The sharp-eyed among you will notice that it`s not traditional to have a stag do after the wedding. Fear not. The stag do was before the wedding, but the writeup is after. If I put in the correct dates, it would never appear on the front page of the blog thing.
Both of my eager fans have asked me when the stag do writeup was going to appear here, so I thought I`d better write one. All the wedding planning made me rather lax about blogging, and I have a terrible memory, so it might not be very good. I`ve also left some parts deliberately ambiguous, so that their bland reality will be known only to those present at the stag do, and everyone else will be forced to think that I`m concealing something wickedly exciting that they missed out on.
My best man (Marcroft) and I agreed some time ago that the only real place we could have the stag do would be the Nürburgring racing circuit. After briefly consulting their calendar, a good weekend seemed to be that of 26th-27th August - the circuit was open to the public on the Sunday, but there was a VLN race that we could all watch running on the Saturday. This looked like an even better idea when it turned out that our friend Euan was intending racing in the VLN, so we`d have a team to root for. This decision made, I rather left the planning of the whole thing to Marcroft, who is to Event Planning what Stevie Wonder is to tennis.
To my surprise, he did a splendid job. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was the only person travelling to the event from Athens, but Mr Marcroft had managed to get a splendid turnout from my chums, and a good mix of car/non-car people.
As is always the way with weekend trips, we kicked off the Friday evening by staying out until 5am and getting so drunk that we were largely incapable for the whole of the next day. John Ross managed to do this in such a spectacular fashion that he was bedridden until 9am on Sunday (on his own). Fortunately, we`d elected to stay in Adenau, the party town of the region - whilst Nürburg has only two bars, Adenau has three, and only one of them feels like somebody`s front room.
On the Saturday we got up somewhere around lunchtime and went to watch the VLN race. I`d had a call from Euan rashly telling me that we were all very welcome to turn up in pit 31 and meet the race crew. A good chunk of us rolled up and we chatted for a while with Euan, Job (the team manager) and the two other drivers. The race started just before we arrived, so there was quite a lot of action in the other pits and down the pit lane. I could swear it was actually the same pit box they`d been using for the 24h race two years before, where Marcroft and I had pit-crewed. I hoped this part was vaguely interesting for the non-car people, but I couldn`t entirely tell.
We moseyed over to Brünchen to spectate for a while. Watching a race isn`t quite as exciting as watching the tourist-days, because people don`t slide around or crash quite as much in racing cars as they do in cars belonging to their employer or their mum. Go figure, as the Americans might say.
Then we went drinking in Adenau again. My memory is a little hazy. I think there was some electronic darts. There was a visit to Cherie Bar, which we thought might be a strip club but, as I think we realised when we discovered that we had to knock on the door to get in, wasn`t. This is one of the parts I`m leaving up in the air, as I proposed in the first paragraph.
On Sunday I made it to the track for 9am (well, 9:15), aware that I was unlikely to be able to drive for several hours. The track was decidedly wet anyway, so I wasn`t overly bothered. I passengered with Daniel Walker a couple of times, and then left him on his own at which point he decided to spin off at Adenau Forst, one of the few places you can spin off without hitting anything.
Eventually I did a couple of rather scrappy laps with the one-litre Punto that Avis had generously given me. Okay, so I don`t actually know whether it was one litre, but anything that`s struggling in third gear up Kesselchen can`t really be anything else. It`s a jolly nice car actually - with a bit more oomph it might really be quite fun. Compare this, dear reader, with the truly horrible A-class Mercedes that my brother had hired, which appeared to operate some sort of sophisticated fly-by-wire steering system. It was faster than mine in a straight line, but I`m not sure it had been designed for turning much. Luke had a Ford Focus "C-Max" - it`s like a normal Ford Focus but with a marginally more off-roady feel. Luke took full advantage of this by driving across the grass at Hocheichen giggling and squeaking "mo-o-o-o-ment!!!".
I went out again with Daniel, who drove around very competently. I then left him on his own at which point he decided to spin off at Brünchen 2, one of the few places you can spin off without hitting anything. With my dad (a man not wholly alien to spinning cars on racing circuits) in the passenger seat, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole affair.
Mr Marcroft, never a man of very many laps in a weekend, decided to have a quick spin around in his mini. He got as far as T13 (perhaps 5% in) before completing a neat one hundred and eighty degree spin and coming to rest a couple of inches from the Armco.
As the rain became heavier, Trev became a little less vocal in his proposals that I drive his Ferrari. Fortunately, I`d made the remarkeably far-sighted move of selling my old Impreza to Mr Paul Hollingsworth, and then inviting him to bring it to my stag do. He`d rather generously put me onto the insurance and I did a couple of laps earlier in the day, and finally one really rather good one in the absolutely pouring rain. I have decided that it`s actually much easier to drive when the whole track is covered in water rather than just small sections, as the whole lot becomes like a jolly predictable automotive skating rink. I think this last lap must go down in my memory as one of the best I`ve ever done, and certainly one of the only ones on a busy track where I`ve never been passed by anyone.
Oops, I forgot. Earlier in the day we went go-karting, in the indoor place by the F1 circuit. We split into two groups - "competitive" and "non-competitive". First up were the "competitive" group (unsurprisingly incorporating the whole of the Rae family).
I qualified second - Fred qualified first. Fred`s not someone whose self-confidence needs a boost, so it`s always disappointing to find something he`s actually quite good at. Well, I say "always", but actually I think this is the first time I`ve found something. Anyway, after about three corners I spun completely, got stuck in the tirewall and was extricated by the track staff a couple of seconds before the entire field lapped me. I managed to pass a couple of people and eventually caught up very slowly with Fred. I couldn`t get past him for love nor money, until eventually he pulled over on the straight, waved me past and chased me for a while instead. I let him past again and we carried on fooling around until the end of the race. I don`t think I`ve ever been quite so exactly evenly matched with someone on a karting race, and it was all a great hoot. Our fastest laps were 0.001 seconds apart, with Fred being faster due to what was clearly some sort of technical problem with the timing gear.
Next up were the "non-competitive" group. Key signs of non-competitiveness appear to be ramming each other, shouting, forcing other non-competitive people off the track and eventually beating the "competitive" group in fastest lap-times. The less said the better.
Our Sunday evening was rounded off with a rather delicious dinner at the Pistenklause (http://www.am-tiergarten.de/) and a rather rowdy session of arm-wrestling, in which every single attendee partook, including my father. It`s quite extraordinary how much your arm hurts afterwards, and for how many days. I don`t think Kiki believed my explanation, but I dread to think what she thought we were doing.
The whole event was really quite splendid fun. It was great to see a lot of people I hadn`t seen for a long time, and really rather odd to see people I never expected at the Nürburgring (Phil Mac, Shewan, Mitchell, Stu Smith et cetera). I hope they had a pleasant time. My passenger laps with Daniel were impressive, both in terms of the car and his knowledge of which direction it was about to squirm into. The ones with Luke were moments to treasure as ever - as Mr Potts once said to me, "that was brave! No, wait, what`s the other one?". Laps with Tony were somewhat disappointing as it`s only going to take a couple more trips before he`s faster than I am, which is annoying.
What I hadn`t really figured out was that my family were arriving in Greece a mere two days after the end of the stag do - almost a fortnight before the wedding. This meant a fairly unbroken two-week run of drinking for me, from which I`m yet to recover.
The photos, incidentally, are all Paul Hollingsworth`s. I don`t think I took any.