Wednesday, April 27, 2005

TV's on EVERY seat!!

Finally something is happening. I booked flights yesterday. On an airplane, what's more! Yeppers, it was 1996 when Shaz & I left Australia together as a childless but freshly pregnant couple for the first time and spent five glorious weeks in Brazil. Now, three children and almost ten years later we're off across the pond on September 16th.

Oh dear, speaking of 3 children I suppose we had better work out what to do with them, since we will be 17,000km away for four weeks. I think I'll just give them each fifty bucks and tell them to help themselves to anything in the fridge. Actually, it's not such a crazy idea. Naomi the eldest (8) is quite capable of self sufficiency with two dependents. Hmmm...

Nahh, better not. There may be some legal issues to sort through when we return.

And to think I was stressed out over the final decision of which airline, which route, who has the best frequent flyer program, whose aircraft have better the end, it came down to a choice between Qantas/Lufthansa or Malaysian Airlines. Guess which airline has TV's on EVERY seat, even in cattle class!! In the end the choice was easy.

"This is your captain speaking. Prepare for 12 hours of non-stop Discovery Channel"... Noooooooooo!!

We are heading to this place called Germania. Apparently they have a vehicle manufacturing industry or three there. Which is good, because I like cars. I hope they're good ones! They also like building big walls and then knocking them down. And they serve beer by the litre. Sounds like a fun place.

Ah, now we can dream up some plans. Thanks to our small but enthusiastic collection of native German friends we are going to be thoroughly entertained and looked after. However, I am keen for Sharon and I to enjoy the adventure of independent travelling in foreign places. Hopefully we will be able to spend at least a week or two on our own, doing stuff like
a) getting lost,
b) being scammed by a shifty taxi driver
c) having our luggage stolen,
d) have our lives threatened by corrupt military police and
e) having our spleens removed and sold on the black market.

Well, that was Brazil. I wonder if Germany will be that exciting...

These cars have engine management systems that are so smart they will debate religion with you

Okay, so maybe there isn't such sinister fun in Germany. But I have been told of these things called "Auto Bahns". At first I thought that Germans keep their cars in the same shed as cows and horses, but apparently this is the word used for some magnificent stretches of road. I was also told that they travel at speeds greater than 60km/h on these "Auto Bahns". This sounds ridiculous. Here in Australia, the Government are constantly telling us that if we drive even slightly faster than 60km/h, we will not only die in a violent, fiery crash but will wipe out an entire ecosystem of endangered frogs and put a bigger hole in the ozone layer. And if the government tell us, then it must be true.

But these Germans...they are driving cars at sometimes over 200km/h (gag, splutter)!! Not only do they actually survive, but these crazy people actually claim that it helps them arrive sooner, more refreshed, increase transport and economic productivity, and achieve better fuel efficiency!!

So, if driving Claudia's car at 200 clicks on the autobahn (no, I haven't asked yet) doesn't push my buttons, I can always go to the Nurburgring (the OLD one). For more info on that, see my link on the right.

But there is so much else to plan. Don't ever doubt that I am a versatile, eclectic person (which is a clever way of saying "mixed up"). One minute I will be a yobbo tourist driving cars really fast and drinking lots of beer in huge glasses. Next, I will be paying my respects to the late J.S. Bach, witnessing the birth of romanticism in a baroque art gallery , and standing in some Berlin Strasse sadly pondering the poignant remains of that hard, cold wall of theirs.

And....TV's on EVERY seat!!!

Artist's retreat
April 26 2005

So this week the subject-to clause on our contract expires, and presuming the bank throws oodles of money at us (like they said they would) then we officially have bought the house, and we move on June 17th. Then I will start some highly energetic project, like putting internal walls and windows on the outoor storage shed to make it all comfortable inside. Then I will spend lots of time inside it wearing a little black beret and smock, splash paint around with gay abandon (no jokes please) cry, complain, lose my temper periodically at the kids yelling something about "stifling my creative inspiration" ...

then I can call it an "artists' studio". Hopefully this will add some value to the house.

Something else to do with artists, yesterday.

