journey, as the diesels did ten years ago. The difference this time, is the cost of manufacturing the bus, which with these new ones, is about the same as it would cost to build another planet Earth.
This is not progress with regards to the environment. Progress would be a young whippa-snappa, buying all the old MCW’s up, servicing them, and putting them straight back out on the bus routes again. Then the local Councils could hire them for a fraction of the cost of the £250m spent on vehicles which have given manufacturing jobs to many many people, none of which reside in the UK. I’m no environmentalist, so I shall be quiet and get to my point.

The 501bhp BMW M5 pictured below, driven by the aforementioned whippa-snappa, will average around town approximately 19mpg, meaning your average M5 owner could travel about 6 miles in one of the most exciting and practical cars made today, for the same as it costs you to ride the bus just 3 miles. This is far better fuel economy than the bus, nobody can argue with that. The bus costs £150,000, whereas a decent second hand M5 can now be bought for as little as £35,000. What it also means, is that in the M5, you don’t have to sit next to someone who smells of urine, has braids in their hair and keeps dribbling on your knee. If you ask three friends to share your 6 mile journey in the Beemer, you have then blown the fuel economists figures right into the weeds. Also if the M5 was such an environmental disaster, those weeds would be dead. But they are not.

My point, then, is next time you gaze out of the bus window and spot a guy in an M5, don’t get on your high horse and rant about global warming as if you are a hippy called Swampy, who’s only contribution to prevent global warming is setting his feet in concrete outside building sites, and climbing the occasional tree. The 5 litre V10 in the BMW is doing less harm to the environment, than the bus which you are sharing with the driver and dribbly Dave is. Remember also, that he is the one in the M5, whereas you, are on the bus, which signifies that he has done far better with his share of the worlds resources than you have. Let him have his fun, and get back to reading The Sun.

Recently, I found myself at a rather pretentious dinner party. The sort of dinner party that some of your work colleagues have invited you to, in an attempt to show you that outside of the working environment, they are sophisticated, popular, and positively brimming with anecdotes that will make the whole room erupt into chortles and make the clock hands spin furiously. This is, of course, never the case , it only highlights what you already knew, and that was that you don’t like them very much. These particular dinner parties are also the kind that, in my experience, one cannot wait to leave, and that should you actually take one more sip of Denbies Chardonnay, you will almost certainly be over the drink drive limit. So your choices are to stay sober, which is horrific, or drink as much as you can, which is expensive, because of course, the fall-out for the more sensible drivers among us, is an expensive taxi ride home, and then once you’ve shaken the horror of the night and gone to bed, another expensive taxi ride awaits you in the morning to retrieve your car, which inevitably has to be done before 9am, as the traffic wardens start slapping tickets on vehicles around about that time. Sigh.

So, back to the party, the scene is set, and as I mingled with the grace and elegance of a terrier in a wedding dress shop, dodging large collared pin stripe shirts drenched in Hugo Boss cologne, and pointy snakeskin shoes that only a self obsessed egomaniac would wear, and really and truthfully look rather ridiculous, even with those trousers, it was not too long before somebody needed justification for my tattoos.

I have tattoos for one reason, and one reason only – me. This is what sets myself, and millions of others apart, from the lower classes and their awful “Mum” tattoos. Having a “Mum” tattoo, or a tribal band, or your illegitimate childs name in Old English along ones forearm is dreadfully working class, but mostly it shows quite simply that one didn’t know what to get when they went to the tattoo shop.

Having ink scribbled into ones skin permanently is not something to take lightly, because contrary to popular belief, laser removal does not work. One should be thorough in ones decision, and also trusting in the artist. Ultimately, one should be doing the tattoo for oneself, and not for the general public to think “oh, what a loving father he must be with his daughters name on his arm”, which of course, nobody thinks at all. Quite the opposite in fact.

People judge, as I have just done, and expect a form of justification that makes sense to them, from your thought processes, creative ideas, and the position of the art, so that they can gain some acceptance, in their minds as to why you have what you have on your body. This of course, happens a lot, but the acceptance does not. This tiresome process is, to me, as offensive as it would be if I were to walk up to the next person I see, and ask why they dyed their hair dark orange and had it cut to resemble an electric shock victim or Toyah Wilcox, and what they were thinking wearing a dress like that because they don’t really quite fit into it nor do they have the legs for it. This isn’t my point, but it brings me on to the stupidest person I’ve ever met.

She arrived at this dinner party in a flurry of typically Surrey-esque self importance, right in my face, chortling and looking at my forearms as if it was the most extreme thing she had ever seen, asking all of the crass classics, such as “Why did you have that, then?” “What does that say about you?”, and “Are you getting any more?”.

