Crash-test dummies and expensive write-offs

A visit to the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre doesn’t sound like the most exciting afternoon you’ll ever have but Thatcham (as it’s known for short) is a mecca for car enthusiasts all over the world. I went to find out about their work on whiplash claims and came away reeling. An expensive car won’t protect you from the most common car crash injury – BMW and Porsche have repeatedly refused to supply their seats for testing – and VW-devotees would be horrified to see Golfs that have been written off at just 6mph. Most shocking of all was the 2008 Nissan Navara, one of the biggest, meanest looking 4×4 pick-ups on the road, which folded in half in a crash-test at 44mph, and received the worst safety rating since the Rover Metro in 1996.

Any flavour as long as it’s Pizza Express

In January, I wrote an article for Time Out about something that’s been worrying me for a while: how chain restaurants are devouring the streets of London. During the construction boom, big “mixed use” schemes that claimed to be transforming vast swathes of the city were all the rage. What developers didn’t mention was that they would be transforming everywhere into exactly the same place. Now you walk through New Street Square and it’s almost identical to Bankside, and Spitalfields, and the South Bank, and Paternoster Square… I took to the streets to find out why developers display such a depressing, and dangerous, lack of imagination.