Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – Silverstone (Round 5)

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We drove over to Silverstone the night before and met up with some of the other drivers. They’d been to Abingdon CARnival for round four of the LCUK Speed Championship.  We’d not been at Abingdon for several reasons, one of them being that I don’t like portaloos. We got scrutineered, signed on, walked the track, and chatted to people.

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We found food in Milton Keynes, at Middleton’s. It was kind of weird because there’s a Middleton’s in Middleton, Norfolk and it’s a pub-type place, with their own little butchery at the back. This version was busy and ‘trendy’ with industrial ceilings and steel mesh room-dividers. I’m not usually into chains, but this one is small, and good. Somebody smashed a plate and our waitress Ioana told us that in her country (Romania) it was customary to throw plates and glasses out of your upstairs windows in celebration.

We listened to Salt-N-Pepa in the car. Parked in the petrol station, ate ice creams and discussed what ‘cool’ cars we could buy and drive fifteen hundred miles to Romania.

Back at the Hilton, the room smelt of oldness, like my nan’s purse. There was a fly circulating. The bed creaked and graunched with the slightest movement. I discarded the dirty pillow and slumbered off.

I woke at 4am to the sound of city bird song; vocals influenced by ringing phones and car alarms. It was so loud, surprisingly loud. Turns out Adam had opened the window – that’s why I had itchy hay-fever eyes and it sounded like there was a pigeon on my bedside table.

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The day started off foggy and cool. At Silverstone Stowe we were briefed by the MG Car Club team. There were little historical tit-bits thrown in, it was clear that they were proud of their connection to the site, and rightly so.

Whilst we prepared for the sprinting, elsewhere at Silverstone it was day two of the world’s largest MG event, MG Live, and Lotus Cup Europe racing was underway.

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For some reason, I felt nervous. I wasn’t the only one. It might have been the massive and intimidating tyre walls that were striking fear into us all, or maybe it was just excitement. The track looked awesome. Bendy bendy awesome.

First practice got underway, Nigel met with the tyres, Xav bypassed them by going straight on through the chicane. My time was 65.63 and at that moment I was 6th. That moment soon passed!

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The sun started to break through, and we got on with practice two. I was slower than I had hoped to be, I didn’t have enough wang, and I couldn’t quite remember where I was going. I don’t think any of us had driven here before. But you know, in my first year of sprinting I used to have to take a map with me at all times (see here) so really, for me, I was showing excellent improvement!

We had our first timed run, and a bit of fun as Martin Roberts pirouetted  over the line. Then it was lunch time. I drank a can of ginger beer/liquid sugar. I love ginger beer, but not this one.

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The sun was shining properly now, we took our second, and then third runs. I got my time down to 61.51. I really wanted to be below 60, but I’m not that good.

There were a lot of cars to get through, over 100 of them, but we still managed 2 practices, 3 timed runs, a lunch break and a peace-and-quiet break for the local vicar to deliver his sermon. Nice.

Adam ended up 3rd, with there not being much between his time and the four drivers behind him. I was 9th, out of 11. I was exactly 3 seconds slower than Adam. That’s too much.

Overall I was 44th out of 104. That sounds alright.

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The roll of honour looked like this…

Production: 1st Xavier Brooke, 2nd Nigel Hannam, 3rd Adam Ruck

Production Modified: 1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Barry Savage

Supersport: 1st Russell Whitworth, 2nd Martin Roberts, 3rd Dave Pollard

Supersport Modified: 1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Nick Emery, 3rd Jason Weatherall

And hey, guess what? I won a trophy! MG Car Club Best Lady Driver. Yes, that’s right, fastest womb on the track. Woot woot!

It was such a great day. A wonderful track, and a brilliantly organised event. My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to see LoTRDC main man Paul Golding – but then I saw a photograph of him dressed as a (female?) Brazilian volleyball player, and felt just a little bit relieved that our paths had not actually crossed!

These Recent Things (Pork Pies & Perverts)

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Outside, the bees are swarming. Busying themselves around the chimney pots, drowning out the sound of bird song. Every year the bees build a nest in the same chimney, and we’re alright with that. We’ve wondered how we might be able to fit some kind of honey tap, and been relieved that when a young jackdaw fell into the chimney, and had to be rescued via an air vent, he’d been able to survive on a protein rich diet of dead bees.

