Closer to the edge – 9

A Happy New Year to family, friends and followers from somewhere in the Mediterranean.  Yesterday was New Year’s Eve and Barcelona which, short on money, had cancelled the fireworks.  Consequently the cruise ships upped anchors and headed for open seas, the local economy missing out on port fees and several thousand tourists with money to spend and pockets to pick; such is the self-fulfilling nature of a recession.

We have ‘done’ Barcelona before so we were excused the standard cultural obligations such as La Sagrada Familia, Guell Park and Las Ramblas and headed up to Montjuic Park.  For seven years, between 1969 and 1975, Montjuic Park was the glorious setting for the Spanish GP, quite the best street circuit ever devised.  A full lap is 2.35 miles which starts near the Olympic Stadium, weaves its way up and around the museums, drops down to the grand frontage of Pueblo Espanol before starting the climb back up to the start/finish in a series a glorious sweeping curves.  How fitting that a hero of my teenage years, Ronnie Peterson, holds the lap record for all time in the classic F1 car of its time, the Lotus 72.  This is the  eighth corner on Avinguda del Marques de Comillas as it heads uphill to Avinguda de l’Estadi and the finish line;  imagine Ronnie drifting through this apex at ten tenths, his Cosworth DFV screaming, life on the edge.  Fings ain’t what the used to be.

Montjuic ParkOn my return I found this wonderful footage from the 1971 GP, courtesy of  The stretch of track photographed appears in the background at around 3 minutes playing time and then again in the foreground at around 3 minutes 40 seconds.  Hallowed tarmac:

Montjuic Olympic Stadium

For some, Barcelona means Gaudi, for others, it means Zara.

Pam at Zara

Next stop Gibraltar and its monkeys where we have been advised not to forget those all-important animal snaps – who writes this stuff!

An autograph

What is the attraction of an autograph and why do we collect them. Maybe because it is a unique physical manifestation of the individual.  When all else is gone, the mark on the page is tangible evidence that the person once passed close by.  There are photographs and there are words but they lack the same direct personal interaction; there are intervening processes which put the subject at a distance.

autographn:  a handwritten signature, esp that of a famous person
From the Greek, then Latin autographum, meaning “self-written”; it originally meant “author’s own manuscript.”

My first autograph was Jimmy Adamson’s, player, coach and manager at Burnley FC.  Just a scrap of paper signed in his playing days when he visited my school in 1963.  Long since lost, that was the extent of my ‘collection’ until I started haunting Formula 1 paddocks in the late sixties and seventies.

In order to preserve these marks upon a page I took to getting books signed, ideally those with some relevance to the subject.  On the afternoon of 23rd October 1971 I bought Such Sweet Thunder,  the story of the Ford Grand Prix Engine by John Blunsden and David Phipps, then wandered around the Brands Hatch paddock on the eve of the Victory Race, held to celebrate Jackie Stewart’s second world title.  These are the autographs: Jackie Stewart, Ronnie Peterson and Jo Siffert with a photo I took of Jo just before he signed:

I was there for his best of days in 1968 and his worst of days in 1971.  The next day Seppi was gone, a suspension failure threw the car off the track at Hawthorns, the fuel tank ruptured and the smoke rose behind Druids from where we could see the rest of the field slowly peeling off into the pit lane.

A celebration had turned into a wake under a 9/11 sky; I never asked for an autograph again.