April adventures: Our Anniversary weekend.

It’s hard to believe how fast a week has gone, not to mention how fast the last five years have gone!

Last Friday (6th April), Dan and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. He was working a long day shift which meant we wouldn’t be seeing that much of each other on the actual day so we decided to exchange gifts on Thursday. Generally we don’t normally ‘go big’ but I think we both felt like five years was a kind of milestone.

Dan started things by giving me a new wedding ring set. Not an official wedding ring by a long shot but he had noticed that I don’t wear a lot of my silver toned jewellery because my gorgeous engagement and wedding rings are yellow gold (and I’m one of those weird people that like to co-ordinate my jewellery!) I knew about this as the ring thing is something we have discussed at length as Dan has an issue wearing his official wedding ring at work and likes wearing his ring so we talked about having alternate ones for when they were required. We discussed that maybe for an anniversary we could have new rings purely for the times we wanted to wear something different. So this was apparently that anniversary. Because I knew about my rings a couple of months ago, I decided to get Dan a new one. I had selected a couple of ideas but asked Dan to try on and choose his favourite… it was a no brainer for him. He liked the black titanium ring. It was strong and quite a bit narrower than his official wedding ring so he knew he’d be comfortable working with it on.

What came next were the surprise gifts. A bottle of raspberry gin for me and a new lego car for dan (because he obviously doesn’t have enough! pah!) We also got these prosecco candles from Sainsburys. They smell delicious! My parents got us some gifts and money for a meal whilst we were away on our planned weekend away. It was a lovely way to spend Thursday evening. We laughed about the things that happened the day before the wedding and chatted about what we both did the night before the big day whilst we got everything ready for the weekend.

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On Friday, Dan went to work in the already packed car. We had arranged to meet each other at a pub so he didn’t need to drive all the way home to head back towards the motorway. Typically as things seem to be for us, the plan wasn’t as seamless as we had hoped… well, the truth be told, the plan got scrapped once Dan was en-route home and discovered a strange sound coming from the car! It made life a little easier for me in a way because I did what I always do and think of jobs to do last minute before I’m meant to leave. I had enough time to finish faffing about and completely gut my car ready for the journey.

We finally arrived at Brands Hatch at 9pm (two hours after our original eta). Perhaps I need to explain our choice of anniversary destination:

Dan and I are huge fans of the British Touring Car Championship. Although we have attended numerous rounds, we had never been to the season opening which is always held at Brands Hatch. For Dan’s birthday this year our friends clubbed together to get the tickets for this years opening rounds and I had got in with them by telling them I’d book a hotel for our anniversary (we usually camp on site but y’know. April weather and a special occasion equals a little more luxury required).

We arrived at the Kentagon (on site pub for the track) and met up with some of the marshals (including my cousin, also called Dan). It was lovely sharing the celebration with Dan as growing up we were really close and he’s always been someone I think a lot of. On our wedding day a photo was taken of the three of us. I named it the Dan-hanwich so this year I took the opportunity to recreate the picture 5 years on (in a much less glamorous setting).

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After a couple of drinks, Dan (hubby) and I headed off to find our hotel. I was expecting it to take a while to get to but I was so wrong. It really was a perfect location and much to our amusement we saw one of the touring car drivers’ car in the car park and on check in we were asked if we were with one of the teams… errrrrm yeah if it gives us some perks (wink wink). No, I was as ever very honest and said we were just fans. I can not tell you how wonderful it felt to arrive and not have to put up a tent in the cold and dark muddy field! Warm shower, squishy carpets and crisp bed sheets were utter bliss!

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On Saturday we got up stupidly early to go to the track for the practice and qualifying day (races in the support categories). We have a particular spot at the track that we like to sit on for the end of season (yep, the championship starts and ends at the same track although its the shorter ‘indy’ track for the opening rounds). Due to it’s popularity we like to get there early and set up for the day hassle free. Last year we bought a fishing shelter to use track side. It’s so easy to put up and it makes a huge difference when the rain is pouring and the wind is blowing! I got a phone call mid morning from a relative who announced that he’s just arrived with his youngest son and wanted to come and say ‘hello’. They stayed with us for a while before they went off to wander the track and look around the paddock. It was lovely to have a catch up without it being a big family get together which is the only time that we otherwise get to see each other.

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Where we sat on Paddock Hill, there wasn’t much ‘action’ given that the weather was at times so horrible that it created a pool at the bottom of the hill. (Please don’t think that I just attend to see crashes happen – I’m really not but when the track is damp there are usually some pretty good spins or trips to the gravel). I’m not sure whether it being the start of the season plays into that and everyone is more ‘careful’ but the driving was good and at times quite fierce. I cant believe how fast the indy track is. It takes just over a minute for the cars to do the loop and there’s just the tiniest margins that separate the drivers. For me, this made spectating confusing at times but also really fun (once I’d got the live timings up and kept a track of what was happening). I find the live commentary and interviews interesting too as it’s where you find out about the teams, the drivers and the different set ups which obviously play into where the car ends up on the grid. At the end of the day, we decided to secure our fishing tent and leave it up for the next day. It’s something that we have always seen people do but have never done ourselves. It just saved some faff on the Sunday as usually that is more busy and we knew what the weather had predicted over night so neither of us wanted to be trampling around in the mud sorting it out.

