“Is it a book about Land Rovers, or a book written by a media celebrity called Ben Fogle”
After a friend loaned me the book Landrover: the Story of the car that conquered the world by Ben Fogle, I was planning on writing a full review of it here.
That would have taken me back a long time to when one of my so-called normal newspaper jobs was book reviewing. I guess I wrote hundreds, if not thousands, of book reviews.
I’m not going to do that now though because, quite frankly this book isn’t worthy of a proper review. Let me explain. Hmmm, now there you go. Written, page after page, in a book devoted to telling the story of Land Rover, we see the words “Let me explain”... well, yes, go on then, get on with it for goodness sake.
Do you ever get an odd feeling when you see a book cover where the author’s name is as prominent as the title or subject?
I wonder, when I see that (I’m talking about non-fiction now, of course) what is it that the publisher is hoping to sell? Is it a book about, say, Land Rovers, or is it a book written by a media celebrity owner called Ben Fogle?
Back to the book. The second sentence of the Prologue, about Solihull, reads: “The brick walls are still covered in camouflage paint to disguise the factory from German air raids.”
A handful of pages later I read: “Look closely at the red brick walls of the office block at Land Rover’s famous factory in Solihull, on the outskirts of Birmingham, and you can still see traces of the camouflage paint applied during the 1939-45 conflict.”
Wasn’t I just told that ? And are they “still covered” or are there “traces”?
Not well written and not well edited either. And I’m only just on a chapter entitled “The History of The Land Rover Part One”.
A bit further on we come to a chapter listing famous early Land Rover expeditions, such as Colonel Le Blanc who drove to Ethiopia in 1949 and Barbara Toy who drove just about everywhere in 1955. Then, after the Oxford and Cambridge 195556 Expedition to Singapore, we move to one of Mr Fogle’s “favourite expeditions, visually”. Eh? Does he mean he’s seen the video of the Joint Services Expedition where four 101s were driven West to East across the Sahara?
He doesn’t give us a date for this trip (it was 1975, of course) and he writes “it was the superb performance of the vehicles on this expedition that led to the Land Rover being taken up by the British military”. I bet that was news to both Land Rover and the British military. Mmm, I wonder what vehicles the Army et al used until 1975!
I would rather like to pass quickly over the chapter where he writes about Blashford- Snell. He first met him at the age of 14 and then at Buckingham Palace (“but that sounds like bragging so I will move on”) and calls him “Blashers”. It’s skin-crawling embarrassing (as is much of the book to be honest), but I did rather like the lead up to the Darien Gap and this sentence: “Two brand-new Range Rovers were supplied by Land Rover, and were carefully driven from Alaska to Panama...” Yep, he does use the word “carefully”!
All through this book I keep coming across odd words, or, rather, words used oddly. The Range Rover development vehicles – he calls “prototypes” - were, we are told, badged Velars as a “decoy” for when they were seen on the road. I wonder does Mr Fogle, or his book editor, know what the word decoy means?
I’m afraid I couldn’t finish this book. To my mind it’s a cash-in of a famous name (he’s on the telly apparently) and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to buy it.
That doesn’t matter though, because you will have it bought for you by a (probably female) relative, like my friend was. That’s what the cover is all about, in my opinion.
The same friend also loaned me an old book of Jeremy Clarkson’s, essentially a compilation of his articles. The difference was like chalk and cheese, Clarkson could write with humour, with sense and with intelligence. But then unlike Fogle he comes from the motoring press. It is sad to go back to the days before he worried about Richard Hammond becoming more popular as he became a clown on the telly. He was a very, very good motoring journalist. Was...
I noticed that one of my rear light clusters was filled with condensation. I took it off and attempted to dry it out. Not a chance, the design is such that I couldn’t get properly inside it. I had a think, and asked around and then I drilled – carefully – a 2mm hole in the very bottom of the cluster, plus another in the very top, to ensure air travelled through. Two days later the condensation was gone. Two more days, as I write, and it hasn’t come back. Fingers crossed it stays that way.