And now for something completely different
Walking backwards in time, some things stay the same despite the stresses of the day.
Land Rover devotees are as resilient as the vehicle itself. Multitudes of them have been celebratinge the 75th anniversary of the first Land Rover produced commercially in 1948.
Apart from its majesty in rugged bush country, the Land Rover is handy on our potholed, crumbling African roads. Maintenance and repair aren’t our strong point.
This is the ‘Landie’ I owned for years – but alas, it is no more. Briefly outside the ambit of my tender loving care, a friend borrowed it and wrote it off good and proper. Land Rovers can survive many a dire misfortune but sadly not this one without a large amount of money the insurers wouldn’t pay.
Zimbabwe Land Rover aficionadoes have held their anniversary celebrations alongside the annual 4×4 jamboree with other “petrol heads” outside Harare. Our band of enthusiasts passionately defend the Landie against Toyoto’s entry into the field in the early days.
Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson did a film about the older Land Rover versions and found that in the Australian outback, for instance, they by far outlasted the first off-road Toyotas. That has changed with the latest automotive technology but Land Rover fanatics won’t change their minds about that, loyal to the end.
Once I did a piece for the young Jeremy Clarkson’s new Top Gear programme on the BBC, long before he became an arrogant but still very witty and clever millionaire. I had been stopped in Nairobi by Kenyan police who didn’t like my then-Rhodesia driving licence. They made me take a driving test which started out with having to push toy cars – Dinky toys – around a ping pong table with streets, traffic signs and railway crossings marked on it. They even had a working Scalextric toy electric train on the table.
It was hard not to enjoy this return to childhood and not go ‘vroom, vroom’ when pretending to observe speed limits shown on the upstanding model sign posts.
After the table-tennis fun there was a proper driving test. We went around the block and the examiner soon stopped me and said I obviously knew how to drive and now it was time for “chai,” the Swahili word to tea. A nice cup of tea …
Hardly. I knew chai was the term for ‘a consideration,’ a bribe. I got a Kenya all-classes license on the spot that allowed me to drive anything from big trucks to motorbikes.
Jeremy Clarkson loved the toy cars and toy train story.
I won’t be driving a heavy goods vehicle to barge through Zimbabwe’s mayhem on the roads: traffic lights not working, illegal ‘mushikashika’ pirate taxis, unlicensed drivers, scant bus services, general recklessness, speeding – along with phoning and texting in motion – creating chaos and danger. It can take three hours for a 20 minute trip because of un-policed congestion and gridlock where manners and rules of the road hold little sway.
But give me a Land Rover any day to enjoy its ambiance and calm the nerves on unavoidable journeys from A to B. Land Rover is an institution and it doesn’t matter that it is assembled as far afield as Brazil, China and Slovakia by multinational Tata Motors of India as long as they don’t interfere with its glorius past.
Jeremy and Me and that licence …