Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Debden (Round 10)

steve the elise

Bad Karen (and Adam), didn’t take one single photo on Sunday, so here is a photo of my lovely car when I first got him – when he was shiny and well kept, before the birds took over the maintenance regime and I drove him into things.

Sunday was the last sprint of the season. The end. We were at Debden, in Essex, with Herts County Auto & Aero Club. Another sunny day, another awesome track to drive. Debden Airfield was scattered with piles of agregate, water filled ditches and a massive yellow skip, but the layout was great, fast and fun.

I say fast, I could have gone much faster. I know that. I was a bit hesitant because there seemed to be an issue with my brakes that we couldn’t pin-point – they worked, then they didn’t, then they did. The day was scheduled to have two practice runs and three timed runs, but it didn’t end up that way, frustratingly.

My first practice run was 83.82, there was a lot to remember, my map was in constant and full use! Second practice, 79.67. Much better. I could see lots of places where I could save a lot of time if I just kept my foot down.

My first timed run was 78.69. Better, but really not good enough. Over 3 seconds behind the next car, and slowest in my class.

We stopped for lunch and shared out all the cakes, cookies and flapjacks I’d made for everyone. I didn’t put sleeping pills in them or anything. I’m good like that!

After lunch, as I queued with about 40 other cars for the second timed run, one of the Jedi’s came a cropper and had to be towed in. (Don’t get over-excited, not that kind of Jedi!) It seemed to take forever, probably because the marshals couldn’t get the course repair vehicle going and had to push start it!

I set off with good intentions, started the course well, tried to get the middle part faster, struggled to find 3rd gear at one point, and came in at 79.20. It was only then,  after we’d all completed our second timed runs, that the voice on the tannoy announced they would only be counting those two timed runs, and there wouldn’t be a third to count.

Garrrrr! So frustrating! Although it wouldn’t count, they said we could take a third run, if we wanted to. With a shout of, ‘I’m having that!’ I was in the car and back in the queue. I set off on my mission to do something awesome, just for myself. At the end of the first straight I braked for the chicane and…what… no brakes! Blimey! I went through that chicane quicker than I ever knew I could. In one way it was a marvellous lesson on what I could do if I had the nerve not to brake so often, on the other hand I had a teeny bit of fear that I wouldn’t be able to stop, ever! I took it slightly easier towards the end of the course. I came in with a time of 76.42. I wish it had counted!

Being 6th out of 6 isn’t bad you know. Not for me. Some of the other drivers had been there before, the majority have much more beastly cars than me, all of them have uprated suspension, most have more experience, and guts – all of them have more guts than me!

Duncan got another 3rd place trophy for his collection, I did some extra cheering. Xav, Dave, Rob, Nick, and Mads got trophies too.

I’ve not seen the results for the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship, but alongside this ran the SELOC Trophy, and the results are out. 1st place Xavier Brooke, 2nd place Dave Mann, 3rd place Rob Clark, and, drum roll… 13th place, Karen Harvey! Ah hahha ha! Lucky number 13 hey? I feel lucky, it’s out of 22. Sounds impressive to me!

The LoTRDC gang have been the best to hang out with, I honestly couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of drivers to learn from and to laugh with. I am really grateful to them all for the help, advice and encouragement they’ve given me, and so pleased to have made so many lovely new friends with fast cars!

I’ve had a brilliant season of sprinting, and I can’t wait for next year!

For now I will leave you with my favourite snippet of advice of the week:   ‘Just put your foot down and steer a bit!’ – Dave Mann.

I Stuffed a Crow & I Like It

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A few weeks ago I was invited to stuff a crow with super lovely, super-stuffer Emma, of Thorpe Lodge Taxidermy. I had a marvellous day and learnt a great deal. I came home with my mount, Sebastien Crow, and waited for the day I’d be able to remove his pins (although I did rather like his Hell Raiser look!)

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I do love him! He smells a little bit strange, and looks a little bit tatty, but I am very pleased with him none the less.

