Zen Motoring, review: prone to road rage? This is the perfect antidote

To be a motorist in London these days is to know true despair. If you haven’t scrapped your car because it failed the Ultra Low Emission Zone test, then you must run the gamut of never-ending roadworks and low traffic neighbourhoods. You could try getting the bus, but they’re stuck in the traffic caused by the never-ending roadworks and the low traffic neighbourhoods. The only answer seems to be to buy a bicycle, but that throws up its own problems: I recently tried to book a carpenter to make some kitchen shelves, but he turned down the job on the grounds that a 130cm plank of wood was too long for his bike trailer.

For the above reasons, I loved Zen Motoring (BBC Three). It first began on YouTube and is a 15-minute comedy show filmed entirely from the inside of a car. The mostly unseen narrator drives around the streets of North London – Tottenham, Finsbury Park, Hackney and Holloway, if you’re after the specifics – delivering a soothing commentary on everything he sees. It is the polar opposite of road rage.

The narrator is Ivan Battaliero-Owen, who presents himself as Ogmios, a former “battle rapper” now planning to write “the Zenway Code”. For him, driving is not a source of frustration but an opportunity to reach a higher astral plane. Here is Ogmios trying to get out of a junction but finding his route blocked by the binmen: “As they empty the bins, I empty my mind.”

Along the way, Ogmios points out poor road users, from drivers who edge into the bike zone when waiting to set off at the lights (“the twisted perverts of the road”) to scooters (“they just drift in and out of our lives like inter-dimensional beings. What do they want?”).

This meditative voiceover was interrupted towards the end of the first episode by a scripted encounter with an e-scooter rider and a visit to Swindon’s Magic Roundabout. I was less fond of those bits, because the preceding 10 minutes had calmed me to such a point that I found digressions quite stressful.

Really, I can’t do it justice by writing the lines down, because it’s all in the delivery. You’ll need to watch it. If you’ve just spent your day navigating hellish traffic and poorly planned council road schemes, so much the better. It’s the perfect antidote.

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