… for the boys – my boys that is. A series of images from the 2021 MotoGP at Silverstone from 27th to 29th August. A birthday present from them all for a significant birthday – this is the simplest way for me to share the results of a great weekend. It was so good, we have been discussing plans for 2022 🙂
Miss Bracher lived at the bottom of our street and owned a Wolseley 150. An ageing spinster, the Wolseley’s long face was entirely in keeping with her narrow features and thin life. A few doors up, John Fawcett’s dad owned a Standard Vanguard. A slightly rotund young boy with a matching father, the American inspired design, bench seats and column gear change, were custom-made for the over-size family (young John is second from the left, here).
My dad’s Mk1 Ford Consul with its svelte modern lines was entirely in keeping with my view of the world and my place in it.
We lived at number 12, the duodecimal house. Years later I would come to understand the magic properties of the 1900 Series 24-bit word mainframes, supporting four 6-bit characters per word and using octal for binary short-hand, it was inherently superior to the IBM systems, which used 8-bit bytes and hex. Not everything that is best survives. Similarly, for years I worked on X.400 based messaging systems, a significantly more elegant, reliable and efficient standard to SMTP which is used across the Internet. If I have lost you, worry not – put simply, once everything was right with the world, now I am not so sure.
That uncertainty crept in during my teenage years and never left the room. My passion for the still image, I owe to my dad – an industrial chemist, he taught me the secrets of the dark room at a very young age. I can still conjure him into existence with the smell of developer and fixer. He had no real interest in cars and even less in motor sport. When they became the centre of my existence, we effectively went our separate ways.
That separation means I struggle to connect with his ghost but there are plenty of photographs and, occasionally, words. This from a blog post in 2013: It is from a small photograph album made up of 3 x 2 inch contact prints which he put together as a young boy – they are individually captioned in a manner consistent with a 10-12 year old; this one – Mummy Daddy and Baby:
Earlier this week I got the opportunity to sit in an Austin Ruby, a slightly later model of this car. A wonderful machine, beautifully preserved, it would be a fictional pretence to suggest I was aware of my dad’s presence. However, it did reinforce something I had always felt – we were born to an entirely different age. Dad would have been 100 in 2020 – anything we shared together, is all so long ago:
The trip to Duns has become an annual pilgrimage. Last year in April, to commemorate fifty years since Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim in 1968 and, this year, for the opening of the extended and much enhanced museum. Last year in the Elise, this year, 167 miles on the F850 GS on a perfect day for riding.
The displays include a new commemorative film, his trophies, a walk-around time-line of memorabilia and two of his iconic vehicles: the Lotus 25 R6 on loan from the Tinguely Museum Switzerland and a Lotus Cortina on loan from Dario Franchitti – perfect choices. Clark was stunning in any Lotus but for real entertainment, there was no better sight than Jim flying the Ford at ten tenths through the apex on three wheels.
Looking at the Cortina more closely, I was reminded that they were originally badged under the Consul brand. My parents belonged to the ‘Ford family’ owning three consecutive Consuls throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. They have appeared at various times in this blog, including the original MK1. Just at the time they might have gone down the Cortina road, they chose the Corsair – a big mistake, the first being so unreliable, it was quickly replaced by another. I can only assume at a significant discount.
The primary difference between the two Corsairs was that the first’s crunchy column-change was finally replaced with a standard floor-change in the second. Mother had learned with a column-change and in her usual determined fashion, she was sticking to it, long after it was a good idea. When they returned from working abroad in the mid 1970s they remained loyal to Ford, finally acquiring a Mk III Cortina. After that it was a Volvo 343 followed by a series of pedestrian Vauxhalls. As with many other aspects of their later years, automotively they had lost their way.
On my first ride out on the Tracer this year I bumped into three guys doing publicity shots for a new AMG Mercedes C63s V-8 Bi-turbo at Cawfield Quarry, close to Hadrian’s Wall. It is a desirable beast which sounds very purposeful, even on tick-over. Fundamentally, it’s all about the thrill of speed, which makes you wonder why you would spend quite so much on such a car when could buy a garage-full of motorcycles for the same money. On two wheels, exposed to the elements, you really do get to find out what speed feels like.