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He sits atop an old tea tin and guards the doorway. Good work Sebastien Crow! I’m definitely going back to stuff him a friend.

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Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Curborough (Round 9)

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Sunday was an awesome day. We joined the Aston Martin Owner’s Club for a two lap sprint at Curborough. The sun was shining and it was such a lovely place to be, with masses of luscious green trees, and one very impressive, gnarly dead one.

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It was really quite special to be able to see so many great cars, and so many Aston Martins together, from the classics of the 1930’s to modern day cars like the Vanquish. Many of them were worth at least half a million pounds, (seriously!) but their drivers were still happy to razz them round the track and compete for little shiny trophies.

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Possibly my favourite car of the day was this BMW 2002Tii Alpina, and not just because it says ‘Elf’ on it’s bonnet!

I did only like this classic Porsche because of the cat sticker though.

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Over the tannoy we were treated to the commentating delights of Mr Hugh Beckwith. What a charming, witty, and slightly mad, gentlemen. In his velvety black corduroy he sauntered over to me and said in a beautifully plummy voice, ‘So, you’re the only lady driver with the Lotus team then? I hear your quite the hot dish!’

Ha ha! I don’t know who he’d been talking to, but he obviously didn’t have his hearing-aid turned up!

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We were all allowed two practices, and two timed runs. Curborough is  a short track, our two lap sprint was just 1557 yards (0.88 miles), and the layout is a simple pattern, so I was able to remember it quite easily. I didn’t even use my map once! Of course I still needed to work out how to approach it.

My first practice run was a slow one, 77.79, my second practice was much better, 74.91. There were things that I knew I could really improve on, I was braking too early at some points, and not driving fast enough the rest of the time!

We stopped for lunch.

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I had a chicken and gravy sandwich and watched the Porsche 914 drive round a corner on three wheels.

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After lunch we began our timed runs. I decided I could leave my breaking much, much later at the end of the straight, so I did, and locked up! My new brakes are bloomin’ amazing! I carried on, of course, but my time was 81.56. My lovely friend Rob gave me a camera to put in my car, so I was able to film the whole thing. Adam edited the footage, it’s worth a watch just for the sound effects!

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The second timed run was faster, obviously, but not the best I could do, not at all. A golden DB7 had popped a hose on the finish straight, the marshalls went out and spread cement dust over the fluid to try and clear it up. As we all queued for the start line one of the marshalls made his way down the row and spoke to us all. ‘The good news is, it’s not oil, it’s water. The bad news is, there’s something in the water that’s making it more slippery than oil!’ and off he went, spreading joy/fear.

It did make me a little hesitant, and I wished I’d not listened to him. 74.68 was my time, and rather excitingly it put me 6th out of 8. That’s really good for me. I was over 4 seconds faster than the 7th place car… Go Karen! (Don’t get cocky!)

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I had great fun, and I felt pleased with myself. I was pleased I’d locked-up because I felt that at least I was pushing myself and being less of a wimp. I was happy to see all my friends, yes friends (whether they like it or not!), we’ve only got one sprint left this year, and they’re such a lovely bunch, I really will miss them! And I was chuffed for Duncan who won another 3rd place, even though he had a dodgy stomach (tell the world ha ha!), as well as Rob, Xav, Gary, Dave and Dave who all got marvellous trophies. What a great day!

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Toiletries Amnesty – Winter Comfort for the Homeless

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Whilst rummaging in the bathroom cupboard the other day I began to think about all of the products that people buy, try, and don’t use, and what a waste that is. Some of these things we take for granted but they might be a really pleasant luxury for someone else.

I then went on to think about a ‘Toiletries Amnesty’ where people could, with no guilt, sort out their spares and share them with people who actually needed these things, and if if they didn’t need them, they would still appreciate them greatly.

With all this in mind I got in touch with Winter Comfort, knocked up a poster, and the ‘Toiletries Amnesty’ campaign was formed. Hoorah!