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Beneath the buzz we are tending to the plants in the conservatory, waiting to be let out to play in the bank holiday sun.

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Now, let me introduce you to the best pork pie I’ve ever come into contact with. Thank you Pork Pie God’s (AKA Baked by Romanos) for this generous gift.

After our awesome Cambridge Eat Up! pot-luck lunch, everyone came away with a goody bag heaving with foodie treats (see Jin’s photo!) My top five highlights, after this delicious pork pie, were: the salt water taffy from Canesmith, caramelised red onion marmalade from Hibiscus Lily, biscotti from Apricot and Fig, chocolate from my chums at Willie’s Cacao, and the tomato and tigernut relish from Bim’s Kitchen ( I used mine as a pasta sauce by adding an egg and some rocket).

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The flyers for the Shutter Hub OPEN have arrived, and they are just beautiful.  (The image is by Kit Martin, and the design by Tim Jukes.) I’m so happy with them. The full programme is available here, if you want to check it out and come along. I’d love to see you there!

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Early in the month I gave a talk with The OGC in London at a symposium called ‘Photography. Not Photographer.’ On the 9th floor of the Digital Catapult Centre, we stood in front of a wall of glass, the view over St Pancras, like some kind of super news reporters. It was a brilliant event, inspiring, and spent with some wonderful people.

Afterwards I trotted back to Kings Cross, and was still so full of joy that I didn’t really mind when I saw I’d missed my train by just one minute, and had another 59 minutes to wait for the next one. Somehow I managed to fill that time quite easily, but accidentally enabling a sex pest and spending half an hour with the police reporting it!

I’d felt sorry for the man as he tried to follow me through the turnstile to the loos. He looked ill, a bit off his face, and ill. I gave him the 30p so that he’d be able to use the toilet, in case he was going to be sick, I thought it was kindest on everyone. I was wrong. As I washed my hands, the man walked out of the cubicle behind me. Two other ladies looked at me uncomfortably and I apologised for giving him the 30p. He must have followed me in by accident, I thought. Seems not. Seems he went for a ‘pleasure’ in the ladies and then told me he’d seen me in the toilet, and some other stuff, that I’m not going to share here for three reasons, (1. My mum might read it, 2. Your mum might read it, 3. Google might shut me down!) but I am sure you can imagine, if you really want to. I was just going to leave it, because I’ve had worse experiences, but then I thought, ‘What if he does it to someone else, or thinks that because he got away with this he can take it to another level?’ So, I reported it. It was the right thing to do. The police took it very seriously, more seriously than me.

Probably the most important thing I learnt from this experience, and why I am sharing it with you, is that British Transport Police have a special number you can text to report a crime on your train or at your station discreetly. That number is 61016. Store it to your phone, and find out more here.

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After the sprint at MIRA, we went to Blyton Park with Lotus on Track for a track day.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and I went backwards through a field. Here’s the onboard video, I was doing about 90mph when I took the detour! Obviously not fast enough.

In other car related news, I was asked if I’d be interested in writing about a super car experience, in relation to Father’s Day. I don’t have a dad, so I was going to hire in a fake one, but seems that’s not what they were after. Never mind. I’ll just keep driving my own car into fields!

And I did an interview (for a publication) with a chap called Tarquin. He asked me how old I was, and if I was from the West Country. I told him to eff off. He then he asked me what was the worst thing that could happen on a sprint, and I said ‘dying’ and I don’t think he thought that was a real answer, so I changed it to ‘being maimed’ and he seemed much happier.

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slipper

All is well in chicken world. Patty Slipper is still sleeping in our house, and that’s just the norm now. She is so much happier and healthier. Margaret has gone broody, so we are having to turf her off the eggs and send her out into the daylight, and April, well, she’s a funny one – take a look at this!

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I met up with Jackie at The Brampton Mill the other week, and having not been here for ages, I was really pleasantly surprised. We both had delicious salads (fries and aioli just out of shot!) and looked out across the river.

It was a beautiful day, and it reminded me how important it is to enjoy the seasons while they last.