Accompanying the post on Blipfoto I included a link to this video which for some reason became inaccessible – so here it is embedded in WordPress:
This was also the week that Nissan announced they would not be building the X-Trail at their Sunderland plant, all of which put me in mind of a prophetic piece written by Holman W Jenkins Jr, for the Wall Street Journal in September 2017 – Standby for a global car crash …
German politicians and journalists have spent much of the summer condemning Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and VW for ‘dieselgate’, saying they’ve besmirched the tag “Made in Germany”. And it’s true that the conduct of firms like VW, which cheated on emissions tests, was egregious. But it’s also true that the emissions scandal arose entirely from the politically correct meddling of European politicians whose pursuit of meaningless reductions in carbon dioxide forced car-makers to replace petrol models with diesel ones, thereby making air in European cities significantly less breathable. And it was politicians and policymakers who provided the loopholes exploited by car-makers because they wanted to ensure that their cars remained marketable. Governments from Berlin to Beijing are now doubling down on that mistake by insisting that car-makers build electric cars that can only be sold at a steep loss. With oil at $50/barrel, and petrol engines continuing to make impressive efficiency gains, that will require an even more implausible magic act to preserve car industries and jobs. A car-wreck is coming that will make dieselgate look like a fender bender.
… old friends.
Last Sunday evening Miss Janet Clinksale was sitting in her cottage in the Berwickshire village of Chirnside, listening to Songs of Praise on television.
Janet’s home is close to Chirnside kirk, and it was in the churchyard there that Jim Clark was laid to rest two weeks ago. From her window, Janet could see scores of visitors passing her cottage to visit Jim’s grave, and pay tribute to him.
As you may know, Songs of Praise came from Lenzie last week, and it was led by Kenneth McKellar. When Kenneth began to sing, as a solo, the old Easter hymn, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross,” it was so beautiful that Janet turned up the sound on her TV, and threw open her front door so the visitors could hear it, too.
As Kenneth’s voice soared out into the still, sunny evening, echoing over the fields, the strangers on the road stopped and gathered round Janet’s door to listen. Then one of them began to sing the hymn quietly, until all of them were singing it with Kenneth McKellar. Even the village bobby was there, standing with them.
It was one of those magic moments when time seems to stand still – and when the last notes died away and the visitors turned to go, they took with them a memory that will always be green.
A local Borders paper, May 1968.
Jim Clark’s memory still burns bright. On Saturday (7th April 2018) we drove the Elise up to Duns and Chirnside, fifty years to the day since that tragic accident at Hockenheim on the saddest of Sundays. Newtown Street in Duns was closed off – a variety of Lotus cars lined the road, Classic Team Lotus displayed a collection of his single seaters, there was an anniversary exhibition at Chirnside Hall and a Commemoration Service at Chirnside Church.
This is one of my favourite stories from that sad time which occurred many miles from the small town of Chirnside. I first came across it in Eric Dymock’s 1997 book – Jim Clark – Tribute to a Champion, Prologue and Epilogue, page 26 – it is unattributed. The Motor Sport archive is more specific: Shortly after Ed and Sally (Swart) moved to California in 1980 they attended a beach party where one of the guests told them that the day after Clark’s death he had been driving along the 405 freeway. The announcer on the radio suggested that all those listening who were mourning the death of “the great racing driver Jim Clark” should turn on their headlights. He said the whole of the 405 lit up.
Everything passes, everything changes. The objects I idolised as a boy are now museum pieces and the heroes I worshipped are gone but, the obsessions remain. I am old enough to look at these machines and remember their day of revolution; the days they rolled off the transporter ramps into a world aghast at their modernity. I am old enough to remember the consequences of their frailties.
plural noun: relics
– an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical interest.
– a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.
Both definitions apply. All of these machines have personal significance beyond their histories: the first time I saw them in the pages of Autosport; the first time I saw them in the ‘flesh’; the first time I saw them in flight; the still moment I heard of the tragedies. All of them represent remembrance of things past and none more so than those that carry the green and yellow badge:
Maybe in some distant place, everything is already, quietly, lost. Or at least there exists a silent place where everything can disappear, melding together in a single, overlapping figure. And as we live our lives we discover – drawing towards us the thin threads attached to each – what has been lost.
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
… they are things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it’s not known if the environment is quite ready for them – Max Ackerman – one of the two primary characters in Nicholas Mosley’s book, Hopeful Monsters.
According to Wiki, the German geneticist Richard Goldschmidt (1878 – 1958) was the first scientist to use the term “hopeful monster”. Goldschmidt believed the large changes in evolution were caused by macromutations (large mutations). Some modern scientists have written that hopeful monsters are neither impossible nor should be seen as anti-Darwinian because, even if proven to exist, they would not replace the evidence for gradual evolution by mutation but supplement it. The early neo-Darwinian synthesis theorists had rejected hopeful monsters due to lack of evidence however, some now believe that Goldschmidt was not entirely wrong.
The author Nicholas Mosley is the half brother of Max Mosley and the eldest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the English politician known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists, and his first wife, Lady Cynthia Mosley. Lady Cynthia died in 1933, and in 1936 Sir Oswald married Diana Mitford, in a ceremony in Germany attended by Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler. Monsters to a man. Max was born in 1940.