By the way, if anyone wants to help me do this who lives in the northern Geelong area please don't hesitate to help.

BUT, more pressing at this point is our planned September Vacation (I used that word so people might think I am American). Between having three kids requiring looking after, school holidays, potential babysitters caravaning around the harsh Australian outback, other babysitters with prior engagements, air fare peak period price hikes...blah blah is looking more impossible. Now our promised German tour guide (and free accommodation provider) has committments springing up at that time, so she might NOT be able to;
- take us to Prague
- take us skiing in Switzerland (Switzerland for crying out loud!!)
- take Sharon shopping and 'clubbing in Berlin (Shopping!!! Berlin!! )
- take us beer drinking in Munich (Beer!!)
POST ALTERED BY AUTHOR: I have been told off by the abovementioned German tour guide. She has confirmed her availability, hence making me look silly with egg all over my face. Sheesh!! These Germans are so touchy ;-). I hope we still get to stay at her Dad's place..

Who would have thought buying houses and going overseas could be so hard?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

URGENT update

April 19th, 2005

Well, no actually there is nothing urgent about this post at all. In fact precisely nothing has happened since last post other than we have signed a contract and are sorting out bank stuff. And occasionally I am able to go to work and do work type stuff. Settlement is on June 17th. That's a Friday. That's the weekend we find out who our real friends are (moving house).

There's so many forms to fill out. Who would have thought buying a house could be so complicated?

Now, for those of you complaining that I haven't used this blog effeectively, namely not posting some of their own baby photos (no know who you are Fil) I am convinced that you haven't sent me any. If you have, then I apologise, our gazillions of friends always have babies at the same time so all the photos look a little seamless after a while, and I forget whose is whose. All the babies look like Winston Churchill.

Oh yeah, and don't knock the blog. This literary masterpiece goes out to a massive audience (3 at last count) and provides a viable media alternative to Murdoch, Packer or those socialist-owned political broadcasters (the ABC). You'll keep reading it. Make it your homepage. Come on, you know you want to.

Bye for now.

Monday, April 11, 2005

New House Update

This is the house it appears we are buying. The contract will include having lights and power installed in the garage, and the white 1986 Mitsubishi Magna in the driveway. Phwoar!!

Crazy? Financially insane? We think so...
Tuesday April 12th 2005

Okay, for a start I don't know why the post date on this blog shows a day early, just ignore it.
We are buying a house. Although the contract is not yet written I have already begun asking, what...are we nuts?? We already have one!! What have I done?? Can we afford it?? What's the point if we move back to Adelaide in three years or so? WIll the resale value cover the exorbitant, criminal, convict-born Victorian Government stamp duty?? These are all good questions, really. And I'm sure there are legitimate answers for all of them. But I have no intention of answering them because I am quite happy being dillusional. And besides, there's this little voice inside my head repeating, over and over again...

kill them...kill them all..

no wait, not that one...this one

it's got FIVE BEDROOMS!! (whispering now)..and yours is up the other end of the house to the kids'. Just think of the solitude...mmm...solitude

Plus it means that we can paint stuff and hang pictures on the wall. Heck, we can knock the darn things down if we flippin' well want to!! Yep, I'd gladly double my weekly cost of living expenses just to be able to drill a small hole and hang one of my yet-to-be- (or probably never will be) completed masterpieces.

This place even has a storage shed out the back. It looks reasonably weather proof with a concrete floor and lights and power. That means I can set up my oversized, impractical easel (that I built myself from broken bits of pallets and warehouse leftovers) and have a kind of studio. Ripper. Now I'm setting myself up for even more failure!!

And, to top it all of, having our own place means we can do little renovation or improvement projects on the weekends, instead of sitting around watching telly. Wait a sec...

