Shorcuts:
Tae Kwon-Do Grading Hunstanton & Great Yarmouth JapFest 2010 Tae Kwon-Do Demonstration
Drusillas Park Glasses JapShow 2010 Selsey Chalet
Zakynthos Holiday Birthday & Go Ape Japanese Auto Extravaganza 2010 Joe Pasquale
Miss Banzai Tunnel Run Tae Kwon-Do Championships

I suppose this year will be remembered for the Tae Kwon-Do championships and demonstrations, along with the holiday in Zakynthos. Due to suffering from eBay burnout where I overloaded myself by selling too much during December 2009 (including the associated packing & sending), I decided to have a rest and only listed items once at the end of the year. Subsequently, this year's profit made through selling stuff on eBay was only £95.20. This year's saving of £2 coins was £50 less than last year at £114.

My enthusiasm for watching the Formula One championship on TV had been dwindling over the last year or two and this year marked my decision to not bother watching the races in full. I did find this decision a bit difficult as I had been an avid fan of F1 ever since watching Mansell vs Senna during the Monaco GP of 1992 and had been collecting the yearly reviews on VHS & DVD. I was finding myself struggling to watch a whole race without being distracted by other stuff or feeling very sleepy. Instead, now I would just watch the highlights shown hours after the race.

Tae Kwon-Do Grading (29th March):

I had it in my mind that I wanted to undertake a grading once a year. This is a relatively slow rate to grade in Tae Kwon-Do as lower grade students are permitted to undertake a grading every three months. During later grades, especially black belts, the frequency of gradings is reduced. However, I'm not in a particular rush to reach black belt and am happy to plod through the grades at my own pace. When I do a grading, I like to be 100% sure I am fully capable of meeting the requirements and know my grade inside-out. As I missed most of the first two months of Tae Kwon-Do lessons at the beginning of 2009 due to my car's clutch failing and the related delays, I was a little behind and didn't feel comfortable grading within the one year from my previous grading in October 2008.

By March 2010, I was up to speed and decided to aim for the grading due in about 3 months time, which would happen sometime around June / July. I was comfortable with the practical aspect of the grading, but not the Korean terminology & theory, which I planned to work on during the prior 3 months. However, after speaking with my Instructor in the middle of March, he persuaded me to take part in the grading being held at the end of the month. With his encouragement, I agreed.

This left me with just about a week and a half until the grading to learn the required Korean terminology & theory. During both intervening weekends, I went through the TAGB Grading Syllabus with Marie and during the final week, I brainwashed myself at work with excerpts from the TAGB terminology & theory CD ripped to MP3s played through my work computer. Towards the end of the week, the repetitiveness was driving me mad. For the first time, I decided to attend the Saturday lesson which was held at East Grinstead, just so I could get one last lesson in before the grading being held on the Monday. Even though I was a little stressed, I don't think I was as stressed compared to the build up to my gradings during the previous few years after restarting Tae Kwon-Do. Maybe this was because it had less time to dwell on my mind on this occasion. This time, I was more looking forward to it, I was eager to do it ASAP.

The day of the grading came and I did my grading. It all seemed to go fine, with no major mistakes, however, something didn't feel quite right during one of my patterns. However, it was so minor that afterwards I couldn't quite identify what I did wrong, so it might not have been spotted. I was probably blocking with my outer forearm rather than my inner forearm, or vice-versa. I suppose I was a little disappointed after the grading, as I was asked to do non-contact sparring for the free sparring at the beginning and I only had to do 1 to 3 out of the 4 routines in my grade for 2 step sparring. Also at the end of the grading, I found the theory questions very easy - what does blue belt signify and what is the interpretation of Yul Gok Tul. The single terminology question was too easy - what is kick in Korean. I thought "Is that it?!" I was all psyched up and ready for a much more difficult grading and I found the practical aspect easy enough without any surprises and the terminology & theory at the end was a big letdown as I had worked hard in revising only to be asked some very basic questions! Oh well, I suppose I should prefer it to be a walk in the park rather than overly difficult.

At the beginning of the subsequent lesson on Wednesday, I was happy to be told that I passed my grading and was handed my blue belt.

Back to top


Hunstanton & Great Yarmouth (2nd April & 3rd April):

Marie & I fancied a few days away over the Easter break and I chose Hunstanton & Great Yarmouth as our destination with a possible stop off at Norwich on the way back. I booked a double room in a Travelodge based at Acle which is a few miles away from Great Yarmouth for the sum of just over £112 for two nights. We planned our mini break itinerary a few days beforehand while being conscious of the depressing weather forecast of rain over the weekend.

On Good Friday, our first destination was Hunstanton. When I lived in the Cambridgeshire town of March between 1989 - 1992, I suppose Hunstanton was considered as the local seaside resort and I had visited it once or twice. So this was partly a nostalgia trip for myself.

Whilst driving there, a random memory of a place called Black Horse Drove popped into my head and I wondered where it was exactly. I was surprised when I saw a sign for Black Horse Drove along the A10. When I was a kid, my parents viewed a house there when considering moving to the area from Crawley. I'm not sure why, but this place has always stuck in my mind. It might be because they were quite surprised at how far away from anywhere the address was. It was literally out in the middle of nowhere, which is probably why they rightly decided against it. I turned off the A10 on to a slightly bumpy minor road towards Black Horse Drove, to satisfy my nostalgia requirements. I was quite surprised at how far away from the main road it really was. This place really is quite isolated. After this mini detour, I headed back to the A10 to continue on our way to Hunstanton. Due to a slow moving traffic jam when nearing our destination, the journey of over 160 miles took us about 4 hours, which Marie slept through a lot of. I didn't think the journey would take as long as it did and I didn't bring along enough CDs for us to listen to. I decided the journey should be a Jean Michel Jarre fest, with the exception of Plastic Beach, the latest album from Gorillaz which I had recently bought through eBay. By the time we had reached Hunstanton, all Jean Michel Jarre CDs had been played, but I suppose some of his albums are quite short, which I didn't factor in.

After parking up near the seafront, we headed to the seafront amusements. As we were a little unimpressed and it was chilly, we didn't try out any of the rides. The gloomy weather didn't put us in the right mood for it. After a brief wander, we ended up in what could be described as an amusement arcade where we played on some driving arcade games. This passed a few minutes at the expense of a few quid, before wondering what to do next.

We walked along the road, past the car park wondering if there was more on offer here. We were relieved when we came across more attractions further along the beach from where we had parked. However, there wasn't a lot to keep us entertained for long. We had a look through the souvenir shops and bought some seafood from a seafront seller. Marie bought some cockles, which I have always considered to look manky. She didn't like them so gave them to me. Initially I didn't like them either, after a few more mouthfuls I considered them tolerable, then a few mouthfuls later I decided I had had enough. However, my ocean sticks (I think that's what they're called) were quite nice. Now it started to rain, but luckily it was only a slight drizzle. After the souvenir shops, a distinct memory of what could only be described as disappointment settled in. When you're a kid, you get excited with the thought of going to the beach, just about any kid does. I could now distinctly remember being a little disappointed upon visiting this place when I was a kid. The excitement soon wears off and boredom then ensues. Here I was, about 20 years later, finding myself in the same situation. To me, this place is nothing compared to the likes of Brighton.

We had a walk around the small number of nearby shops then headed to the Tesco supermarket opposite the car park. We bought some drinks for the hotel room and some other stuff before going back to the car across the road to head towards our hotel which was over 60 miles away. When we found it, it was dinner time, so with the help of Google on my mobile phone and my sat nav, we located the address of the nearest Beefeater restaurant in Lowestoft. After dinner, we got back to our hotel room shortly after 22:00.

On the Saturday we headed to Great Yarmouth. The road from the hotel, which is off a roundabout on the A47, to Great Yarmouth is a very very long straight road. It's over 7 miles long, with a mild sweeping curve about half way along, other than that, it is dead straight and flat and the road reaches out as far as the eye can see. VTEC was tempting, but I showed restraint.

It would seem that the local authorities aren't too sure where their beachfront is. For the beachfront, a road sign directed me left at the approaching roundabout. When at the roundabout, there was another sign saying the beachfront was straight ahead. As traffic was bumper to bumper, it wasn't easy to change lanes, so I continued on my original route according to the first road sign. This was a mistake, a waste of petrol and a waste of a lot of time. I should have trusted my own instinct. I turned around in a Shell petrol station then made my way back to the roundabout, mainly crawling along in first gear, stuck in traffic. I came to the conclusion that the Great Yarmouth authorities in charge of road signs are a bunch of clueless dickheads. I wondered if this was a recurrent theme in East Anglia as in the past I had found signage to the East Of England Showground in Peterborough to be lacking, as if the authorities didn't want people to visit it.

