The Times – The confessions of Clarkson’s secret bride<br/> Top Gear speaks to the little boy in all of of us, by Melanie Reid

Every mother with a son; or rather, every woman who shares a house with a male of any age who likes to watch Top Gear – and that’s most of us – will know how I feel. A whole generation of strong, sensible, feminist-minded working mothers, who are not interested in cars, who are too busy to watch television and who under normal circumstances would regard Jeremy Clarkson as an unreconstructed twit, are hopelessly trapped in the web that the BBC Two show has woven. How has this happened?… We’re as addicted to Top Gear as our menfolk, and it maddens us to admit it. Some of us – and this is genuinely embarrassing – even bought Richard Hammond’s autobiography for our sons at Christmas, and then ended up reading it ourselves. And surprisingly moving in parts it was, too.

I’m addicted and not maddened at all to admit it. And I wouldn’t say that my menfolks’ addiction to it (that would be Peter) would be a very appropriate yardstick with which to measure my own. Technically he discovered Top Gear first, but I was the one who spent that one week watching about 8 full seasons in 8 minute You Tube clips.

Lots of energy – and probably several academic theses – has already been dedicated to analysing Top Gear’s success, much of it based on a sociological deconstruction of our love affair with the internal combustion engine. I actually don’t think it’s anything to do with that. Cars are an effective common denominator, but they are essentially a cypher.

Top Gear is simply about the survival of blokeishness in a feminised world. It’s about prime-time gender revenge and anti-authoritarianism and male camaraderie It’s about the inner schoolboy in every man; and a nostalgia for the kind of power that men aren’t allowed any more. It’s the story of the little guy, dominated by his wife, and told to slow down as he’s driving the Astra to Asda, who watches Top Gear and whispers “Yes!” under his breath as the three comic musketeers proceed across the land, doing insanely silly things their mothers would never have let them do, and generally dissing girlieness, women’s cars and political correctness.

All that, and the fact that it’s funny as hell. Make ‘em laugh, and all that.

Also in Saturday’s paper, funnily enough, was a telling article on romantic fiction, in which one of the senior editors from Mills & Boon defended her product. “Our millions of readers are not stupid. They are simply women who want to escape to somewhere lovely. Escapism is absolutely key,” she said.

Precisely! Harmless refuges for different genders! What romance is to women, so Top Gear is to men – a chance to escape to somewhere lovely and not be criticised. A place where reality is suspended, the torque is magnificent, the talk even better and the responsibility zero.

My secret fantasy is that one day the two genres should collide, and Jeremy Clarkson be filmed as the tall, sneering Regency hero in the tight pantalons, test-driving his four-in-hand racing curricle at high speed. I know, only 4bhp. Not a patch on a Bugatti Veyron. But think of the viewing figures, boys, think of the viewing figures.