As unexpected life experiences go, appearing in front of the Transport Select Committee is right up there - and finding myself discussing the stock levels of pig wee if we all run urea systems to cut NOx emissions quite something else again.
The invitation came about as a result of the combined readership of Autocar, What Car? and PistonHeads, which I represent as editorial director. The thrust was to distill the views of the consumer as best as possible in light of the VW scandals and subsequent fall out regarding whether economy and emissions tests are fit for purpose.
To discuss such diverse and sometimes contrary topics in just over an hour, with three panellists on my side and eight MPs - chaired by Louise Ellman - on the other, was always going to be a tall order. The upside was that it was a civil, well mannered affair conducted in a largely positive, non-confrontational and open-minded spirit.
But I was surprised by some of the lines of questioning, and the levels of expertise (or otherwise) they conveyed. The biggest conclusion I'd draw is a stronger conviction than ever that legislators and governments need to set aside preconceptions and let the experts do what they are expert at - but it was ever thus, and deciding who the experts are in the face of a barrage of conflicting opinion can't be easy.
Some, for instance, seemed to imply that the media was to blame for the inadequacies of the test system - which seemed rather perverse, given it is surely the work of legislators to do that, and our years of work highlighting the shortcomings, not least through What Car?'s True MPG work. I was surprised, too, by the suggestion that anyone these days is suprised when they don't get the economy figures claimed by the official, lab based tests - that, of course, are soon to be renewed. Surely, for anyone looking, it only takes one trip to the fuel station to be disappointed on that score and a smidgen of investigation to work out why?
In many respects the meeting was a valuable chance to convey the barometer of public opinion in the wake of the VW scandals, although the suggestion that many (but not all) owners simply aren't that bothered (as many people who have contacted me say) didn't seem to be the answer they were looking for. Overall, however, the MPs came across as determined to represent their constituents as best they can, which was, well, reassuring.
But in others it felt they were seeking answers to impossible questions or questions that had already been answered - I can't answer if VW owners in the UK will get compensation (although I suspect not), nor can I offer advice on implementing more real world test procedures when one is already legislated for. We at least found common ground on the need for changes that will better reflect real-world use of cars, although I hope that the message that no test cycle can ever be truly representative got through.