What...are we nuts?? What have I done?? Can we afford it?? etc...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

House buying and Toy Dimensions

Something our town is very close to, yesterday

Monday April 11th 2005

So, this week we put in an offer for the house we're keen on. The agent didn't put it in writing. So I went to the first of two rather desperate open inspections they hurriedly put on the weekend (9th and 10th April), and got upset. The agent rather patronisingly said "Oh we do things differently here to South Australia, we don't put anything in writing until the price is agreed upon". After I explained that this was because Victorian agents are more shifty and/or lazy, I then gleefully pointed out that in the half an hour we were standing at the open arguing about it, absolutely nobody else had been through to look at the house. Then the agent tried to tell me all this stuff to make me think the house was worth the asking price, blah blahdey blah. So I left him there in his solitude. They rung me only an hour later to say that the owners were willing to come down.

Actually, the price is quite right for us but we will wait until we hear from the bank. I believe the owners are keen to sell, which, I'm told is a good thing. A couple of weeks ago I was going to burst into the agent's office screaming "I must have that house...what will it take??" but I've been told that's a bad ploy. We are not rushing which means we must be learning patience in our old age. Besides, the house selling market is going slower than Victorian Freeway traffic (when it goes past a car that is parked well off the side of the road with it's bonnet up. Stupid rubberneckers).

If this all comes off, to all our SA friends and family...when you visit, you can stay more comfortably instead of sleeping in the toilet. Which is about all the space we have left since our house is used primarily to accommodate a plethora of big, loud, garish and useless plastic toys that seem to breed every time certain grandparents visit. Honestly people...can't you just buy them books?? Yes, I know getting your grandkids something practical (or, God forbid...educational) cheats you of the instant gratification from seeing their gleeful little faces light up. I know this gratification makes you immune from remembering that the moment you are gone the said toys will be ignored, broken, rammed down the toilet or used to annoy an innocent cat. But do you not understand the mathematics of available cubic space?? What happens the moment you add to the growing collection yet another loud, large toy, which is physically impossible to store neatly? Well, sadly God does NOT open up an additional spatial dimension or some kind of cosmic wormhole for us to stash them all in so that we can have some space left in which to ..oh, I don't know...walk, put furniture, cook some food to survive, and other such trivialities.

Now that I think about it, that wormhole idea would be handy and any prayers to that effect would be greatly appreciated. I have bugger all else chance of finding alternative accommodation for this massive pile of trinkets which can be seen from space. Throwing them out? Good heavens no!! Apparently some plastic action figure or $2 plagiarised version of Barbie with it's arms pulled off is now officially some kind of family heirloom which is to be passed down to another apathetic generation with no respect for property. It would be evil of me to cast them into the big green bin even though absolutely nobody will miss them. Not least of all the people to whom they were given, who have since found something else to play with. Or worse, something to read...

I digress with my cynical rantings. Where was I? Oh yeah. House news updated soon. Bye all.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Welcome to my blog/ The Germans

Me kissing Sharon. She seems to be enjoying it.

Yes, this is a self-indulgent wannabe-publisher news page for the Victorian chapter of Athertons. Consisting of Patrick (Husband, father, hunter, provider, complainer of trivial things and collector of exotic skin diseases), Sharon (Wife, mother, cleaner, cross-stitcher, nurse and general goo-enthusiast) who still doesn't look half bad despite three difficult births and 12 years of marriage. Or is that three births and 12 difficult years of....Anyhow, joining us are the offspring; Naomi the Bookworm, Samuel the Destroyer and Rebekah the Klingon.

That's right, since we are too lazy or antisocial to actually contact our beloved friends and family individually this is a good way to get some news out. Keep watching these riveting pages for more Atherton news.

This week saw a rare occurrence; we changed our minds about something. Despite renting for three years and having no intention to buy a house over here in Victoria, we have, um, decided to buy a house. Well, who could possibly ignore 5 (say it with me....F-I-V-E) bedrooms (PLUS a study) for a reasonable price. I say reasonable, but of course I mean it will send us broke enough to only buy junk food every fortnight instead of every week. And who can be expected to live in a tiny rented dogbox with three (say it with me T-H-R-E-E) children who are hell bent on seeing that we NEVER get our security bond back. Honestly, I do not understand why landlords favour families with kids. Angry feral people with bobcats and pyromaniacs do less damage to houses than three children. I
would rather rent my investment property to a family of motorcycle stuntmen than to people with children or anyone under the age age.