Shortly before parking up on the roadside which runs parallel to the beach, the heavens opened up and the rain that had been forecast made its presence known. As our first visit was to be the Sea Life Centre, this wet weather wouldn’t affect us, especially as we were parked very close by. After paying our entry fee and having our hands stamped, we were told that we could have a discount when visiting the Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton. Hmmm, I thought, it's a bit late for that now. The first species to catch my eye were the jellyfish which I found intriguing. A lot of their body is transparent and I was amazed at how such a thing moves, let alone exists, as you can see through most of their body mass. They're quite very graceful too. Afterwards, we looked through a window at penguins outside which didn't seem bothered about the rain tipping down at the time. After this, a staff member was giving a talk about starfish, whereby visitors, myself included, were allowed the opportunity to touch one. The feel of it was surprisingly prickly, although not a sharp prickly. We listened to some amazing facts like how it re-grows limbs if they get cut off and how it digests its food. We then made our way to the sharks where another talk was to take place. Sharks are amazing and it was quite sad to learn about them being hunted just for their fins, before being thrown back into the sea, minus fins, to endure a slow distressing death. Towards the end of our visit, we looked at the seahorses. After seeing them at the Sea Life Centre in Blackpool the previous year, I had took a liking to them. I'm not sure why, maybe I find them a little cute or something.

Following the Sea Life Centre visit, the rain had ceased and we had a stroll along the seafront. After a brief sit down to eat a tuna melt panini we reached the Pleasure Beach enclosure. As with Hunstanton, we didn't feel the weather was particularly right for enjoying the rides, so we didn't enter. We headed back in the other direction and came across the Britannia Pier. After playing on some driving arcade games, Marie decided she has a disliking of Sega Rally, due to the behaviour of the car's steering. I tried to explain that the wayward nature of their handling was its attraction. Women. After the pier, we had a walk through the town, but the shops weren't anything special, but I didn't expect them to be. There seems to be an excess of souvenir shops selling fudge & shortcake. After getting bored of the shops, we headed back to the seafront and sat on a bench while enjoying some ice cream. I bought 2 or 3 scoops. I can’t remember the exact flavours I chose, but I think one was coconut and the other was Maltesers. I think one of Marie's was lemon meringue flavour. We had decided we had done all we could be bothered to do for the day and should start thinking about dinner before heading back to the hotel. After locating a nearby Toby Carvery Restaurant (again, with the help of Google and my sat nav), I first had to satisfy my car's hunger for petrol as the fuel level was low. I went back to the Shell petrol station that I had used earlier to turn around in, and was a little pissed off when I found out they had sold out of V-power petrol. Luckily, I had planned for this in advance and had previously printed off a list of local Shell petrol stations from their web site. The next closest Shell petrol station was only a few miles away, so wasn't a major detour.

When we arrived at the Toby Carvery Restaurant we were a little disappointed to see that it was quite busy in there and we would have a 45 minute wait in the bar area. I suppose as this was a Saturday evening and it was the Easter weekend, this was expected. Again, we got back our hotel room at around 22:00, but this time on the long straight stretch of the A47, I gave in to the temptation of a short burst of VTEC, but felt a little guilty afterwards. Oh well.

On the Sunday, we decided we couldn't be bothered to walk around Norwich town centre so chose to head straight home instead. Again, the journey of around 160 miles took about 4 hours, this time it was due to me driving mainly at 60 MPH in the interests of fuel economy rather than traffic jams and having a stop off at Thurrock Services on the way.

Back to top


JapFest 2010 (15th May):

This was to be the first car show, of a planned few, that I intended to attend this year, unlike the previous year when I only managed to attend one. I booked off a half day annual leave on the Friday so I could wash & wax my car in preparation for the car show on Saturday. By the time I had finished, it was looking stunning, the waxed bodywork was mirror-like. My car's alloy wheels had been professionally refurbished in medium metallic silver that very week by Wheel Works UK and were collected on the Thursday, so they were in absolutely pristine condition.

JapFest at Caste Combe was over 120 miles away from home and it was an early start, so Marie & I would have had to get up very early in the morning to get there. To get around this, I booked us a hotel room at a Premier Inn based in Swindon. Now I would have to drive only 20 miles in the morning, instead of over 120 miles, allowing us to have longer in bed.

When we arrived at the Premier Inn late in the evening, I could see that I wasn't the only one there attending JapFest as there were a number of kitted up high performance Japanese cars in the car park. We headed straight to the adjacent Beefeater Grill restaurant for dinner. While walking in, a rather tall man held the entrance door open and as Marie walked under his outstretched arm she realised he was Shane Lynch from the band Boyzone! I had never heard of him and didn't recognise him probably because I'm not interested in Boyzone. Marie queried one of the slightly camp Waiters about him and he tried to deny it was him, but he wasn't doing a very good job. Shortly after we were seated, Marie saw that Shane Lynch's table was less than 10 meters behind ours. We also noted that the restaurant staff were paying quite a lot of attention to him and the group of about 10 people he was with. When we were given our main courses, we still had the empty plates from our shared starter combo platter on our table as the staff had forgotten to clear them. While an apologetic waitress cleared away those plates, she did confirm that he was indeed Shane Lynch. We could see that he was having steak for his main course. It clicked in my head he was probably the boy band singer who was into Drifting, that I had read about some time or other. Also in the car park, parked on trailers were 3 Japanese cars covered in sponsor livery, owned by Team Japspeed and I assumed he was probably with them. Marie was tempted to ask for his autograph or to ask for her photo to be taken with him, however she decided against it as it would have been a bit rude seeing as he was having his dinner.

After dinner, we checked in at the Premier Inn and I asked the receptionist if she had heard the gossip about Shane Lynch being in the restaurant. She confirmed that she knew as she had booked him in to the hotel. This was quite surprising as across the road was a Hilton Hotel and we would of thought that was more up his street, rather than a cheaper Premier Inn.

I set my alarm for 06:30 as I wanted to leave by 07:30. However, this didn't quite go to plan. I awoke at 04:30 - 04:45 and couldn't get back to sleep, I was looking forward to JapFest and showing off my newly refurbished alloy wheels! So, the whole idea of booking the hotel room so we could have longer in bed didn’t work out. A while later, I gave up trying to get back to sleep, had a shower and at about 06:20 headed to the local Asda, leaving Marie in bed. I didn't come fully prepared as I had no food or drink in the boot for us to have during the day and I was also short on cash too.

I picked up Marie at around 07:30 and headed to Castle Combe. While nearing our destination, we drove through an interestingly named village called "Tiddleywink"! We arrived at Castle Combe shortly after 08:00, after being briefly stuck in the traffic jam of Japanese cars leading to the site. After being directed to the combined Prelude UK & Lude Behaviour plot, I realised I was the first person there, the rest of the club members were nowhere to be seen, which I found a bit worrying. My understanding was that a few members of both Prelude clubs were meeting at a nearby retail park in order to drive in a convoy to Castle Combe and they should have arrived before me. I wondered if I was parking in the wrong area, but upon checking the signage, I could see that I was in the right area. While giving my car a wipe over with a damp synthetic shammy leather, an immaculate red 4th generation Honda Prelude arrived and the owner Rob, aka Nucleustylz Lude, apologised for the delay explaining he arrived late at the retail park where the rest were waiting for him. He was the guy who kindly organised the plot for both clubs and was in charge of payments and sending out the tickets & stand passes. Not far behind him were the rest of the convoy members so my car wasn't looking quite so lonely for long.

I estimate the most cars we had on our combined plot was about 14 or 15 cars, only 4 of which were 5th generation Honda Preludes, including my ruby red 2.2VTi, a silver 2.2VTi, a sparkle yellow metallic 2.2VTi Motegi and a black SiR (JDM). The rest of the cars on our plot were 4th generation Honda Preludes with no 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation examples. Elsewhere at JapFest, I spotted three other 5th generation Preludes including a silver Prelude on the race track.

Marie & I had a slow wander around some of the surrounding plots before making our way to the race track to watch some of the action taking place, including both racing and drifting. While watching the track action, we were getting fed up with the weather. Although it was dry, the clouds would intermittently mask the sun, leaving us feeling chilly and putting our jackets on. A short while later, the sun would be out again and we would take our jackets off. This process reoccurred many times.

