Remembering 2013

5. Taking my mother to Silverstone and Brands Hatch
The last time I went to Silverstone to watch F1 was 2010 and our rear windscreen got smashed, so while memorable it was not a great experience. This time I took my mother along for the first time and we greatly enjoyed qualifying day as our man Lewis Hamilton took pole position. After my trip to the States it was also great to be able to head to Brands Hatch in the autumn to watch another fantastic title showdown (even if the weather was wet and horrible).

4. Thanksgiving
After our first Thanksgiving in America it was nice to be back in England again with all of our friends round for turkey. A lot of them we had not seen since our barbeque the previous summer and so we had lots of catching up to do.

3. Getting very cold at an NFL playoff game and going to Wembley
I was not going to pass up the opportunity of seeing Denver play a home playoff game while I was in the city. I therefore stumped up the cash and got myself all kitted up to see them take on Baltimore. Unfortunately the game itself ended in an embarrassing loss, the temperature was a long way below 0, and I nearly got frostbite in my foot… but the experience was something I will not forget. Added to that, I got to go to both NFL games at Wembley and although the games were not brilliant it is wonderful being able to watch the sport on home turf.

2. Getting an awesome job
I began job hunting about two months before I was scheduled to leave America, it took me a month to find the perfect job and I ended up leaving the country a fortnight early for it. I am greatly enjoying working for Tempered Vision in Basingstoke, I’ve got a great boss and we have been working on some interesting projects.

1. Buying a house
The biggest thing that happened in 2013 was our getting on the property ladder, in fact since returning from America most things in our lives have changed. The house is the icing on the cake though and we are now very happily living in Billingshurst, just 8 miles down the road from where I grew up.

 

The British Grand Prix 2009

We arrived at the campsite around 3:30 on the Thursday and set up camp. Once this was done we headed off for a walk, we found the perimeter road around the track. We passed the entrance to the track and wandered all the way around the track to Vale which is about 2/3s of the way before finding a gate stopping as getting further… great. We therefore just sauntered back to the campsite for a BBQ

Beth

On Friday morning Paddy and I both work early and so headed to the track, they opened the gates late so we didn’t get in until 6:45 (meant to be 6) and went for a walk the whole way around the track perimeter, it was friggin cool to be there. After our walk I spilled lots of tea on myself taking it from the track to the campsite for part of breakfast. Beth came with us to the track again at about 9am and we set ourselves up at Becketts for first practice. The view was good but the cars were quite a long way away, if you got nearer to the track you saw the cars for less time, so we made do.

After first practice we headed off down Hangar Straight to try and find somewhere else to watch from. It was then we came across the raised banking at Stowe corner and so we watched the other open wheel cars from there for the morning to get an idea of it. It turns out that from here you can see most of the track from Becketts, down Hangar Straight, through Stowe, Vale and Abbey and finally into Bridge. Therefore it gave us the best view of the cars over a lap and we decided this would be our base of operations for the rest of the weekend.

On Friday night we went back to the campsite and had Chilli Con Carne which may have melted the camping stove a little bit… We then went to the site bar for some cider to talk over what we had seen that day. The red bulls looked strong, the Brawns less so good. On the way back we came across a crowd at the onsite hotel. It turns out a lot of the drivers stay there and we got to see Fisichella, Kubica, Kovaleinen, Trulli and Martin Whitmarsh getting back that evening. We also managed to get autographs from the last two. WOO!

On Saturday morning we managed to stay in bed a little bit longer and got to the track around 8pm, we headed straight to Stowe and watched the final F1 practice before qualifying. Beth joined us towards the end of this session. My ears thankfully acclimatised to the noise on Friday morning and so it did not really matter that I lost one of my earplugs during Friday night (our neighbours in a caravan had a tent right next to ours from which they were drinking and singing late into the night… bastards). For qualifying I got my netbook out and it was a great help because we could keep track of what was going on in the noise. Everyone seems to be going fast when they come past you and you can’t hear the track commentary so it was essential really. Vettel did a good job to get pole, he made it look easy and I am sure it was in that car but he is a great driver of the future.

After qualifying with the fan favourites well down the grid Beth left to get some peace and quiet leaving Paddy and I to watch two very good races from GP2 and Formula BMW. There was overtaking and action and both races were exciting. When we got back in the evening we headed for the beer tent for some burgers etc and were treated to the Red Bull matadors who wowed the campsite with their close flying manouevers. After food we went for a little wander before heading back to the campsite, setting our alarms and going to bed.

On a race Sunday the track opens at 5am, Paddy and I got up at 4am, got dressed and joined an already forming queue of people. When we got in at about 5:05 we walked quickly to Stowe which is no mean feat and about 25mins away from our entrance. When we got there we found only room for our three chairs at the front of the raised banking as the rest of it was already full. 5:35 and already a good hundred people on our bank crikey I thought we would be the only mad ones.

