Sometimes you just don’t realise just how lucky you are. Two features this week made me understand just how lucky I’ve been which I definitely did not realise at the time. The first feature was in the Times newspaper all about the pressure on marriages and relationships for everybody and especially the teams working in the Formula One World Championship with yet another increase in the number of grands prix next year. The second on the television on Monday evening featured a Royal Navy frigate returning to Portsmouth after six months at sea. Waiting on the quayside was wives, girlfriends and children with welcome home balloons and placards, painted by the kids, to welcome back their loved ones after so long away.
Obviously I fully understood the dilemma of the Formula One teams after spending 38 years on the road working in both the MotoGP and Formula One. I’ve witnessed far too many times the gradual deterioration of a relationship with two partners constantly having to live separate lifes.Communication over the phone and later social media can wear very thin after so many years. Let’s be honest on the road doing a job you actually adore, a job that gives you so much excitement and satisfaction is a pretty good way to earn a very decent living. Of course you have to be focused but that focus can become totally obsessional and it’s so easy to lose sight of anything else and especially the more mundane but so important part of life back home. What happens if the drains are blocked, the car breaks down, the children are ill or often in my case there is a spider in the bathroom. The answer is simple when you are away around six months of the year your partner has to deal with it although in my case it was the next door neighbour who dealt with the spider. The person left at home running the show is the rock of these relationships. They keep the wheels of everyday life well-oiled while at the circuit practice and qualify performances, when and where is dinner and what time we are leaving for the circuit on Sunday morning takes over your life.
When I started covering grand prix motorcycling in 1980 there were just eight grands prix all in Europe. Next season there are 20 MotoGP events visiting 16 countries on five continents. The season with testing runs for almost 10 months which is a very long time. Of course the saving grace is coming home between races and testing which is absolutely crucial for both partners and especially the children.
The thought of being wedged in a tiny bunk in the bowels of a Frigate in a force eight gale for six months, stuck in a desert hole with bullets flying your head in the searing heat or living underwater for brain numbing months in a submarine does not sound a great deal of fun.
Of course we used to moan if the flight was delayed, the restaurant was closed and the bar had no draft beer. It’s only now I realise just how lucky I was.