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I mentioned before how I’ve received some lovely post lately, and I wanted to send more. Whilst out on one of my rummaging missions I came across some postcards of Bordeaux, by a photographer named Marcel Delboy. (Alright Trigger!) Without much thought I picked them up for Jaime, who’d recently made a trip there, and popped them in the post. Little did I know it would make her ugly cry! Apparently it was good-ugly though, and that’s alright. She even wrote a lovely tale about receiving them here, and reading that gave me goose pimples, so I think that was a fair exchange!

Let me know if you want me to send you something in the post that will bring you to tears!

(Don’t worry, I didn’t pick that rat up!)

A Pot-luck Lunch with Cambridge Eat Up!

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At the end of last summer Aoife and I, inspired by our love of sharing food (providing there’s enough to go round of course), put on a Photography Picnic in Cambridge supported by Pink Lady® Apples, the people behind the Food Photographer of the Year awards.

We invited people we knew through different means and reached out to local groups, we invited bloggers, friends, and food lovers. Everyone was keen and excited to be involved (apart from one person who sent multiple messages of hate – but you know, there’s always one!) and on a lovely sunny evening we sat down and shared photography skills, cocktails, food and fun.

It was the first time I saw Claire’s glittering trainers, and where Alex coined the term  ‘a whisper of gin’, which I may never forget. I also met a dog called Troy and an aura reading jester. That’s got to be a good sign, right?

We had to do this again. We had to start a food gang!

‘Food team assemble!’ I cried, as I held a golden breadstick to the sky, lightning struck, thunder crashed, and a new era dawned. Actually, I just went on Facebook and set up a group.

‘Cambridge Eat Up!’ was born, hatched from a cornflake cake, raised on syrup, left to run free, nurtured by good people.

Now at almost 100 members, I know I am lucky to have been able connect with such a diverse group of people. We are friends and equals. We are scientists and artists, chefs and doctors, bakers, business owners, writers, photographers, bloggers, and so many other wonderful things, and we all share a love of food.

We hang out and have dinner, swap recipes and books and things, and generally just share good stuff and support each other. It’s pretty special.

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Anyway, enough gushing about ‘team awesome’. This year we took part in the fabulous EAT Cambridge festival fringe and held our own pot-luck lunch, hosted so kindly by Pina, one of the most organised people I have ever met!

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It was a delightful day. Everyone brought along a dish or two to share and we just sat out on Pina’s (and Paulo’s!) deck, enjoying the good weather, delicious food, great hospitality and wonderful company.

We ate our way through some of the most superb food (and my custard tarts!) all made with thought and care by our fellow pot-luck lunchers. So, look away if you are even slightly hungry, because… it’s food time!

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Helen’s beautiful bread,  Gina’s rhubarb and amaretti cake with orange and rosemary syrup,  Naomi’s Crostata.

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Aoife’s broccoli and hazelnut salad, Gina’s chilli and fennel cheese crackers, Paola’s quiche, Lisa’s Cobb salad.

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Alison’s Piragi, Deepa’s Dhokla, Lyndsey’s rosemary and parmesan madeleines.

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Paola’s gluten free blueberry and cranberry cake, Jin’s soft strawberry swiss roll (with Katt’s dropped ice-cream cake in the background),  Lyndsey’s miniature melting moments, Michelle’s chocolate and quinoa bark.

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Sue’s pretty rhubarb snow, my not-so-pretty custard tarts, and a plate full of goodies, including Jin’s superb pandan and black sesame chiffon cake. Wowzers.

There was so much good food, and I was most happy to have a gingery drink to go with it. These Thor apple soft drinks are delicious. In my world all drinks should be gingery or minty, or tea’y.

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I was so busy participating in the eating (and totally excelling at it. High five, Harvey hotdog!) that I didn’t manage to get detailed photos of all the goodies – like Jess’s teeny cheese scones and tasty falafel, Michelle’s Jersey Royal and rocket salad, Ozzy’s Frikadellen, Nazima’s chickpea and potato curry, Kelly’s puff pastry rolls with spinach, feta and ricotta, her beautiful beetroot and rocket salad, or Stella’s impressive dulce de leche brownies. Mmm yum. I may have missed something else. Oh yeah, the goody bags… gulp!