To me, the best plot was NSX Club Britain, where there were probably about 30 Honda NSXs on show. I adore the Honda NSX and I have never seen so many together at one time, some of which had recently been on the race track during a period which was exclusive to the Honda NSX. One kitted up black example was making an odd whining noise which sounded like some sort of unusual transmission, rather than a typical supercharger whine. Here's a photo of me crouching next to a lovely example of a Honda NSX.

After drooling over the various Honda NSXs, we had lunch from a burger van. I had a cheeseburger and Marie had a hot dog, but as she decided she didn't like it, I ate most of it for her. We then made our way the Retail & Expo area where I collected my pre-ordered 1 litre bottle of Castrol Response Super DOT 4 Synthetic Brake Fluid from Opie Oils for the bargain price of just £8.

A few hours had passed by the time we returned to the car, where we could see that a few other Preludes had arrived while we were away. Marie pointed out that I had caught the sun. Upon looking in a mirror, I could see that my face was looking quite red and burnt. I decided to give my car some more attention and used spray wax around inside the door frames / door jambs, on the painted surfaces around the engine bay and the underside of the bonnet not covered by my custom heat shield.

Shortly after 16:00, sadly cars started leaving and I left not long after 16:30 for the long journey home. En route home along the M4, I saw two instances of owners of Japanese performance cars being pulled over by unmarked Vauxhall Vectra Police cars, rather unsurprisingly, those Japanese cars were Subaru Imprezzas. At one point, I saw a silver 5th generation Honda Prelude coming up beside me, the owner slowed down next to me, we gave each other a smile and a wave, before he continued at his original pace, accompanied with the growl from his after-market exhaust.

Back to top


Tae Kwon-Do Demonstration (13th June):

The Crawley Tae Kwon-Do Club had the opportunity to perform a demonstration at some sort of festival being held in Crawley Town Centre and I was one of the volunteers in the club who attended. I parked up in the County Mall car park and driving through it was an odd experience as it was near enough empty. I wasn't sure if that was due to my early arrival time or because of the current football World Cup being forced down people's throats.

Marie & I arrived at the Memorial Gardens shortly after 10:30 on the Sunday morning and my parents were already there. It was quite a good turnout of club members, there were probably about 15-20 of us in total. I got the impression that the other demonstrations / club stands in The Memorial Gardens were sports or fitness related as they consisted of other martial arts, including another Tae Kwon-Do Club, a tennis club and other sports clubs. There was even some pole dancing going on conveniently located opposite where we were placed. I warmed up with a black belt by practising my turning kick -> reverse turning kick combination on a kick paddle. My turning kicks with my left leg were a little lame, as always, but my reverse turning kicks were quite good. I also did some turning kick -> reverse turning kick -> 360 turning kick combinations too.

Our demonstration started at about 11:15 and began with some basic line work. Following this, we were split into groups and we performed random attacks on kick shields, of which I was asked to hold up one for the group I was in. Tom Spears was in my group and in my opinion he is probably one of the most skilful students in our club, especially at sparring. I am always in awe at his skills. I also discovered that, although he appears skinny, he packs quite a hefty kick! I would imagine one of his side kicks is akin to being hit by a car, but more focused, rather than diffuse. After the kick shields, we moved on to focus pads then some of us partook in sparring after some other students did some patterns. We finished off with some wood board breaking and I was persuaded to have a go. I was a little reluctant as I had never attempted to break a wood board in Tae Kwon-Do before. However, I could tell that the wood boards weren't very strong and would break easily. I chose to break the board, being held up by our Instructor, by hitting it with a standard punch. Yes, how unimaginative, whereas others performed kicks and elbow strikes. The board broke easily and my Dad got a fantastically timed photo of it breaking. Gavin White showed off his party piece by breaking the board through a flying kick over 4 students.

Back to top


Drusillas Park (27th June):

This was quite a hot summer's day and at a forecasted 31 degrees Celsius, it was predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far. At the time, if you were to believe the OTT hype from the media, the nation was "gripped by world cup fever". I wasn't and I doubt I wasn't the only one. Because the England team were playing against Germany that afternoon, Drusillas Park wasn't busy, which was a good thing. This zoo / wildlife park was quite smaller than others Marie I had visited over the last few years, so it didn't take all day to walk around. We were probably there only for a couple of hours.

There were various breeds of marmosets which I liked. Most of the meerkats were sleeping or resting in the shade from a tree with one meerkat sitting on top of a high tree trunk on the lookout for predators. This intrigued me. I know meerkats do this as we are shown this behaviour in documentaries - they stand up their hind legs in an upright position scanning the horizon for wannabe predators. However, what was the reason for this group of meerkat doing this? I might be wrong, but I assume these meerkats were born & bred in captivity at Drusillas Park. Also, I assume that the typical predators that prey on meerkats in their natural habitat don't exist in the wild in East Sussex? If my assumptions are correct, then why do they still insist on mimicking their counterparts who are out in the wild? How do they know they should do this? Is it like a family tradition which is communicated down the family tree or is it in their blood? I'm sure someone will probably know the answer.

We visited the bat enclosure and I found them intriguing. I think they were fruit bats and I don't think I have ever been so close to bats before. There was a sign on the door informing visitors that the smell inside is the bat's natural odour, and they did stink a little. What I found intriguing is why they hang upside-down. When humans or most other animals want to relax, we either sit or lay down. We don't hang upside down from our feet as that takes effort and skill. Why don't they relax in the same way we do? I asked one of the bats this question and didn't get an answer. I noticed that bats aren't very good at walking, they look very cumbersome when moving around using their legs. I know that flying is their preferred method of getting around but I would have thought that their walking abilities would be better.

I found the flamingos intriguing too. Why were some of them standing on one leg? They have two legs, so why not use both? Surely it would be easier? I asked a flamingo why they like to stand on one leg instead of two. As with the bat, I got no reply.

Other animals I found intriguing were the penguins. I liked the way they were able to gracefully glide through the water with their wings spread out. They looked like birds flying in the sky, but under water instead.

After an ice cream and a drink each, we had a wander around the obligatory gift shop then and left after not buying anything.

Back to top


Glasses (1st July):

Marie had repeatedly pointed out that she was able to read road signs further away than I could. I eventually gave in to her persuasions and booked myself in for an eye test courtesy of the Occupational Health department at East Surrey Hospital, where I work. This was carried out sometime during either February, March or April and surprisingly I passed. However, the staff member carrying out the test did admit that their equipment was quite old. Marie & I were sill not convinced, so I booked myself in for a test at a proper Opticians. I attended Boots Opticians on Saturday 19th of June at 16:30 and had a more thorough eye test carried out than I had at work. I failed. I was told that I am slightly short sighted (out by about 6% - 7%) and have a strabismus (or lazy / misaligned eye). He also mentioned something about misshapen rugby ball shaped eyes which apparently is common. However, I still met the minimum requirement for driving. During the test, I was shocked at how much of a difference the test glasses made to my vision which made me realise that I would benefit from glasses. I paid the test fee, collected my prescription and decided to come back the following day to look at glasses frames.

On the Sunday, we ventured back into town and tried on various frames in Boots and the various Opticians in town. Unfortunately, many of the frames I liked the look of didn't suit me (according to Marie), but most frames did suit Marie who doesn't have to wear glasses! There were only a few which didn't suit her. I eventually settled on two frames back in Boots Opticians who were doing a buy one get one free offer. I chose a two tone Emporio Armani frame and a frame by X-eyes. I paid extra for the Emporio Armani to have scratch resistant photochromic lenses while leaving the X-eyes frames with standard lenses. I also paid extra for insurance cover. I paid a total of £310 (ouch) excluding the £20 eye test.

I collected the frames a day earlier than planned after work on Thursday 1st July. Although I wouldn't say wearing them is essential, they definitely make my vision sharper. My vision is now much more clear and crisp. I was surprised as I didn't think much was wrong with my vision, but they do make a definite difference.

Back to top


JapShow 2010 (4th July):

As I usually do, the day before the car show was spent giving my car lots of attention, including a wash & wax, followed by a clean up in the engine bay. Here's a photo of the finished product. It was a very hot & sunny Saturday, so I carried out this 5 hour task topless, stupidly without applying any sun protection. Predictably, I got quite sun burnt.

