Another fine performance thwarted

Firstly, happy 70th birthday Sir Frank Williams. Founder of the only independent team in the paddock and, arguably, the most well-known and respected name in Formula One. Today, for him, was a good day.

Unfortunately, for Lewis it was another demonstration of a superior drive, thwarted by a poor team decision.

Having qualified on pole, his qually times were declared void, after the team was considered to have broken the rules. Hamilton was told to stop the car one he’d finished his last lap, as he didn’t have enough fuel left to get back to the pit AND provide a 1litre sample for the FIA. So, if his sample would’ve been taken on the track, they wouldn’t accept it. Yet had the car run home, he wouldn’t have had a full litre left, hence he stopped to ensure he have the full (required) litre. had his mechanics retrieved the car, they’d have broken rules. Hence he stopped.

The FIA dismissed claims of this being an issue beyond McLaren’s control, saying they just didn’t put enough fuel in. So Lewis, after a great drive, starts from the Back, on a circuit known for the rarity of its overtaking opportunities 😦

However, having qualified 2nd, this means Williams F1’s Pastor Maldinardo steps up to pole, a birthday great for Sir Frank 🙂

Will update on the race later!

ttfn /Rxx

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Time to see the boys in action

So, having collected my tickets yesterday, made the necessary stash purchases (ie Noah’s tshirt and programme) I’m wondering what to do next? In Spa we had general admission tickets, which forced us to walk round the whole track to find a spot to watch the race. Whereas in Monza and Melbourne, we had grandstand tickets so didn’t walk right round. This time, I opted for a general admission pass; partly because I’m on my own (so can cop a squat pretty-much anywhere) and partly because I figure that, as a relatively hilly circuit, there should be plenty of elevated grassy banks to choose from. So I really should walk round and find my spot. But then, the greatest text of my F1 life arrives…

“I’ve got a spare paddock pass but it has to be back in 30minutes – you about?”

Oh. My. God. The worlds greatest rhetorical question? Silliest question? Unnecessary question? Exciting question? No brainer really, isn’t it?! The words “I’m there!” fly straight back to the paddock, with yours truly following behind like a child excited on Christmas day!

So I am escorted through the tunnel under the grandstand and up into the paddock. I’m given pass and in I go.

Walking the strip behind the pit garages, where all the posh motorhomes are, initially the paddock looks no different to the other night, just more people about. Then I realise Mr P is now walking a good 5m away from me? He rejoins me, saying ‘you just walked right behind a BBC Sport interview’ I turn round aghast to see Lee McKenzie with a mic and headphones chatting to some chap! Oops!

We stop behind the Mercedes garage and I’m told ‘wait here; they’re busy in the garage but I’ll see if you can come in’… I’m thinking he means the viewing area behind the glass, where visitors sit to watch the team in the pits during the race. So I just loiter, getting some odd looks from team Mercedes wondering who on earth this random is, sitting on the steps up to their engineers room! But it’s all good – thumbs up, and in I go.

Ok, so I’m not a Merc fan, I think their drivers are arrogant, and their car isn’t as good as the MP4-27. But I’m speechless. I’m not allowed to take any pictures because I’m in the pit garage, where Nico’s car is being taken apart. There’s nothing behind the engine, the seat is propped up on blocks at the front and there’s no nose or wheels in sight. The first thing I spot, is a guy with a screwdriver. Not surprising, for a guy working on a car, you might think? But this is an F1 car, one of the most technically advanced cars in the world – and they still use a screwdriver and brute force? Yep. It’s not all air guns, laptops and digital radios; they have nuts, bolts, screws, screwdrivers, (no swarfeger, I was disappointed to hear) but it’s just typical mechanics, only working faster and with more expensive parts!

I picked up Nico’s seat – it weights less than my iPhone. He has a map of the circuit stuck to the inner cockpit wall – like he’s going to get lost…!? And the guys at the back are singing to cheesy 80s tunes on the radio – it really is just like a specced-up version of the Easingwold Motors workshop, where I worked during my Uni days!

Time to go. I leave the pit garage, head back down past Bernie’s bus, avoid the camera crews and buzz back through security. Wow. I love it. Perhaps, the best half hour of my F1 life!

ttfn /Rxx

Is my love of F1 slipping behind my love of the sunshine?

