Santa John here with our annual list of gift suggestions for everyone, whether they’ve been naughty or nice.
Given I have erred more on the former than the latter, it would be a bare old yuletide season for me if I relied on the naughty but nice paradigm for a bit of cheer. Then again, as my mother used to say to me: “Be naughty and save Santa a trip.”
Imagine it’s Friday night and you’re heading out of Melbourne to the weekender on the farm at Merricks ($5.5 million) and your heart leaps when you see the marine-grade, 316 stainless steel weather vane on top of the 1880s homestead, but recently the subject of a $1m reno. It’s moving sensuously in the breeze that blows from the cobalt expanse of Western Port. Of course, the vane is in the shape of your Opalescent Golden Sand 1967 E-Type Roadster you bought last week from the Classic Throttle Shop for a snip at $399,995.
To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, “it shows you, you are among the victors!” You live on St Georges Road, Toorak, the street of dreams! You work on Collins Street, 50 floors up, for the legendary Goldman Sachs! You are at the wheel of the country’s finest Series 1 Jaguar E-Type 4.2 litre Roadster with one of the most beautiful women in Melbourne — no Comp Lit scholar perhaps, but gorgeous — beside you! A frisky young animal! You are one of that breed whose natural destiny it is … to have what they want!
Billy Twelvetrees (no, I didn’t make it up) and his dad Roger from Longhouse Design (based near Sleaford in rural Lincolnshire) will sell you a stock weather vane of a Jag, Land Rover, Riley or Morris Cowley for $370 (plus postage) or do a custom job depicting the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM you bought for $30m last weekend at RM Sotheby’s Petersen sale after a long bidding contest with two other collectors over the phone.
Now moving to literature, and I was going to suggest the 2018 Man Booker Prize winner Milkman by Anna Burns. Burns draws on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to portray a world that allows individuals to abuse the power granted by a community to those who resist the state on their behalf. Yet this is never a novel about just one place or time. The local is in service to an exploration of the universal experience of societies in crisis.
Instead I am recommending you give Ayrton Senna: Memories and Mementoes From a Life Lived at Full Speed by the late Chris Hilton. This is an interactive book that is always a benefit if, like me, you prefer books with lots of drawings of people with speech balloons telling you what they are saying.
Senna died young and has become a legend. He was a tough competitor (“being second is to be the first of the ones who lose”) and a sensational human being. The Ayrton Senna Institute has helped educate more than 7.8 million Brazilian children. Senna’s family gave Hilton incredible access so the book includes everything from replicas of his baptism certificate to letters and race agendas to autographed team stickers. The book was originally published in 2009 and copies of that are selling for close to $300, so this new edition is a steal at about $70.
Of course, all your closest friends will be really wishing for a digital subscription to The Australian with The Weekend Australian delivered to your door. And you get the Wall Street Journal online for free and the physical version of this Nobel Literature-prize winning paper with the Magazine and Review thrown in.
Readers, I can’t believe we’re basically letting you steal all this content that includes Phil King’s real motoring column, Jeremy Clarkson talking about his farm outside London, and John Lethlean writing about driving to expensive restaurants in expensive cars, for $4.50 a week (in small print they tell you it’s for the first 12 weeks then it goes up to a more reasonable $9 a week).
In the interests of keeping my job, can I also suggest the sports streaming service from Foxtel, Kayo Sports, for $25 a month?
Moving on from the festive season and shameless cross-promotions to science. As you know, we here in motoring in the business section believe there should be a zero limit on alcohol, drugs and distractions while driving. We’re not wowsers and in fact one of your correspondents has had serious chats to the fun police on at least one of these issues.
But while I have nothing against New Zealand academics, I don’t think the latest research study from the University of Otago that James Bond has a chronic drinking problem will be of any benefit in stopping persons getting behind the wheel after a million drinks. My concern is it will do the opposite.
Consider these points from Wilson, Tucker, Heath and Scarborough’s paper, “Licence to swill: James Bond’s drinking over six decades”: “Bond’s post-drinking activities included fights, driving vehicles, gambling, sex, athletic extremes and operating complex machinery or devices” like Aston Martins. Well, how good does that sound? In Quantum of Solace, Jimmy drank six vesper martinis (SBNS) or the equivalent of 24 units of alcohol, which the authors note “is enough to kill some people”. But while Jim’s “movements seem slower than usual, he speaks without slurring”. Well, that scientific evidence won’t be helping the RBT police.
In case you’re interested in getting the conversation going around the Xmas or other type of festive celebration table your family impose on each other in late December, here’s the Vespa recipe as first described by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale. “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of (Wolfschmidt) Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”