Ah, WordPress personal blog, my old friend. How I’ve missed and neglected you.
The last 365 days were very hard to put into words. The word ‘rollercoaster’ is thrown around a lot by those summing up their years previous.
Rather than summon notions of Ronan Keating, the nerd in me will refer to this year as a sine wave. There were indescribable highs, and a few desolate lows as well, but it has to be said that two thousand and fifteen was a superb year as a whole.
Without any further delay, this is what made my year what it was!
YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST
(January 9, Birmingham)
Late December of 2014 heralded an exciting opportunity – heading to a motorsport convention as a member of the press for the first time,
I headed to Autosport International at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre to receive my first ever press pass and met several other journalists, whom I can now call good mates (Well here’s hoping, Joe Diamond and Dan Puddicombe!).
I also got a chance to see Petter Solberg give a speech, and had an interview with David Brabham, winner of Le Mans in 2009. David Coulthard was around on the Saturday, too, but that was the day after I was there.
There were loads of cool exhibitions, including Pirelli; who had a show car there where you and two others could attempt to change a wheel with an air gun, and Motors TV; where you could audition to be part of their presenting or commentary team for the next year’s British GT series. I had a go at the presenting malarkey, but never heard back. Maybe the email got lost or something, happens all the time…
It was a great day during which I got horribly lost in the colossal sea of red carpeted motorsport happenings, and saw countless rally, F1 and BTCC race cars. I’m due to go back later in January!
AN IDIOT ABROAD
(February 27 – March 1, Montmelo)
The start of the year was even more prosperous to me in February. After a late-night Sportswriting lecture I received a message from Adam, the founder of Badger GP, inviting me to F1 winter Testing in Spain.
Never mind the fact that I’d never been to an F1 race or another country – I was off to Montmelo (near Barcelona) to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for four days. OUTTA NOWHERE!
The Randy Orton of opportunities saw a return flight paid for by Ad Le Feuvre of Badger GP (Still can’t thank him enough), and I paid for the accommodation at the Ibis hotel Montmelo-Granollers, which was roughly 200 metres across the road from the track.
After landing, I foolishly got a taxi to the track – which ended up costing ninety euros. I was later informed I could have got the tube from the airport to Granollers (a nice village about 20 minutes walk from the circuit) for the price of four euros, which is what I did on the way back. Bit of an oversight, that!
Anywho, when I landed, I had to find the accreditation office, which can only be described as ‘in a shed’ next to a dirtbike track. Nevertheless, I got my passes and was kindly given a lift inside the circuit by a man called Raul (obviously) and instantly saw Lewis Hamilton mobbed by fans.
The first day was a learning curve, but happily, a couple of acquaintances – Dan Paddock and Matt Somerfield – were there as well, and their help, plus that of NBC’s Luke Smith and Octane Photographic husband and wife duo Leanne and Craig Boone, was invaluable.
Eventually I settled into a rhythm, and after plucking up the bravery to step into the media room, I eventually headed to interviews for Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson, Pastor Maldonado, Daniel Ricciardo, Jenson Button and Eric Boullier. my personal highlight was having a wee chat with Craig Scarborough and Ben Edwards.
Everything I wrote during the test got its own tag on Badger GP, and you can find everything below!
Needless to say, it’s left me with an insatiable desire to get back in the paddock. Roll on next season!
(March 25 – April 2, Salou)
My second visit to the Catalonia region in a month can only be described as the worst week of my life, and started out as a jovial outing with Uni chums. The prospect of ‘going on tour’ with our Racquets gang to play tennis in Spain with other Universities sounded great at first, but things quickly soured.
The morning of departure was overcast and drizzly; pathetic fallacy coming into full effect early on. While our Spanish driver Pablo dithered about in a forty-year old bus which had the steering wheel side (for him) and that drove on the wrong side of the road (for him), we all waited at the Sport Centre for pick up. After much deliberation, we were delegated the crappiest coach known to man. Ten minutes into our journey – and not even out of Eastbourne yet – Pablo managed to hit a parked car and remove its wing mirror.
This set the tone for the week. Failure after failure after failure.
We arrived in Dover about an hour late, and so our gang headed inside for a game of Uno and a sit down on seats that weren’t ancient or smelled of fag ash. I ushered our group back to the coach with plenty of time to spare so that we got on the ferry in time, but ol’ Pablo had other ideas, and he took:
A) I’m assuming, a seismic dump
B) Half an hour longer than us
C) The piss
The culmination the Spaniard’s miscalculated respite? We missed three damn ferries. He then, for some reason, drove towards London, before driving back to the ferry port, where we were unexpectedly spot-checked.
