Monday, 6 July 2009

More power!

At times I like to think of myself as a cultured man. I can tell the difference between Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. I have several Brian Eno records. I can read poetry without being embarrassed. I even went to see a Gilbert & Sullian operetta last week. I didn't like it very much, but that's not the point.

But, strip away all of this ponciness and underneath there is still a bloke. A strange, unformed creature that gets excited about manly things. And who scratches himself inappropriately at times, but that's probably best not shared.

So when I was invited on a sports car driving day on Saturday I got unnecessarily excited, in an 'eight-year-old boy, jumping around and borderline wetting himself' kind of way. It was originally Katie's dad who was slated to do the driving - it was his birthday present from us - but he decided that he didn't want to do it on his own so, with completely false reluctance, I booked in for a session too.

Saturday saw us heading up the M6 to Stafford, explaining to my mother-in-law that we had just entered Staffordshire and the clue was in the name. My father-in-law has a strong streak of punctuality running through him, so we showed up about an hour-and-a-half early. Plenty of time for us to watch sports cars, and for Katie and her mum to lose the will to live.

After a briefing when an instructor told us about breaking points and apexes we were issued with crash helmets - not to provide any protection but merely as a leveller, on the basis that everyone ends up looking like tools:

Like Days of Thunder with a higher cholesterol count.

Then came the 'trying not to crash the sixy grand supercar' bit of the day. Climbing in the car I was met by my instructor, Sian. Petite, blonde and there to deflate the male egos, Sian's job was to tell us rank amateurs how to stop and go.

We waited at the end of one straight for the track to clear. I was muttering the mantra of all men in this situation: please don't stall, please don't stall, please don't stall.

"Right, now apply some power."

"OK. Well, that seems quite nooooooooorrrrrrmmmmaaaaallllllll....."

The whole world seemed to be playing at 78rpm on my 33rpm record player.

"More power. Go on. Give it some welly."

We were approaching a chicane at ohmygod miles per hour and Sian was exhorting me to accelerate towards what appeared to be an obstacle. I changed gear and the silliness continued. Then with a corner approaching Sian was back on the instructions, "Brake brake brake." So I did.

Christ on a bike. My lungs, seemingly wanting to carry on under the force of inertia, were keen to decorate the dashboard. We zipped around the first corner, taking the rules of physics to one side and giving them a good talking to.

"That was good. Now let's try it a little faster."

Once I'd got over the shock of being instructed, no, ordered, to thrape someone else's fancy car, things started to just get hilarious. All thoughts of Eno and poetry had pretty much disappeared by this point. I'm almost certain Dylan Thomas never wrote about double-declutching.

Before too long it was over and I was disgorged, spent, onto the tarmac.

It was later, while eating a nice steak rarebit and downing my second pint of Fox's Nob, that I realised I was living the Bloke Dream.

I need to get me some power tools.

1 comment:

Country Girl said...

A drill. You really need a drill. I can just SEE you ferociously taking the back off the refrigerator.


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