As always, JapShow was a two day event and I chose to attend on the Sunday only, where some of the diehard car show fans camped there over night. After leaving Marie's house at 08:00, the journey of a little over 90 miles to Santa Pod Raceway took about 2 hours. Due to roadworks on the motorways with associated reduced speed limits, I estimate about a third of the journey was spent at 50 MPH, which although causes a delay and is a bit annoying, it is great for fuel economy. After collecting the Prelude UK stand pass from Ammo, a club Moderator, I parked up with the rest of the Preludes on the field near the starting end of the drag strip. Saturday is always the busiest day, however there were 15 - 20 Preludes on the stand on the Sunday, consisting of both 4th and 5th generation Preludes and one white 3rd generation Prelude. After parking up, I gave my car a quick once over with a damp synthetic shammy leather to get it looking pristine once more. Here's a photo of the cars on the Prelude UK plot.

I chatted with a few fellow members of Prelude UK, it was good putting faces to usernames. nitin_S1 is quite a celebrity on the forum and meeting him was like meeting someone famous. As with my previous two visits to Santa Pod Raceway, it was very windy, however it was quite sunny so wasn't cold. I think the wind might be down to the surrounding area being very flat and exposed. The Fireforce Jet Car that I first saw on 22/06/2008 was again in action and was spectacular as ever. The noise the car makes is unbelievable, as is the resulting straight line performance - 1/4 mile in less than 6 seconds @ 266 MPH. Mental.

The sun burn which I caught the day before the show felt quite sore over the following week or so and it did the usual thing where the skin on my back could be peeled off just like cling film. As well as this, the sun damaged skin turned a shade of green! Maybe indicating it became infected, however there were no long lasting problems.

Back to top


Selsey Chalet (16th - 18th July & 3rd - 5th September):

Marie's cousins Kim & Roy own a chalet in Selsey and let close friends & family stay in it. Marie & I booked it for us to stay in during a July weekend.

My journey to Selsey on the Friday after work did not go to plan. According to the sat nav and MS AutoRoute, the 58 miles journey from East Surrey Hospital to Selsey would take about 1 hour, 11 minutes, but I knew that was way too optimistic especially as I would be leaving mid afternoon and traffic would be heavy. I estimated two hours, including a stop for petrol on the way. My estimation was wrong. I planned to get on the southbound M23 carriageway at Gatwick (junction 9). When I arrived, to my displeasure, I saw traffic on the motorway was stationary, so I headed back towards Gatwick to rejoin the A23. This was a lengthy process and traffic was crawling all the way. By the time I got back to the A23 at Gatwick, I had wasted about 25 minutes and now I had to deal with the traffic through Crawley.

Before leaving work, I knew that I didn’t have enough petrol to get me to Selsey so used the internet to locate a Shell petrol stations en route to satisfy my car's appetite for V-power petrol. I planned to stop at a station on the edge of Horsham off the A24. When I got there, it was closed, which pissed me off loads. Why the fuck was it listed on the Shell website as being open? Do they employ anyone with brains to maintain their web site? Luckily, I had a plan B, which was to stop off at the Shell station at Fontwell which was en route. A few miles down the road, because I had wasted 25 minutes worth of petrol in crawling traffic at Gatwick, I was starting to worry that I didn't have enough petrol to make it there, so I pulled over and using my mobile phone, I used the (crap) Shell website to see if there were any other nearby Shell petrol stations. There was one at Henley, but it looked like too much of a detour to me, so I took a chance and carried on to Fontwell, albeit at a slightly slower pace. Luckily, my gamble paid off and after filling up I could see that I had about 4.5 litres of petrol left, so wasn't as bad as I had thought. I then had to contend with the expected crawling traffic along the slow stretch of the A27 which is the Chichester Bypass then getting stuck behind a small queue of slow moving traffic on the B2145 because some Muppet up front thought it would be clever to let out a slow moving bus in front of everyone. Prick. My journey took me a total of about 2 hours, 45 minutes, more than twice as long as the sat nav and MS Autoroute predicted. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy my favourite road - the A280 (Long Furlong Road) in West Sussex between the A24 and A27, which looked like it was in the process of being resurfaced.

Selsey Country Club was a lot bigger than I expected, with well spaced out chalets. Our chalet was at an end of a row but to my liking, I was able to see my parked car from the chalet. As the weather forecast was a little uncertain, we simply planned to have a relaxing weekend without doing much.

During Friday night, I discovered we had a lodger staying with us - a large spider in the bathroom! This freaked me out, causing my rapid exit from the bathroom. I decided to brush my teeth at the kitchen sink instead. I named the spider Charlotte and I don't know who was more scared, the spider or me. Marie came to the rescue with vacuum cleaner and attempted to suck it away, but when Charlotte sensed the danger, she scuttled off and hid underneath the shower floor, probably fearing for her life. Poor thing. Charlotte decided to reappear the following night, which once again, forced me to use the kitchen sink to brush my teeth. This time, Marie tried to squash it, wearing my trainers, but once again, Charlotte was one step ahead (or should that be 8 steps?) and legged it.

We ate in on Friday but when Jenna & Gavin visited on Saturday afternoon, we ate at The Riviera Restaurant in Selsey, which is more like a greasy spoon café, although it is good value. After our meal, Gavin had to go to work, so we decided to walk back to the chalet to save him time. We stopped off at the local Budgens supermarket and bought breakfast cereals and drink. The slow walk back took about 40 minutes or so. On Saturday night, we watched the first Twilight film on DVD which we quite liked, so watched the sequel, New Moon, on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, it would seem the DVD player didn't like the sequel, so we watched it using the Sony Playstation 2 instead. In the afternoon, as it was a little breezy, instead of checking out the outdoor swimming pool, we fed the ducks and moorhens in the nearby pond with bread purchased at Budgens.

We left the chalet after 19:00 and headed to The Bosham Inn for our evening meal. On arrival, we got the impression that we may be a little underdressed for this particular establishment, it seemed a bit posh, including a red Aston Martin in the car park. Near our table were another small group who were already there when we arrived and it wasn't easy to not overhear the lady doing most of the talking. She was the type of lady who desperately needed a fucking good slap in the face. She could be described as a posh toff who has lots of built up hatred inside her and loved to moan about all and everything. For example, she moaned to her friends about some newcomers beating her group at their regular quiz night and she could tell just by looking at them that they weren't very clever. Also, one quote which stuck in my mind was "A women of her age on Facebook?!" she exclaimed in a shocked / surprised fashion. Anyway, the food at The Bosham Inn was alright, but a little expensive. As it was late (after 22:00), my journey home was trouble free, including unleashing VTEC on my favourite road, the A280, passing a slow moving van and stretched limousine.

Our second stay at the chalet was a week after our birthdays. After overtime at work followed by shopping at Tescos and a stop for petrol at Fontwell, I arrived at Selsey Country Club at about 19:20, which was about half an hour ahead of Marie. This time, relievingly I experienced no problems on my outward journey.

On the Saturday, we had a wander around Chichester town centre in an unsuccessful bid to find a wrist watch for Marie which I had promised to buy her as a birthday present. From experience, I've learnt that Chichester is a little boring and it doesn't take long to walk around the shops. Marie bought some stuff from Body Shop and I bought a belated birthday card for my friend Rima. We stumbled upon a wonderful shop called Shake-A-Delic which is a sort of facsimile of the Shakeaway chain of shops I blogged on 08/02/2010, but unfortunately this shop in Chichester was their only shop and didn't have any other shops elsewhere. Instead of a milkshake, I chose a large custom fruit smoothie, consisting of mango, pineapple & banana. After buying Sunday's dinner and some other stuff in a Tesco Metro we rushed back to my car, where my 3 hours parking ticket had expired by 5 minutes, but luckily no one had noticed.

In the evening, we headed to Selsey town centre (if it is called that) to get a takeaway. We decided upon a Chinese meal and placed our order with the Summer Palace restaurant. As they were quite busy, it was estimated that our food would be ready in an hour's time, so we paid the small sum of £1.50 for it to be delivered to Selsey Country Club. We were pleasantly surprised about 35 minutes later when I received a telephone call saying they were leaving the restaurant now with our food. We agreed that we very much liked our meal and would recommend the restaurant to anyone. Later on we watched half of the horror film Paranormal Activity on DVD. I say we watched half, because part of the way through, the DVD player refused to play the rest. As it was late, I couldn't be bothered to fetch the Sony Playstation 2 from the kid's room and set it up to watch the rest of the film so we decided to watch the rest on Sunday instead.

On Sunday, as well as watching the rest of Paranormal Activity, we also watched the whole of the second series of The Inbetweeners on DVD and we also fed the local ducks and moorhens with bread that I bought on Friday.