My patience, for some reason, was in abundance this particular evening, and I slowly let her make a huge idiot of herself, barely speaking a word in return. She barked another classic at me, which was “what will you do when you’re old?”, whilst making a face that signified horror and alarm.

I calmly pointed out that the number of old people one sees, even in the summer months, wearing just a t-shirt, or one of those gangster style tank top vest things, that would expose a bit of flesh, is approximately zero. Anyone with even the tiniest shred of awareness knows that old people wear beige jackets in summer, and sixteen beige jackets in winter. And a hat.

Not only was this news to her, but she then proclaimed to finally understand why old people wear so many clothes, and that she had no idea they were hiding tattoos. At this point, I reached out to hold on to some furniture.

More unimaginable diatribe spewed from her over the course of the evening, but the most fantastic of all came when the colleague who had invited me to this sickly event, decided to share out the information that I play drums in a band. This lead on to the usual car-crash form of questioning, that only the limp wristed and disinterested ask, in between pouring more Denbies Chardonnay, the question arose… “What kind of music do you play?”

Now, I’m quite astute when it comes to people. This helps in all forms of social rituals, and in this case it was no exception. Knowing perfectly well, that I was currently in a room with a dozen or so thirty-something morons from Surrey, who’s idea of good music would be Michael Buble’s latest offering, and who’s idea of a fun and drunken night out would be a wine tasting evening in their friends bar in Reigate High Street, I decided to generalise a little, and replied that I played in a rock band.

“So, what’s rock music then?” came the response. Her unique brand of woeful questioning was as inhumanly nonsensical as asking somebody what beer is. Everybody, from an early age onwards, knows what beer is, as much as they know what rock music is. Surely?

How is it, then, that someone from a reasonable background has been so caught up in their hair appointments, their books on how to name their child in the most middle class way possible, their latest trip to Ikea, the brochure for the new Toyota RAV-4 Diesel/Hybrid, having cream carpets and a Bang and Olufsen ipod dock, that they completely miss one of the human races most important musical genres? You don’t even have to like music, to know what rock music is. This woman typifies the lacklustre stereotypes that would drive a Toyota RAV-4 Diesel/Hybrid, and sure enough, there it was, parked outside, approximately three feet from the kerb. The car illustrates the sort of person she is, just as the two children she gave birth to signifies how many times she’s had sex in her life. Which would be twice. She is, I hope, one of  life’s severely sheltered, and not just a vacuous and utterly archaic individual, frantically spawning people called Molly, and Tarquin, who will eventually end up on the TV, or worse, running this country.

It never gets old. Ever.

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Life

Occasionally, life will throw something into your mix, that will have a tremendous impact upon ones’ day. A promotion at work, for example, guaranteed to instantly transform your working morning into an adrenaline-filled smile-fest, only to be followed by an afternoon of despair, disappointment and emptiness when you discover that your boss has promoted your work load, but not your pay packet. That rare occasion in which one finds that a girl has given you her number, and one calls her in the hope that she could be “the one”, and that many happy hours are going to be spent skipping around in fields and spending Sundays together with a duvet, the sofa and a chick-flick, only to find out rather quickly that she is, in fact, the spawn of Satan himself, a member of some obscure cult that likes to sacrifice goats on a Tuesday evening, and who is a fan of Lady Gaga.

These kind of offerings from the Gods really do get old very quickly, in my experience. Sometimes it’s quite tricky to bounce back from things that leave you with that demoralised feeling, as horrid boss and strange cult girl would undoubtedly do. These are just two examples of life, I suppose. It happens to all of us in various guises. I accept these things, and I definitely accept that life is not all a bunch of roses – how can it be? One has to take the rough with the smooth. That is, most definitely, life. But what I cannot fathom, is how the horses head mask, an inanimate object, makes all of my trials and tribulations of life just vanish in an instant.

It’s been around a few years now, maybe longer. I have a few very influential photographer friends, who have used the horses head mask in some of their shots. Recently, another close friend of mine acquired a horses head mask, took it to work with her, and now has a hilarious picture folder starring everyone at her workplace from the Security Guard, to the Managing Director, wearing the mask. This tickles me, to the point where I actually begin to sweat, I’m laughing so much – and I don’t know why! I cannot put my finger on the reasons for the complete inability to stifle my outbursts of belly-laughing.

When I was told by a friend, to punch some co-ordinates into Google Maps, and see if anything was awry, this is what I discovered.

