Lousy weather forecast for our trip to Jerez for the Formula One testing. Two thin jumpers plus my t-shirt from last year’s visit to el Circuito de Jerez. And the big warm cosy coat for good measure. A ten year old coat, but newish to me.
Chilly all the way there, from meeting at Arco del Sol for a ridiculously early coffee and moving the guys’ rucksacks into my car. Another coffee on the way. We pull into el Circuito de Jerez just before 10am, buy our VIP tickets (access all areas – almost!) and head straight for the VIP tribuna – the stand overlooking the pit lane and the team garages.
In the stand I dump the coat to cover the damp seat and we hunker down for a late sandwich breakfast. Most of the teams are still pushing out the cars for their first circuits of the track. Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg (plus we’d seen Felipe Massa in the car park) …. all very exciting! New regulations for the forthcoming season mean the cars have rather ugly front ends (noses like hoovers, was the general view), and extra tubes and flashing lights on the back. The new turbo engines combine with the revised aerodynamic shapes to give a lot more grunt and power coming out of the corners which should be exciting when the season begins.
At testing, not all the sponsors’ badges have been painted onto the cars yet, but Jenson Button’s helmet has a touching “R.I.P. Papa” on it. I sit back down after taking photos and feel a stone in the lining of the coat. No, not a stone, an aged lump of chewed gum, hard as a bullet. I’ve never chewed gum. A memory tugs inside me, but outside Paco itches to move on to the next bend for better pictures, while Antonio relaxes, breathing in “el olor de Pirelli” – the smell of burning rubber.
The VIP tickets allow us to wander up to the top end of the track and join the line-up of keen photographers at the final bend, and over to the control tower with its Tio Pepe sherry adverts and topped with the iconic tipsy bottle. A minor crash has us all scuttling over to the other side to watch the Williams car being covered with sheets and loaded onto the flatbed to be taken back to the pitlane.
We continue round the track enjoying the different viewpoints, stop on top of the bridge to see Sergio Perez crunch onto the gravel at turn one with smoke pouring out of the Force India. Over to the last of the stands (outside the VIP area and distinctly tattier), and after almost seven hours at the trackside we call it a day.
On the way back we are stopped in a police roadblock. The Guardia Civil go round to the driver’s side. Antonio, driving that stretch, slightly nervously asks me if I have my paperwork. I do. The Guardia motions to Antonio to roll down the window. “¿De donde eres?” – where are you from? he asks. “Portuguese with a Dutch passport, living in Colmenar” replies Antonio. “I’m English, living in Colmenar” I add, and Paco pipes up from the back seat “I’m from Madrid if that helps”. The Guardia looks bemused and decides to wave us through. It hadn’t occurred to us until then what a strange grouping we make. How did three incomers to southern Spain, all from different origins, end up in my car coming back from Formula One testing? How do random strangers become friends? An interesting question but unanswerable. Paco teaches me a new phrase – “La vida da muchas vueltas” – life takes many turns.
Back indoors, home-made paella from the freezer and I peel off my layers. The coat is grubby from the wet seats. It can go in the wash tomorrow. As I carry it through to the laundry a hint of scent rises suddenly and knocks me sideways. Really? Is that possible? Two years since she wore it? Twenty months since she died? But mum’s perfume is unforgettable so I hug the coat close to me and breathe her in. The stains can stay – that coat isn’t going in the wash, not while there’s even the vestige of scent, or possibly just an imagined memory of scent. An unforgettable day ends with the most unforgettable memories of all.
© Tamara Essex 2014
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
Back at my village’s language school www.axalingua.com we are struggling along with more of the subjunctive. No me gusta que ellos fumen. I don’t like it that they smoke. Me irrita que no me llamen. It irritates me that they don’t call me. Me molesta que aún no tengas. It annoys me that you still don’t have it. Me preocupa que sepan todo. It worries me that they know everything.
As long as I hang onto the fact that QUE triggers the subjunctive I’m alright. But I suspect it’s going to get a whole lot more complicated.