Back to top


Zakynthos Holiday (15th August - 22nd August):

This year's holiday destination was the Greek island of Zakynthos, commonly known as Zante. This was booked through First Choice in Woking and cost Marie and I over £500 each, including extras such as sitting together on the flight, late checkout from our hotel room and transfers. I'm shocked that customers have to pay extra to guarantee that they sit with friends & family on flights.

In preparation for our holiday, Marie gave my hair highlights, which didn't quite go to plan, which we put down to a misunderstanding between Marie & myself. This resulted in questions and strange looks from colleagues at work along with strange looks from complete strangers too. I remember one Manager at working asking me "Adam, what happened to your hair", to which my answer was "My girlfriend happened to my hair". My hair looked like a reverse leopard effect, with large splodges of blonde. In my opinion, it didn't look too bad but I think most other people thought otherwise. Here's a photo.

On the Sunday of our flight, my Dad dropped us off at Gatwick's North Terminal shortly after 12:00. While in duty-free, I bought a pair of sunglasses from Next and Marie bought a bottle of Calvin Klein Summer perfume and some stuff from Fat Face. While running out of time, we set about the task of getting lunch. We sat in one restaurant and while mindful of the time ticking away, we left as it seemed to be taking forever for the staff to take our order. Eventually we bought lunch which consisted of a panini each.

The flight took off at about 15:10. During the smooth flight Marie watched the movie How To Train a Dragon, while I read my Jeremy Clarkson book. The flight lasted 3 hours so we landed at 18:10 UK time or 20:10 in Greek time.

Stepping out of the plane door into the open was similar to standing in front of an open oven door as the temperature was said to be 32 degrees Celsius and was a stark contrast to inside the cool air conditioned plane. This reminded me of getting off the plane in Ibiza during 1998. Conveniently, our hotel in Kalamaki was only a 5 minute coach journey from the airport.

After dropping off our luggage in our hotel room at the Amaryllis Aparthotel, I spent over 20 Euros on breakfast & drink in a small supermarket across the road. When back at the hotel, before unpacking we paid 60 Euros for the optional air conditioning for the week, which turned out not to be as effective as the air conditioning we paid for in Crete, but it did the job nonetheless. Our room was very large and spacious with a stone floor and had the usual small ensuite bathroom and kitchen facilities as we were self-catering.

Monday was the first full day of our holiday and there was the usual introductory talk by our holiday rep Colin scheduled for 10:30. Unfortunately Marie's phone alarm was still set to UK time, so we didn't wake up in time. Instead we woke at 10:20 and realising that we had overslept, rushed in and out of the bathroom and made it downstairs only 5 minutes late where we saw there was only one other person who turned up for the talk. This lady's name was Valerie and seemed like quite a nice person. Marie and I selected 3 excursions from the few which were available. We paid 17 Euros for the optional safety deposit box which was located in the reception / lobby area which I thought was unusual as with the previous holidays I had been on, the safety deposit box had always been located inside the room. Outside it was very very hot, I'd say too hot and was expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius. We undertook a slow 10 minute walk to the Kalamaki Nesting Beach then back to the main road where the shops & restaurants were. I achieved temporary solace from the high temperature by standing in the cool breeze emitted from the shop's air conditioning units. Accepting one of Colin's recommendations for decent restaurants, we chose Mermaids for our lunch destination which served quite nice food with the usual friendly Greek service. Afterwards, Marie bought 2 leather belts and we both bought some postcards. It was feeling too hot so made our way back to our air conditioned hotel room where I had a reenergising power nap for an hour or so before meeting up with Colin at 18:15 to pay the 114 Euros for my half of the 3 excursions. After relaxing in our hotel room, we had dinner at Maharajah which is a combined Indian & Chinese restaurant. I had chicken satay for my starter followed by an unadventurous korma with egg fried rice for my main.

The temperature on Tuesday didn't seem to be as hot, but maybe we were getting used to it. We spent the afternoon at the Kalamaki Nesting Beach where there were no sun loungers free as all were being used. Instead we laid on our beach towels on top of the soft sand. The cool sea was crystal clear with occasional fish and quite shallow, you have to walk quite far into the sea to get deep into the water. There was only a slight ripple with no big waves. While we were enjoying the calm sea, Marie spotted Valerie with her daughter Emily and started up a friendly conversation. This was bliss and to emphasise it, I kept on putting my current situation in contrast to what my current situation would be if I were at work. I sun bathed only briefly back on the beach as I was worried about getting sun burnt for the second time that year. Following a power nap back at the hotel, we ate at an Italian restaurant recommended by Val & Emily. While walking there, we noticed a large bush fire in the hills / mountains behind us to the west of the island. While waiting for our food, Marie was chatting to a girl who recommended some other restaurants for us to visit during our stay. She apparently came on holiday by herself as she had been here before and liked it. During our dinner we could see fire fighting planes flying over dowsing the flames while what looked like water tankers driving through the town. By the end of our dinner, the fire was still raging on closer and closer to Kalamaki which looked impressive but we knew it was bad. When back at the hotel room, I started to feel a little sun burnt, mainly the top of my feet, front of ankles, neck and shoulders, but it didn't feel too bad.

We woke up on Wednesday to see that the fire had been extinguished over night, this was a relief as we found out that the hotel was on standby for evacuation. We had an early start at 06:45 for our first excursion which was Smuggler's Cove. We arrived at the Euro Hire pickup point before 08:15 when a holiday rep turned up on his moped saying that today's excursion had been postponed due to the coastguard not allowing boats out on the rough sea for the next two days. We accepted the option of rescheduling our excursion to the Saturday. Seeing as we were up early while most of the rest of the holiday makers were still in bed, we decided to make the most of it by enjoying the swimming pool area while it was quiet. After sunbathing while reading my book then a brief swim, I had a power nap back at the hotel room before going on a long slow walk through the town to find the restaurants which were recommended to us last night. We found Micealos which was located on a quiet road outside of the town, but as we were too early, it was closed. Instead, we ate at Zeppos by the seafront. While walking back to the hotel room, we saw another bush fire! This time it was to the east and wasn't too far from where we were walking when we were on our way to Zeppos. This fire was much smaller than yesterday's and was extinguished an hour or so later.

On the Thursday, we had another early start. We woke at 07:30 to get to the Euro Hire pickup point by 09:00 for the 4x4 Jeep Safari. Our Greek driver was named Dennis and was aged about 21 / 22 years old. Dennis wasn't his real name, his real Greek name sounded like Dennis so that's what he was known as. This 4x4 Jeep Safari was in a Land Rover Discovery like what we were in when in Crete. Marie & I were sat in the back opposite 2 girls in their early twenties who were from either Holland or the Netherlands, but they did speak English. They were staying in the hotel next to ours. In the two front seating rows of the Land Rover were a German couple and an elderly couple from England.

On our way to the first stop we passed by the destruction left from Tuesday's bush fire. Our first stop was at about 09:45 where we had impressive views of part of the island. At about 10:15 we arrived at a rather quaint village, which frankly was boring and pointless. During our mini stop there, the driver and one of his friends fabricated a make-shift repair of what sounded like a loose exhaust caused by the rough ground previously driven over. At about 11:00 we arrived at the highest point in the island giving impressive views of the island, including Kalamaki. It is said to be 750 meters above sea level. For lunch, we stopped at a cliff top restaurant at 12:00, which idyllic views of the coastline. Marie & I shared a Saganaki and had an omelette each. After lunch we stopped at an old Olive Tree which is said to be 2000 years old and planted by Mary Magdalene, whoever she is. Our penultimate stop at about 14:00 was at a viewpoint above Smuggler's Cove at Navagio Beach, which is probably the island's most well known landmark. I was amazed at the sight of the light blue water near the shore. Up until then I had assumed that when I had seen pictures of light blue sea water that they had been Photoshoped to make them look picturesque but now I could see that nature was capable of this without photo editing software. The final stop was at a stony pebble beach, shortly before 15:00, possibly to the north of the island. This was nothing worth writing home about and I am sure there were better beaches more worthy of visiting. We got back to the hotel between 16:00 - 16:30. As with the Land Rover Great Adventure we went on in Crete, the ride was mildly torturous over the rough ground, with lots of banging and crashing, but was tolerable. On reflection, Marie & I believed that the Land Rover Great Adventure in Crete was a lot better experience than this one we had just been on, partly due to Colin who was our driver and guide in Crete was more talkative and informative throughout the tour compared to Dennis who was comparatively quiet.

