It seems like a recurrent theme combining rural affairs and racing, but it just happens that way!
Saturday took me to Somerset on an adventure. Over the summer I helped to set up and look after pheasant and partridge pens that would house hundreds of game ready for the start of shooting season. I joined a shoot as a beater. Which basically meant scaring the birds into the air so that people could shoot them. That is putting it simply
It took a team of about 12 beaters, assisted by a half dozen gundogs to make sure the game birds flew in the direction of the guns. Birds are like any other living thing, unpredictable! So it was quite tricky making sure that no pheasants flew off into the sunset. Obviously there were a few that got away. We did five drives altogether and on the whole it was a successful day.
One incident that has stuck in my memory happened on the last drive of the day. A walker passed through the land where the shoot was taking place. The walker and his dog stopped in the field that we were directing the birds into, ready to be shot. The under keeper informed the gentleman walker that there was a shoot on and he should probably find another spot where he could rest. The walker ignored the comment and continued on his journey. So then the under keeper went and had a word with the walker and lets just say the conversation was not pleasant.
The game keeper was trying to explain that it may not be safe to be where he was to which the walker started cursing about shooting and informing us that he wanted to 'f*%k up the shoot'. And os we just carried on with the shoot as planned. It was an odd situation to witness. On one hand all the beaters, keepers and shooters had put in so much time, effort and money to make the day a good one. So to have it turn upside down due to one man and his dog seemed a shame. On the other hand, there was nothing we could do about the walker. He was on a public right of way and as he did point out, there were no signs up saying there was a shoot on so how was he supposed to know to avoid the area on this particular day?? Tricky.
It's the second time I have seen different country pursuits conflict with each other. The notion seems to be that everything that goes on in the countryside seems to run along side by side, but it often isn't the case. For example ramblers and farmers definitely don't go hand in hand. It's something that I seem to get stuck in the middle of as I like it all!
The great thing about joining a pheasant hunt is the glorious food and drink that accompanies the day out. Sloe gin and soup at midday, followed by a pheasant feast after the hunt. Cream mashed potato wit horse radish with lashings of red wine. Job done. I've even took home a brace which now have to pluck and gut, wish me luck!
Now to the second half of the weekend. Sunday was the last race in the Formula One calendar. Abu Dhabi was the venue and Yas Marina was the circuit. This was the first race held at this desert track, but what a premier it had. It was a tremendous sight. Two years in the making and it has been worth all the time and money. The hotel with its amazing light display and the fabulous bridge that overlooked the circuit.
To add to this already special occasion, I was lucky enough to watch the race at the Williams factory near Wantage. It was a class act. I was greeted by the sight of formula one cars from Williams' extensive racing history. Nigel Mansel, Aryton Senna and David Coulthard are just of the drivers that have raced for Williams and I was proud to be amongst their racing heritage.
After be dazzled by all the polished metal of the motor vehicles it was then time to relax and watch the F1 on a giant screen with regular updates from the Williams team and even a live link up with a member of the Williams team. Whilst the race was on you enjoy a superb three course meal which compensated for Lewis Hamilton retiring from the race. Let's hope it's not a sign of things to come for next season.
The race itself was brilliant. No one knew what kind of race the new circuit would offer, especially the 'underground' pit lane. I have to say, Abu Dhabi should be proud. The race track was varied, exciting and as it's situated in the middle of the desert there was a risk of sand on the circuit which added another element of uncertainty into the mix.
The highlight of the race had to be the last few laps. The newly crowned F1 champion Jensen Button had managed to more up into third and was closing the gap with Mark Webber in front. By the last laps Jensen tried to over take Webber and catch him out on a few corners but the feisty brit just couldn't manouvere around the Red Bull. Jensen had to settle for third place but I'm sure he wasn't too disappointed, being world champion was good enough. Sebastian Vettel won the race confirming his second place spot in the championship.
At the Williams conference centre I had a go on an F1 simulator which was brilliant. It wasn't exactly like driving an F1 car but it gave you a pretty good idea of how hard it is. For one, you are pretty much laying down in the car like you would do in the bath tub. It's very strange!! I kept tilting the steering wheel too much and just forgetting which way I had to turn! I didn't score a great lap time but it was so much fun. It was a really good day. It's nice just being slightly more involved with the race and it's a good alternative to actually watching the race at the circuit. It was certainly a lot cheaper than a ticket to Dubai would have cost!
I can't actually believe it's the end of the F1 season already, what am I going to do on Sundays??