Sunday, June 22, 2008


Ten giveaway signs that you've been on an activity holiday....

  • A big pile of dirty washing
  • Legs like pit props, buns of steel*
  • Seriously chapped lips from six days in the sun and the wind
  • A letter from the car hire company saying you've been caught in a speed trap
  • No guilt about sitting at home all day on Sunday reading newspapers and watching crap telly
  • Beer? No thanks
  • Sleep deprivation
  • You've almost forgotten what you do for a living
  • People call you "redneck"
  • No money in the bank

Anything I've forgotten?

* Re. #2 - I lied - my buns of steel days are probably behind me (like my buns).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Graham Hill

There was an excellent documentary on BBC4 last night about Graham Hill. He's a vaguely distant but still evocative memory from my childhood and, as with most programmes like this, it was an opportunity to fill in the gaps about what I knew about him already, as well as to wallow in a bit of nostalgia.

He was, on evidence, a natural raconteur and wit, able to be self deprecating and extremely funny whilst also being very perceptive. There was one piece that particularly struck me. He was standing in front of an audience, about to deliver an after dinner speech, and simply opened with the following statement (sorry not an exact quote, but close enough). Imagine it being spoken in the accent of a raffish Englishman with a slightly upper-class accent to gain the full effect...
"Well, the idea is that I stand up here and bang on for a few minutes and then you can ask me a few questions. Don't worry if you can't think of any questions because I've got some pretty interesting ones I could ask myself, most of which I don't know the answer to."

The above quote particularly struck with me as a wonderful expression of self-awareness, put incredibly succinctly as well as humourously. He articulated so simply what we should all do now and again. An ability perhaps to get yourself into perspective, all the more interesting from a man who lived in the rarified atmosphere of super-celebrity in which F1 racing drivers existed.

A lot of the documentary tried to understand what motivated him, where he found his apparently innate driving skill, why he continued to race after he and his car were no longer competitive and why he continued to race after an horrific injury in which he almost lost both his legs. He was it seems something of an everyman, a doting father but probably philandering husband (very much implied anyway), an extremely difficult man to work for, yet admired immensely by those who worked for him, and a determined competitor, always going for the win.

The programme also touched on the camaraderie of racing drivers in his day (the 1960s) and how they were all, in general, respecting of each others skills. They were an elite club who enjoyed each others company and competed on the track but were also friends off it. They also died with alarmingly regularity which I think accounts for the bond that existed between them. In Hill's time, the approximate chance of an F1 driver who raced for five years being killed in a crash were two out of three. Perhaps a shared gallows humour was what united them, but discussion of death was probably not something they talked about much, if at all.

I rather get the feeling, although he may have had the self awareness to realise he had some inherent driving forces, he couldn't bring himself to analyse or confront them. An understanding that, although for the time being they helped him to achieve success, statistically speaking, they were more than likely to kill him. He survived through good fortune, the programme showed the good drivers died, as well as the less talented ones.

He survived his incredibly dangerous racing career and retired from the sport perhaps a few years later than he should have, and - for some reason I want to use the word "ironically" here, although I know it's wrong - died in a light aircraft crash a few years later.