After a shower and power nap, I discovered a great American nineties sitcom called The Nanny. I was able to watch it a few more times over the following few nights we had left on holiday. That evening we ate at a restaurant called The Olive Tree which provided the best and also cheapest meal so far we had had in Kalamaki.

Friday meant another early wake at 07:30 to get to the Euro Hire pickup point by 09:00 for the Turtle Island Cruise. We boarded the Annular II at Zakynthos Town harbour, the boat had over 170 people on board. The first stop was a swim stop at Turtle Island / Marathonissi Islet, so called because the island's silhouette looks like a turtle from a certain angle. Here there were crystal clear waters and a cave to swim through. Following this, we went past the Keri Caves & Keri Peninsula. Our next swim stop was at Keri followed by Turtle spotting at Lagnas Bay where we were lucky enough to see both a male and female Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The final swim stop was by Vassilikos but we decided to stay on the boat instead while Marie chatted with Val & Emily who were on the same excursion.

We got back to the hotel at about 17:00 and after a shower & power nap, we had dinner at a restaurant called Paulos across the road from our hotel. When back at our hotel room afterwards, I made a cocktail from a bottle of lime flavoured Smirnoff Vodka and strawberry juice, which was OK.

Saturday was our last full day on holiday and the last early start. We woke at 06:45 to get to the Euro Hire pickup point by 08:15 for the Smuggler's Cove excursion. This was at Navagio Beach, otherwise referred to as The Shipwreck or Smuggler's Cove which is home to the shipwreck of the alleged smuggler ship The Panagiotis. On our way there, again we stopped off at the 2000 year old Olive Tree at Exo Hora where we sat in a nearby restaurant / café for about half hour. From there, the coach took us past amazing scenery to Porto Vromi, which is a secluded tiny port and beach where we boarded the boat. We arrived at Navagio Beach after a 20 minutes boat trip. As the sea was still a little rough, the boat was unable to manoeuvre close up to the shore so we had to swim but were forewarned about the difficult swimming conditions. Weak swimmers were advised against attempting the swim. I dived off the boat and swam to shore. It wasn't easy and the words "fucking hell" were used when I eventually made it. The Shipwreck is a rusty ruin of a ship which has had numerous uses, names and owners throughout its life. Its final use was for smuggling. The beach's white sand consisted of largish grains which felt quite uncomfortable to walk on. The water was clear but looked light blue from a distance. The scene really was picture postcard perfect it was just a shame that place was in the shade from the surrounding cliffs at that time in the morning. Fortunately, my swim back to the boat was easier, but I heard that others did have difficulty. On the boat's return journey, we went past a few caves and saw The face of Poseidon, which is a grotto naturally eroded into shape of the face of the sea god. When back at Porto Vromi, we had a 45 minutes break before having to get back on the coach.

After having a shower back at the hotel room, we got a taxi to Zakynthos Town where we arrived at about 17:30. Unfortunately, this was not a good idea as just about everywhere was shut so turned out to be a waste of time, but we should have looked into it first. While walking around a souvenir shop, a lady followed me around mesmerised by my hair dye mishap and she even poked it! After drinking a caramel milkshake at a harbour front restaurant and taking some photos we went back to Kalamaki where we went shopping for gifts for friends & family. I bought myself a fine chainmail ring which matched the strap of my CK wrist watch. We had dinner at Mermaids where the owner recognised my hair from earlier in the week, he said it looked like a chess board. For my starter, I bravely had grilled octopus. It's tentacles with suckers looked scary. From the very large menu, for our main course, we chose a God's Platter each. The vast menu spoilt us for choice. For drinking, I had a couple of cocktails including a White Mess (which sounds like the title of a porn movie) & Drugs Bust, following which I felt a little tipsy. Marie had a Lover's Tiff & Traffic Light. After some more souvenir shopping, we dropped off our stuff at the hotel room before walking to the Kalamaki Nesting Beach where we arrived at 23:30. As expected, it was deserted, apart from a guard manning a hut by the entrance restricting access to the beach. It was extremely calm and tranquil standing there looking out over the sea. Unfortunately, we couldn't see any turtles, probably because it was too dark.

On our final day, we woke at 10:00 and packed most of our stuff. We decided to spend the afternoon at Kalamaki Nesting Beach where we sun bathed and swam in the sea. At exactly 13:23, while sunbathing, I could feel and hear a rumble which I initially thought was a morbidly obese person walking by. I then realised that everywhere was shaking for about 20 - 30 seconds. We were experiencing an earthquake! People were looking at each other in astonishment. Upon researching it on the internet, that specific earthquake measured a 5.6 and the epicentre was out at sea. We had previously been told that earthquakes were a frequent occurrence on the island and much of Zakynthos was destroyed by a series of large earthquakes in 1953 when only three buildings on Zakynthos were left standing. After the disaster, the subsequent rebuilding of the island was subject to a very rigid anti-seismic rules. We paid 10 Euros to rent a pedal boat for one hour of which I didn't like the steering. Massive unresponsive understeer lead to massive oversteer.

After showering, we finished packing and returned to The Olive Tree for our last holiday dinner and gave them a big tip using up most of our change. We got back to the hotel at 18:30 and to our surprise, the coach arrived while we were walking up the steps. This was earlier than planned as it wasn't due to arrive until between 18:40 - 19:10. We found out from others that there had been another time mix-up earlier on with another coach. Val & Emily were also caught out by the buses early arrival. While at the airport Val & Emily kept us company during the few hours while waiting for takeoff. Our flight took off at 21:10 Greek time and when arrived at a rain drenched Gatwick Airport about 3 hours later. The rain was a clear signal that we were back in the UK! We decided to get a bus back home instead of a taxi which probably cost us about 1 tenth of what a taxi would have cost.

Back to top


Birthday & Go Ape (28th August & 29th August):

Coincidently, Marie & I share the same birthday but were born exactly one year apart. Our birthdays fell on a Saturday this year and we arranged a barbeque for a get-together at Marie's house. I think there were 16 - 17 of us in total so was plenty of people there with a relaxed friendly atmosphere. The weather was fine but got a little chilly late in the afternoon. Marie's Dad Nigel was in charge of the barbeque and did a fine job as usual.

My main present from Jenna & Gavin was an entry to Go Ape at Swinley Forest at Bracknell on the following day, where Gavin would also be participating. So on an overcast Sunday, we arrived at Swinley Forest at about midday. At Go Ape, the participants travel from one tree to the next via various means including rope ladders, zip-lines, rope bridges, trapezes and swings. It's a bit like an obstacle course suspended in trees.

Obviously, safety is very important, so everyone starts off by listening to a safety briefing including the correct way on how to operate the safety equipment which is worn throughout. If the instructions are followed, it's impossible to fall as you are always connected to safety ropes by two carabiners. When moving from one section to the next, one carabiner is disconnected then reconnected to the next section leaving the other always connected. When that's done, the remaining carabiner does the same, so there is always one carabiner connected to a safety rope. Also attached to our safety harness is a pulley thingy which is used to cross certain sections.

Some of the course sections looked a lot easier than they turned out to be but with some of them there is an easy way and the proper way. A few of the sections made me feel a little embarrassed as I struggled to get to get across with decorum. I attempted to transverse a tight rope suspended high up between trees without holding on to the hand ropes on either side, but unfortunately I failed. The long zip-lines were fun but we did end up getting a little dirty when landing at the other end. Here's a photo of me crossing some sort of rope bridge and here's a photo of Gavin on a zip-line. The whole experience was good fun, well worth a day out and I'd be happy to do it again sometime.

Back to top


Japanese Auto Extravaganza 2010 (12th September):

JAE is the annual car show I always look forward to and this year it was based at Wicksteed Park in Kettering, Northamptonshire. This is a three day event, from Friday to Sunday, when I usually attend on the Saturday. This year, because of the bad weather forecasted for Saturday, I chose to attend on the Sunday instead.

As both Prelude UK & Lude Behaviour didn't have any booked plots this year, JapCars-UK kindly allowed members of Prelude UK to park on their plot. We arrived at Wicksteed Park at about 09:45, after driving along roads that I was familiar with after my few trips to Santa Pod Raceway. Wicksteed Park is about 13 miles north of Santa Pod Raceway. One of the Marshalls at Wicksteed Park responsible for directing cars to their respective plots seemed a little dim or uneducated when he asked me if my car was Japanese.