We decided to head straight to the pub next to the hotel for dinner. We foolishly didn’t book so it meant that we had to wait for an hour to be seated. This played into our timings quite well because it meant we could go to the hotel room and freshen up whilst we waited. We were eventually seated and no sooner had we taken our jackets off, a couple who had obviously (because they were wearing team gear) been to the track too were given the table next to us. When I say that, I mean, we were basically on the same table they were that close together! It wasn’t exactly the place you would want to sit if you wanted privacy! The couple (Sharron and Paul) were members of the Rob Austin Owners Club and not only were they a lovely couple, they were so informative and advised us which track is an absolute must (Knockhill, you have these to thank when we make the trek up). We’d be going this year if it meant we didn’t have to leave our holiday a day early. I can honestly say that when we had diners sitting so close to us we were a little eye rolly but straight away we hit it off and it made our anniversary meal so much more special because we got to meet such lovely people. They have invited us to join them at future races and it’s just so lovely to connect with not only fans of the sport we love but really passionate people for community, team work and racing as a whole. Despite the age gap, we actually had quite a lot in common and probably could have chatted for even longer. I think it was the longest dinner out I have ever had. Dan suggested seeing if we could book another night to extend the anniversary and so we didn’t have to drive back in damp, muddy clothing. Luckily they had room which was a relief and turned out to be a god send!

On Sunday I wasn’t feeling my best. It wasn’t the worst by a long shot but it wasn’t the nicest feeling. I literally felt like I couldn’t human very well so everything was disjointed and a little silent to start off with. Once Dan (I can take absolutely no credit for this) had rearranged the shelter and set our little seating area up I managed to have a bit of a sleep. I woke up when Dan and Ian (the marshals) appeared to say good morning and then again when my relative arrived to say hello but I think I nodded off a few times during the day – that is by no means a reflection on what was on track.

I love the closeness of the driving, the ‘elbows out’ brutality of getting through a pack of tightly knit cars. The familiar sound of beefy cars, the smell that fills the air and the chest rattle you get when they flying past is just a sensory overload that I cant explain. It’s almost addictive! Being track side beats watching on TV now I’ve been bitten by the bug. Don’t get me wrong, we have the box set to record for when we get home. It helps piece together the bits that you miss trackside and the only down point to the weekend is that they didn’t have the usual big screen up showing the TV coverage (I have a feeling that the weather decided this for them).

Marshal Dan sent a tween into the communication tower wishing Dan and I a happy fifth anniversary which got read out over the loud speakers, so sweet!

During the lunch break, the touring car drivers did their usual parade on the podium truck. All of them crammed on like cattle so they can go around the track waving at spectators whilst being interviewed live. The lorry came to a jolting stop on the hill up to druids (to the left of us) which created the first wave of laughter and a little further on Tom Ingram was being interviewed when he noticed a man stood pulling a moonie at them. “THERE’S A BLOKE WITH HIS BUTT OUT” shouted Tom mid interview… well that created a huge laugh and a few cheers which really brightened up the damp, cold day. I tweeted in saying it had to be the best interview of the weekend (which got read out over the speakers). Absolutely hilarious!

By the end of the day I felt fully into the swing of this season and had the buzz of excitement for the coming months. If we aren’t track side we will be glued to the TV coverage that’s for sure!

We hung around for a short while to let the traffic go down. It was a good opportunity to spend some more time with my cousin and his buddies. The field where we parked turned into a very muddy slippery field. This created havoc for those in motorhomes or pulling caravans! Husband Dan joined the marshals in pushing a few out. It was slightly amusing guessing which ones were struggling and every time Dan had changed his shoes over to his clean trainers, another one got stuck so in the end he kept his boots on until we were absolutely ready to leave.

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That extra night in the hotel is what we both needed. It was lovely to have a lay in and have a less rushed start to a day on Monday morning. I slept nearly all the way home and Dan said he wanted to have a sleep before work (night shift) so I snuggled up in bed and that was my Monday, totally wiped out. Whilst I know that these weekends are exhausting, I wouldn’t stop going for the world. I get my adrenaline fix, I have quality time with Dan and it’s something we both really enjoy.

It was the most incredible birthday/anniversary weekend away and the thought behind the idea was just wonderful. I can’t thank our friends enough!

This week I have been trying to save up some energy and charge up my internal batteries ready for weekend number two… a totally different adventure. I’m so looking forward to that!

Click the following links for my other touring car blog posts.

My surprise at the BTCC

Thinking of you Billy23.

If you’re interested in our wedding, pop back on Wednesday (7pm) for part two of Wedding Wednesday you can read part one here.

To read about my first adventure this April, click here!

What ever you are up to this weekend, I hope you have a good one!

Han.x

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