Now there’s a thought. I’m an admitted F1 junkie, there’s no denying that. But as I wake up today I face a quandary. It’s 27 degrees (but forecast to be cooler tomorrow and wet on Sunday), so do I hit the beach and soak up the sun? (I did bring a new bikini after all, mum having told me my beloved O’Neil number was so old, it’s lack of elasticity was verging on obscene.) But I need to collect my tickets from the F1 booth at the circuit, practice starts today and it’s my first chance to hear that amazing roar that is an F1 car. Or given I’ll be at the circuit tomorrow and Sunday, should I try and see a bit of Barcelona?

The beach wins first place!

Well, bop me down with a soft cushion, I donned the new bikini (which, incidentally, had to be a replacement O’Neil number), my über comfy beachwear from Oz (courtesy of Between the Flags) and I head for the ocean! There’s nothing quite like the sound of the ocean, especially early in the morning or late in the evening. Since Port Douglas, I’ve totally fallen for it; sarong, shades and sunscreen. If I’m not careful I’ll find myself with a good book taking up reading!

but the draw of the paddock is too enticing

Now it’s a known fact that, after midday, it’s dangerous to bask in the sun, right? So I wander back to the hotel, swap my bikini for my camera, and I decide to head to the track.

Right. The track. As I’ve already been this week, I didn’t bother researching it’s location… So where is it? No idea. So how do I get there? Even less idea. The traffic round town looks horrendous so I’m guessing tram, train or metro? Given it’s a huge event, I’m also guessing there’ll be some pre-arranged public transport? So my plan is, head for the main station in town and ask at Information. Simples 🙂

Tickets?

So I descend beneath the windy streets of the Forum district, buy a 2-day travelcard and hop on the first train that comes along, getting off at what, I’m guessing, is the main station (based on the fact it has the most connections listed on the Metro map?!) For some reason, I assume my travelcard wont work out of the city, so when the Senõr on the Information desk tells me I need to go to Montmeló, I buy a ticket. At an extortionate €2.20, I expect it was probably covered on my travelcard, as it can’t be far! But hey, for €2.20 I’m not bothered.

So I’m on the train to Montmeló when Mr Petronas texts me: “3 minutes to practise, are you at the track yet?” I have to confess about my little trip to the beach but tell him I’m on my way there now. As long as I get my tickets from the F1 booth… Oh crap, the voucher I have to hand over to get my tickets… It’s safely stashed away, in my hotel room! Nooooooo! Well I have a copy on my phone, let’s hope they’ll accept that instead? We’ll soon see, just arriving at Montmeló…

ttfn /Rxx

Work’s out (for the next 5 days, anyway)

So a day at ACS, a Xerox company, and I saw more than I expected and was impressed. Xerox acquired ACS a couple of years ago and have since been adjusting the organisation, so we benefit from what they do well and vice versa. This also means our team is one of their clients, so I got to meet the faces behind the ‘black hole’ (the generic email address to which we send work, which just comes out the other end all done). They were great and I think appreciative of someone else from the team coming to see them. I also had presentations from other parts of ACS, which provide other outsourcing services to various big clients – this was really good for me; I’m a visual person, so seeing them in situ and hearing what they do made it seem far more real and understandable than any PowerPoint slide ever could!

Anyway, as the anorak I am, although this trip is not work related or funded, it seemed a great opportunity to see ACS, and I’m glad I did.

However, that now done, I’m on HOLIDAAAAY! So, on getting back to the hotel, my priorities were as follows:
1) log onto webmail and activate my “out of office” reply – done.
2) shower & change – tick.
3) find a bar, preferably on the beach…
Cheers! /Rxx

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British Airways, the Mile High Club and simple pleasantries

OK admit it; how many of you are reading this because it says “Mile High Club” in the title?! One of life’s great myths isn’t it? A club everyone wants to be part of, a few claim to have joined, and where proof of membership is somewhat lacking beyond taking their word for it! Yet I’m sitting on BA flight 482 to Barcelona, wondering how on earth they’d manage it anyway?

I guess it must be a long-haul thing; where there are large periods of time where the lights are out and even the cabin crew are grabbing 40 winks, along with the majority of other passengers. Yet two (?) eager beavers will sneak off to the toilets and pledge their allegiance to the club a mile above sea level. However, on short-haul flights, such as tonight’s jolly to Catalunya, the toilets are at the rear of the plane, sharing a tiny space with two very busy trolley dollies of varying genders (and given their mixture of genders, I CAN get away with calling them that!) So the chances of ‘sneaking’ in unnoticed are slim to none, and I reckon slim just jumped with the last parachute.

