GLOBETROTTER

Jet-lag, boarding passes and renewable life memberships

Office Mess

Office Mess 

 © Inside F1, Inc

While a lot of the Formula 1 circus stay out in Asia between the Japanese and Malaysian GPs, frolicking on beaches, in bars and in beds, a lot of F1 people fly back to Europe to work. Formula 1 people like to think that jet-lag is not a problem and there are times when you are not affected at all, but every so often you find yourself in front of the TV at a strange hour of the morning watching an experimental Danish film, accompanied only by a snoring dog who only vaguely remembers that you are part of the family and makes it clear that he only takes orders from the lady of the house. You know you have been away from home too much when a little boy calls you "Mummy" because he is only used to answering to one parent.

At this time of year children are at school and so the days are not filled with demands to go swimming or to climb trees, as happens in the summer months. This means that when the autumn comes and the winds are starting to strip the trees, there is always a pile of paperwork in the office which dates back to May or June. The rubbish bin is similarly impressive - a little archaeological dig reveals that the bin (or in this case a large cardboard box) has not been emptied since the Spring. The paper destined for the filing cabinets has merged with the rubbish which has now reached the same level as the top of the desk.

Clearing an F1 desk is an amazing journey because you never know what you may find hidden away amid the bits of paper. There are probably people out there with a larger collection of boarding passes for aeroplanes but I could wallpaper a room with my boarding passes.

What a strange man, you may think, but there is madness in all this method. Once, several years ago, the boarding passes collected proved to the gentlemen from the tax authorities that I had not spent enough time in any one country to make myself liable to pay income tax. I went on what they call "a tax holiday". It was only a holiday in name but it was nice not to have to give a great chunk of income to the taxman.

Such is a benefit of globetrotting...

Perhaps I could do the same this year, I do not know and working it all out will take some months because, despite the very best intentions, one never does things when one should. There are several small books entitled "Beach's Common Sense Traveller's Expense Notebooks" dotted around on the desk. These should have been carefully filled in day by day on various trips but travelling expenditure is actually a drawer full of bills which one day will need to be sorted out to please an accountant.

There are notes from Bob the Travel Guru saying that it would be wise to book things a little further in advance to save money. I know he is right because I have lots of timetables and frequent flyer paperwork which was collected so that I would be better organized and would be able to claim free flights. Most people think that F1 people all have millions of miles on frequent flyer schemes but it is not like that when you travel on European airlines. We do the miles but because we shop around for cheap tickets we always end up getting ones which do not give you mileage. As a consequence of this, access to airline lounges becomes a problem because one does not have the right gold or platinum bits of plastic.

And so on one's travels one collects a lot of paperwork about how to get into lounges because you never know when you might need one to file copy at a crucial moment. I have one brochure which exhorts me to buy Life Membership of a network of airport lounges. There is an intriguing box to tick if I am renewing a life membership.

"How does one renew Life Membership?" I asked on my last visit, hoping for the chance to live my life all over again, filling in Beach's Common Sense Traveller's Expense Notebooks like a good Boy Scout.

But the people from the airline were not prophets. They were just puzzled.

"That's a real good question, Sir," they said.

Clearing the desk reveals another of life's unanswerable questions: How and why did I become a member of the Royal Horticultural Society? Well, I am not sure if I am, but I was once. There is a membership card which has run out and I have no idea if it was ever renewed. This is not a surprise as I did not even know I was a member.

In Formula 1 one meets a lot of people and so one collects a lot of business cards and some of them make no impact at all on the memory cells. An F1 lady I was talking to in Japan declared herself rather worried that she had no recollection of the people whose business cards she had found in her pocket that morning.

"Happens to me all the time," I said.

"Yes," she said, " but I only got these cards yesterday."

And then she blushed. She had been a bit worse for drink, she said, and was wondering if she had done anything dreadful.

"Don't worry," I said. "The one place you are allowed to get drunk in F1 these days is in Suzuka. All the team people do it."

But she did not seem to be convinced.

"Oh well," I said, "If you really want to know what you got up to, you can always ring the people on the cards."

She blushed again. No, perhaps that was not such a good idea.

I wondered what she would have made of the cards I found on my desk.

What is the Quasar Financial Corporation of Cairo and why would I care? Who is this man from New Mexico? How does one get a membership card for the National Geographic Society when one has not renewed the membership. It has been one of the "jobs for tomorrow" since January. Was The Fish House restaurant in Melbourne so good I kept a card or is that an accident? And who on earth was His Royal Highness Prince Malik ado Ibrahim of the Arrows team?

Ah, the Arrows team. There is a Christmas card from them somewhere in the pile of paperwork and most of the people who signed it have now left. Such is staff turnover in F1.

Will they send me a Christmas card this year? Do I care? Still, I have a very nice carbonfiber and machined aluminum ear plug holder with Arrows written on the side. Perhaps I should not mention that the composite section has come adrift from the metal. It does make one worry about carbon composite suspension technology...

There are buttons for jackets which were left hanging in hotel wardrobes years ago and CD-ROMs with programs for computers which have long since gone to the computer museum under the card table in the corner. And mixed up with everything are primary school drawings addressed to "daddy".

Formula 1 may be a glamorous life... but it is nice to be home between races. Even with the paperwork.

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