After crossing the channel, our driver forgot that fuel is required for vehicular propulsion, and so our diesel engine nigh-on seized up, somewhere not far from Marseilles. After a petrol-based recovery vehicle was shooed away, a diesel truck helped us to a garage, where we were told the driver would not be allowed to leave unless he paid 500 euros.
Are you still with me? I promise you this is true.
After much deliberation and the breakdown of Anglo-Franco-Catalan relations, we traveled through the home of my ancestors, the Basque Country and Catalonia, and eventually reached Salou, Tarragona, more than thirteen hours late.
We were too late to go out partying, so the next day we tried to draw a line under it all. We played football on the beach, went swimming, and in the evening, went out. However, coming back from the night out I encountered almost certainly the worst moment of my entire life. A young man came up to me in the street and attempted some sort of dance. I passed it off as a drunk idiot, but to my horror, a minute later, I discovered my wallet and phone had been SEAMLESSLY lifted from my pockets. I didn’t feel a thing, and it being only my second time abroad, I just didn’t expect it to happen. I’m too naive. I expect the best of people. Never been a victim of a crime before.
Bottom line? I lost about three hundred pounds-worth of property.
I wasn’t hurt. It’s just stuff. But the annoying thing is, the completely useless floppy-haired imbeciles from ‘I Love TTour’ did bugger all to help my situation, and told me I could complete a Police report when I got to England. They were wrong. I never recovered my items, and some Spanish git has my ID.
The next days proved pretty troublesome too; I got knocked on my arse by a security guard in a club when he erroneously accused me of hitting a lightbulb (a punishment fitting the crime, of course), and after the events of the night prior, I felt like a bad luck magnet, and just burst into tears and went back to the hotel. The only thing that kept my spirits up was the (mostly) amazing bunch of friends I was with. If you were there and you helped me, thank you so much.
The next day, two girls fell from balconies at the hotel, from the first and fourth floors respectively. It cast a morbid shadow over what had already been a bad week. We all came back to England with a lot less money, a lot less morale, and a feeling of scorn towards the Tour Company, whose paltry offering for our trials was £25.
Never mind, eh?
May brought with it two tournaments at University.
When the weather hots up, we Brits suddenly dig out age-old sports like Rounders, and so I helped assemble our racquets social into two rounders teams – teams which would also form part of a very special social later in the day. Anyway, rounders was ace, but perhaps even more fun, and certainly more novel, was the Quidditch tournament that preceded it on May 5.
The rules said you had to bring a broom, and so foolishly expecting everyone else to, I grabbed the crappy push broom from my flat’s kitchen and scribbled ‘Nimbus Infinity’ on it… as if that made it any better.
When I arrived, everyone else hadn’t bothered with a broom, and instead used lacrosse sticks. Eventually my cumbersome sweeper became too unbalanced, so I swapped it for a lacross doofer (pretty sure that’s the technical term) as well. I managed to absolutely wallop a girl on the top of the head with a deflated volleyball (taking the place of the bludgers from Harry Potter) early on in the game, and scored soon after. The Snitch came in the form of one of the Parklife members running around the pitch with a tennis ball inside a rugby sock. It was stupid amounts of fun, and Racquets ended up winning!
ALLEN AND ALLAN
(June 5 & 23, Crantock)
BBC Radio 5 Live commentators James Allen and Allan McNish suddenly had more contact with me than ever before in June. First, Mr Allen read out a question I sent in to the commentary team for Free Practice 2 ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. He seemed to like it, but then I was told there was an opportunity for an article with Badger GP. All I had to do? Call up 3-times Le Mans winner Allan McNish on his mobile.
He was incredibly friendly, personable and chatty, and it produced a nice look at the sport in general, from the perspective of a former driver.
OPENHOUSE COMES FULL CIRCLE
(June 30, Milton Keynes)
You’ve probably heard my story of how I got to play in a go kart and meet Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 after winning a competition. However, this year, I headed to the same event (‘Openhouse’) as media. It feels odd to have turned from a fan to somewhere along the way to ‘pro’ in a year, and though I could never dream of saying I’ve ‘made it’ in my young life yet, I feel like it’s a huge step. Makes me feel good, anyway. It also managed to be the most beautiful and cloudless day of the year!
I got a chance to chat to Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Christian Horner, David Croft, and a certain BBC F1 writer, who was beyond condescending to me. I think the fact that I mentioned I wrote for a website irked him a little, as he’s known for disliking blogs. That means he probably isn’t reading this, but on the off-chance that he is – you’d do well to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and that I’m maximising my opportunities. Thanks, pumpkin.
Anyway, Natalie Pinkham was there too and she decided to share one of my photos on Twitter, which was really cool.
I got the train back home later that day and wrote up a couple of interviews, and sent them over 4G while aboard. It felt super-productive, and gave me a massive sense of accomplishment. Hopefully Openhouse 2016 is a return to karting rather than the cricket and lawn sports in 2015, which were still fun, but come on – karts!
