High-revving fun

Had me a fun weekend, driving up to Kenilworth in Warwickshire to jump into an Aston Martin V8 and thrash it around a race track. And what fun it was…

The ‘Aston Martin Thrill’ was courtesy of my lovely wife Fiona; she bought it for me as a surprise birthday present last year, and I finally got around to booking a date for it. They had various venues on offer, most of them way up north. I didn’t really fancy driving 250 miles to then do some more driving, so I tried the Oxfordshire track. Couldn’t get the dates I wanted, so I plumped for the slightly-more-distant Warwickshire one. And early on Saturday morning we jumped in the car and headed north.

Arriving at the circuit, we found that it was a bit more basic than expected: the ‘hospitality suite’ was a portakabin, with portaloos outside. But the main point of the event was ranged outside on the pit lane: three Lamborghinis, a Ferrari, two Aston Martins, an Audi R8 and an Ariel Atom. While waiting for the drive itself, I got to have an introductory lap in a Subaru; the driver pointed out the apex cones at each corner, and advised on the lines to take. Then it was back to the centre to wait for the actual drive.

My turn came, and I got the Aston Martin V8 convertible – with the top down. It was a pretty grey and chilly day, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it, but it turned out fine. The instructor took me through a few basic points including using the paddle gearshifts, and off we went. The first lap was OK; more of an acclimatisation lap, really – then on the second lap I floored it and started really enjoying myself. I nudged over 100mph on the straight, then the corners took all my attention. Slightly dodgy on my apexes to begin with, I was getting smoother by the time I finished (3 laps and it was over!) – I could have done another 20 laps and been quicker on each one. All the while, that beautiful exhaust note was howling in my ears – but even at 100mph there was little air disturbance in the driver’s cabin to ruffle the experience.

And what an experience it was. Howling down the straights, tucking into the corners and feeling the tyres and suspension digging in and doing their work perfectly – I didn’t have very much time to appreciate the finer points of the interior. Fast, furious and fun – I would LOVE to own one of these cars, but I think parking it outside my terraced house in Dartford might be an invitation to all kinds of misery!

In the end, I got a certificate (as y’do); the instructor gave my driving a 90% score, which was quite gratifying. I eschewed the professional photograph, opting instead to go for Fi’s trackside shots – besides, at £25 it was a bit of a rip-off. To finish the day, I had a fast lap in a BMW M3 with a guy who could have given the Stig a run for his money – he hit 115mph on the straight, which put my efforts into perspective! 🙂

All in all, terrific fun at a price. Would I do it again? Yes, I think so – driving an Aston was too good a chance to pass up, and I’d love to give it another go. I’m saving up….

Fun on the slopes; a long lurgy

Not long back from my latest trip to the slopes for snowboarding fun: Andorra once again, and it was a blast, my horribly persistent lurgy notwithstanding. The trip was characterised mostly by being my nephew Caelum’s first outing on the slopes, and all indications are that he’s hooked – already talking about next year’s trip (maybe…?). Another snowboarder on the slopes – I fear skiers everywhere are groaning in disgust!

But back to my lurgy, briefly. About a week before the ski trip, I developed a tickly cough, which was troublesome as it kept me awake that night. By the following day it had developed into a sore throat. Uh-oh, I thought, I think I know where this is going – having suffered enormously from chest infections in the past, this progression was horribly familiar. Sure enough, the following day it had shifted down to my upper chest, and I feared the worst. So a trip to the doctor it was, in anticipation of an antibiotic prescription and a moratorium on any alcoholic enjoyment for the holiday.

However, the GP checked my temperature, listened to my lungs and pronounced all normal and airways clear. His prescription? A combination of high-strength paracetamol and ibuprofen, for as long as it took to fix me. Fair enough – I don’t like taking antibiotics anyway. He told me it was probably some kind of virus: “there’s a lot of it about” he said, without a hint of irony…

A great holiday in Andorra ensued, with Caelum having a shaky start and finishing the week going lickety-spit down the slopes – certainly better developed than I was on my first week. But he has the advantage of youth, I console myself. Not that I’m a rickety OAP myself, just a little less flexible and a lot less fearless than my 13 year-old nephew. Such is life.

My brother Paul, for his part was a quick study on the skis – another relatively fearless individual. By the end of the week, he was improvising parallel turns and almost nailing it – respect! So best beginning skier award went to Paul. I think I was still a contender for the “best wipeout” award, despite my nephews’ attempts to fashion some good tumbles. At one point, I had to limp to the bottom and get a coffee, just for an excuse not to go out and have those horrible slopes attack me again… 🙂

As to the virus, I managed to get horrendous earache on the descent into Toulouse, and on the transfer up into the mountains went half deaf from sinus issues. And so it was for the week, with streaming nose, frequent sneezes and coughs – and the usual bruises (but a lot fewer of those this year!). Of course, I was feeling a little better halfway into the week, so was less diligent about taking my medicine – and paid for it by the end of the holiday. On returning home, I was almost as bad as when I’d left. And now, 10 days after returning, I’m feeling that the virus has run its course. More fresh fruit for me, I think!

So back to work, and it’s a refreshing mix of mainly good news – we’ll be in business for the foreseeable, by the looks of things. The economy limps on, with the list of casualties mounting daily. And the government busies itself trying to distract the electorate with stories such as Fred Goodwin’s pension (the issue du jour) – now they’re talking about acts of parliament to claw the pension back from him. For my part, I think it’s a slippery slope and I hope they don’t pull it off. Things are bad enough without such a precedent.

Anyway, enough political whingeing; go check out the ski pics in the gallery, if you’re interested. And if not, pop back in a few more months, when I might have posted something new!