Stop all the progress it is messing with my traditions

On March 5th 1988 a ritual was started that has been upheld, defended and enshrined by the many that know its true worth. This ritual, like so many things of value was started by accident. A meeting of event, location, blind stupidity and will power. Let us go back to momentous evening and take you through the many threads that are brought together in the one great tradion and why, like so many things of value, its very existence is now challenged by the march of technology.

Earlier on that fateful night I decided, on a whim, to take my hard earned wages and throw it all at a four day, running on a shoestring, immersion in the city of lights. I was going take the ferry to France and stay in a flea ridden half star “hotel” that provided commanding views of Paris – on the horizon, if you stand on a chair, on your tippy toes. After catching a bus through a stormy night from Victoria to Priory Docks, Dover, the series of events that led to establishment of one of the staples of my existence came into play.

Firstly and importantly it was a journey to cross the English Channel. A romantic way to leave Blighty, calling to mind Victorian era journey to the continent for the “Grand Tour”. Secondly, on these ferries a unique product is sold, available only on duty free shops in the United Kingdom, the 1 metre long Toblerone. Put the two together you get a unique opportunity. “Can I eat an entire 1 metre long Toblerone before I reach France?” The answer I discovered on that night in 1988 was “Hell Yes!”. In fact the massive 4.5kg chocolate mass was gone with minutes to spare. Was I well – um no, but I had met the challenge and won. From that day on every time I crossed the English Channel one of those chocolate monsters went to God. A mountain I kept climbing for decades.

However, one journey posed a challenge that tested my commitment to “the cause”. Instead of catching that floating home of powder eggs and bacon from tin, I decided to catch the train, through the Chunnel. Rules are rules and the same “must eat a 4.5kg lump of chocolate when crossing the Channel” came into play. Instead of the normal ninety minutes to gorge myself with Switzerland’s finest chocolate and nougat treat, I had a mere thirty, the time that I was actually crossing under the channel. The time travelling from St. Pancras to the Channel and from the Channel to Gare du Nord must be excluded, just to keep things fair.

As soon as the aluminium tube crossed, as far as I could tell, the coast the wrapper was destroyed and quest began. 4.5 kilomgrams of chocolate in 30 mins. The minutes ticked by as bite by bite, triangle by triangle I devoured my albatross. As I streaked under the ocean at 300km/h my fellow passengers wondered not only was I going to eat it all, but why the hell I was doing it all, but I didn’t have time to answer because my English Channel destiny had to be met. Finally the last piece greeted me in the box, with only seconds to spare the last man standing was placed in my mouth, chewed briefly, swallowed as the Eurostar broke into daylight. I, not only my stomach, realised the enormity of what I had achieved.

I had showed the over bearing shadow of progress who was boss, it wasn’t going to mess with my traditions, no matter how sick I felt.

Kindee – beyond the madding crowd

_IGP9510 400 kilometres north Sydney lies a sleeping village linked to the outside world only by a 70 year only timber suspension bridge. This is the land of timber, dairy and never ending vistas. The trip to this peaceful corner of the world is via a sinuous road that leads you through some of the quaintest villages in northern New South Wales. The enjoyable drive provides fantastic views around everyone of the seemingly never ending stream of corners.

La Samaritaine

Every journey to Paris finds you that new special something that makes the city so wonderful. Forget the Eiffel Tower, forget Le Chappel, the most beautiful Parisian architecture is found on a building that had been locked away for many years and for many forgotten, the La Samaritaine department store.

Named after a hydraulic pump installed near the Pont Neuf, La Samaritaine (“the Samaritan Woman”), so called because.of a gilded relief of the Samaritan Woman drawing water for Jesus at the well as described in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel. The history of the building itself started when Ernest Cognacq started selling ties under an umbrella on the Pont Neuf at the site of the hydraulic pump, His tie sale technique must have been something because before long took a space on the Rue de la Monnaie, opening a small boutique. By 1900, the it had expand to be the “Grands Magasins de La Samaritaine”, the start of the huge Art Nouveau and Art Deco gem you can still see today.

The grandly named Grands Magasins de La Samaritaine was organised as the ideal department store, a collection of individually owned stores, each managed by individual “petits patrons” who operated as a whole but with their own unique products and atmosphere. It was huge success allowing Ernest to acquire much of the neighborhood. The surrounding city blocks were entirely rebuilt in the finest of current French architectural styles. Between 1903 and 1907, the notable architect Frantz Jourdain used a liberal dose of Art Nouveau on the buildings, with beautiful interior with decorative steel work and mosaics throughout. Further expansion resulted in a additional Art Deco building completed in 1933 by Henri Sauvage. Who then updated some the Art Nouveau work to incorporate his new building. The result was an eleven-story department store now a French national monument.

The store was well known for its rooftop café, which afforded excellent views of the city.

La Samaritaine was bought in 2001 by LVMH, the luxury-goods company that had just previously purchased Le Bon Marché. On 15 June 2005, in order to update the buildings to modern standards the department store was closed. However it was not lost with much of the original, glorious interior and structure surviving as a shopping complex, hotel, apartments and offices due to open in 2013. I look forward to walking through it again and remembering when Parisian style was the envy of the world.

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Goodwood Festival of Speed

Every year the palacial home of Earl of March, thunders to sounds of the great automotive event of the planet, the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Over the three days in June 150,000 people tred the manicured lawns of the estate to join in the celebration of all things automotive. The Goodwood Festival of Speed was started in 1993 by the Earl of March, a former Formula 1 driver, in order to bring motor racing back to the Goodwood estate — home of the Goodwood Race Circuit.