Assuming Flopsy and Mopsy did manage to sneak into the toilet, I’m wondering what the chosen position would be, if they even had a choice? There’s hardly room to swing a cat in there, let alone his dingle dangle! It’s have to be a functional activity rather than pleasurable, I guess. Although you could argue the excitement of their inauguration could make up for a lack of intimacy, passion or foreplay… oh lord, the thought of foreplay with you’re arse squashed up against a dis-used ashtray, or if  you were on the other side, the beauty of reading “these toilets are fitted with smoke detectors; smoking is forbidden in all parts of this aircraft.” How much of a moment killer would that be – there goes the post-intercourse cigarette then, damnit.

At this point, if mum is reading, her imagination will be going into hyperdrive! So to avoid any doubt, and to bring her blood pressure back to normal levels; Mum, the answer you’re looking for is “no”!

AUTHOR’S NOTE: if anyone reading this has managed it on a short haul, I’d be intrigued to know how!

So, going back to the trolley dollies. It’s been 15 years since I last flew with BA, but that flight was a hop from Heathrow to Schiphol – a 35-minute flight where, by the time we were up we were coming down again – not too dissimilar to the mile High Club attempt one would guess? So not really enough time to enjoy the experience really (I’m back to talking about the flight, not the club, just to clarify). But I recall being impressed by the quality of service.

So how does BA compare?

More recently, I’ve flown with Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Qantas – all established airlines with good reputations for quality of service, as far as I’m aware. Each has its good and bad points; Emirates to Colombo was exquisite, yet someone I know who used to be a cabin attendant for them, hated it and left after being regularly spat upon by Arabian male passengers (perfectly acceptable in some cultures, but perhaps not in modern day global aviation?) Qantas had me in hysterics wth their typically Australian laid-back approach to customer service “G’day guys, it the captain. Welcome to Brisvegas International…” and their check-in facilities in Sydney were faultless – technologically advanced, quick and easy to use. Cathay Pacific had very comfortable seats and plenty of legroom (and Hagen Daaz!) but the colour scheme felt somewhat dated – grab the pantone book guys, sort it out!

So now flying with BA albeit short-haul, I guess I expected a combination of the good and less of the bad. So what’s my view?

Pre-flight service, excellent. Despite the negative publicity I was ripping off earlier, I found T5 clean, spacious, clearly signed, fantastic for shopping and even the seats were comfortable. Boarding was efficient, until we had to queue in the air tunnel… can’t remember the last flight where I had to queue to board?… which turned out to be because everyone boarded via the front door and there was only one aisle, so everyone had to wait for each passenger to find their seat, stow their luggage and get comfortable. More an aircraft design issue than BA, to be fair, but it made the experience less smooth. (Harsh?)

Aha – stumped! Going through turbulence, so seatbelt signs have come on everyone has ro return to their seats and WASHROOMS ARE OUT OF USE! God help Flopsy and Mopsy in there – a right rough ride, you might say?!

Anyway, back to BA.  The plane itself is a pretty standard Airbus A320: six seats wide, with a single aisle down the middle, I guess it’ll seat around 150 people, with the first 10 or so rows curtained off as first / business / premier / premium economy class (although the only difference I noted was slightly more legroom). But as the crew prepared the cabin for take-off, the subtle differences started to show.

Simple pleasantries

The cabin attendants helped by putting everyone’s bags in the overhead compartments for them. This not only allowed the passengers to comfortable in their seats, rather than faffing with bags, it also saved the ladies in front from the decidedly dodgy looking patches under the arms of the chap across the aisle from them…

The dollies themselves look normal. I know that sounds crazy but, for those of us not lucky / bothered about being stick insects caked in make-up, with hair scraped into a high ponytail and teeth whiter than Richard Hammond’s, this does make a difference! The attendant who took my bag for me had freckles, was at least 6 foot tall, about a size 14 and had a tidy brunette bob. (The male attendant down the cabin looked much the same 😉 sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Then the captain introduced himself, and I could hear and understand him! Rather than sounding like Peter Kay’s impression of the wedding DJ, this guys was polite, clear, and didn’t sound like he was reading from a script. He spoke for more than 5 seconds too (rather than saying his name, introducing his cabin crew, then leaving them to say the rest). But what I liked a lot, was that he ‘asked us not to smoke on board his plane’ – just the fact that he called it his plane made me think he cared about his vehicle more? Not sure if that makes sense, but I liked it. He also explained (in not too technical terminology) why we had to do things, for example when he asked us to switch off electrical devices, he explained why we had to. And when asking the cabin crew to ‘cross check and prepare doors etc’ he thanked them for their work during the flight – recognition! Always good J

Eeeeeek, that’s the med down there! Whoop whoop! And the sunset s luuuuuurvley!

