Hitching a ride with Jason Durr
Who taught you to drive?
I was 18 when I started driving, I took lessons with BSM. My instructor was very experienced, he not only taught me everything I needed to pass the test but he also gave me a great insight into the world of motoring generally.
Did you pass your driving test on the first attempt?
Yes and I owe my success to having had such a brilliant instructor.
Do you have any particular memories from your driving test?
Just before we got into the car, the examiner asked me to read the number plate on the opposite side of the road. I was about to read it to him when another pupil, who was standing a few yards away, read out the same number plate. I instinctively recognised the person’s voice because it sounded as if he was singing the numbers and letters. I glanced across and there stood Elvis Costello. To this day, I don’t know if he passed his test!
What was your first car?
As an 18 year old budding actor living in London and feeling my way in the profession, I wasn’t earning enough money at the time to buy a car. It was several years later when I was about 25 that I managed to afford my first car – a blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible, one of the more modern ones. Sadly mine was best suited to be driven by circus clowns as it was so bad that everything would either go wrong or simply fall off. Unusually for a Volkswagen, mine was the archetypal ‘Friday-built’ jalopy held together with duck-tape and cable-ties
What car do you currently drive?
We have a Volvo V70 Estate. Living in the country, it’s ideal for transporting our 3 young children and the vast amount of paraphernalia that goes with them. It’s well built, feels safe and reliable and for a car of its size, is reasonably economical.
Who keeps your car clean?
We’re completely surrounded by the farming community here and keeping a car clean, especially during the winter months, is nigh on impossible. When I’m away the task of keeping the car clean falls mostly upon Kate.
What would be your dream car?
I’m not an overly car-oriented person but I’ve always admired the E-Type Jaguar – preferably a convertible in British racing green. When I was filming Heartbeat, we used one on set and I was lucky enough to be handed the keys and take it for a long drive around the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
Do you ever give your cars a name and if so, what is the current one?
Our 3 children name the cars. The Volvo is affectionately known as ‘Hotbot’ due to the heated seats. Before that, we owned a Chrysler Voyager which was called ‘Slidey’ due to its sliding passenger doors and our Citroën was nicknamed ‘Whizzy!’
What would we find in your glove box?
Nothing too interesting I’m afraid, probably children’s toys and the sat nav. Maybe we should go and take a look!
Can you pick out a memorable car journey?
Several years ago, when we were in the process of moving to California, we hired a Land Rover Discovery and drove along Route 101. This is a spectacular 1500 mile highway that links Los Angeles with San Francisco. Our 3 week adventure took in places such as Palm Springs, Death Valley, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Big Sur and the YosemiteNational Park. It was there we saw a General Sherman tree which is the largest known living single stem tree on Earth.
What do you like to listen to in the car?
For the last 8 or so years since having children, we’ve listening to nothing else other than Postman Pat, the Teletubbies, nursery rhymes and an endless assortment of stories. A couple of the stories have been played so many times that we know them word for word, off by heart! On the rare occasion when the children aren’t in the car, I listen to either Radio 2’s Breakfast show with Chris Evans or Radio 4.
Who would you most like to have as a passenger on a long journey?
Two people spring to mind, Firstly, Mahatma Ghandi. I would just listen and be inspired by his great wisdom. The other person would be my best friend and fellow actor, Chris Larkin. He has a natural wit and is one of the funniest people I know. I’d just end up crying with laughter the whole time.
Who would you least like to have as a passenger?
Probably a very drunk Oliver Reed!
Would you describe yourself as a good passenger?
Yes I think so. I’m definitely not a ‘back seat driver. I try to relax and let the driver do the driving.
During the Heartbeat era, I’d get picked up early on a Monday morning and be driven the 5 hours or so to Yorkshire. Many of the chauffeurs would talk incessantly which was frustrating as I’d like to use this time to either sleep or learn my lines. Having said that, I did have one great chauffeur who, on his first day said, ‘Good morning Jason, I suspect you’ll find me as boring as I find you – so I’ll just keep quiet. We got on famously after that!
How would you describe your driving ability?
I don’t profess to be the greatest driver in the world but I think I’m pretty capable and aim to remain calm at all times. I try to be very wary and avoid letting other drivers stupidity influence the way I drive.
Kate is far more proficient than me and normally does most of the driving.
What things annoy you about other drivers?
There’s so much thoughtlessness on the roads nowadays that I could probably list a hundred things! I used to ride my own motorbike and the standard response from motorists of ‘sorry I just didn’t see you’ was very frustrating.
If you were Roads Minister for a day what would you change?
Signage overload – it’s ugly and there’s simply far too much.
How could you manage your life if your car were taken away from you?
I could manage, but only just. Driving is intrinsically linked to my work. When I’m touring, a car is pretty much essential. I suppose I could use trains and taxis but the logistics would make life complicated. Obviously if I couldn’t drive, the burden would fall upon Kate.
Do you still enjoy driving?
Yes, I love driving especially when I have children with me, they’re very entertaining. I also used to enjoy riding my motorcycle, but when the children came along, Kate and I agreed that it was just too risky and the bike had to go!
What is your top driving tip?
Try to remain calm.
How clean is your licence?
Completely clean, it’s many years since I’ve had any points.