GLOBETROTTER

Silly surveys, Bob the Travel Agent and fish. Lots of fish

Jacques Villeneuve, Hungarian GP 2001

Jacques Villeneuve, Hungarian GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

In the old days Formula 1 used to have what was called "The Silly Season". It was when all the drivers rushed about doing deals for the following year. It used to kick off every year in Hungary and that meant that the Budapest race was always a rather curious event with extra pressure but at the same time a curious lack of reserve because in those days it was still behind the Iron Curtain and it did not feel like a European race. It felt like a fly-away and they are always more fun. Nowadays the F1 silly season has disappeared. The whole season is now silly.

But August remains The Silly Season for journalists around the world. All the newsmakers and famous people are busy on fancy yachts: sun-bathing, beating each other up. All the usual stuff. The experienced hacks take their holidays and the news desks are left to novices.

One of the ways to get around the lack of news is rely on surveys. So in August survey-producers produce silly surveys which prove all manner of obvious or ridiculous things - even in motor racing. Did you know, for example, that 76% of British women picked David Coulthard from a list of celebrities as the man they would most like to go out with and 67% of them reckoned that racing drivers were a more attractive bunch than footballers.

Gosh! What a revelation...

When it comes to stating the obvious, the August surveys are expert. The Irish, I read somewhere, are "a nation of boozers" and that the average Irishman puts away 31 gallons of beer every year. Twice the European average.

There is still room for the odd surprise, however. A recent survey in Italy revealed that the modern Italian woman now works longer hours than any other women in Europe and only has time (or energy) for one hour of sex every 15 days. And so the survey concluded 40% of them are unhappy in their marriages.

So, if you are on the prowl for wild, passionate women (and apparently there are one or two people in F1 who like this idea) Italy is the place to be.

But then if you go to Budapest in August you get the distinct impression that 100% of Hungarian women are raunchier than their western counterparts. It may be due to the old habits of the Communist days when Hungarian girls had less material available with which to make frocks, so everything was as small and as stretched as much as possible. I expect that a survey would reveal that in Budapest in August there is a higher percentage of road accidents caused by distracted drivers than in any other European capital.

Anyway, I don't care about all of this stuff. I'm in love with an Australian - even if she makes me cry.

The good news is that this lady makes me cry with laughter.

Perhaps I had better explain.

It is all the fault of my pal Bob the Travel Agent. No-one has told Bernie Ecclestone but the truth is that Bob actually runs Grand Prix racing. Without him no-one would ever get anywhere because it is Bob who books the flights, sorts out planes, cars, hotels and helicopters. Bob and a small army of young ladies. If there is a problem, can Bob fix it? Yes, he can!

Bob and the girls know every which way there is of getting from A to B and every way there is to change tickets. The law of the travel agent jungle is sometimes rather odd but you play the system and thus it was that I ended up travelling from Paris to Budapest via London - on a ticket which had been purchased in Australia.

And that meant that I was reading the Air France in-flight magazine. Now normally these weird publications are of little interest. They are full of dubious information such as the fact that KLM transports more chickens than it does people. The Air France mag looked like all the rest of them as I read that they recommend smearing peppermint and poppy cream on your feet after a long walk.

I have been walking quite a lot of late and the only thing I can say is that it might be a better to eat the above mixture as a long walk on a hot day can result in moments of hallucination. This happened to me the other day in Paris when I was wondering along up a very quiet street when I saw a nice looking building with a brass plaque outside. I went to see what it said. I was rather taken aback to discover it said "Ambassade de Mars" - the Mars Embassy.

We visit some pretty weird places in Formula 1 but I have never been to Mars. Thus when I saw that there was an article in the Air France mag about a Martian-themed restaurant in New York, I read the whole thing. Then I turned the page and there discovered an article which told me that I was incredibly healthy. I like articles like that. I've never been one to care much about diet but when I read somewhere that jet-lag shrinks the brain I began to worry. Then I read a story saying that those who travel a lot should eat a lot of fish and drink red wine (a great hardship) and so I am now keeping my brain balanced by travelling a lot and eating fish.

I turned the page again and there was an article called "Fish" by someone called Linda Jaivin. A-ha, I thought something more to do with expanding the brain... I started to read. It was a short story. I started to laugh. It got better and better, or perhaps I should say worse and worse. I laughed until I cried. Then I choked. Then I laughed some more. Tears were streaming down my face. I had to stop reading for fear of dying young.

Making people laugh out loud in public places is a difficult thing to achieve, making them cry with laughter hints of genius. In a quieter moment (when I had been reduced to snorts and sniggers of glee) I wondered how I could find this lady and convince her to turn her laser beam wit on the absurdities of Formula 1. And ask her out to dinner.

It is the only time in my life when I have felt that the in-flight magazine was worth the price of an airline ticket.

It must be love...

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