Join us next time if you’d like… bring biscuits!

Go team!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – MIRA (Round 3)

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When we left for MIRA, the wrong side of 6am, the sun was already out, forcing it’s way through the early morning mist and promising to make the day warm and lovely.

Personally, I’m not hugely keen on MIRA as a track, but The Bentley Drivers Club are such a lovely bunch (they really are) and they are so welcoming to us, that it balances things out for me somewhat. Plus they have a Tag Heuer touch screen timing station, or ‘log machine’ as Adam called it, and proper toilets, with glass basins and clean floors. Winning.

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After the briefing we all climbed into (and onto, for those vintage Bentley drivers!) our cars, and drove out for a convoyed sighting lap of the track, which was brilliant. Much better than walking the course (because, at least for me, I think it enables you to judge distances and track conditions much better) and I do believe it may have actually encouraged more cars to stay on the tarmac for the rest of the day!

Simon Foley had a brief moment of worry when his car decided it couldn’t make the whole lap and wafted the strong scent of fuel at him. He was quickly recovered by the marshals and in the paddock the issue was found and fixed. Job done.

I’ve been to MIRA twice before, and I still have no idea where the track goes! Sitting low in the car, driving the track, with the raised grass around me and flat landscape, I struggled to find things to familiarise myself with. You cannot use wild dandelions as reliable marker points, it seems.

The two practices weren’t too bad, first one for familiarisation, second one for trying a bit more to push myself round blind corners with confidence. Pah!

Somehow we managed an almost two hour long lunch break. The sun was bright and warm, there was a slight breeze, and I’d been well behaved and baked three dozen Portuguese custard tarts to share round. Seriously, we could have been in the Mediterranean! (Hmm, maybe I do live in a utopian bubble?!)

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After a wobbly start off the line, I managed 60.03 for my first timed run. Adam managed 58.22 with more wobbles, and a flame from the exhaust pipe. I should have just given up there and then!

I was ready to be an amazing on my second run and surprise everyone with my rad skillz. I started well and I was off to a good start, I felt, but then… what’s this? As I began to gather speed I spotted some kind of debris in front of me. Oh no! Big black boulders of doom! On the track were massive chunks of tarmac, egg-sized, and scattered across the first corner where I was still accelerating.

I slowed a little as the car went over them, I had to, it felt like it slid one way, then the other. I carried on, but it had slowed my speed into the next section of track, which happened to be a place where I could go flat out, so there was no way of gaining anything back here.

I did keep trying but I was disappointed. Xav and Simon had also been put off by the boulders. I went and reported it to the marshals. I thought about asking for a re-run for us all, but the rain had started and the opportunity had passed.

It turned out to be Pidgeon mess on the track – Andy had had an over-excited spin!

I had managed to get my time under 60, at 59.91, and only 0.19 seconds behind the next driver, but, that still put me at the bottom of my class. (Now, had I been in another class, this could have been a different story and I could have been cheering about trophies instead of whinging about being last!)

Production class definitely seems to be the most competitive, and I’m not just saying that to appease my ego!

Stuart and Mark both got 56.78, and Adam 56.79. That’s close, and kind of weird, when you think about it.

In Supersport, after both timed runs Russell and James both had exactly the same times with 55.96, but the win went to Russell as his first timed run was faster than James’.

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And our winners are… drum roll… Prince impression by Phoebe… whooping and cheering in the marquee…

Production:
1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Phil Stratton-Lake
Production Modified:
1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Simon Foley, 3rd Andrew Pidgeon
Supersport:
1st Russell Whitworth, 2nd James Tubby, 3rd Martin Roberts
Supersport Modified:
1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Paul Neale

Such a good day – great people, great cars, and Simon Foley had a stash of lollipops with him. Hooray!

These Recent Things (Photography & The Fen)

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Spring has most definitely sprung and I’ve leapt into life like some kind of ‘should have been road-kill’ kangaroo on a bonza mission.

The evening before we flew out to Mumbai I gave at talk to London Independent Photography on ‘Developing Your Photographic Practice’. It was great, not only because the audience were awesome and asked so many questions that we over-ran massively, but also because the corridors, stairwells and lifts of the London Metropolitan University were full of posters with my face on and arrows pointing to the lecture room – basically, personalised directions!