Can you imagine the reaction? That’s right, I laughed for easily twenty minutes, barely able to take a breath in. I actually pulled a stomach muscle because my laughs were so intense. This is not fake, and to prove it, you can copy the co-ordinates from the search bar and see for yourself!

The question of why I find this so funny will always go unanswered, so I am going to enjoy basking in the hilarity of it all. The question of “What was this guy, or indeed, girl, doing, as the Google Maps camera car drove past that sunny morning?” will also go unanswered, but delightfully, I don’t think I want to know anyway.

This vehicle hurts. I know it’s a van, and therefor uninteresting, but bear with me a second, it is so bad that it definitely warrants a strip or two torn from it. I was hugely unfortunate to have been given one of these for work, and since then, I have clocked-up approximately 45,000 miles. Since new, I have watched in disbelief, as it slowly but surely destroys itself, and in the process, myself.
It’s a 2008 Citroen Nemo. Cute huh? No. It’ a massive mistake. The Nemo is a collaboration between Citroen, Fiat and Peugeot’s commercial vehicle divisions. Each Company has its own cute and buzzy name for their badged version, but essentially they are all identical bar a badge, and a steering wheel.

The back is so small that you can barely fit things of much worth inside. If you eventually manage to, you will almost certainly have to take everything out again, to extract what you’re looking for. If you have a business that warrants a small van of some sort, then look elsewhere, unless your business specialises in transporting amoeba.

Opening the cabin door, you will most definitely hit your eye socket on the edge of the metalwork, a sharp edge that pierces your skull and incites hatred towards both French and Italian car makers. Once inside, your knee caps are greeted quite wrathfully, by the dashboard. If you are over five feet tall, this will happen regularly, and induce both nausia and vomiting.

The cabin is a mess of design for designs sake. Place any object, be it paper, pens, a cell phone, keys, an ipod, or a pair of sunglasses anywhere upon the dashboard or adjacent areas, and within six or seven feet into your journey, all of the aforementioned items will either be on the floor, stuck under the brake pedal, or flapping out of the window. Talking of windows, should you be “lucky” enough to order the spec with electrically operated windows, beware – the glass does not roll completely down into the door, therefor one will experience a painful bash to the funny bone as you go to lean your arm out of the open window on a hot day.

My time with the Nemo was long. I found it to be economical around town, but take it above 50mph, and it became as thirsty and as environmentally unfriendly as any large engined sports car, or four wheel drive. I recall cruising at 80mph would return 17mpg in fifth gear. With a tail wind.

The switchgear gradually began to malfunction after approximately 30,000 miles, brought to my attention when the headlights decided they would stay on all the time. Other irritating traits included the stereo turning on at will, and the wipers screeching across the windshield like a Velociraptor on the hunt. The seat belt warning beep, loud and piercing and the sort of thing to completely ruin your morning, will continue for a short while after you have huffed, puffed and eventually clipped the seat belt into place, which is, surely, something the French programmed into the sensor just to annoy everyone. The central locking decided enough was enough after that time too, rendering the side door completely useless as it has no manual lock on the outside, and the “unlock all” button on the dash failed as well. All in all then, the most abominable vehicle that I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have to live with. But the worst is yet to come…

The ride.

The suspension set up on the Nemo is so hard, that it will quite literally begin unbolting itself, and throwing pieces of trim to the floor as you drives along. The van could almost be mistaken for a child in a pushchair, throwing its toys down in a tantrum, whilst it’s mother, in this case, the driver, wave their arms around not quite knowing how to tackle the problem. Inside the Nemo is worse. The seats are very firm, too firm in fact. Instead of comfort, the driver is subjected to some form of automotive Chinese torture ritual, bouncing left to right continuously on even the smoothest of roads, like a washing machine on full spin cycle that is filled with building bricks.

Running over the slightest undulation will send biblical shockwaves into your spine, whilst your elbows are bashed on the side window that’s not quite retracted properly. The glove box will open of its own accord too, usually spilling important documents all over the floor, and all this happens whilst the safety conscious people at NCAP tell us that the Citroen Nemo rolls over during “frantic” cornering, just like the infamous Suzuki Santana did back in the 80’s. Finally, this is all played to a soundtrack of the stereo coming on and telling you the shipping forecast. At maximum volume.

The Citroen Nemo then, is quite simply a loathsome vehicle, and I feel the pain of everyone who is unfortunate to have to drive one. If you buy one of these having previously read this review, then you are most definitely a chocolate biscuit named Trevor, and you are very much overdue a stay at the funny farm.