Where was I? Oh this space!! I'm off to force Sharon to watch another episode of The Super Nanny. Bye for now!

The Germans are Coming...
I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it...
Flashback to August 2003

Of all the nice pleasant things to happen to me, this is probably one of the strangest. I never tire of telling this story. Which is just a conceited way of ignoring the fact that countless friends and rellies got utterly fed up with me re-telling it ages ago. Well bugger the lot of you. I'm going to write it down on my blog.

It all started on a fateful night following a long, exhausting trade expo. You know those trade expos where you display lots of floor sanding machines and stinky floor coatings and talk to tradespeople about grain raise, rejection and buffing. In that order. You know, that kind of thing. Following these trade shows is usually an exercise in corporate schmoozing where different suppliers try and out-do eachother by spending oodles of money on entertaining their customers. "I took my customers out on a yacht and got them drunk". "Really!? Well I took my customers bungee jumping...and got them drunk"..."Well that's nothing, we shouted our customers a weekend in detox. And got them drunk"...and so on and so forth.

A trade expo, not unlike the one I am carrying on about, pictured here relaxing with friends.

In our case, we got a corporate box at the MCG for an inconsequential game of football (i.e. Carlton v Hawthorn) which included getting drunk. Naturally.

Trouble was, for reasons beyond the scope of this blog, we ended up with seven of these lavish tickets unclaimed. That's seven seats empty at the 3 course meal, not to mention a small king's ransom in paid corporate tickets gone to waste. Eventually we resorted to trying to GIVE them away to unsuspecting groups of general admission ticket holders in the car park. It felt so dirty, making unsolicited advances, and perhaps we would have been more believable dressed in large trenchcoats and beanies. Naturally most people assumed we were evil scammers so nobody took advantage of the amazing offer. It took a different culture and a language barrier to convince a group to join us. They were seven German university students. We didn't know they were German at the time we attempted to explain the impossible offer of FREE corporate box admission, free meals and booze all night with no strings attached. They held a small, efficient and brief conference and decided to join us.

Apparently there was a football game in progress. Most of the conversation ended with me saying "Don't ask me...I don't understand the game either "

There's a lesson in that. We offered these priceless tickets to locals, and they assumed we were psychopaths who obviously wanted to kill them. After all, everybody knows if you want to commit a hideous murder and chop the bodies up into little pieces, the ideal place to do this is in the MCG during an AFL game. Yet we offer them to a bunch of young, clear thinking and efficient Germans and they decide- the tickets are unclaimed and these nice gentlemen clearly don't want them to go to waste. Yes, there is logic in that. Let's go. Simple. How refreshing.

Now, I digress...believe it or not, I do not like strip clubs. Yet for some reason, corporate schmooze-fests invariably end up in a smoky underground cavern with lots of young naked women who are in love with a silver pole bolted to the floor and ceiling. I hate those places, because I am afraid that one day I will think aloud and say "Hey, you are not sophisticated businessmen just having a bit of fun, you are masogonistic, pathetic, porn-addicted zombies who act like you have never seen a beautiful woman before".

Had our evening ended like this, I would have gotten into trouble for saying that to customers, suppliers, and my boss. BUT, with six of these seven students being intelligent, polite and somewhat svelt young ladies, it looked unlikely to happen. Hah!! Foiled by fate! We may have to resort to intelligent conversation.

Assorted industry boffins having intelligent conversation. I love trade shows.

I gotta say these young folks were fabbo. Great company. Most of them came from Dresden, in the former East Germany. I felt like apologising for the possibilty that some distant grand uncle of mine was probably one of the people who firebombed the crap out of poor Dresden in 1945. It has been a while since I have enjoyed such charm, intelligence, and good clean fun.

The ringleader (namely the most extroverted one) was Claudia, a delightful, smiley and chatty blonde with a propensity for getting parties going. There was Sophie, Jana, Katja, and Marko (the token male). Marko looked like a cross betwee Dolph Lungren and Michael Schumacher but smiled more often, had more personality and was actually likeable. In fact they all had movie star looks and seemed to have no trouble listening politely to a bunch of middle aged businessmen attempting to make conversation. I later saw some photos of them doing touristy things. They looked like a pop band posing for an album cover.

