Sunday, 25 April 2010

BTCC at Rockingham

Thanks to Luke Pollard (aka @motorsportprint), who won tickets for the Rockingham round of the British Touring Car Championship from HiQ Fastfit and GAVE them to me (what a star!), I was able to attend my very first motorsport event today.

Our day started early: we set off at 7.30am, aiming to arrive about 9, but made such good time we arrived at 8.30. Since the gates didn't open for another 30mins and it was pouring with rain, this was not a great start! Anyway, waterproofs on, we joined the queue to get in. Thanks to a very efficient lady in the ticket collection office, I was able to pick up child passes without joining the masses in the ticket line.

First stop was the Welcome Centre, where we met Luke to say thanks and @BTCCCrazy (who's name I do not know but he was simply lovely ;) He kindly and unexpectedly gave me a free Tweet-up T-shirt). We also met @rockinghamuk who offered tea and coffee and was very helpful.

The kids (and dad) had a go on the simulators and we had a look at the slot car racing in the next room.

We took our seats in the stands just before 10; first race was the Ginetta G50s followed by Formula Renault.

We were so cold sat in the stands so Ric ran back to the car to collect anything vaguely warm! He made record time considering we were parked in Itchy (Simpsons ref, sorry!).

When the touring cars exited the pits for their warm up laps I was so excited I was like a small child! The kids perked up too, possibly because they recognised the cars "off the telly".

At lunchtime we returned to the welcome centre to meet more fellow tweeters, and I immediately recognised @sarahgb (I think we both said "Sarah?!" at the same time LOL). @petronella (Kate) produced a birthday cupcake for me, which Nat demolished with chocolatey results. Thanks Kate, such a lovely gesture. I also met @sarahanngreen and @kayels, so lovely to meet online friends in the flesh, although a bit bizarre too! Luke gave the kids a puzzle to do, a racing car to assemble. It certainly went down well and CJ actually clutched his car for the rest of the day. Thanks Luke (again!).

We had a quick walk round the stands an picked up hats for the kids.

We watched the Porsche Carrera cup race from the grass bank in front of the start/finish line, then returned to the stands for the 2nd BTCC race. This was a fab race, with Plato winning (although it was close at the end) and Onslow-Cole and Chilton both pushing hard to overtake. We also cheered Jordan and Hamilton loudly (who I follow on Twitter ;)).

After the race we decided to leave, otherwise the kids would've been up late. It was a shame to miss the last race but I shall enjoy watching it tonight :) And it will be all the more exciting since "I was there!".

Now, where's the car?

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Thursday, 15 April 2010


...everybody needs good neighbours, tra la la.

I'm a bit cross tonight so I am writing a rant to let off steam!

Our neighbours only moved in a few months ago and they've managed to annoy me three times so far.

First, the bloke played really loud movies every evening for a week until I finally went round to speak to him. (Noise is much better now.)

Second, they kept blocking my car in the carport by parking in front (although they moved it straightaway when asked and haven't done it for a while).

Third, they seem unable to grasp the concept of recycling, so every week they put their general waste bin out (which only gets emptied every 2 weeks) therefore ending up with extra bags of rubbish. Most people would ring the council to get a recycling bin or take the extra to the tip, but not these guys.

Tonight, they decided to put the extra bags in a neighbour's and my bin. This is not so bad, we ourselves have done this, but when we did it it was on the morning of the collection when the bins probably wouldn't have anything else added and we made sure the lids could close. They not only did it in the early evening but also left the lids open and the bags over the top of the bin, meaning the binmen might not collect the bin.

Complete numpties.

Fortunately, I noticed this had happened because I had to put a late bag out. Makes me grumpy that I had to stand there forcing their rubbish down so I could fit mine in.

I take care to keep our waste level down, and feel quite proud that with four of us in the house (one who wears nappies) we can sometimes only produce a few bags of rubbish because we recycle. If our council were to introduce pay-as-you-go waste collection I would hope they would take into consideration this sort of neighbourly behaviour and hope there is a mechanism to prevent it.

Not only that, but the council should be under pressure to ensure all households are recycling as much as they can. It's not difficult these days to recycle either: my poor parents have various bags and boxes and must separate their recycling for collection, but ours is all collected in the same bin.

Anyway, rant over, thanks for listening, and if you are reading this and you recognise yourself as my neighbour, DON'T DO IT AGAIN!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Nature walk

The estate we live on backs onto the River Ivel, and in previous years we have seen ducks, swans, and geese. We've not been down for about a year now; last year my son had an "incident" with a swan so we stayed away until he had forgotten about it.

Now that the sun is shining there is a real feel of Summer, so we decided to head down to the river (with a slice of bread each) to see if any ducks were about. There were quite a few pairs, but only one stayed for a photo.