So, my verdict of BA is that they do the simple things well. They don’t have posh planes or glamourous staff (not on short-haul, at least) but they’re typically British and include the pleasantries in a way that feels honest and believable. I like BA.

So with a soft, smooth landing, a polite and honest welcome from our captain and temperatures in the 20s (at 9.30pm) – welcome to Barca baby!

ttfn /R xx

T5 – avoid Prosecco, G&T and stick to Espresso

So I’m back at T5, again. I feel like a piece of lost luggage on a carousel – no hang on, the luggage never actually got to T5 did it? Or did it get stuck there and never reach its intended destination? Not that anyone knew where that was, did they? Who knows, I don’t think BAA did at the time, maybe that was the problem?…

Anyway. I’ve now successfully made my way back here for the third time in a month, only this time it is me hopping on a plane!

The first time I experienced T5, was something of an expensive affair. The day I landed from Honkers, a friend was flying out to Asia on business, so we arranged to meet for a swift sherbet as our paths crossed. After a sociable glass of Prosecco and a G&T, the usual question was posed: “one for the road?” This proved to be the most expensive glass of Prosecco in history…

Has anyone ever heard / seen / read the ‘rule’ which says that, once you’ve checked in your luggage, you have to go through security within 30 minutes of it? Or that if you’ve checked in your luggage, you have to through security at least an hour before your flight departs? I’ve heard of being at the gate 30 mins before departure but never been stopped at security, and told your luggage has been offloaded!

Well we still dispute that this advice is published anywhere, but a replacement flight (not claimable on expenses) cost a mere 4-figure sum… I am therefore under strict instructions today to avoid the Prosecco bar at all costs!

My second trip to T5 was a far quieter occasion. In fact, I wondered if the terminal had actually opened yet, as it was Deadsville Tennessee. I was meeting the olds on their return from hols. They were flying with Qantas, but their UK flights were operated by BA. So, given that BA uses T5, they’d be coming into T5, right? But as a Qantas flight, they flew out of T3. So where would they land? Oh god, it’s the lost luggage feeling again… So, typical
Wallin; use your noddle and check the BA website – and there it was: due in on time at T5.

So I parked in the T5 car park and jumped into the lift… Hang on, big sign reads “For Qantas arrivals, please use T3″… Ok now I’m confused. Not that it’d make a difference, I check the website again… T5 (although quite how the existence of a status sign would affect the web content, I don’t know, but it made me feel better.) So, plan B: check the arrivals board: great, it tells me their flight has landed and luggage is being unloaded (how novel?!) but no reference to at which terminal. Given that I’m standing in T5, you’d think it was here, but this is T5, nothing is a given, especially not when luggage is being unloaded! So I try plan C: find an information desk, preferably one which has a person at it. Its my lucky day, I find one with two BA ladies in attendance. I present my dilemma and ask if the flight has landed here or over at T3. Classic, one says “if it’s a Qantas flight it’s T3″ whilst the other says if it’s operated by BA it’ll be here” – how very helpful! I show them my iPhone with the BA website saying its T5 but Doris and Doris can’t see the flight on their system. Joy. By this point, whilst its little after 5am, the Prosecco bar upstairs is seeming ever more appealing! However, I figure dad will want an Espresso when they land, so I take up camp in T5’s Costa and within minutes they appear.

All fun and games, but a point proven; if in doubt, alcohol is fun but can end up costing a fortune – the morning after, coffee’s a better bet!

Right, where’s the bar?…

ttfn /R xx

Value what you have, hold onto what you love, and fight for what you fear to lose

With my track record over the past 12 months, you could justifiably argue that I’m the least qualified person on the planet to write about the above! However, as this is my blog, I think I can write about whatever I like! And in fairness, my experiences over the past 12 months could place me in a more educated position than most here! So I’m allowing myself a little slack, and tonight I’m writing about something which, up until now, I’ve kept well and truly offline.

Why do you use social media?

