Richard Hammond drives his fingers through his long hair every now and then.
He’s cute like that.
Hammond is the least shabby of the three middle-aged motoring journalists who are the global phenomenon that is Top Gear, which has all but taken over Durban over the last few days.
Apart from the shows and press briefings, some of us got to experience the antics of the trio first-hand at a dinner on Friday night held in honour of one of the greatest competition car designers in the world – Durban’s own Gordon Murray.
I don’t think any die-hard fan of the show would be offended by what these guys have to say, or even take too seriously their jibes at the likes of Simon Cowell. Most of what they say is true – just far too uncensored for the liking of most. I went to school with “boys” like this – so smart, but behaving so stupidly, and always eager to provoke a laugh.
Needless to say, car-crazy Durban loved it.
There was such excitement at the dinner, held in a marquee at the magnificent Moses Mabhida Stadium, that one could even go so far as to say it was chaotic.
Like the show, it drew a national audience. Radio presenter Sasha Martinengo, better known as F1 Sasha, was the evening’s host.
The programme was short but sweet. It consisted of a question-and-answer session between the Top Gear gang and the audience (hilarious, of course), a video showcasing Murray’s contributions to Formula One and his later work, and a speech by a clearly overwhelmed and emotional Murray.
The dinner was fairly simple – perhaps because the caterers had to satisfy the tastes of a culturally diverse audience – a chicken starter, rather fatty lamb medallions and steamed vegetables for mains, and a dessert trio of mint ice cream, a chilli-chocolate cup of cream-something and a not-so-great chocolate cake. There were no menus on the tables, so you had to figure out what you’d been served by tasting it. The more discerning guests waited for those sitting next to them to do the taste test for them.
We were, however, sitting in great company.
Next to me was Willem Zuidema, Shell Lubricants’ general manager, and marketing manager Andrew Evans. The Top Gear trio sat at the table in front of us for a while. In front of them was none other than SA Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, and to the right, Murray and his family.
Murray’s wife, Stella, also a designer, was charming. She told me how she had met Gordon and how they had eloped to the UK.
There his dreams came true, and Murray seemed to be in disbelief at the fact that those in his home town had recognised him and his achievements.
He also spoke of going to school in Glenwood and drag racing up to Tongaat.
It seems that, when you achieve great things, the people you leave behind often do not remember you. This would appear to be the case with Murray, and shows that we South Africans have a lot of remembering to do.