The German version of ABBA. With more girls.

Two Germans being touristy. There's something perversely funny about taking pictures of people taking pictures

We were a little confused, however, as to why these kids didn't just blow us off after the corporate box to find some people closer to their own age. Instead they took us out to a pub and drank us under the table until 3am.

Claudia politely tolerating industry boffins

What I found even more confusing was, that when we swapped email addresses, they actually used them. As well as thanking us for the evening they insisted on catching up again. So we did the decent thing of throwing on a family bbq at the bosses place two months later. This was so that the wives/ girlfriends etc could meet them and be assured that we didn't just make them up as a figment of some oppressed, male-driven fantasy...or, to prove that we DIDN'T go to a sleazy strip club. Even Marko kept in touch via email. The irony. Guys just don't do things like that. I hear less from good friends of 20 years, email or otherwise.

Nice people, those Germans. I honestly don't know where all the stereotypes come from. Although they have acknowledged, in various conversations, that efficiency is the key in Germany regardless of the human cost, long days are normal and marriage is usually to a job. They do, contrary to popular belief, have a sense of humour. It's just not the same as ours.

Some of the sights in Germany...standing in front of a really old building

So, that's why we're going to Germany in September or October this year. Because, as pretentious as this sounds, we have friends there. Oh, and apparently it's a really nice place with lots of history and old buildings and castles and huge glasses of beer and...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Team Building Exercise goes horribly wrong

Adelaide 500 Trip, 18-20th March

There's no complaining about a job where the boss actually suggests a (ahem) "business" trip to Adelaide for the Clipsal 500. As an ex-pat Adelaidean I relished the chance to show some Mexicans around the bee-uu-tiful City of Churches. I stayed at Mum and Dad's place in the Hills to save the accommodation budget. I must really love them because the boys stayed at a beachfront apartment at Glenelg. Glenelg is a world famous beach. And if it isn't, it should be.

It took some explaining to the interstaters that the question "how far is that?" will always be answered "about 20 minutes". Everything is 20 minutes away. The airport, the hotel, the city centre, the hills, my mate's place in Prospect, the best pub...

Just face it- Adelaide is beautiful...

Joining us on Saturday was our German friend Jana who had just bushwalked 70 km in New Zealand. She correctly assessed that Adelaide would be a good place for a rest. Since I had been talking the place up for the last year I was anxious she'd like it. No problems there. Her day began playing beach volleyball with the men's hockey team she met on the plane. Seriously.

What a beach

We, meanwhile, were quite happy sitting in a sun-soaked grandstand developing our professional teamwork by watching loud, smelly facsimiles of familiar Australian road cars going around very fast and occasionally crashing into concrete walls. As a motorsport aficionado (that means expert) I made the mistake of trying to explain to the tribes that, yes, I'm sure Ford vs Holden is the greatest rivalry on the planet but they aren't really Fords and Holdens, in fact they bear little technical or practical resemblance to the road cars which are all crappy anyway and who the hell am I talking to nobody is listening...

Besides, it has nothing to do with work.

We then discussed conflict resolution over some alcohol at the cosmopolitan strip of Jetty Road, at gorgeous Glenelg. So far, this business trip was proving quite productive, right down to the fact that we had a visiting German consultant on European cost management and financial controlling. Although we had to keep rescuing her from attentive people who weren't in our group. In fact, I don't even think they were talking about work. How rude.

The rest of Saturday night is missing from my film reel. Oh well, so long as nobody tells me later that I was standing naked in a fountain shouting something about SA defence contracts. Any night without being hit in the face by a vodka bottle is a good night...