To begin with, I refused outright to join Facebook. I saw it as the online equivalent of putting yourself in a shop window on Warmoesstraat – ‘this is me, here are a few pictures, feel free to view, comment and, generally, copy what you like’. However, after a year or so of seeing people I knew sign-up and use it to good effect (ie reconnecting with friends they’d lost touch with, keeping track of what their family were up to beyond an annual Christmas letter etc) I gave in and signed up. But since then I’ve seen Facebook evolve into Faceache – whilst many people still use it to good effect, I see an increasing number of people using it to vent spleen, lash out and at worst, for the equivalent of playground bullying. Each to their own, and all that, but personally, my view is that if you’ve something to say to someone, you should have the courtesy and guts to have a conversation with that person, not hide behind social media to have a pop. In most cases, I’ve no idea what the issues are, or why people are having an online argument, but it’s changing my perception and inclination to use Faceache. What was intended as a two-way platform for communication, is now being used (by me at least) as a one way channel – to share information and have limited conversation with those who are polite / sociable / sensible / adult enough to use it for what it was intended – a social communication platform.

So, I now find myself drawn more towards Twitter. I guess this was the opposite of Faceache, and intended as a one-way push of information. People tweet about whatever they like and others chosing to follow them; jumping on their tweets, retweeting, quoting, favouriting… but so far, rarely using it to hurl abuse. Ok, so Piers Morgan and Lord Sugar are perhaps the exception to the rule, but even then, in banter and abuse toward each other and from, generally, American anti-followers (who claim to hate Morgan, yet still chose to follow him and comment on his every word) it’s managed well my Piers who uses it for extra publicity and popularity! So I’m finding Twitter to be the ‘Private Eye’ or ‘Have I got news for you’ of social media – and I like that.

Anyway. Having explained my current take on social media, why is this post entitled “Value what you have, hold onto what you love and fight for what you fear to lose”? Well. For me, the hiatus of the Faceache to Twitter switch came after I experienced the negativity of the former personally. I shan’t go into the detail (see, even now, I can’t bring myself to publicise the detail! It’s airing dirty laundry in public and I hate that!) But I have this belief that, whatever happens, if you care about something or someone, voluntarily letting it/them go is something of a last resort.

Staying in touch – regardless

Now whether this comes as a result of involuntarily losing someone close to me, I don’t know. But even if things go sour, I tend to keep bad experiences in the back of my mind (so as not to repeat them) and stay in touch with people (as good friends are hard to find). Quelle surprise, therefore, I am still in touch with a chap I lived with, who told me (as we were going out for a New Year’s Ball), that he ‘didn’t love me anymore, but could we just pretend for that evening please, so as not to attract a fuss?’… I’m closer now than I ever was, to the guy who did the dirty on me not once, but twice (who I’d been told was a rat but I trusted him – doh!). And I’m still in touch with my husband, even though we’re no longer together, and still consider him my next of kin. But tonight, I did something which, whilst a small thing, felt significant to me as I finally accepted that involuntary loss of someone once close.

In my bedroom, I have two photo walls – one is a series of frames with pictures of those closest to me. Each is a head/shoulder shot of us; most are in bars, one is at Wimbledon and all include alcohol! The other wall is my family wall, with framed pictures of my parents (when they were younger and more recent ones), my brother and his godson and one picture from my wedding day. This evening, I added four more frames to the family wall (of mum and dad as happy as I’ve ever seen them) but I changed one on the other wall. A small thing, and I still have two great photos of this peron in the living room, so it’s not complete removal! But it felt significant. Having been friends for over 20 years, we haven’t spoken in over 9 months now. People change. People move on. Sometimes is voluntary, others it’s involuntary. But whilst I wish we were still friends, I’ve finally accepted that we’re not. Maybe one day we’ll talk again. Who knows. But sometimes you just realise what and who is important and where you should be focusing your energy and attention.

So. Value what you have – maybe if I’d have done this, we’d still be friends? Who knows, but after quite an eventful past 12 months, I now value those close to me more than ever.

Hold onto what you love – you never know what will happen round the corner, so whilst it may seem an effort at times, if they’re worth the effort, hang onto them.

And fight for what you fear to lose – at the time, I thought I did this, but on reflection I could probably have done more. It’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to get them back once they’re gone, so if they’re important to you, fight til the death to hang onto them.

Enough – shut up Rebecca!

Right, that’s enough philosophical b******s – and the closest I’ll ever get to airing dirty laundry in public! From here on in it’s good stuff, I promise!

I started packing tonight, what a laugh that was! But that’s another story…

ttfn /Boxy xx