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Winter Comfort is a charity in Cambridge that supports men and women who are homeless or vulnerably housed by offering them vital welfare service and opportunities for learning and development. They offer a place for people to get warm, get fed, and get washed, with basic amenities such as showers and laundry facilities. 

What they do is invaluable. We could do a small something too, couldn’t we?

Have you got any unwanted toiletries knocking around? Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shower gel, hair products, soap, moisturiser, shaving products, perfume, aftershave… the list goes on! Could you spare some of them and hand them in to the Toiletries Amnesty? (No questions asked, we won’t judge you!) If you no longer need them, they would be most useful to people visiting Winter Comfort.

Please drop me an email at info@karen-harvey.co.uk, or leave a post below with your email contact details and I will get in touch with delivery/drop off addresses and further info. If you’d like me to email you a high res version of the poster to put up in your workplace or share via facebook/twitter etc, please let me know!

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I’ll share photos, wherever I can, of what will hopefully be an excellent toiletries mountain for Winter Comfort! And, if I get injured by being trapped under said mountain, I promise not to complain too much!

I also promise I won’t disclose your information, or link your name with your donations, unless you tell me its okay to do so. If you are happy for your name to be added to a ‘list of lovely donors’ then please tell me, I’ll happily add website/blog links etc.

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Thank you! The ‘Toiletries Amnesty’ will run until 31st October 2014… hurry!

Hearts, Tarts & Rascals

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I like books, I like pretty pictures, and I like cake – so imagine my absolute delight when a little package of magic arrived from Bettys, one of the most famous tea shops in the world.

Hearts, Tarts & Rascals is the story of Bettys, past and present. It begins with the touching story of little Fritz, saved from the fire that killed his father and sister. Poor tiny chap, orphaned and auctioned off to a farmer at just 5 years old, enslaved and mistreated, he spent 9 years this way before being free to become a trainee baker and follow in his own father’s footsteps.

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He never lost his determination and his ambition to become ‘someone’. He left his native Switzerland for Marseille, then Paris, and then… Yorkshire! Fritz Butzer became Frederick, then ‘Dickie’ Belmont, he married Bunny and established a fantastic collection of cafes.

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This book is like a scrapbook of life, filled with lovely vintage and ‘modern’ images of packaging, interiors and people. I say ‘modern’ because although the images have been taken in this modern age, Bettys Tearooms still have the visual nostalgia of the past. That’s what makes them extra special… and the chocolate.

You really should read this delightful tale for yourself, from the little orphan to the socialite traveling first class on the Queen Mary’s maiden voyage to New York. Just imagine!

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When Dickie and Bunny returned from their Queen Mary adventure they hired the interior designers and fitters who’d completed the liner to kit out their newly purchased York premises. Now, that’s the Bettys for me!

I find it such an inspiring era. We have two old chairs in our conservatory that belonged to the Queen Mary, we imagine them lining the decks, being sat upon by such decadent and intriguing characters. The elegance! Now mostly our QM chairs are sat upon by snoozing cats!

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Although Bettys has changed over the years, it hasn’t really changed at all. Keeping the family atmosphere and ethics in a 1000 person strong company is most impressive indeed. Of course, there is much more to this book than the story of Bettys founding, the company has grown and developed in such way to keep true to Dickie’s original ethos, and as you read on you see how. Theres the wonderful Taylor’s Tea tale, and the success of the mail order service (to my delight!), but I’m also struck by the story of the Trees for Life project, and of course the magnificent collection of treasured teapots!

I haven’t even touched yet on the second book, ‘Who Was Betty?’, but you know, I love the whole mystery so much I’m not going to tell you any more!

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If you’d like, you can find out more, or buy, Who Was Betty? here, and Hearts, Tarts and Rascals – The Story Of Bettys, here. You should also probably pick up a box or two of my favourite Betty’s treat – Milk Chocolate Langues de Chat. You won’t be disappointed!

Now, I must get training – I think I might have to do the Fat Rascal Charity Ride, so that I can visit all six Betty’s, guilt free!