A Badger in Belgium
Published 6th September 2011 - Written by Benson Jammichello
Coming to you a week later than anticipated, this is an account of Badger writer Benson Jammichello’s trip to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with IntentsGP, purveyors of pre-set up tents at various Grand Prix weekends. You can find them on twitter – @IntentsGP
Right, where to start? A brief background: Badger was offered the chance to go along to the Belgian Grand Prix with IntentsGP to see what they do and to get a feel for the camping side of F1. This included travelling both ways with the team and helping them set up all of their kit and, needless to say, take it down again.
This account is written in the style of a brief diary and contains my actions, thoughts and general musings on my time in Belgium.
Wednesday, August 24th
Leave my house in central(ish) London at 12.45am to get on the bus to Heathrow. Consider it an ungodly hour. Begin to question whether I really like F1 that much. Decide I do.
Get on N3 in Kennington and then the N9 at Trafalgar Square (which is a great bus by the way – highly recommend it). Arrive at Heathrow c. 0145. Hang around in a lay by for half an hour waiting for Mark from IntentsGP (en route from Bristol to Folkestone) to pick me up. Wonder if this is what my life has come to. Lay bys at 2 in the morning.
Mark from IntentsGP arrives then proceeds to drive van right past me. Wonder if he’s taken one look at me and thought better of it. Comes round a second time. Wave like the sea. Get in van. Reflect that London at night is very quiet. Consider I must be sleep deprived.
Chat to Mark on way down. Aware I’m babbling like an idiot. Mark drinks a lot of energy drink. Think it must be to maintain a slight buzzing in the ears to drown me out.
Get to Folkestone at 4am-ish. Have a cup of tea. Like tea. £1.75. Bloody cheek.
Meet Alex (Mark’s brother) and Olwyn (their mother) prior to going through the tunnel. Both very nice. Think I’m not at my best, though do admirable job in holding it all together.
Still awake at 0430 – no let up in sight.
Go through tunnel. Sleep for half an hour. Drive to Bruges. Have breakfast. Nice. Lardons. Yummy.
Full up and back on road. One van (driven by Alex) feeling strain as we tonk along Belgian motorways. Not as good as a solid British motorway. Scenery not much kop.
Play a game to stay entertained. Name as many famous Belgians as you can – Hergé, Hercule Poirot, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Jerome D’Ambrosio. Game over as quickly as I expect. Muse that it isn’t a particularly stellar list.
Feel less tired as of 1234 local time. Will I ever need to sleep again? Tweet that I am invincible. 10 minutes pass. Consider I probably will need to sleep again. Try. Indulge in a multitude of micro-sleeps. Wonder if this is how birds sleep. Arrive at answer. Yes.
Arrive at campsite c. 2pm. Erect tents and marquee. Two locals provide “help”. They’re not good (not that I claim to be a tent-putting-up-genius). Help Mark and Alex to erect some tents and think I might be starting to get the hang of it. Campsite owner is a fearsome woman, with a good line in single word rebuttals. Mostly “no”. Ignore her. Continue to erect tents.
Sleep deprivation really setting in. Keep referring to “France” when I mean “Belgium”.
Go with IntentsGP down into Stavelot. Go to a nice restaurant. Eat a Sicilian pizza. Wonder why I’ve come to Belgium to eat Pizza. Decide I like Pizza. Ignore self.
Indulge in a glass of local beer called “Kwack” as recommended by IntentsGP. Decide they may be very good at putting up tents, but they’re less good at recommending beer. Too sweet for me. Wonder how hard it would be to get a pint of Harveys Sussex Best.
Return to campsite; in bed by 2130 UK time. Comfy. Sleep till 0630.
Thursday 25th August
Have a chat to man by wash basins. He has a rat’s tail. Still, seems nice enough. Compare seating plans for Grand Prix. British people abroad – maintaining polite conversation since time immemorial.
Have dispensed with the “help” of two locals. Erect last three or four tents.
Next task is to put air beds in tents and put sheets on. Attempt to put a single sheet on a double bed for something approaching 10 minutes. Stop. Get double sheet. Things work better.
IntentsGP guests starting to arrive. Campsite as a whole filling up really quickly. Time spent filling cool boxes with ice blocks, cutlery, BBQ tools and other sundry items.
Olwyn demonstrates a high level of skill in the kitchen and whips up a lovely dinner of wraps and salad.
Chat to guests over a beer afterwards. Tell them Badger is amazing. Think I manage to convince them. Go to bed. Some minor rowdiness on campsite apparently. Hear nothing. Dead to the world.
Friday, 26th August
Should feel excited about seeing real F1 cars in action today. Instead, wake up at 0630 again and feel bloody groggy. Stagger around. Decide to go and have breakfast. Eat cereal.
Perform ablutions. Portaloos still in cracking nick. Bewildered as to how this can be.
Pack bag to go to Spa. Still have no idea which way is up. Get in free taxi shuttle to circuit. Takes all of four minutes. Make a mental note to congratulate IntentsGP on choosing such a conveniently located campsite. Wonder if I should have walked. Discard that notion as ridiculous.
Realise I have forgotten Badger badge. Don’t tell Adam, who will probably a) fly over to make sure I have one or b) attack me. Think discretion is the better part of valour.
Enter circuit with full intention of sitting at Les Combes. Take wrong turn and end up at Pouhon (where I watched last season’s qualifying). Decide it’s pretty good and stay.
Am bathed in glorious sunshine and then, just as quickly, huddling under an umbrella as torrential rain pours down. Now don’t regret spending £16 on a pair of waterproofs before departure.
In break between practice sessions take a stroll down to Les Combes. Decide Pouhon is better. Return and sit in nearly exactly the same spot. Think this probably won’t happen on race day.
Notice how place has filled up. Still large gap around me though. Wonder if this has anything to do with lack of shower.
On another note, notice some F1 fans have dodgy beards. Do not include myself in that bracket.
Stop reading my newspaper and spend some time musing. Consider drinking beer at 0900 to be barbaric and reflect on a lack of civilisation. Wonder what world is coming too. Eat three cereal bars during period of reflection. Am no closer to solving The Big Question Of Our Time.
Two gentlemen arrive and lay out large, homemade banners in praise of Schumacher and, I think, Spa. Sign in English. Consider this odd. Smells of paint. Wish they had painted it in creosote. Like the smell of creosote. Gentlemen leave. Worry people will think I own/spent time making sign. Try to look as non-German as possible. Await opportunity to belt out the national anthem and/or Jerusalem.
Hate air horns. Probably used by people who drink beer at 9am.
Enjoy FP2, although wish those around me would bugger off.
Practice finishes – go straight back to campsite as, not to put too fine a point on it, I ache. All over.
Go back to the campsite. Sit down. Eat food. Chat to man about F1. Go to bed.
Part 2 will be published very soon folks, so stay tuned to hear how Badger’s Benson Jammichello got on Saturday and Sunday and whether his waterproofs survived… Read Part 2 of this account here