I'm clean-shaven at the moment. I was forced to cut off my Tolstoy-style writer's beard in order to play the late Pope John Paul II in a sketch on the TV show Bremner, Bird and Fortune opposite Rory Bremner as Princess Diana.

I'm clean-shaven at the moment. I was forced to cut off my Tolstoy-style writer's beard in order to play the late Pope John Paul II in a sketch on the TV show Bremner, Bird and Fortune opposite Rory Bremner as Princess Diana. A lot of people were most complimentary about my performance as the ex-pontiff and I've been feeling since then that I'd quite like to be a bit more papal in future. One thing I thought I could do as a step in that direction is to buy me one of those Popemobiles.

I'm not sure what the deal is with those things. How many are there in existence for example? Indeed does anybody know the history of these vehicles? I seem to remember that the first one I saw was in the early 1970s and I recall was based on a Mk I Range Rover, while some of the later ones look to be built on a Mercedes G Wagen chassis. I wonder whether the new Holy Father is considering flogging a few off as part of his new regime. I imagine none of these cars have ever done more than about fifteen miles an hour, which could be a problem if one wanted to give them a bit of stick on the open road. They may also need to be deconsecrated before a non-Catholic can be driven about in one, and there's no telling how much that would cost, or whether Kwikfit even has the equipment to do it.

If the Vatican isn't willing to let me have one of their old motors at a reasonable price, then I suppose I might have to have a Popemobile built for me. I reckon one of those firms (that sometimes advertise in this supplement) who convert car-based vans to wheelchair use would easily be able to do me a popemobile style vehicle. It could be based on a Fiat Doblo to keep costs down, and I don't consider that the highest, most expensive brand of bullet-proof glass would be needed, as there's not as many people trying to kill me these days as there were at one time.

Actually, if I have to build my own Popemobile then perhaps I might be able to be more ecological in my choice of motive power. Seeing as a major part of the enjoyment I got from playing the pope was the pleasure involved in swishing around in those long papal robes then it occurs to me, given the upright position you adopt in the back of the Holy truck and the relatively slow speed of travel, that it might be possible for a reasonably fit man to pedal their own Popemobile about. (The flailing of your feet on the pedals would be concealed under the long gown without any loss of dignity.)

I've just had another idea! There is a show on the music channel MTV called Pimp My Ride, in which each week somebody with an ugly, banal car is nominated by a friend. They are then accosted by a large gentleman called Xzibit who "pimps their ride" (i.e. he takes their vehicle off them and with a fancy paint-job, stick-on wings, chromed exhaust stacks, low-rider suspension and various other embellishments, converts their motor into an exotic Californian dream machine suitable for cruisin' in the hood with your homeys.

I was thinking, in my new clerical mood, that maybe there's room for a similar programme called Pope My Ride. In this show each week a priest, a nun or a bishop's boring car is nominated by a colleague or a parishoner and then me and my crew "pope their ride". A troupe of skilled car customisers and myself chop the back of their wheels into a pickup truck, we then add a bullet-proof plexi-glass box, grabhandles and a high-mounted throne covered in jewels and red plush velvet. They then get to drive slowly around waving at people. I suppose the winner might not be able to afford a driver, so my crew could put an inflatable dummy in the driver's seat then extend the steering wheel, brakes and pedals upwards so the "poped" vehicle could be controlled from the throne.

After that show is a success perhaps we could do another one called Mullah my Motor in which a woman's nice, colourful car would be taken off her to be painted a dull shade of matt black, the windows covered over and handed back with only a tiny, narrow slit at the front for her to see out of.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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