17.06.2014 - 12.07.2014 22 °C
Since leaving our journey story in Scotland a month ago, I have received a large number of emails. They basically fall into 2 groups. There are the 29 people who have ordered Haggis Whistles. Interestingly, the expatriate Scottish buyers all want clockwise Haggis Whistles while the naïve others left it to my discretion. One guy believes the remote parts of New Zealand are inhabited by the wild Haggis and are puzzled why they don’t emerge to the skirl of his bagpipes. I picture him wearing his tartan Tam-o-Shanter, wailing his way through the highlands of Fiordland wondering why even the hikers are hiding.) The reason the canny Scots request the clockwise variety is because the earth rotates to the east. This results in the clockwise Haggis being able to cruise rather than struggle against the rotation of the earth – so they become plumper and sweeter. Ye hear it 'ere foremaist.
The many other emails were along the lines of, “Where are you? We haven’t heard from you for a long time - but we have no interest in contributing to your bail if you happen to be incarcerated somewhere”. In fact, we were still at large and had been very busy doing the stuff we left home for - motor racing, catching up with all our UK friends and being involved with Richie Stanaway. (If you don’t know who Richie Stanaway is just find him on-line.)
If I was to ever remarry, it would likely be to a Satellite Navigation system – which would be in contrast to my present partner. Flypaper has some amazing skills – not the least of which is assisting me to gain weight … but has limitations in the field of navigation. For 15 years our vehicles echoed to the phrase, “Orientate the map”. Failing to do so had resulted in many a left turn being called as right (and visa-versa). Technology saved the relationship then – but may ruin it now. Marrying a GPS is not beyond the realms of possibility these days. Just about anything goes. There is a woman who married the Eiffel Tower recently and changed her name to Erika La Tour Eiffle. Another, named Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer married the Berlin Wall. True love can take many forms. A Korean man fell in love with, and eventually married, a large pillow, albeit with a picture of a woman on it. A certain Mr Smith lives in a serious long term relationship with a Volkswagen Beetle while Emma in England is in love with a hi-fi system which she called Jake. Jake, she says, is "solid, reliable and beautiful". For a compulsive traveller looking for a happy existence, a Sat Nav is a very practical solution. Flypaper is aware that I have been keeping regular company with one named Iris. It’s appropriate because the earliest Iris was a Greek Goddess who travelled with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other. Sometimes she was called upon to deliver bad news. ‘My’ Iris does this by saying repeatedly … “When possible, please make a U-turn”. On a journey through London we were creeping along when Iris asked, “Do you want to change to pedestrian mode?” She’s smart – Flypaper has never asked that question in over 1,000,000kms of car journeys. However, Flypaper seems relaxed about this relationship and even suggested Iris could take over the laundry duties.
I mention the ‘navigation’ subject because some of my inability to communicate with you has been the rather complex itinerary that we have followed through 8 countries – we visited two of them twice and another five times! When I questioned Flypaper regarding this torturous route it was revealed that it was my fault. In future, I must arrange my motor races in the country order she wishes to travel and at the correct intervals to enable new horizons and a decent shot of culture in between. I reported regarding the success of the race in Holland a couple of blogs ago. The latter part of our journey has been dictated by my 16th visit to the Nurburgring 24 hour race in Germany.
There were 2 incidences at Nurburg that remain in my mind. Indeed, I may be traumatised by them. The first relates to Flypaper, who is one of our team timekeepers, and during my turns driving the car, communicated with me on the 2-way radio. One section of the famous 25km Nurburgring circuit is called Fuchsröhre – translated to English its appropriately named Foxhole. This is a scary, white knuckle dive down a narrow twisty road into a corner that we take at about 225kph (140mph). It demands total concentration and getting it wrong doesn’t bare thinking about. Just as I was about to commit to the turn the radio bust into life with a bright and cheerful, “What’s the weather like on your side of the circuit?” The weather!!! For goodness sake! Imagine the comments at the inquest. Perhaps she is jealous of Iris – “If you’re not all mine she won’t get you either”. I’m not sure which of us requires counselling.
The other incident occurred on the penultimate lap. We were 2nd in Class and almost tasting the Champagne – when the right front wheel fell off. Those with knowledge of motorsport history will be interested to lean that it happened right where Niki Lauda had his horrific accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix. I expect in future people will say, “This is where O’Reilly lost his wheel”. As I stood behind the barrier watching others pass on their last lap I realised that I would not have the chance of making the modest short speech I had composed earlier on the long straight and our names would not be reverently uttered in bars around the world. It spoilt the day. However, every dark cloud has a silver lining - the greeting from Flypaper was, “Thank goodness I don’t have another trophy to polish”.
Another incident occurred back in the UK as we approached Oswestry for a business meeting with the guy who, together with Richard Branson, completed the longest flight in lighter-than-air history when they flew 6761 miles from Japan to Northern Canada. Per Lindstrand is a delightful, funny man who entertained us as we toured his amazing factory and later over lunch. He’s the world authority on things that blow up. Not ‘blow up’ as in explode – ‘blow up’ as in inflate. Lindstrand Tech specialises in developing "lighter than air" technology. Memorable as that was, it was overshadowed by the guy who fell off his bicycle 20 meters in front of us as we cruised down a hill at over 100kph. I’ve previously commented that people in Lycra are a hazard and 3 together, sniffing bottoms while practicing for the Tour de France is a disaster in limbo. Anyone who travels at speed with their backside higher than their brain is demonstrating a need for seriously strong medication and one of those jackets that have the sleeves crossed and sewn to the waist. As the rear rider performed a handlebar handstand followed by an inelegant half twist leading into a starfish summersault, Flypaper made the strangled squeal that always gives me a shot of adrenalin and causes me to swerve. Somehow we missed all 3 cyclists – and the approaching car. The guy behind me managed to stop with his bumper resting against the tangle of bike and body. We think the acrobat lived but didn’t go back to check his pulse. Flypaper was muttering about the potential paper work.
There are more languages spoken in England than in any other country in the world – over 300 at last count. This is entirely believable given its difficult for travellers to actually meet and speak to English people. When traveling, one interfaces with the retail, food, accommodation, entertainment and service industries. These are all staffed by relatively recent immigrants. The majority are from Eastern Europe. Many reminded us of Manuel from the Faulty Towers TV program. I was fascinated by the fact that the Polish people dominate the ‘hand’ car wash industry. We often gave HeeHaw a scrub to maintain a screen of respectability. Typically 4 – 6 new immigrants would attack the car from every angle. On each side we have a large graphic showing the flags of many countries we have visited. The washers National Flag would get very special attention and, understandably, they always wanted to talk to us about the magnificence of their home countries. Also understandably, I wanted to ask them why they left. Fact is, after visiting their countries I know why they left – I would have been on the first bus out. The Brits are astonishingly accommodating. That’s a pity as its ruining a wonderful nation.
Our final week was spent touring the ancient market towns of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – the group of counties just above London. We stayed in the very modern city of Milton Keyes which was just a few miles from Silverstone where the British Formula 1 Grands Prix was held - at which we were hosted at the British Racing Drivers Club by Richie. The most interesting thing I learned in these quaint historic towns is that, in times past, if you couldn’t afford a Chimney Sweep, you dropped a live Goose down the Chimney. Armed with this knowledge we thought it best to scurry home. We have 4 chimneys at our house and all are overdue for a clean.