We continued along the path towards the old Baldock Road bridge. A few years ago there was a family of swans at this end of the river, but they weren't here today. However, we could see in the distance a swan on the developing nature reserve (Mill Meadows).

We continued our walk along the old Baldock Road. This used to be the main road to Stotfold from the A1.

It's amazing how quickly nature returns to an area. To the left of the old road is the Mill Meadows nature reserve, and to the right is the footpath to Radwell.

This is such a lovely photo! The sun was definitely in the right place. It's hard to describe how odd this area is: just a few metres further on and the traffic on the A507 is blasting past, yet birds and wildlife are in abundance.

On our way home now; to the right you can just make out the houses of the new estate, where we live. We are so very lucky to live here, so close to fields and wildlife yet within easy reach of London and the A1 corridor.

My little girl discovered the joy of teasels on the way home! So sticky, we all had fun pulling these off her coat.

What a lovely surprise! As we neared home we saw a mother duck and her ducklings.

Children are sent to test us!

Why do children feel the need to test their parents?! For teenagers I guess it is a sign of independence. But, at the ages of 2 and 4, I didn't expect my children to behave as such!!

Two examples: first, asking if they wanted any toast with breakfast they both said no and proceeded upstairs to their rooms to play. After making my own they both decided they did want some and ate mine :(

Second, asking them to play nicely while I tidied and cleaned up they decided to do the opposite, turning my daughter's bedroom into something described by my son as "a bit colourful".

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Monday, 12 April 2010

Gardening weekend

What a fab weekend we've just had. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for being in the garden. I managed to tidy up a bit and weed the beds, and the kids helped sow some seeds.

First, I moved the many pots of strawberry plants off the patio and into a sunny part of the garden adjacent to my raspberry canes and rhubarb. I did this so they can fruit in peace without being disturbed by bikes and toys. I quite like being able to move the strawberries around because it means once they are finished I can clear the area for a late crop of salad or carrots.

While preparing the seedbeds for sowing, I noticed a small area full of sunflower seedlings. These must have germinated after falling from fatballs hung above the plot for the birds. I potted these up: waste not want not!

We sowed two rows of summer sprouting broccoli, 1 row of Brussels sprout (Bosworth), and 1 row of calabrese (Belstar), with 5 seeds in each row. If all the seeds germinate there will be too many plants in the bed, because they need room around them for air to circulate and to avoid pests, but we can deal with that later!

I planted one row of peas (Kelvedon Wonder), which I wasn't planning to sow this year but I thought I would give them a go again since I did neglect them terribly last year! I'll probably sow another 2 rows of these every 2-3 weeks, to give me a succession of crops. This pea variety can be sown up to the end of June, so a large spread will give a longer growing season.

I also pushed a few broad bean seeds (Aquadulce Claudia) in gaps where earlier plants had died back (just to see if they grow). We have flowers at last on some early plants so we will get beans this year. They are very surprising yet attractive flowers, black and white in colour. At some point I will pinch out the growing tips to prevent blackfly. Last year I waited a few weeks after the first flowers bloomed and a lot more flowers came with no sign of blackfly, so I think I will just keep my eye on them.

Finally, I sowed 3 rows of leeks (Oarsman). Two rows went in between some early carrots (I am running out of space!) and one row went in between the carrots and onions. I mix carrots with onions because apparently the smell of onions helps discourage carrot root fly. I'm not sure about the science of that, but I didn't have a pest problem last year, so it can't hurt.

The plan above shows the current make-up of my veg plot (it's not to scale). Once last year's leeks are harvested (in the next month) I will plant French beans (Blue Lake, free Dig In seeds). Alternatively, if the broad beans don't last too long into the summer I shall put the beans where they are now and sow sugar snap peas where the leeks are. Both beans and peas are yet to be sowed (I've not bought any sugar snap seeds yet either!). I'll probably sow these into peat pots in the next 2 weeks and then plant the whole pot when space is available. That means I won't lose much growing time. Beans have a very long season so the sooner they are sowed the sooner we'll get a crop.

Thinking ahead to when my potatoes are ready to dig up in June or July, we sowed sweetcorn (Extra Tender & Sweet F1 Hybrid) in 16 peat pots. If all seeds germinate this will give us a 4 by 4 block, which hopefully will be perfect for pollination. For groundcover under the sweetcorn we will be growing courgettes. We have free seeds from BBC Dig In (Black Beauty), which we sowed in two medium-size pots (2 seeds in each). We won't need more than four plants (we'll probably only need two!) so if they don't all germinate it's not a disaster.

For germination indoors, we sowed 6 pots of tomatoes (Gardener's Delight) and two medium pots of sweet peppers (Mini Bell Mixed), with 2 seeds in each. I will only want two tomato plants and two pepper plants, but since I don't have a greenhouse I have sown more than I need to allow for non-germination and any that die. If I have extras I'll be generous and give them to neighbours!

