Jeremy Clarkson has run out of cigarettes. He flips open the lid of his Marlboro packet with his thumb, the only thing inside is some limp silver paper. His expression grows even more hangdog than it was before. He's been involved in an altercation with one of the producers of his internationally beloved TV show, Top Gear. This has resulted in his suspension from the BBC, and has meant that this Sunday's edition of Cars and Casual Racism will not be aired, and neither will the remaining two episodes of the series. Jeremy Clarkson has, in no uncertain terms, fucked it. He has fucked it before, also in no uncertain terms, by being casually racist on his show, making gags about dead prostitutes, calling the Middle East the "ook-stan sort of countries", uploading a photo of himself sleeping on a plane with the words "Gay Cunt" and an arrow pointing to him next to his head. He is like a popular yet unruly schoolboy, always overstepping the mark but using his teacher's fond disposition towards him as a get-out clause. His SATS scores are high, and OFSTED are pleased.
He crumples the empty packet in his hand and walks outside his front door. He's met with the familiar yet jarring sound of a photographer's shutter, of people asking him questions they know he won't answer. "Just off to the job centre," he quips. Of course, multimillionaire author, journalist, television presenter and friend of Prime Minister David Cameron Jeremy Clarkson will only be going near a job centre if he's driving a monster truck over it. Though he may be momentarily disgraced his career will no doubt recover, unless it emerges he called his producer a "fucking bent cunt" before laying into him, or something similar.
No, Jeremy Clarkson, though quite a reprehensible human being, clearly, is not bearing the greatest brunt of his suspension. That brunt is to be borne most heavily by the loyal viewers of his show, the readers of his books and columns. That brunt is to be borne by your dad, basically, and though he isn't showing it, he's really disappointed.
Your dad is tired. He feels like he's travelled through time in the last decade or so, and found himself in a future that doesn't want him. Everything he likes is lame, everything he does is boring, everything he says is problematic. He's not quite a relic yet, but he can feel his sheen oxidising rapidly. The creep of the rust is showing everywhere; face, legs, arms, knob, eyes – nothing is exempt. But your dad will not be complaining about it. He will stuff it deep down into his brain and chest because that's what he's been doing since you were born. Since you came into the world his life has been one criminal disappointment after another, and you're not really helping with your themed club nights and sex politics at the dinner table. You've been exhausting him from the day you came into this world.
Work spurs him on. Work, in the latter days of life, transitions from a necessity that allows you to fund your party lifestyle, to a necessity that keeps you from losing your mind. You stop working and then what? Life becomes a painful series of standing up and sitting down. Each action aching more than the last, until your whole viscera is an agonising metronome of clicks and strains.
But for one hour on a Sunday, your dad lives vicariously through Jeremy Clarkson. He watches an overweight man in his fifties drive Ferraris across beautiful landscapes, making racist jokes and drinking beer. Your dad is escaping to the only place he wants to escape to: inside of Clarkson's brain.
And now that trivial release is being taken from him. Taken from him like so many other things. Smoking in pubs, affordable pints, the football, which is now on about 17 different channels which all cost about £1000 to have. For us, the young, these things are irritating, but bearable. We have the wherewithal to say, "No, that's shit, I think that's wrong." But your dad... He just wants a salty wave of easy livin' to come and collect him from this shitty beach covered in broken Sierra Nevada bottles and damp copies of the Guardian.
We all loathe Jeremy Clarkson. We all think he's a ponce. We are united by our hatred of Clarkson; to this generation, Clarkson is basically rave. We are equipped enough to realise that Clarkson's offensive, undignified digging out of anyone who is at even a mild disadvantage has no place in a society that can function fairly or justly.
But your dad is done with all that. No one wants to hear his opinions now, and they likely never will again. These dads, they give a whole lot and don't ask for much, if anything, in return. There's a petition of 500,000 signatures to get Clarkson back on the TV, and a lot of them will be bottom feeders who just want to go around saying "P**i shop" with impunity. Facebook Klan wizards sharing false stories about St Paul's Cathedral being turned into a mega-mosque. But your dad is there too, quietly willing it to pass, so he has something to watch, to enjoy, before it all starts again on Monday.
Spare a thought for this breed of jet-lagged men. They won't be around forever, and you'll miss them when they're gone.