(Post Silverstone GP observations from Joe Saward, a Brit F1 Journalist who lives in France)
Notebook from atop Beachy Head
How did I end up here? Standing on the edge of a famous cliff, looking down - rather tentatively, lest something happens and I find myself 530 feet below, after a six second fall, which I have concluded would not be a great career move. Still, I must have seemed happy enough because I was not approached by any of the people who supposedly prowl Britain's most notorious suicide spot, trying to talk people out of jumping. To be honest I’ve never thought much about doing such things as I have always seen life as a gift and have never felt the urge to do anything other than enjoy it to the full. In any case, Beachy Head is such a beautiful place that it ought really to inspire positive thoughts, rather than have such a sad reputation.
I ended up here because my dash to get to Newhaven on time for my boat back to France was restrained by a plodding bureaucrat in London, who took two hours to do the work of 30 minutes, followed by traffic crawling out of the city, through never-ending traffic lights and sleeping policemen and then those ghastly average speed traps for miles and miles on the motorway before the coup de grace came with rush hour in Brighton… As a French resident, this is the first thing one notices about the UK. It has SO many cars clogging the roads that there is little fun left in driving. Talking to the visiting F1 Frenchies at Silverstone, I noted that they all seem to have flown into Birmingham and driven south, rather than going anywhere near the vast snarl-up otherwise known as London.
…and so I ended up having to rebook my departure on the 11pm ferry and found myself with some hours to kill. And after a quick trip to a supermarket to stock up on things the French don’t accept as being edible: jelly babies being top of the list, along with ginger wine and pork scratchings, I decided to potter along the coast and visit places I have never visited and so found myself in Exceat, East Dean and at Birling Gap before climbing the hill to Beachy Head. Aside from the tourism, I intended to find myself a decent dinner.
The strangest thing about Beachy Head is that just behind the famous cliff is a pub called The Beachy Head. I decided to give it a try. A while later I pondered how many anonymous inspectors from the Good Food Guide had thrown themselves over the edge when finished with the cuisine in this seemingly harmless place. An anaemic prawn and lobster cocktail with lettuce cut from sheets and mayonnaise scooped from a jar was the poor beginning and the steak pie which followed was probably a worse advert for Britain than Nigel Farage. It has one of those Big Top pastry domes beneath which no circus music played, no lion tamers wowed and the ringmaster had a droopy moustache. It was the kind of food that would make the French enthusiastic for Brexit. It might even be a possible explanation as to why the two countries spent an entire century at war, arguing about warm beer and a number of dishes deemed to be crimes against humanity by the opposite side... Small wonder the first man to fly the Channel was a Frenchman heading home.
It might even have been the explanation for why the Normans invaded England, to improve the food for when they wanted to spend dirty weekends raping and pillaging along the English coastline. Of course, that was long before the pretty little English roses got too broad in the beam to be slung over the shoulder, at least not without inflicting a hernia on oneself...
In a state of post-prandial desperation, I talked myself down from the ledge and went back to Newhaven, where a yellow boat, collaborating with the English in culinary matters, took me back cross the Channel and, with stiffened sinews and blood summoned, it was once more unto the beach in Normandy. And as I sped through the empty country lanes with gentle mists rising from the fields, I was able to focus on a great weekend for F1, even if some other sports had produced dramatic showdowns. This was actually rather annoying as most of my less busy colleagues stayed on in the media centre after they had produced their words and were oohing and aahing with the excitement and then began making odd squeaky sounds as the cricket and the tennis both became so exciting that they were quite literally hopping about like schoolboys needing to pee. This was very disruptive, and I must confess that I was just about ready to call in an air strike to stop the squawking when they all finally shut up and went home, discussing whether this really was the best day ever in the history of sport, and what WG Grace would have made of it all...
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