By 9am when the Formula BMWs came out again the spectator areas were heaving. The hour leading up to the race was also very exciting with lots of helicopters arriving in the centre of the track and Red Arrows and all sorts of other wonderful things like driver parades and a demo lap from Jackie Stewart in the car he won the race with thirty years ago. The race itself was a bit of a Vettel whitewash but behind him there were battles through the field with the best involving three of the best drivers fighting for 14th place with Alonso and Kubica providing the best battle of the weekend. Other good battles developed as Massa and Rosberg caught Barrichello in the middle stint, they couldn’t pass but they sure pushed him hard. The atmosphere was epic and actually watching a race live is something else. Seeing the cars on Friday and Saturday was nice but seeing them do what they were made for and seeing the drivers working hard throughout the field was impressive. I loved it and would go to every race if I could… oh well.

After the race we were able to go into the centre of the track for the annual Grand Prix party where they get guests on the stage to talk about the racing and formula one in general. This time it was all dominated by the talk of Donnington getting the race next year and of the possible FOTA breakaway series which lets be honest would be much better than one which Bernie and Max have control over. We saw a good mix of drivers and team owners and pundits and they kept the crowd entertained for a couple of hours while the less faithful emptied the car parks. There was also some good music played as well from Eddie Jordan and a Rolling Stones tribute band who weren’t bad.

When we got bored of the tribute band we headed for the track and were pleased to find it was open to wander around. After lots of wandering about, some bad overpriced food and lots of photos we headed back to the campsite and collapsed after what had been a busy day.

Things I now know in hindsight….

  • Get a seat at Stowe, it is a great place to watch from. Next time I would likely buy a grandstand seat solely because I then have a guarenteed seat and don’t have to wake up stupidly early…
  • Cool bags don’t stay cool if left in a hot car
  • Caravans are bloody annoying
  • Formula One is great fun to watch
  • Event food generally (I do not include race track donuts here) is overexpensive and tastes horrible, so always bring your own food most days. We spent about £80 on food in three days…
  • Netbooks are invaluable on qualifying and race days for keeping up with whats going on
  • Whittlebury is the only campsite you could ever need for race weekend being a ten minute walk from the track and having drivers on site

All photos can be viewed here

If you want high-res copies email me.

THE CAFE @ THE CENTRE

The rush to Christmas affects us all and the volunteers at The Cafe @The Centre are no exception.
The result – even fewer volunteers when we actually need more to cope with the pre-Christmas rush.
Can you please spare just a few hours to help out?
The alternative is that we will have to close at certain times.

Please call The Centre 01403 218531 during opening hours or leave a message on 01403 218821 evenings. Alternatively, e-mail [email protected]

Many thanks

Doug Fletcher

Origins

Went to work today and had a nice day of it. When I got home I played F1 and then in the evening drove to Kent Uni to pick up my wife. This is where things go annoying, my phone hasn't been working perfectly. Well tonight it decided it couldn't access the phone or any of my contact information… which is fun. So therefore with Kent being a big campus I did not really know where Beth was. I found the college she said she was in relatively quickly and then wandered around the whole building trying to find an entrance to the bar. Failing that I went in the main entrance and wandered about looking for the bar. Eventually I found Beth and we headed to the bar in another college which serves Mexican food. We got an enchilada, nachos and potato wedges. Beth's meal was the potato wedges, she wanted something small but instead we got a huge plate of nachos to share and a huge bowl of potato wedges. The food tasted very good and was student price. We will have to go back as it was very nice.

New home

This morning we all trotted off to church after seeing Britain achieve more Olympic glory. I'm pretty sure Britain has never been 3rd in the overall standings in my lifetime. Anyway church was strange as it often is during the summer with a story about Bob Hope taking place during it. It was still enjoyable though. This day was, however, dominated by the fact it was our moving in day, sure we have had the flat for the last month but it was used for storage mainly. Today we moved most of my stuff over, the roads were clear which was very nice as the back of the car was very cramped. After some attempts at unpacking small things I decided to get on with building the TV stand as that will house quite a lot of the gumpf littering the room. Its not a bad TV stand actually. In the evening Beth and I treated my parents to a roast dinner in the wetherspoons across the street from us, sure they only had beef left but it was still a good meal. When we got home and my parents had left Beth played some Boom Blox while I unpacked some more things. I then joined her and we tied over the ten rounds. We headed off to bed rather early and found that a street light pretty much outside the window was able to get through the curtains (not too badly) and that the traffic noise was rather loud, ah well, it's the first night. We'll be used to it soon.

Leaving town

After waking early I went with my father to take Craig Blomberg to Gatwick airport. On arriving back home Beth, my mother and I watched the rowing finals as Britain picked up quite a few medals. On our way into town we paid in our wedding money and then had lunch in Little Black Olive. Beth and I went home and relaxed for the afternoon. In the evening my mother made dinner and then in the evening Paddy came over and played Boom Blox with us.

Home Office

This morning we awoke in my flat bright and early and I finished my Ted Dekker trilogy. While there may have been times when it didn't make much sense to me and where it seemingly didn't make much sense to him either it was a good series of books and I enjoyed reading them. Seems to be the way with Ted Dekker that his books confuse him at some point in writing them and they lag a bit in the middle as he works it out. Enjoyable though and I will keep reading. At 9:30 Beth and I left my flat for the penultimate time to go to the Home Office in Croydon. We started our journey with the 170 to Clapham Junction and then took the train to East Croydon leading to a five minute walk. I was nervous about this trip, we get it wrong and Beth gets deported and I am stuck with a flat in Canterbury I can't pay for. We had heard many people talking about how difficult it would be for us to get the visa.