Finally, into large pots we sowed Chantenay carrots and mixed salad (Dig In) and pumpkins (Mars), and into small peat pots we sowed sunflowers (Sunshine Giant).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Could BTCC lend a hand to F1?

Today was a great day for motorsport fans. The Malaysian GP was on BBC followed by several hours of BTCC and various support races (Carrera Cup, Formula Renault, Ginetta, and Clios, to name a few) on ITV4.

I've been following a discussion on Twitter between several fans of F1 about the ban on refuelling and how this has made F1 boring. It got me thinking about how BTCC could teach F1 some lessons and garner excitement without reintroducing refuelling.

BTCC and support races do not have refuelling. In fact, cars do not need to pit at all during the race, unless they have a puncture or mechanical fault. Of course, races last for about 20 laps, so the cars should easily manage their tyres for that distance.

Also, in BTCC, there are 3 races every weekend. The finishing order determines the next race's starting line up. However, after the second race the top 10 finishers are reversed at a random point. For example, today, the top 9 were reversed, so the driver finishing 9th in the previous race started in pole position in the last race.

So, here are my ideas.

First, the FIA brings in a "no pit stops required" rule. The tyre manufacturer brings every driver a set number of tyres as usual. It's up to the team to decide which compound they use and think they can make last all race. If they can't make them last, they have to pit. So we would see drivers looking after their tyres so they don't have to pit versus those who can't manage them as well pitting once or twice, who could still win because they are on fresh rubber and might set the best times.

Second, the races could be shortened to 25 laps each and two could be run on a Sunday. The second race could be run with the top 10 finishers starting in reverse order, so the incentive to overtake would be very prevalent.

Personally, I enjoyed today's Grand Prix. Although the Malaysian rain did not come, we saw overtaking manouvres, from the McLarens and Ferraris who started at the back, and several scraps in the middle order (Jaime Algersuari featuring as usual!).

However, I do think sometimes that F1 races are too long, and we see a lot of passing manouvres at the beginning and towards the end of races. Shorter races would give drivers the incentive to pass for position quickly, and if a second race were run in reverse order, there would definitely be a lot of scrapping to get into the top 10.

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Doctor doctor, I think I'm in love!

What a fantastic first episode for Matt Smith as the new Doctor. He seemed comfortable and confident in the role, and he definitely had chemistry with his new assistant.

I have never been a religious fan of Doctor Who; I liked Christopher Ecclestone and watched his series from beginning to end, but I did not gel with David Tennant so sadly my interest in Doctor Who waned. I will most definitely be watching this series, especially after the tantalising series trailer.

I first saw Matt Smith in The Ruby in the Smoke, and I thought he was a really great actor and rather attractive in a quirky way! I can see I am going to be a little bit in love soon!

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To be or not to be (a chore)

I have just spent an enjoyable half an hour in the garden mowing the lawn (first cut of the year!). I thought I had the easy job: my husband hates mowing the lawn but I love the smell of freshly cut grass and the time spent allows me to think about garden jobs that need doing.

So, while I was outside having fun, I was feeling a little sorry for my husband, as he shouted out of the window that he was tidying the lounge. Our son had strewn his Lego all over the floor and it was a complete tip. It always takes me at least half an hour to sort through it all into the correct box. I was not looking forward to tackling the mess and I'd been avoiding it for most of the day. However, I soon realised he'd probably be having a great time playing with the Lego, probably building some enormous car while tidying. And I wasn't far wrong. Slight smug smile on his face as he showed me the tidy floor and the neatly stacked boxes.

I just wish he could enjoy cleaning the toilet or hoovering the stairs as much.

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Thursday, 1 April 2010

The end is nigh

So, our holiday draws to a close, and we've had a great time. We've swum nearly everyday, been cycling, had lovely meals out, won the Lost Bunny Hunt! But most importantly, had fun together as a family. The weather has been lousy though, rain, sleet, and snow, with a dash of sun to fool us into thinking summer is on it's way.

We've seen fantastic wildlife close up: deer, rabbits, squirrels, many wild birds (including a woodpecker and an as-yet unidentified tit or wagtail). My son has grown in confidence on his bike and can probably take his stablisers off when we get home. My daughter no longer needs armbands to swim, and can easily count to three and request "one more" time! Unfortunately, I have probably put on several pounds in weight :( Too many nice dinners and not quite enough strenuous exercise.

So home beckons. I am wondering if the fish survived the week on the holiday food pack we left in the tank. I am thinking about my plans for Easter: we're looking after a friend's hamster for a week, I have seeds to sow in the garden, and I am determined to potty train my daughter!!!

One more evening. How many beers do we have left?! SIX!! Bad planning. Pass one this way then...

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