All too often nowadays, I put down a newspaper having concluded that its writers know little and care even less about the subjects of their articles. I want authoritative voices, not some ‘will this do?’ chancer who’s cribbed the lot off Wikipedia. I’m not entirely sure if it’s them or me: was it always this way, and I only notice it now because I’m better informed?
One of my pitifully few must-reads is James May’s column in the Daily Telegraph each Saturday. While Jeremy Clarkson’s in the Sunday Times telling its readers how he’d run the world (and making many of them profoundly glad that he isn’t) and the Hamster’s set up his wheel in the Daily Mirror, May ploughs his own wildly meandering furrow in the Torygraph. Despite being in the Motoring section, May’s rambles frequently have only the slenderest connection to cars. Very often, only the last paragraph even mentions motoring, in a manner that just about connects with the preceding few hundred words. And that, dear reader, is the joy of the exercise. Rather audaciously, May uses his platform to explore subjects that interest him, including trains, music and the contents of his kitchen cupboard. It’s a weekly visit to the mind of an agreeably anoraky middle-aged chap who actually knows stuff and gives a toss about it, so, as an anorak nearing middle age, is it any wonder that I’m a fan?
When May appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, the host, jokingly, said that he hoped never to be trapped in a lift with May. Given Ross’ own well-documented geek credentials, I thought the remark, even in jest, was beneath him. I’d rather be trapped in a pub (as can happen at high tide in the White Cross in Richmond) with May, but if it came down to it, I suspect time stuck in a lift with him would pass most pleasantly. In this cynical, jaded age, May is an enthusiast, and a pretty good standard-bearer for enthusiasts of all kinds. My only hope is that nobody at the Telegraph ever sits him down and asks him to write more about cars.