I had a rally good time

My steed for the day (2)
I managed not to break this car.

I apologise forthwith for that awful headline.

Anyway, later than it should be up, a little something about last weekend. Courtesy of a birthday present I’d not had time to cash in I had a Rally Experience voucher available for Knockhill, out in the country between Perth and Edinburgh. I’ve always wanted to have a go at rallying, and the always-wonderful Leah picked up on my hints and bought me this for my birthday/Christmas. Erm, last year.

OK, I’m a little slow about organising things right now.

The weather’s been pretty lousy recently but I checked on the morning and the rally experience was still on. I hopped into my little Clio and zipped down from Perth. When you get to Knockhill along the country roads, do keep an eye out. Heading from the north it’s fairly well signposted right until you get to it. I drove past and had to double back.

Once there I parked up, handed in my voucher and was given a driver log sheet and a wristband. A short while afterwards one of the instructors gathered up the 15 drivers and took us for a short induction and safety briefing. This was quick, clear and well-presented.

We were then shuttled down to the lodge from where we’d be based for the afternoon. A nice, cosy little structure protecting us from the freezing wind outside! There we were given some more instructions and left to our devices as the first five drivers were taken to their cars.

I sat and watched some of the rally videos on the big screen inside and got a couple of pictures of the cars setting off on their first run up the course. The schedule was simple – two repeat runs, another two, one final hell for leather run up and then the final drive back with the instructor in the driver’s seat.

For those who wanted the “real” experience or for others who were spectating, a retired rally driver was on hand to take passengers up and down the course at full pelt for £20. A few people took him up on it and every one came in shaken but smiling.

I was in the third group and finally my number was called. I was in red car 10 with my instructor Iain. That’s always a good start, having someone with your same name in the co-pilot’s seat. A really pleasant guy who made me feel comfortable from the off. The cars are all old Ford Sierras with roll cages, uprated suspension, 4-point harnesses and so forth. Otherwise, the only safety equipment is a decent crash helmet.

The first run up the course was done slowly so that I could become familiar with the turns. Iain pointed out when and where to turn, the best entry points, where to avoid mud and so on. We turned at the end of the course and came back down. Then repeated the return trip only somewhat faster.

My task while waiting for my second run through was to draft some course notes using my memory of the run and a map placed on the wall of the lodge. This is trickier than it looks, given the short time I’d had in the car. Do I take that second turn in 2nd gear or 3rd? How far do I go flat out before the sharp left? And so on.

Soon enough, my second run came up and I managed to get around much faster without crashing. Although I came on one occasion. Well. Two. But I didn’t. That’s what’s important.

My third and final run was to be assessed on various points – steering, cornering, quality of my notes, consistency, braking, control… quite a few things to worry about! I think I did quite well – then Iain took over and tried to kill me on the return leg. The video of that is below. It was… bumpy.

Finally there was the award ceremony. All the drivers had their points collated and the instructors argued over the ties. I’m very pleased to say I came 3rd with 78 points. The guy who came 2nd also had 78 and the winner had 79. There was at least one other driver on 78 so I was lucky to pick up my little plastic medal!

Overall I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone who’s even remotely interested. It’s fun, well-run and not that expensive for something you’ll probably only do once.

Thanks to the folk at Knockhill for a fantastic afternoon, and to Leah for buying me the gift certificate in the first place!

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Just a couple of things that are a little too long to be posted in the 140 characters that Twitter allows. The silly bird-based website has become my outlet for a lot recently.


You can tell you’re getting old when your film references fall flat. Being near an ill person, I held out a paper cup and said “If you’re going to spew… spew into this!” and was met by a completely blank stare.

It was at this point I realised I am at university with people who had only just stopped crapping their own nappies when Wayne’s World was out. For some reason this scares me.

The cold

I am overjoyed at getting onto my first choice of “additional module” next term – Teaching in the Outdoors. I actually get to go hiking and stuff as part of my course.

Of course, I reckoned without the fact that I’m studying in Scotland. And this will be January-February. I will, therefore, freeze my knackers off.

I may invest in thermals. And a large hip flask.

Other stuff

I’m glad to say that everything else seems to be going swimmingly:

  • I just found out I get paid significantly more for my probationary year than I was expecting
  • My placements for next year could be in Perth which means staying with the ‘rents – and therefore being able to waste all the spare time I won’t have on my PS2 again
  • I start my first “proper” placement next week and I’m alternating between excited giggling and nervous pant-wetting
  • It appears there may be a new lady in my life. Await further announcements. Early, very tentative steps and no more as yet.

One may even go so far as to say *whoop*. But I’m an old crusty so I won’t.

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Welcome Sophie!

Artwork on this ball is a common abstract repr...
All smiley!

I was down south this past week (to Londoners, this doesn’t mean I went that far – right now to me anything “south” is latitudinally below Glasgow) and amongst others I caught up with were Chris, Lyds, Lucy and Anna-Louise.

I am overjoyed to announce that Lydia gave birth to a new poppet – Sophie – on Sunday night at around 21:34. She looks utterly gorgeous and the only reason I’m miffed is that she decided to wait until I was back home before she entered the world.

Enormous congratulations to the family and I’m sure she’s in great hands given how lovely her two sisters have turned out!

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I love Asda

Midget Gems
These look like fakes, too

Screw all you anti-global-hypermarket lot. I love Asda. And for one reason only. Check out their dirt cheap “Smart Price” Midget Gems. They look like the old Lion Ones. They’re almost (but not quite) as hard and chewy as the old Lion ones. They taste, not too far away from how the old Lion ones did. They’re about 30p a bag.

And the black ones are liquorice.

I’ve not bought any Lions ones since Maynards bought them out. The other colours in the Asda packets aren’t quite so good, but it’s a matter of principle. I could consider buying both and giving the Maynards black ones away, but I couldn’t force myself to spend money on them.

Fuck you, Maynards. Fuck you and your blackcurrant black Midget Gems (unless you buy them from jars or other trade-size containers). Asda’s where it’s at. I’ll be buying a basket-load of these next time I’m passing by.

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