Mumbai was wonderful. I wrote a few things about staying at The Taj Mahal Palace,  and the amazing Street Food Tour we went on, and then I jumbled everything together to share a few of my favourite things, in a slide-show side-show kind of way! 

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Back from Mumbai, we headed down to the Irish Embassy to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Books Ireland, the grown up business-baby of my sweet friend Aoife’s lovely parents. We ogled the cars of Belgravia then had Guinness and macarons, and canapés of proper Irish black pudding under the golden ceiling of an opulent glowing room full of good people.

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The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, but then we were hit by the lingering memories of India, (or, the Mumbai Bumbyes as it became known) and found ourselves obsessing over our own personal toilets.

For the rest of the week the only thing we left the house for was to sign our wills. (Totally un-bumbye related – it wasn’t that bad!) We wanted to make sure that if anything happens to either of us, the other would be protected. It makes sense. Also I want to ensure that if I die there’s no fighting over my taxidermy crow and it will go straight to my friend Rob. He thinks he might die first, so he’s going to leave me a piñata, made from his neighbours dog.

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At home I’ve been appreciating the garden, the spring growth, the little Robin hoping around on the grass, and the wonky wood pigeon limping his way around the lawn. I also tried to shoot a rat. Fen life.

The chicken hierarchical system has changed, there’s been a restructure. Dear ginger Belinda has died – we don’t know why. We found her on the lawn, eyes closed, her lovely big body slumped down in the grass.

Patty Slipper used to sleep under ginger Belinda every night, keeping warm and safe, and hidden. Now she’s exposed and has been noticed by Sasha. Every time Patty tried to get in the house, Sasha would chase her off. Then Patty started trying to sleep on a piece of wood outside, and that wasn’t ideal. When it got dark, Adam or I would pick her up and pop her in the chicken house, but in the morning Sasha would bully her even more. Then we thought, ‘Hey! What if Sasha thinks there’s some kind of chicken shamanism going on and that Patty Slipper is a shape shifter?!’ So we decided, after Sasha pecked both of Patty’s eyelids, it was safer to keep them separate at night. Patty Slipper now sleeps in our back hall. She’s much happier. She skips out of the back door in the morning and doesn’t seem as afraid. She’s not scared of MoJo at all (although he is a bit unsure about her) and she’s not so scared of me either!

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I had an amazing few days in Derby, speaking at the National Photography Symposium, then giving portfolio reviews and the Shutter Hub Award at FORMAT International Photography Festival.  I came away feeling inspired, happy, and slightly embarrassed – you know me! I met some wonderful people and I was genuinely thrilled to have been able to be part of such great events. If you’re thinking about going to FORMAT next year, do it!

I also hosted a session at Beach Blanket Babylon with The Bloggers Hangout on the importance of paying photographers. I’m not sure if anyone was listening though!

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In Shutter Hub land we’ve got masses of wonderful things coming up. I hope you’ll come along, get involved, tell your friends, hang out with us…

As part of our Shutter Hub OPEN 2016 in Cambridge this year there will be: photography exhibitions across three venues, a portfolio review with some superb industry professionals (check them out!), a free meet up event for chats and fun and idea sharing, a workshop with Sara Tasker of Me & Orla, and an array of fabulous talks – Justin Carey on night photography, Kate O’Neill & Jackie King on making it work in the photographic industry, Mariah Wilde on ‘making money from your art, the charity Photovoice on their work and how you can get involved and more. I don’t know how we do it!

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I’ve received some lovely letters lately (which makes me realise I need to send more post) and had some fun times with a lot of good people. In general I feel like I’ve been shown a lot of positivity lately, and for that I am grateful. Thank you! Oh, there was that angry man that I encountered in the pit lane at Hethel on Sunday, but that turned out fine in the end and I realised later, I should have just squirted my windscreen washers at him to dampen his rage – next time!

Funny thing. Adam went to get some stuff from the car on Saturday morning and found a whole family in fancy hats having their photograph taken, (with golden reflectors and everything) in front of our twisted willow (or, as I like to call it ‘the dead witches tree’). That seemed a bit random, but it was topped this morning by a man with a bucket picking dandelions for his canaries.

Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!