Alexei Sayle: It's easy, just like driving a tank

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Indy Lifestyle Online

During the rioting in Budapest two weeks ago, on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, some demonstrators stole a Soviet-era T-34 tank due to be used in the commemoration, and drove it at the police. Seeing this on the news, I thought to myself, "Boy! They must have some tough driving test in Hungary for somebody to be able to drive that!". I mean, even in a big crowd, who in Britain knows how to drive anything except a car or a scooter?

Nobody. And tanks are really difficult to drive: they don't have a steering wheel, for example, but rather two levers that control the speed of the tracks; the view out is terrible; and the seat is made of metal. Also, most tanks, including the Challenger 2 and the M1 Abrams, are still only equipped with cassette players! Yes, really - there's no CD player, never mind a socket for an iPod.

Anyway, I checked with my Magyar motoring contacts, and I'm right: the Hungarian driving test dates from the Communist era, when cars were scarce, so the government made it very difficult for ordinary people to get a permit. So, in Hungary, to obtain your licence you have to demonstrate proficiency in driving cars, motorcycles, tractors, tracked military vehicles, ice-cream vans, street-sweepers, and those tugs that pull planes around.

As a consequence, the Hungarians have become very proud of their ability to drive anything. Apparently, the best way to insult a Hungarian is to say, "I saw your sister down the docks last night and she was having difficulty getting a diesel-powered hydraulic container lift crane into reverse". That'll drive them crazy.

You might wonder why I'm so keen to insult Hungarians all of a sudden, and the answer lies, as it always does when it comes to racism, with my own feelings of fear and inadequacy. Frankly, I'm worried that a Hungarian is going to take my job.

Think about it. Since they gained entry to the EU, Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians and the rest have been driving up standards in our building, car-washing and catering trades. Thousands of well-trained, motivated, and often very good-looking young people are improving the quality of life in Britain with their competence and pleasant manners.

Now, it's clearly only a matter of time before others from the accession countries extend themselves beyond the manual trades and begin filling different posts - replacing our home-grown newspaper columnists, for example. Imagine if some guy called Laszlo turns up one day at The Independent - you know he's going to be handsome because all Hungarians are handsome - and he can drive a JCB or a hovercraft as easily as I can drive a BMW 7 Series. How can I possibly compete with that?

All I can do is make up mad stuff every two weeks, but Laszlo - he's going to be all over the technical details as well as giving you profound and poetic insights into the whole driving experience.

So, thank God for the Home Secretary John Reid bowing to pressure from sub-standard tabloid journalists such as myself: he's never going to let you read Laszlo's work because he's never going to let him into the country. Hooray for New Labour, I say.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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