CHARLIE EUSTICE, PASTRY MAGNATE
(September 6, Quintrell Downs)
If nothing else, I want to be remembered for my proficiency in pastry when I’m gone.
Happily, that much is hopefully now assured after my triumph in this year’s Quintrell Downs Garden Show. For years I have entered a pasty, in the category where you much bake the food of the gods to a specified recipe – meat, potato and onion – and they must not exceed seven inches. Stop bloody giggling.
Every effort has been met with second place, third place, and I’ve even been unseeded before, but this year, the specification changed, and swede was added to the recipe. I baked four beauties to my gran’s timeless recipe, and after a long wait, I was phoned by her to be informed I had won – I’d beaten the Quint contingent at their own game, including multiple winner and nefarious nemesis Dennis Yelland. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
I guess you could call that a turnip for the books.
YOU THE MAN, DOG
After months, nay, years of persistence, my parents finally gave in to the immense pressure of me and my sister, and get a dog.
The doggie in question? This little cherub.
This here’s Flossie, a Westie crossed with a Jack Russell. It’s fine, I didn’t need to get any work done or anything.
FINDING MY FEET
October was when my Uni course resumed, and with it came module options for the first and only time in my further education career. One such module was the delicious-sounding ‘Broadcast Journalism’, which was, incidentally, the course I actually applied for at University way back in early 2013. I got the grades required to enter the course, but I changed my mind on results day, and decided that I wanted to specialise in Sport Journalism straight away.
Now that I’m here… I almost wish I’d done it the other way around. Everything has gone rather brilliantly so far, but I feel so at home in front of a camera that part of me can’t help but think ‘what if…?’. But enough of that dwelling nonsense.
Turns out I’m not too bad at the whole presenting-piece-to-camera-type-thing business after all, but you’re only as strong as your team. Chums like Andy Element (A superb camera man and editor, but a terrible human being), Emily Magee (proper Cornish bird), Greg Stubley (Who went to the trouble of injuring himself to prove a point in a video we made) and Luuuuuuuuuke Adams (Fearless wrangler of Sheikhs and hoteliers) have helped my realise my fondness for and (without wanting to sound big-headed) aptitude for broadcast journalism.
Over the winter months, we made some mock-TV shows in the style of BBC’s Watchdog / Channel 4’s TFI Friday, with people taking on roles such as cameraman, vision mix, microphone mix, camera control, director and many more roles. I felt most comfortable in the role of presenter, but I enjoyed featuring in pieces-to-camera as well. Hopefully, I end up doing something like this one day!
(November 23 – December 4, Kensington, London)
My first taste of a real ‘paper; I completed two weeks for work experience at the Independent at the end of November/ start of December.
The work was mostly football-based, and I did a lot of research tasks as well for other journalists’ pieces. However, I was able to get a couple of original articles published on the site. One was a tribute to deceased Rally legend Richard Burns; the other a summary of who could finish where in the F1 championship come the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.
I like to think I showed initiative, guile and adaptability while I was there, getting well out of my comfort zone in terms of sports covered, which included tennis and cricket – a couple of sports with which I’m not wholly familiar.
I also worked on a few pieces for the i newspaper, most notably the ‘Sporting Opinion Matrix’, and a sporting calendar for 2016 too.
I was given an open invitation to go back if I want to, but if I return, I’ll be doing so with the intention of getting paid. Hey, don’t look at me like that – exposure will only take you so far!
The building itself was regal and ornate. Not a surface in sight was comprised of anything other than highly-polished Marble, and the elevators felt like personal vertical butlers. That’s totally what lifts should be called…
STUFF OF THE YEAR
I thought I’d have a quick sum-up of the media I consumed at the end of my reflection of 2015, because why not.
ALBUM: Hot Chip – Why make sense when The World around refuses?
FILM: Good joke. Obviously it’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
GAME: Good joke. Obvio- oh, did I already use that? Whatever. Fallout 4, by an astronomical margin.
TV SHOW: Hmm. Don’t really watch much telly any more. Probably Game of Thrones, in particular the episode ‘Hardhome’. Ooh, or MasterChef. Or maybe Storage Hunters UK. (*Continues not watching TV very much, for his own good*)
Phew. All done! That was fun. These were just the highlights – despite a bit of adversity, 2015 really was a mega year, and there were many other interesting and excellent events this year. Thanks for being part of them (if you were, that is. Don’t take credit if you weren’t, you scoundrel), and thanks for reading, if you made it this far.
I’ve decided that in 2016, I’m gonna take on the world, so look out for that. I hope your 2015 was exciting, and that the next one is terrific as well. Have a good one.
Over and out, 2015!