In my teenage years, when my universe revolved around motor sport, I was keenly aware of Max Mosley’s racing exploits. He competed nationally and internationally between 1966 and 1968 before retiring and becoming the M in March Engineering; he would eventually spend four terms as president of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).
The FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motorcyclisme) is the two-wheeled equivalent of the FIA, acting as sanctioning body for the MotoGP World Championship and the overall governing body of motorcycling sport at a world level. It groups together 112 National Motorcycle Federations across six continents.
All of which brings me, in a roundabout fashion, to my new Monster. The 78.9 hp 696 variant had to go – physically too small (Bike magazine described it as a two thirds size motorcycle) it was playing havoc with my back and wrists. Enter the 112 hp 821 Ducati Monster Dark. This is more of a Darwinian evolution than a macromutation – it weighs more, mainly due to being water-cooled, but has much improved space for the rider. It feels like you are sitting in the bike rather than over the bars – a disconcerting aspect of the 696. Best of all, even with stock cans, it sounds like it has just escaped the underworld – I love it 🙂
You don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding is the well known adage of the more mature rider. There is no finer example than the 90 year old John Berger who not only still rides but has the descriptive skills to express what the rest of just feel:
… except for the protective gear you’re wearing, there’s nothing between you and the rest of the world. The air and the wind press directly on you. You are in the space through which you are travelling. Your contact with the outside world is more intimate. You’re more conscious of the road surface, its subtle variations, its potholes, whether it’s dry or damp, of mud or gravel; you’re aware of the hold of the tyres, or their lack of it; bends produce another effect: if you enter one properly, it holds you in its arms. A hill points you to the sky. A descent lets you dive into it. Every contour line on the map of the country you are riding through means your axis of balance has changed…This perception is visual but also tactile and rhythmic. Often your body knows quicker than your mind.
This seems such a bad idea that it is hard to believe the proposal has gained any traction. It has echoes of Trump’s infamous Aberdeenshire golf course. According to The Herald newspaper, ‘Plans to build a visitor centre overlooking the old Military Road at the rest and Be Thankful, have received the backing of motorsport legend, Sir Jackie Stewart … The proposed Rest and Be Thankful Heritage Project would celebrate the road’s link to Scotland’s rich motoring history. The centre is planned to include a cafe and arts spaces within a contemporary building.
I have had a lifelong passion for the motor racing of the 1950s, 60s and 70s having witnessed many of the great drivers of the period in action, not least Sir Jackie – they have my undying admiration. Equally I have a passion for the wild places of Scotland. By all means celebrate Scotland’s rich motoring history but surely not at the expense of the glorious unspoiled Glencroe. No matter how sympathetic the architecture, this is a commercial venture in a wholly inappropriate place.
While researching Golf in the Wild I made several trips to Inveraray via Glencroe and on every occasion I stopped at the summit of Rest And Be Thankful to admire the fine view down the glen and imagine the magnificent men in their racing machines ascending the old road. Some acknowledgement of recent history would be welcome, an information board or even a replica of the Race Control shed at the summit – if I remember correctly, the foundations still exist. The rest of Rest’s story can be told elsewhere.
This is a short extract from Golf in the Wild:
Circling Arrochar, the top of Loch Long and passing the old torpedo testing site, the road heads north west up Glen Croe. For centuries this route has been known as the Rest And
Be Thankful. The road has its origins in the Jacobite uprisings when General George Wade recommended establishment of military bases interconnected by Highland roads such that troops could be moved quickly and conveniently between locations to quell any local uprisings. The General’s Inspector of Roads, Major Caulfield, first surveyed the route in 1743 and by 1748 the road over the Glen Croe summit was completed by troops from the 24th Regiment who erected a stone seat with the legend ‘Rest And Be Thankful’. The remainder of the road down to Loch Fyne was completed in 1749.
The modern day A83 eventually replaced the original single track highway at the end of the 1930s and as you drive along the south western flank of Ben Arthur, stretches of the original route can be seen below on the floor of the Glen. Whilst the modern version ascends gradually by cutting a route along the mountainside, the original delays the steep ascent to the last. This had glorious consequences.
In 1949 the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC) used the final one mile ascent of the Wade-Caulfield route to establish the magnificent Rest And Be Thankful hillclimb, an event which continued almost uninterrupted for another twenty years. Jackie Stewart describes this place as ‘the cradle of my life in motor racing’ (Winning is Not Enough, the autobiography 2007), first as a spectator, watching his elder brother Jim compete in his Healey Silverstone and later, in July 1961, as a competitor in a Ford powered Marcos. Stewart has fond memories of these times, ‘the public address announcer shouting out the names of the drivers and their cars and all their split times and his voice would echo down the Glen and I used to sit there wide-eyed enjoying a spectacle as thrilling and exhilarating as any young boy could imagine, hardly daring to blink’; and so in the shadow of Ben Arthur began the drive to fame, fortune and the career-long dance with death and tragedy.