There weren't many cars on the JapCars-UK plot, probably less than 10, but unsurprisingly Saturday was much busier. It turned out that the weather on the Saturday wasn't too bad which made me regret choosing to go on the Sunday instead. Bloody unpredictable English weather and the unreliable weather forecasters. I parked my car next to a fantastic looking blue 1992 4th generation Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC which was an exceptional example. The owner of the car had replaced the original 2.2 VTEC engine with the H22A7 2.2 VTEC engine from a Honda Accord Type R along with its LSD equipped U2Q7 gearbox. It had also undergone a full re-spray in a fantastic shade of blue originally that of a Honda S2000. The car was undoubtedly the best example of a 4th generation Honda Prelude I had ever seen. Here's the owner's web site - http://www.preludeonline.co.uk.

After I had finished giving my car a wipe over (it had already had a proper wash & wax prior to this weekend), we had a wander around. Unfortunately, a lot of the cars had already left and it seemed a lot of the car clubs were in the process of packing up ready to leave. The car probably most respected by car enthusiasts at the show was a Honda NSX-R and this was the first time I had seen one of these rare cars for real, although I prefer the standard Honda NSX. However, up close it did look a little tatty (a probable contributory factor was it being driven by a women) and I did wonder about its authenticity as to whether it was a genuine NSX-R or not.

Before leaving, the cars on the JapCars-UK plot were repositioned for a couple of photo shoots. The first photo shoot was located where we were parked throughout the day and the second photo shoot was in an area opposite, adjacent to a lake. Unfortunately to the detriment of the photos, the lake behind our cars was fenced off. As the place was becoming quite empty, we left at about 15:30 which I assume was a lot earlier than if we had gone on the Saturday.

Back to top


Joe Pasquale (14th October):

Marie's birthday present to her Dad Nigel was a ticket to see Joe Pasquale performing live in his show titled "Extra Sensory Pasquale" at the Princess Hall in Aldershot. In our group there was 10 of us in total, made up of members of Marie's family and their partners. Kerrie, one of Marie's sister's was unable to talk properly due to suffering from a bout of suspect laryngitis, or J04.0 as we would call it in the trade.

This was the first time I had been to see a live viewing of a stand-up comedian and it was very entertaining. I left the 2 hour performance (with a 15 minutes break) wanting to go to more stand-up comedy performances. Before this evening, I never really paid much attention to Joe Pasquale on TV, but he is actually quite funny, even though I think I prefer more rude or risqué humour - the type that is a little controversial or politically incorrect.

Back to top


Miss Banzai Tunnel Run (16th October):

The Miss Banzai Tunnel Run is an event whereby the entrants in Japanese cars drive through London incorporating many tunnels. The proceeds from the event go to charity. Entry to the event was a minimum £5.00 charity donation and this time the proceeds went to London's Air Ambulance. The event was publicised on many internet based car forums / clubs, including Prelude UK & Lude Behaviour. This was the first time I had been to an event like this, the various Japanese car shows I had been to in the past were shows where people showed off their cars parked in a field or car park, whereas this was driving in a convoy through our capital city at night. I was a little apprehensive about this event as I have never liked driving through London and I wasn't looking forward to the very late finish which would be in the early hours of the morning. I went prepared with a couple of energy drink bottles which were recommended by others.

Marie & I agreed to join in the event with a few fellow members of Lude Behaviour. The evening started at 19:45 by meeting with a local couple, Georgina & Ali with their dog Tilly, in a red 1993 4th generation Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC at Pease Pottage services. Coincidently, they lived only a 5 minute walk away from my house. From there we drove to our meeting point at a retail park in Thurrock, where we arrived at just under an hour later. As Georgina's car had been lowered using Koni coilover suspension and had an aftermarket body kit incorporating a low front bumper, the roads it could travel on was limited by speed bumps so unfortunately they had to park behind a Burger King just on the edge of the retail park car park. There waiting for us were the other two Lude Behaviour members, Gordon with his wife Polly in a black 1997 5th generation Honda Prelude SiR and Simon with a friend in a grey 1997 Mitsubishi Legnum VR4 estate. Simon had previously owned a 4th generation Honda Prelude which I think suffered some sort of mechanical failure, then he bought the Mitsubishi as a replacement, but was still a member of Lude Behaviour. I had previously met Gordon & Polly at Japfest during May.

After some chit chat and photo taking we drove the short distance to Essex Arena where all the Japanese cars were gathering after the gates opened at 21:30. After parking up, we collected our route maps then sat in some sort of building with a café upstairs. Later we had a wander around to check out the many Japanese cars taking part, it was surely a cold night. After the gates opened to allow the participants to commence the Tunnel Run, following a lengthy queue we finally left at about 23:45. Our Lude Behaviour convoy of four cars joined the A13 and made our way to central London.

The specified route incorporated 10 tunnels, with landmarks and stop offs in between:

I read somewhere that we were encouraged to make lots of noise within the tunnels. I found out that this wasn't particularly easy due to the strict low speed limits within many of the tunnels. It felt a little silly pootling along at 30 MPH in some of the tunnels, but I wasn't going to break the speed limit and risk getting in trouble for it. The only way to make a loud noise was to dip the clutch pedal and rev the engine, while coasting along at the specified speed limits. To me, this felt silly and I soon got a little bored of it.

Due to the nature of London's roads with associated traffic, there weren't many opportunities to exploit our car's performance. However, at one point, I did enjoy a tussle with a few Honda Civic VTis proving that the H22A reigns over the B16. After flooring it through one tunnel, the 2.5 V6 twin turbo engine in Simon's Mitsubishi Legnum VR4 estate started to protest by sounding unhealthy and displaying the engine malfunction light on the dashboard. Luckily, it seemed to sort itself out shortly after pulling over at the side of the road.

As expected, we did get slightly lost on a few occasions and at one point we found out that the line of Japanese cars behind us were in fact following us and relying on our navigational skills as when we decided to do a u-turn due to going the wrong way, they followed suit.

I liked the sightseeing aspect of the Tunnel Run. We got to cross over Tower Bridge in both directions and Westminster Bridge. We saw the Big Ben Clock Tower and the London Eye. We parked up for a few minutes with lots of other participants in the underground Westferry Roundabout and had a wander around the other cars parked up, whilst other Japanese cars sped past proudly making a noise. About a week and a half later, we learnt of one of many videos uploaded to YouTube contained footage of our cars parked up at Westferry Roundabout. In this particular video my car is seen in the first few seconds and I'm seen at about 1:10 wearing a blue T-shirt.

Our fun came to an end in the Tooley Street Tunnels. The tunnel we entered was full of people standing around. There seemed to be an entrance & exit to a nightclub inside the tunnel, so a lot of the people we were slowly driving past were a little drunk. I felt very uncomfortable as I was worried my car could get scratched. When we made it through to the far end of the tunnel, the two cars in front, Georgina & Ali and Gordon & Polly were pulled over by the Police. At that time, I was the fourth car in our mini convoy behind Simon & his friend in the Mitsubishi. We pulled over and waited to see what was the problem. After a minute or two, one of the Police Officers approached my car. He was a stereotypical arse hole of a Police Officer on a power trip. He said they had received complaints from the nightclub owners of cars speeding past, even though at that moment in time it was impossible to speed due to the amount of people standing around. Anyway, I chose to empathise with him and agreed that I could see that this route was not suitable but we were not to know this as we were simply following our supplied route. Once in the tunnel, it wasn't possible to turn around and go back. I also explained that the proceeds from this planned event were going to charity. He got all stroppy and said "stop talking and start listening". I've always understood why some people have little respect for the Police force and this Police Officer wasn't doing anything to help their cause. He threatened to have my car towed away if he was to see it again and ordered us to go home. We moved off but I paused for a quick chat with Georgina & Ali but when I saw PC Plod walking over to my car again, I promptly left.

Simon & his friend in the Mitsubishi had left while PC Plod was getting all menstrual with me while Gordon & Polly and Georgina & Ali had to stay there with the Police Officers. So now that our mini convoy was no more, Marie & I were alone and we didn't have Simon's mobile telephone number but did have the telephone numbers of the others. As there was only one more checkpoint to reach (Peninsular Park Road), we decided to go for it. Unfortunately, we never made it there. My sat nav insisted on taking us through the Blackwall Tunnel which was closed. Even if I drove a few miles off in one direction in the hope that my sat nav would find an alternative route, it still insisted on taking us back to the Blackwall Tunnel. After driving around in circles for over half an hour, we decided to give up and head home. Unbeknown to me at that time, my sat nav has an option to block specific roads, which probably would have resolved that issue. Oh well.