We walked up to the building and queued with others to get into the building. Once inside we went through security who checked we had no bombs or whatever and then joined another queue which took 25 minutes. We eventually got to a desk where we registered our intent to get a visa and were then told to go upstairs for billing. We paid our £595 for the application and then registered again with another lady. Next Beth had her biometric information taken. Basically from the end of our time queuing to this point took 20 minutes. We then had to wait in a reception for twenty minutes before we saw a case worker who just took some of our information to be photocopied and then said we had the visa, no questioning, and no checking of finances, no asking about my employment just a simple photocopying. We went and got lunch and by the time we had finished eating Beth's passport was completed and we could leave. It really was that easy. Two hours after entering we left again.


When we arrived back at my flat I cleaned the kitchen and my room to the best of my ability (which isn't that great) and then my parents arrived and I moved out of my flat. On arriving home we played Boom Blox with my parents and waited for Beth's dad to arrive. He eventually did and so we showed off our Paris pictures to the assembled parents before retiring to bed.

Journey home

This morning Beth and I woke late, well Beth did. I sat in our other room and read my book for an hour before she appeared. We had another of the best breakfasts ever at the hotel and then went and bought a print from a street vendor of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. We finished packing our things and then got the taxi to the train station. Lunch was from a cafe and was alright. The train home took two and half hours and we then had to tube across London to Hammersmith to get back to my flat. We had Mama's pizza with Tim and Danielle and then watched Keeping Mum with them which was relatively funny.

Preparing for marriage

First some apologies. First, I apologise for the lack of posts in the last few months. I have all the information on the days stored and I can catch up when more time presents itself. Second I apologise for the problems with the theme presently, if you go to a post only view (where you leave comments) or go to another page than the home page the screen loses its style. I am trying to work out why this happens but in the mean time accept my apologies.


I started the day by playing F1'06 for the PS2 which is still the best F1 game available but Codemasters are developing a new one for next year. I started 18th on the grid after crashing in qualifying and finished 3rd, a good race. I followed this up by calling the Home Office and finding out how we pass their credit check thing to make sure we can support ourselves. They said they take the previous three months pay checks when they do it.


Next I called BT as according to their website it costs £125 to set up a line and I wanted to clarify this. Basically the nice northern guy on the phone explained that because the line was already installed and just need connecting after the previous tennant moved out and cancelled his service this fee would be waived. Therefore it is always worth checking before paying large amounts of money. I then proceeded to spend the next 50 minutes on the phone to the guy as we worked through options and set up mine and Beth's phone and internet services. We are getting out phone line rental for £12 a month and then the internet for £20 a month, not bad I think. The guy on the phone also reckoned we should get a decent internet speed of 6mbps which is a lot better than I have been used to when away from Horsham. I think that is likely to be my longest phone call ever.


The rest of the morning I spent filling out an application form for a caseworker position with Kent Police, sounds interesting but I am still holding out for Nationwide to get back to me, I may well try calling them again at the beginning of next week. In the afternoon I went to work at the Centre as Doug wanted someone to cover the bookshop while he was on lunch. I ended up staying for three hours and it was moderately busy, not to Wesley Owen busyness but not bad. When I got home I had Beth complaining about being ill but I put it behind me and enjoyed pizza for dinner. In the evening we played scrabble and then Helen joined us for some Smash Bros on Wii before we went to bed.

Tanbridge

This morning after Beth had headed off to work I got the train to Horsham whilst reading my book Black by Ted Dekker which is a very entertaining story about a man stuck in two worlds. One is the present (Denver oddly enough) and the other is set several million years in the future. Even weirder its a christian story with some questions about god in it, this is more than his other book three where the main character just happened to go to seminary.


When in Horsham I headed home and unpacked. I then pumped up both the tyres on the bike that Beth will be inheriting when we get married. My plan was to cycle and get a feel for the bike but this did not work out as the brakes are too tight against the wheels and the rear had a puncture. I walked it to my grandparents then and set to work with my grandfather replacing a bolt and fixing the tyre. Tomorrow will probably take a trip to Halfords and sort the brakes out as well.


At lunchtime I headed into town and met Paddy, we ate at the christian centre and talked to Doug as well. After eating I got Paddy suited for the wedding and then we headed to Tanbridge via Neil's house (to drop off an invite for the wedding). We got to Tanbridge 5mins before the bell went for the end of the day and so waited around and then headed up to the familiar history corridor. We talked to Mr Head for around an hour and a half before heading home. We discerned that he may be coming to my wedding and that he hated Indiana Jones. In other news he also wants to die in the classroom while teaching because he figures it would be entertaining. I got my money off Paddy for his trip to America and spent the rest of the evening playing games, watching Football and sleeping. The Germany vs Turkey game for the record was very entertaining fingers crossed for Russia vs Spain tomorrow.