THE MAN IN THE PUB

Happy memories

One of my favourite pastimes in life, is my Sunday lunchtime visit to a rather fine old Cotswold pub, called "The Old Lodge". Now I'm not really that averse to popping out for a glass of Belgium's finest beer on any old day of the week, but Sunday, especially during these dark winter days, when there is no need to rush back for a Grand Prix, is especially pleasant.

Of course, it would be nice, during the season, not to have to dash back after just a couple of quick snifters to get back in time for lights out, but sadly, watching the race in the pub is not a reliable affair. Take last years Spanish Grand Prix for example. I was the only one there, watching our friend Fernando demolish the opposition, until around fifteen other punters wandered in, all wanting to watch the football on the other side.

I had two options, I could either watch Manchester Rovers play somebody I'd never even heard of, or leg it home for the last half of the race. Of course, with more than a touch of huffing and puffing, I had to go for option two. Even if I say so myself, I think I could have given Sebastian Coe a good run for his money, and he wouldn't have done the run with the disadvantage of three pints of Stella for ballast, sloshing around inside him.

Anyway, I digress. Sunday lunchtime is a nice quiet time for me to leave the memsahib with the children, for her to endure the torture that is known as violin practice, before she does something scary to a chicken and some potatoes. It's also a good time for me to catch up on some reading, and while The Sunday Times will easily see off the first hour, I normally need something with a car on the cover to get me through until home time, so armed with a copy of The Thunderer and the new issue of F1 Racing magazine, off I went.

The latest issue of said magazine is a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. There was a nice piece with lots of pictures of (and I will brook no argument whatsoever on this) the most beautiful Formula 1 car of all time, the Jordan 191, a car I first saw at a rather early pre-qualifying Friday session at Silverstone in 1991. Imagine Romeo clapping eyes on Juliet for the first time and exclaiming; "Stone me! She's a cracker!" - Well, sad as it is, that was what happened to me with the stunning 191.

However, it was another article that made this old man grin, a piece about F1 car launches (you may have noticed there are a few of these going on about now). These launches are, with a few exceptions, fairly dull affairs, with bored drivers standing around in chilly aircraft hangers, striking silly poses with whatever the sponsors product may be, before naffing off back to Monaco. They were not always like this. In 1997, and I cannot for the life of me remember how or why, I was invited to a bash to celebrate the launch of McLaren's new charger and the start of their new partnership with cigarette company West, at the Alexandra Palace in London.

Now the boy's from Woking do tend to have a reputation for being a bit on the restrained side, but this was an evening never to be forgotten. The free flowing beer (and I mean free as in ‘free' - always a welcome bonus) may well have had something to do with it, but having the likes of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard and other McLaren luminaries rubbing shoulders with oiks like me at the buffet, made this F1 fan more than a bit starry-eyed. Once the business of whipping the tablecloth off the MP4/12 had been done, the evenings entertainment well and truly got under way. There were lots of pretty girls on roller skates zipping about the place, (I don't know why, but they were pleasantly diverting), and then a not massively well known group called Jamiroquai took to the stage. Well, I don't know much about music, but these boys were something else. I guess it was unfortunate for ‘flavour of the moment' pop act, ‘The Spice Girls', that they then had to try and follow, what for me was the musical equivalent of the 191. Not that I saw how the girls got on mind you, as by the time the future Mrs Beckham and Co strode on stage, (accompanied by unbelievably loud MTV presenter, Davina McCall), yours truly was back in the bar, having great difficulty on focussing on very much at all.

So here we are, a decade on, McLaren and Jamiroquai are still with us, both, I'm sure with great things ahead of them. The Spice Girls thankfully are not, and I am still here, sat with my beer, remembering the F1 launch to end them all.

Cheers !

Rob Sinfield also writes for www.GrandPrixDiary.com.

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