Clarkson’s Farm


What is the link between all these foodstuffs: black pudding; spam; mushy peas; liquorice; cabbage; sprouts; raw liver; black pudding and, oh yes, not forgetting the ultimate arbiter, Marmite? We all love or hate them, and I feel the same must be said for one of our larger-than-life TV personalities, gamekeeper -turned -gentleman farmer, Jeremy Clarkson. He is without doubt a serial headline-grabber, even if the only news one week is that he finally stopped smoking after half a century, and 630,000 dog -ends later (putting the cost of cigarettes at today’s price of just under half a million pounds). Come to think of it, his health follows him and indeed us about like a cloud of cigarette smoke in a sealed toilet. Loss of lung capacity, (plus unmonitored fisticuffs,) hearing loss, slicing of (or off) finger when making chilli crisps, high risk of early dementia, so the list of ailments grows yearly if not monthly. Can the NHS cope one wonders?

But what makes us pick up that newspaper or switch on the tv when he threatens once more to spread his wit, wisdom or straightforward diarrheal verbosity? Simple, we want to hear, see, experience second-hand and clap in (dis)approval as he slams into something or someone we want to see covered in verbal excrement. And didn’t he just do that with his assault on Meghan Markle (sorry, I mean the Duchess of Sussex)? He started by saying that he disliked her on a “cellular level”, or perhaps he means a genetic one, and went on to beg for the day when “she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds shout ‘Shame’ and throw lumps of shit at her”. Rumour has it that he emailed Harry to apologise but did not receive a reply. Now Clarkson refuses to refer to the article and aftermath in any shape or form, but that familiar nasty odour I referred to earlier still lingers in the air. Time for another wad of nicotine gum, his twice-hourly standby which presumably does not do his questionable teeth much help either (add that to the list).

So why does he always appear as an ageing grump-pot, complaining about all and sundry, when he has much to be grateful for: a fortune estimated at over 60 million pounds; ownership of a 1000 acre farm, plus a brewery, as well as a beautiful Georgian-style Palladian house in the Cotswolds, close neighbours who include our own Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, Rebekah Brooks and Lord Bamford whom lent Boris Johnson a house when the Conservatives turned on him and threw him out? Because people want to watch him as he gets himself in and out of what Billy Bunter would call “scrapes”. And if you are by now begging to see scrape after scrape, you only have to tune-in to the latest in his series on “Clarkson’s Farm, now well into its third series, with a forth threatened and now confirmed.

Filming on the first series started in 2020 and was released in June 2021 and for many has become compulsive viewing, making it the most streamed UK based show on Amazon Prime. The clever ploy was to assemble around Clarkson a cast of characters, not unlike Disney with Snow White and her seven dwarfs. Come to think of it, this tried and tested formulae has frequently proved that getting to know participants/contestants elevates material that was not considered particularly promising, to cult status. Examples would be The Apprentice as well as Big Brother in multifarious households and jungles, notwithstanding guests retching on pigs balls or barbequed scorpions, as well as series which ran long enough for audiences to identify fully with principal characters (“Coronation Street”, “Boys from the Blackstuff”).

So, in switching on Series 3 we willingly fall into the familiar arms of Kaleb Cooper, the fresh-faced young farmer who thinks everything Clarkson does marks him as a hopeless loser and tosser to boot; Gerald Cooper (no relation) his agricultural support whose West Country accent is more difficult to understand than Swahili, and the suave and highly personable Charlie Ireland, land agent extrordinaire. Oh yes, and the long -term girl- friend Lisa Hogan, who we assume will never get to tie the knot with Jeremy so has had to bid for stakes in the produce and associated farm goodies to escape penury, as and when Clarkson pens his farewell column. Now, all have faced huge challenges in the past, mainly the triumphant opening and ignominious closing down of his flagship restaurant due to a Stalinist local authority’s insistence on impossible changes to design and parking facilities. Briefly, Series One dealt with Jeremy’s initiation into the joys of animal husbandry, including : tractoring, wilding, harvesting and weathering the terrible weather. Series Two involved surviving, planning, badgering, conniving, councilling, restaurant shenanigans and assorted cock-ups. As heady a mixture as anyone in the urban community might suffer, whilst thanking whichever Almighty they look up to for the Circle Line and post-midnight busses.

Enough fence-sitting, I eat Marmite from the jar and think Clarkson is terrific, a true force of nature, even if he is, as David Hockney used to refer to his trickier friends, “a difficult bugger”. It is certainly true that he seldom opts for the path of least resistance. For example, in the first film of Series 3, he has a brainwave to pick wild blackberries en masse as soon as he learns from sources at M and S that individual berries can command 4 or 5 pence each. So he hires an expensive blackberry gathering machine and decides to guide it in a way to straddle a low drystone wall, thus killing two blackberries (so to speak) with one run of the machine, whilst neglecting to check and see if the wall continues into a patch of sense shrubbery. Unfortunately, not only does the wall continue, but at a more considerable height than the initial stretch. Of course, to the delight, no doubt, of the camera crew, all grinds to a terminal halt and heavy lifting equipment at huge expense has to be called in to cart the expired picking machine to its favoured restorers.

None of this outlay makes it to the newly installed white board in Jeremy’s office, where a bet, or rather a needle match, Clarkson has initiated. All expenses and/or profits are to be diligently annotated on the board, Jeremy to the left, Caleb to the right. Jeremy calculated that of the 1000 acres he owns, barely half of this is cultivated and is left to its own devices: wilding, deers nestling in the many wooded areas, plus expensive berries just dying on the vine. So,he bets Caleb that he will make his unfarmed land more productive and yield more money in a year than Caleb with his standard crop rotations, and as a sugar to the pill makes Caleb his new farm manager. Caleb waits for a few seconds then turns to Jeremy and says, “Really?” “Yes,” replies Clarkson. “Right”, says Caleb, then you’re fired!”

The fact is he is always planning some scheme to outwit either the government, relevant local authorities, The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Vatman and probably the Taxman as well. He feels himself rather like K in “The Trial”, mired in a vast pond of bureaucracy (and mediocracy) without a sea anchor to cling on to. Is he man enough to recognise that his anchors are those immediately around him? And in film 2 his girl friend Lisa proved to be one made of true steel. In another fly-brained scheme, Jeremy convinces himself that pigs will be the sole antidote to the poisonous vapours which seem to be seeping into the farm’s very fabric. He sees them cultivating and tidying up the woods and wild areas whilst suppling endless little piggies for consumption of some kind, somewhere (although not in his own restaurant which remains firmly closed). Jeremy suddenly realises that cartloads of pigs he has ordered have to be delivered the very next day, so he and Lisa spend most of the intervening day and night erecting fences and pigpens for the new arrivals. Whilst their efforts looked pretty good to me and I suspect most of the audience, Kaleb maintains it is a work of global amateurishness and brings disrespect on his farm. (“His”? Not quite yet, my son.)

So Series 3 sees no diminution in the cock-ups piling onto cock-ups, the colourful language (I heard him say “Oh, for fuck’ s sake!” at least a dozen times) and countless attempts to encourage a small boar with an equally small member, to insert it into the sow’s waiting receptacle At this point my 10 year old grand daughter left the room with rapidity, and I know not to this day if it was due to embarrassment, bad language, unacceptable behaviour, uncontrollable laughter or strong emotions or opinions being ruffled. All of which apply equally to “Clarkson’s Farm”, as it enters its third triumphant series.

Clarkson’s Farm series 3 is currently screening on Amazon Prime. Images copyright (c) Amazon MGM Studios.