From the A83, the old road looks innocuous but in that last mile it rises over 400 feet creating a hill climb as challenging as any in Europe. Archive newsreel from the 1950 event projects a diverse array of machinery, mostly pre-war and pre-conformity, the only design constraints being the imagination. Dennis Poore in the monstrous flying Pegasus bi-wheeled 4.5 litre Alfa 8C-35, Raymond Mays and Ken Wharton in ERAs and Basil Davenport in the skinny GN Spider, all forward and trust in the Lord, a seriously strange but effective device dating from the early 1920s where the driver appears to sit astride the car in homage to its cyclecar origins. All arms and elbows, they attack Stonebridge, Cobblers and the Hairpin with true grit, determination – and no protection.
In July 1958 Jim Clark competed here in both a Porsche 1600S and a Triumph TR3, finishing first and second respectively. On his way home he called on his friend Jim Stewart at Dumbuck Garage where his younger brother Jackie raced out of the house eager to see this rising star. It would be 1962 before they were formally introduced at
Charterhall and from that moment their lives were intertwined, until that fateful day at Hockenheim on 7th April 1968.
This final image shows the hairpin prior to resurfacing in April 2012.
Many thanks to Maurice1948 on Blip for highlighting the story from The Herald.
I enjoy making connections. The photograph of the Porsche Cars (GB) Ltd Carrera 6, 906-101 was taken at the Oulton Park Tourist Trophy on 29th April 1966 (driven by Peter de Klerk). The panned image was grabbed at Knickerbrook using a standard lens on a Werra 35mm camera – enlarged by my dad to get closer to the action, this accounts for the ‘artistic’ grain. I was entranced by the lines of this fabulous machine, lines which are much appreciated to this day – the last time this car appeared at Bonham’s, it sold for €579,500 (£483,303). Picking the right car in the pan can be attributed to the dumb luck of youth.
I was prompted to find and scan this image because I wanted to find a connection between this and the Porsche 550 Spyder. Sure enough, both works of automotive art were produced by the one man – Erwin Komenda. Born in 1904, he died a few months after the Tourist Trophy, on 22nd August 1966 – the Porsche 906 was thus his parting gift to the racing nation, a machine which set the Porsche design language for years to come.
Why the Porsche 550 Spyder? Because this is the machine, Little Bastard, that James Dean drove to his death in September 1955. All of this was prompted by watching Life, Anton Corbijn’s film based on the friendship between Life photographer Dennis Stock and James Dean. This is Dennis Stock telling the story of his relationship with Dean and how he captured one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – Corbijn’s film dramatises this friendship:
We must get home–for we have been away
So long, it seems forever and a day!
And O so very homesick we have grown,
The laughter of the world is like a moan
In our tired hearing, and its song as vain,–
We must get home–we must get home again!
We must get home: All is so quiet there:
The touch of loving hands on brow and hair–
Dim rooms, wherein the sunshine is made mild–
The lost love of the mother and the child
Restored in restful lullabies of rain,–
We must get home–we must get home again!
We must get home again–we must–we must!–
(Our rainy faces pelted in the dust)
Creep back from the vain quest through endless strife
To find not anywhere in all of life
A happier happiness than blest us then …
We must get home–we must get home again!
James Whitcomb Riley
After a long wet winter, I have been grabbing sunshine and spending much less time at the keyboard. This can only be a good thing. My daily images on Blipfoto tell a story of warm weather and escape: on canals, on two wheels, on golf courses – some might say an unlikely combination but the stereotypical biker is a myth. We are all differently made but we ride for the same reasons.
My good lady recently bought me a digital subscription to Iron and Air, an American bike magazine which combines images and words verging on the poetic. In my usual compulsive manner, I am working my way through every back copy – this from Dave Karlotski, Season of the Bike, in Issue 1:
“At 30 miles an hour and up, smells become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree-smells and flower-smells flit by like chemical notes in a great plant symphony. Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly that it’s as though the past hangs invisible in the air around me … “
Riding the arrow-straight Military Road that runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland you cross paths with heavily laden lumber lorries carrying timber south from the forests at Kielder. At 60mph they create a bow wave, an invisible wake of air that unsettles the bike at a combined speed in excess of 100mph. For a very brief moment in time the air turns warm and heavy with the scent of diesel – it is an oddly intimate and uplifting experience.
“Cars lie to us and tell us we’re safe, powerful and in control. The air-conditioning fans murmur empty assurances and whisper, “Sleep, sleep.” Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that’s no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride.”
This post dedicated to Ian Bell, supplier of this Yamaha.