(the Boss)- Stop acting like you're at work

Sunday was quite spectacular. For some reason, my mother, of all people, has begun fraternising with influencial motorsport people. Not fair. That's my domain. I mean, you never saw me making friends with Dame Joan Sutherland or Marlene Dietrich did you mummy dear?? So what the hell gives you the right to.....(sorry). Anyhoo, thanks to her acquaintances I was admitted, rather gleefully, as a guest of Team Dynamik in the V8 Supercar Garage. The German tourist, er, consultant, joined me as we picked up some tips on team building, control management techniques and saw inside a racing car and met some famous people and...and...and...!! My friend was reasonably excited even though she didn't know who anybody was. (Sigh) I even had to point out Williams BMW F1 driver Antonio Pizzonia. Aussie Touring Car ace and Bathurst winner Tony Longhurst was very chatty and wrote down his phone number, but since she thought he was "just a mechanic" she threw it in the bin. I later explained who he was. The last I saw of Jana she was rifling through the team's garbage.

We then bumped into Craig McLaughlin and Natalie Bassingthwaite (from Neighbours. She plays the evil, manipulative Izzy who lured Doctor Carl from Susan and is now staving off attention from the even more evil Paul Robinson, who is....hang on, I can't possibly know all of this. I don't watch Neighbours...just ignore everything within these parentheses) and they cheerily had their photo taken with Jana who, by doing so, lowered her normally high Germanic IQ by around 40%. Really, I don't much care for soaps.

That Izzy though...she's such a bitch. And I said it to her face too, I did.

You, on the left...I'll NEVER forgive you for what you did to Dr. Carl and Susan. And you, on the right..I'll NEVER forgive you for Check 1-2...

Meanwhile, the Boss and his cohorts were happily sunning themselves on carnage corner watching carnage. But mainly they were researching the disturbing emergence of sexual harrassment in the workplace. The research consisted of simulating unwanted advances towards single young women then studying the responses.

Apparently there was a race on which was won by a car that looks like the car I drive, except it wasn't a station wagon. Later that night we were pleased to see that our return flight to Melbourne was inhabited mainly by drivers and teams. Unfortunately our flight was delayed by two hours because the pilot lost his keys in Melbourne and they had to fly another plane down from Syndey. I am sure we departed after curfew when the pilot got lost on the taxiways. Having once worked there, I am rather intimate with the taxiways at Adelaide Airport. I hoped that this pilot has never to taxi around Heathrow or Frankfurt. There, the driveway to the airline catering building is more complex than Adelaide Airport runways. Getting lost on the Adelaide Airport taxiways is not something you would put on your CV.

At half past midnight we stood at the Tullamarine baggage caroussel talking to extremely tired but surprisingly chatty V8 Supercar drivers. Cameron McConville noted that there were probably a few teams on the earlier Virgin flight that will no doubt be laughing at us right now.

At this point we realised, to our horror, that all of the professional development that was painstakingly laboured upon in the previous 48 hours was forgotten. So, hopefully, there will be another business trip next year. Maybe Bathurst. Enough blab. Time for some more piccys.

Hey fellow tourist...everybody seems to be looking at something

Ambrose the Ford Messiah. Like all leading V8 Supercar drivers- giving hope to all those fans who actually think that the race cars are basically the same as the one parked in their driveway. Whatever...

Garth Tander, who dribbled slowly around the fastest corner on the track and then wondered why someone hit him. Ya tosser....

Should I mention to Antonio that a German pinched his drive at Williams BMW..?

Oh NOWWW you're smiling, now that you know he's a rich race driver and all that...

Is that the sway bar adjustment? No wait...shock rebound? No wait...brake's an esky...

Really I didn't just pose with race cars for status photos. I did talk to some important people about technical stuff like grip levels, tyre temperatures, chassis tuning and aww, what the heck who am I kidding this is sooo cooool! Thanks Mum!!!

Seriously Antonio you really should be in Malaysia, since there's a GP on and all that and you are employed by an F1 team- why don't you ever listen to me??

Aussie Grand Prix

March 3-6 2005

It's that time of year when I suddenly feel like I have a purpose. Like I have emerged from the hopelessness and immensities of life afresh and anew. A magical time when I feel like gathering my children lovingly into my arms, looking them in the eyes and saying yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus, and he is big, fat, wearing a stupid red suit, and about to adorn you with lots of useless gifts...