The driveway of the estate is transformed in a hillclimb circuit where a wide range exotic vehicles from former Le Mans racers, Formula 1 cars, NASCAR racers to the finest Italian supercars race for the fastest time only inches away from the stone walls with just hay bales for protection. In a similar vein a full rally circuit has been carved from the a wood at the top of the hill, allowing spectators to stand only inches from the howling, sideways classic rally cars as they blast through the tracks.

One of the most appealing aspects of the event is the opportunity to examine the cars in the pits while you chat with some of the greats of motor racing. As motor racing events goes it doesnt get any better than sharing a cup of tea with Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart and Jochan Mass as you discuss the latest Formula 1 hero climbing into a pre-war Auto Union, only to have your conversation broken by the sound of a 1930s blower Bentley attacking the hillclimb or the thunder of the RAF Red Arrows performing above you all under the warmth of an English summer.

Paris Air Show

Paris the city of lights, centre of culture and every two years the home of the worlds’ aviation and aerospace industry. The Paris airshow is the worlds oldest airshow, having started in 1909 at the Le Bourget Airport, better known as the site of the end point of Charles Lindberghs’ famous 1927 transatlantic flight.

No other airshow allows people to get quite so close to the aircraft displays. Aircraft as varied as the F-22 Raptor, Airbus A-380 and a host historic aircraft some dating from the dawn of aviation fly seemingly only an arms length away displaying their agility and the skills of their pilots.

Its a different way to spend an warm July Parisian afternoon, but one that has been an integral part of its history for over a hundred years.

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Sculpture by the Sea

Spring sees Sydney emerge from gloom of winter with a burst of activity. For Sale signs appear on houses, beaches get invaded by Sydneysiders as the warmth arrives, flowers bloom and the the cliff tops around Bondi grow sculptures of very every size, material and concept. The annual Sculptures by the Sea exhibition brings installations from over 100 artists to the cliff top walks and park space between Bondi Beach and Tamarama in the east of Sydney and showcases sculpture and installation from artists from around the world

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A moment of doubt – Driving a Formula1 car

Are your heros Formula 1 pilots or does motor oil pulse through your veins? Well in England there just might be the extreme experience for you. Driving a a real 1988 Tyrrell 017B Formula 1 car as fast as self preservation permits. Provided by Everyman Racing all you need is to meet the weight and height requirements and have a hefty sum of cash burning a hole in your pocket

Not they take any ham fisted Nissan Sunny jockey, clutching rosary beads hoping the meeting with their maker may be delayed a little while longer and throw them in what is in effect 500 kilogram 600 horsepower winged canoe. Safety is paramount. After a safety briefing you are driven around the circuit by one of the instructors showing the dos and do nots. To check you have been paying attention they strap you in a road car, in my case a Porsche Cayman, and let you do your thing. If you don’t meet their standards you go home. Simple as that.

So assuming you do well enough your next stop is a Formula Ford. A 1600cc open wheeler used for decades as an introduction to open wheeler motor racing. So you are thinking 1600 cc big deal. You would be wrong, these are proper race cars with no synchromesh and acceleration faster than a Ferrari 458. Treat them like your average street car and you will be visiting the finer parts of Britain backwards through a hedge. These little cars move, with speeds of approximately 200 km/h available on the straights, with immediate and tactile steering and handling to match.


After your 10 or so laps in the Formula Ford, its time to move it up a notch to the F3 Vauxhall Lotus. With double the power of the Formula Ford and little extra weight this orange beast flies, but it is cornering where the difference comes, with cornering speeds a full 60km/h faster than the Formula Ford. The handling comes at a price,only becoming decent at speed, as it is reliant on all the aerodynamic witchcraft for it do its’ thing. So no half hearted attempts here, put the boot in and keep the speed up says the instructor. Like I wasn’t going to do that. What a sweet little car but quite unforgiving.

After ten laps in the F3 Lotus the moment has arrived. Just you and a full blown Formula 1 car. To be honest there have been few moments in my life filled with as much trepidation as this one. Would I crash? Would I break it? Would I be calling the travel insurance company trying to explain how I destroyed a rare Formula 1 car and 150m of armco?

So there was nothing to do but to do it. I lowered myself into to the tiny cockpit and the mechnanics pulled the belts so tight I could not breath and then tightened them again – this was ominous. Instructions – fuel pump there – this light means you are on fire and you hit this button – and remember the rear tyres are nearly a metre wider than the rest of the car and last of all commit to the lap so the aero kicks in. They fire up the 3.5 Cosworth v8 and nothing else can be heard for the next half hour.

Trundle out of the pits onto the back straight and push the loud pedal – aptly named and you are thrown violently at the horizon, just catching a glipse of 10,000 rpm as you grab second in the beautifully precise Hewland gearbox, Grip, grip, grip, turn, and accelerate like being powered by cordite. After a few laps you realise this thing’s limits are far beyond yours and you start to play. Watching further down the straight you work it through the gearbox, hitting the limiter and carrying that speed as deep as you dare before turning for the long, never ending first corner.

Pitching it into corners knowing that those monumental tyres have far more grip than you can lose through abuse, hooking up the appexes and straights with the wail of Cosworth v8 to keep you company. Then its over, your 20 laps are done.

As you emerge from the cockpit you realise a few things, you are dripping with sweat and you are grinning like an idiot with the enchantment of being lost in the moment, the cars, the satisfaction of putting together good laps at speeds you had never experienced. It was truly unforgettable. Go on do it, you know you want to.