Last September, when I quit my job in a frenzy of pique and Prozac, I received a refund from the local city council to the tune of £1500.
To someone like me – the kind of person that costs Daily Mail readers billions of pounds in taxes that would be far better spent on driving out the blacks and tooling up for the next war - £1500 is a lot of money. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had that much money before in my life.
On the other hand, to someone like me – who has no particular regard for money or possessions; who doesn’t think about rainy days but makes hay while the sun shines; who doesn’t consider such brain-draining concepts as pensions, mortgages, investment or the future - £1500 is extremely easy to fritter away quickly, with nothing left to show for it except a few pairs of ludicrous trousers.
Well, I was determined not to do that this time. When I sobered up a couple of years ago, one of the first things I did was get a passport.
Now this seems like small stuff to most people, but it was huge for me. I was thirty-eight years old, and I’d never been on a plane. In fact, I’d never even been abroad (unless you count a week of drunk and destitute depravity in Dublin, which of course up to this point, I had).
The minute I got my passport, a couple of friends and I booked a flight to Morocco. They’d originally wanted to go on a sunbathing holiday to Spain, but I didn’t want to go to Spain for the love of God, and I certainly didn’t want to fucking sunbathe. I’ve never been one for lying around on the beach. In the middle of the street, yes; in wet ditches, all the time; but on beaches? Never. No, what I wanted was to go somewhere completely different from anywhere I’d been before. I wanted to go somewhere where they wore robes, rode camels, had revolutions and cut off your gonads if you seemed to be coveting their wives and donkeys.
I wasn’t disappointed in that respect, and I’ve been walking strangely ever since.
But I digress. This isn’t about donkeys, it's about an obsession beyond my mental control.
I hated Morocco. It was pissing down with rain the whole time, you had to shit in a bucket - a full bucket - and wipe your arse with newspaper and you couldn’t walk three metres without being mobbed by lepers who’d harangue you for cash, and failing that, the clothes you stood up in.
But the road trip made up for it all.
After a day and a half in Marrakesh we’d really had enough, so hired a Kia for the week off of a man in an oily moustache and a shiny suit. The suit was so shiny you could see your face in it. The Kia wasn’t shiny. It looked like anti-matter.
We tore up and down the country for a week, stopping at roadside cafes that teetered on cliffs thousands of feet above sea level; we’d stop one place one night, another place the next: we were always on the lookout for running water and toilet paper; we kept on the move. I like moving. Sightseeing’s all well and good, but after ten minutes looking at the view – be it a breath-taking sunrise, a mountain range or a meteor shower – you've pretty much done it to death in my opinion, and it’s time to crack on.
By far the best moment for me was driving across the most treacherous mountain pass in the country, in the snow, as night was looming. 175 kilometres of hair pin bends, vertical drops, insane taxi drivers and soiled undergarments. I don’t think Tall Paul enjoyed it so much, but then, he had to concentrate on the road.
I learned something that day: that I am a lover of speed and danger (and the kind of extreme sports that don’t require any physical exertion on my part: jumping out of planes, falling off tall buildings, that sort of thing).
So when I was presented with the cash prize of a lifetime from the housing benefit office there was nothing left for me to do but book a crash course in driving and take everyone’s life into my hands.
Being a Devil-may-care sort of a chap, I passed my test in six weeks, but having been seduced yet again by the promises of loud trousers I found myself penniless once more.
I hadn’t even set out to buy any trousers. Someone had passed a pair of dogtooth check sta-prest my way and I had taken them. Was I crazy? I began to wonder, for such an appalling lack of perspective seemed near being just that. In no time at all I was beating on the side of the wardrobe asking myself how it could have happened.
I became obsessed with traffic. I started hanging around in car parks and on race tracks. I resented being the passenger in anybody else’s car. I resented people on the bus, especially the driver, the fat bastard. Why couldn’t I have a bus? There were enough buses in the world to go round, surely. The idea of stealing a car fIashed through my mind with increasing frequency. I started fantasising about the TV cars of my childhood: Dave Starsky’s Ford Gran Torino; the General Lee; the Batmobile.
Even Nissan Micras were beginning to appear attractive.
That’s sick, you might think, and you’d be right. I was clearly not well. I didn’t eat for hours at a stretch, and I’d stopped taking my medication. I’d stopped shaving, doing the washing up and being polite to Mormons. I was a menace to society.
Finally, my friends had just about had enough of it, and one of them called me out of the blue and said: “I can’t stand by and watch you do this to yourself any longer. The way you’re going you’ll end up like one of those Americans that sneaks into the garage in the middle of the night to masturbate over his Chevy. I will lend you the money to buy a car. I will even take you to pick it up. I will help you, but I expect you to help yourself. Will you please stop calling yourself Stirling, and for the love of God, take down that poster of Jeremy Clarkson in the bathroom. It’s too much.”
So yesterday afternoon I went and got my car; a matt black 1969 Dodge Charger, with gun turrets. Goodbye Stirling Moss, so long Jeremy Clarkson.
The funny thing is, I’ve forgotten how to drive. So if you see me coming, get out the way.