Okay, that's not quite true because if that happened my children would scream in terror, squirm to break free and say "get away from me you freak, and who the hell is Virginia". But the POINT is, it's GRAND PRIX TIME IN MELBOURNE!!

What can be better. Friends arriving from interstate and overseas, action, parties, and that most beautiful of God's creation....those magnificent hybrid beasts bonded together by engineering genius, hopes, dreams, carbon fibre, alloy, sponsorship signage and shitloads of wasted money...Formula One cars.

Formula One racing is basically a quagmire of surreal escapism. It is perfect for people who are genuinely able to ignore the fact that the world is full of poverty, famine, corruption, human injustice, pollution and limited natural resources...then spend squillions of dollars on lots of unneccessary shiny things which are dangerous and smokey, and burn fossil fuel at the rate of ten litres per second . But for some reason I totally love it.

I also get to work trackside as a marshall, which is the best seat in the house. On a good day, that means you might be pushing a stranded F1 car off to the side of the track whilst in the firing line of oncoming F1 cars driven at up to 300km/h by men who are paid to ignore the flags warning them to slow down because you are on the side of the track pushing a stranded etc etc....

Some formula One mechanics, yesterday. Note the use of surgical-style rubber gloves whilst cleaning shiny bits with silvo.

Formula One mechanics (pictured above) are a special breed. In almost quarantine-like garages, they work with dedication and passion. With state of the art equipment, tools and years of qualifications they meticulously assemble the machines by hand, tenderly and carefully ensuring that even the smallest part is correctly in its place, to the nearest thousandth of a millimetre. Then these hardworking talented individuals stand in front of TV screens watching their overpaid, oversexed egomaniac drivers try to smash the living crap out of this delicately beautiful piece of engineering until it lies in a billion smoky little shards.

Then, outside the garage, the driver explains to a thousand grovelling media people and supermodels how serious the crash was, but that risk is a part of his job and he bravely accepts it. Inside the garage, the mechanics work with dedication and passion, meticulously reassembling etc etc...

This year is special because, in the pre-race buildup, everybody is confident that Michael Schumacher won't win. He drives for Ferrari. They are typified by being red, Italian, and having millions of loud annoying fans all over the world (the tifosi- which is where the word typhoid comes from, an insidious and painful fever). The tifosi secretly wish that their star driver wasn't German but will never admit that...until he starts losing. After the first three GP's of 2005, you can already hear the Italian's stinky tabloids warming up...

It's also the dawn of a new era. Qualifying now involves aggregate times spread over Saturday and Sunday, because it was apparent that F1 fans were starting to understand what was going on too much and this had to be stopped, because knowledge is power. Tyre changes are no longer allowed so as to provide more overtaking. So, at the end of the race, the person with the least buggered tyres will not fall off the track as often and go less slower than everybody else. And finally, teams are forced to make the same engines last for two races instead of just one, in the interests of costs. That's right, the teams now have to spend three times as much money to develop an 18,000rpm engine that will go just as fast as last years' engine, and for longer. Then it explodes. Then the mechanics (see above) are paid even more to pick up the one billion smouldering pieces.

Maybe that's why I like F1. Every year, the administrators try to completely bollocks up a perfectly good sport, and the engineers still find ways of making it entertaining. Enough of my blab...more piccys....

I think I have to go this way

or maybe it's this way (cue hilarious Benny Hill- type music)

Mark Webber (or "Webbo" as I affectionately call him, usually before he hits me in the face and says, "stop calling me that, you annoying little man") pokes his tongue out at me. At me!!!

I'm smiling because nobody noticed that I shoved a fuel rig into the back of my pants.

Mmm...shiny things. These are the front wing thimgummydoodads. They provide downforce to the front which increases grip from the blah blah blah. They must work better when you stack one on top of the other.

Advertising signage is strategically placed to subliminally inform the thirsty driver to drink the right product after the race. Since F1 drivers are not known for their intelligence, some have been seen sipping on an ice cold Mobil 1 on the rocks

Post race socialising. Here's me with Richard Burns, legendary British rally champion. Burnsy and I go back a long way, don't we Martin? Er, I mean...Richard...Burnsy