While en route home, we found out that the other two members of our mini convoy which we left with the Police were there only for a few minutes after we left. Gordon & Polly called it a night and drove to a hotel while Georgina & Ali were miles ahead of us on the M25 on their way home. As I knew roughly where they lived, when back at Crawley, I drove to their area and saw them parking their car in a garage. After stopping for a few minutes to exchange our stories, we finally got home sometime after 05:00.

Simon in his Mitsubishi was the only one in our mini convoy who made it to the final destination. Apparently, there was nearly 450 cars that took part and according to http://www.justgiving.com £4,641.61 was raised for London's Air Ambulance. It was very disappointing that the event organisers seemingly didn't bother notifying the Police of the event.

Unfortunately, after waking the following day, I experienced the worst headache I had ever experienced, or a "mangraine" as Marie called it. Maybe it was due to the very late night or maybe it was because I hadn't drank enough, but whatever, it was very bad. Would I go again? Possibly. It was fun to a certain extent and I enjoyed being a part of a mini Lude Behaviour convoy amongst a mass of other Japanese cars and there was a good atmosphere. But the things that have put me off are getting home in the early hours of the morning and the slack organisational skills of the event organisers leading to stroppy Police Officers who seemed to think we were speeding along in a typical chavvy cruise.

Back to top


Tae Kwon-Do Championships (31st October & 28th November):

After giving it some serious thought, I decided to be brave and participate in the Tae Kwon-Do South East Championships which were conveniently being held at the K2 Leisure Centre in Crawley. This would mark my return to competitive sparring after 15 years. I entered myself for the men's welterweight one-on-one sparring in the blue & red belt category. According to my bathroom scales, I weighed 66.2kg, which was just 2.2kg too heavy for the lightweight category whose upper limit was 64kg.

Joining me was my black belt friend Rima who regularly attends TAGB lessons under my Instructor, Karl James, held in Croydon. She had recently restarted her Tae Kwon-Do training during the spring / summer after a gap of a few years where previously she had been very successfully touring around the world winning awards for her sparring.

During the weeks building up to the event, I had put extra effort in to my sparring in the lessons and acted upon the feedback from my Instructor in order to improve my technique as I was determined to do well when the day came.

The reason I had been reluctant that participate in the past was the fear of overwhelming nerves, but it seems that my fears were over exaggerated as I didn't seem overly nervous or anxious over the event. I suppose I found the build up to Tae Kwon-Do gradings more stressful than the few weeks prior to the championships. After purposely having porridge for breakfast, at about 09:30 I parked my car in the rain drenched K2 Leisure Centre car park then Marie & I met Rima & her boyfriend Alex inside. About an hour later, my parents joined us.

The sports hall was split into 10 areas for simultaneous events. The patterns were undertaken first then the breaking / destruction and sparring would commence afterwards. As well and one-on-one sparring, Rima also entered herself to do a pattern. When it was her turn, to me her pattern seemed fine, but it seemed that the judges didn't agree. Rima suspects that she didn’t do well in the eyes of the judges because of the slight difference in style between her previous club she attended years ago and how the TAGB does the patterns.

Over the tanoy system, I heard the men's lightweight blue & red belts being called up to area 5, shortly after that, my category of men's welterweight blue & red belt were summoned to the same area. I made my way to area 5 and proceeded to continue my warm up in the corner by the main judges stage. After I felt ready, I sat down by the edge of the mat with the rest of the competitors. The referee then asked us if she had called out everyone's names. Surprised by this, I said that I hadn't heard my name and she looked at her list and said that she had previously called out for me but got no response. We went over to the judges who deemed that I had missed my chance as I was not ready for when my name was called. Feeling quite gutted and deflated, I headed back to the seating area.

Unfortunately when it was Rima's turn to demonstrate her proven superiority during sparring, it didn't work out for her as she lost. However, as she was up against a lady ranked as the world's number 2, I suppose she could be forgiven for not being triumphant. That was the end of the South East Championships for both Rima & I. As a slight consolation, the Crawley Tae Kwon-Do Club were overall winners.

Following on from our failures at the South East Championships, Rima & I entered into the British Championships being held at Telford on 28th November. As I knew I was just over the weight limit for the lightweight category, about two or three weeks before the event, I set myself a target of losing the surplus weight so I could enter in the lightweight category rather than welterweight. There were advantages and disadvantages in this. The advantage I was concentrating on was that in the lightweight category, hopefully my opponents would be roughly the same height as myself. I believe that height, or leg length can be a strong advantage in Tae Kwon-Do sparring. But the disadvantage would be the possibility of having more nimble or agile opponents than in the heavier lightweight category. I put myself on a strict diet where I wouldn't even have my usual Slim Fast milkshake for dinner. I had no dinner during weekdays for two weeks before the event. I also went running on a few occasions, in the freezing cold temperatures of November.

Rima drove from her home in South Croydon and met up with Marie and I at my home in Crawley during the middle of the Saturday afternoon. The journey of 183 miles up to Telford took about three and a half hours in my car, the majority of which was on motorways. We had pre-booked 2 rooms at a Days Inn motel just 2.4 miles from Telford's International Centre where the event was being held the following day. According to www.hotels.com, who we had booked the motel through, we would have to pay £49 for each room, so we were pleasantly surprised when we were charged only £38.20 each. Obviously, we didn't query the price difference.

After breakfast the following morning, I set about the task of removing from my car the thick frost which had a light covering of snow. According to my sat nav, the short journey of 2.4 miles to the International Centre should have taken about 3 minutes. Unfortunately it didn't. Instead it took about an hour, mostly stationary. There was hardly any snow on the roads, so I don’t think it was weather related, I believe it was purely down to poor local traffic management. There were loads of cars all heading to the same place and were restricted by a bottleneck. I was nervous enough as it was with the build up to the event and I really didn't need to anxiety over being late. After being misdirected in the car park (dick head of a parking official), we arrived about 45 minutes late.

I got changed in a makeshift changing room then went into the main halls. Just about as soon as we were in there, I found out that I had missed my call up for the blue & red belt patterns, due to being late. I was starting to get a feeling of déjà vu from last month's championships. However, they said they would have a rerun later due to the low attendance from people being delayed in traffic. A few minutes later, I was called up to perform my pattern. I was surprised about being called up so soon and didn't even have time to practice my pattern or warm up properly - I only had time to go through a practice run of about half of the 38 movements of my chosen pattern Yul Gok. Subsequently, I would say that my performance of Yul Gok was less than satisfactory. I can't remember the scores the judges awarded me, but Rima said that my scores were average.

During the few minutes after the pattern while talking to Marie reflecting on what happened, Rima went and got changed into her Tae Kwon-Do suit and then I was called up for sparring! Again, I had no time whatsoever to warm up or stretch. I could sense this wasn't going to end very well. I had purposely bought some energy drinks and snacks in the hope of receiving a little boost from them, but I didn't have time to try them. I arrived at the ring, all full of nerves and disappointment of being unprepared and was told "Well done, you're the winner". I thought to myself "WTF!" - that's what the fuck and not World Tae Kwon-Do Federation. I was declared winner of the men's lightweight blue & red belt sparring by default as the rest of the participants had not arrived. Feeling quite disappointed that I didn't get my chance to perform in sparring, I asked if I could at least fight the referee to which he pointed out that he was a 4th dan black belt, so I retracted my request. I was handed my trophy which has an engraved plaque stating "British 2010, Sparring 1st" on the base. So after all the hard work I had done in preparation for the event and driving 185 miles, I felt like I was all dressed up and nowhere to go. All the effort had been in vain and I certainly didn't feel like I had earned my trophy.

As Rima was getting changed when I was called up, she didn't witness what happened, or rather, what didn't happen. When she returned, Marie and I explained that I had been up and took part in sparring and won. She was disappointed that she had missed out on the action. We kept up this story for about an hour or so.

Now we had to concentrate on Rima's turn. When she was called up for her sparring, after being weighed she was declared too heavy for her chosen weight category. Fortunately, she was allowed to spar in the next weight category up. But after watching some of her potential opponents in action, Rima had an attack of nerves and decided to give this one a miss, so a dejected Rima left the sparring area to watch the action with us.

So, the British Championships didn't quite work out as planned. I got to perform my pattern but only after being rushed into it without warming up beforehand. And neither Rima or I got to spar. We joked that at least we enjoyed last night's dinner in the Beefeater restaurant! We stayed there for an hour or so watching the sparring before deciding to call it a day and head home after 15:00.

Back to top



Back