Friday 8 June 2018

The Post

The Sunrise Sevens. It started with this post, the broken one:

Sixes and Sevens.

Some while ago, 18 Sevens met in the car park at Farnham station for a Sunday morning drive out, the resultant gathering of an invite on the Lotus Seven Club forum a few days earlier. This gathering being the culmination of a series of weekend call-up posts that had grown in popularity.The local knowledge from our rich catchment area of club members had produced some great routes on roads that 'exercised' the Seven's capability. Who wouldn't come back for more? And the popular morning drive had grown in numbers and reputation. 

18 Sevens. A little damp on the road, with a 7 am start, but the enthusiasm had defaulted the expectation to 'it'll dry up in a bit'... oh, and did I mention this was about 12 years ago? 

The blatiquette was a little different in those days: Follow the leader, or the bloke in front, it was just a matter of keeping up. Normally that worked, but 'normally' wouldn't have factored in 18 Caterham Sevens all in the chase, it was a little outside of our experience and, as it would transpire, most others too. 'Normal' these days now includes the use of Sat-navs for route sharing, a programme like Tyre  was in it's infancy back then, even if it existed at all. Remember also, that this was a Sunday morning blat, not an organised cruise or rally with a carefully managed set of MSA guidelines from which to direct the proceedings.

So, 7 o'clock : departure. And a snake of  7evens began to stream out of Farnham. However, the back half of the snake was soon severed by a heavy foot on cold tyres out of the very first roundabout. A nearside Caterham front wheel will go under the armco, if pushed hard enough! The result of a tank-slapper that wasn't 'collected and caught' in this case.

18 Sevens. 

5 cars had already speared off through the Hampshire countryside, oblivious to the developing back story that had spread across the verge behind them, another 4 waiting and wondering where the back 9 had got to...this group were busy circling back, idling and parking on the roundabout exit verges amongst the yellow debris of splintered yellow fibreglass from the stricken Seven.

Not a good scenario, and one that would certainly attract very specific attention from a passing patrol car!

Naturally, the instinct was for everyone to return back to seek their apparently lost blatmates. Even the lead group of 5 returned from various directions to the epicentre of the event... who wouldn't? Stuff to see, things happening , people to help and 'all for one' etc.

Enough! It was time to select an escape route and disperse. The man had his helpers to pick up the pieces, debrief, laugh, cry or whatever you do in those situations, he'll be looked after... but we really didn't all need to be there! Call the AA/RAC as a priority and get cleared before the road-constables decide that what looked like a car race gone wrong, was clearly outside the usual Highway Code guidelines. And, like stretcher bearers in a battle scene, everyone would be in danger taking a round or two!

No winners resulted in that morning's outing that's for sure. 

It transpired that in his rush of enthusiasm to get out and enjoy his new car, the driver of the dismembered Seven chose that Sunday to make his Blat debut. Being new to Seven driving and only a few days into ownership won’t have helped! 

It's been said that Sevens are easy cars to drive, pretty instinctive, but hard cars to actually drive well. It is a case of knowing the car and, even more specifically your version of it. A standard Seven doesn't exist, so, understanding your skill levels and the capability of your car within a mixed group of wide spread variables is not a simple assumption.7 am on a damp Sunday morning amongst that many Sevens is not the framework in which to discover those differences and, as a driver in a group, you trust that to be a given. 

On the inside we're all Damon Hill, or that fella' from Stevenage, and we're all filled with the energy and enthusiasm that the little cars encourage. So, perhaps we can all fall victim to that moment when ambition steps outside of the boundaries of the moment.... however, we usually call that an accident.

That occasion was the last of the big 'public' pre-arranged blats for me.

The Sunrisers were made from the outfall of this group. Local owners, similar spec cars, same outlook. The underlying intent being to enjoy the Caterham 7 as per it's design. That would need clear roads (early mornings) and speculative diary slots accepting of  last minute weather based decisions.

Initially it was a group of X-flow 7s that made up the majority of the group, never more than 8 or so on the call-up, with the intention being that a max of 6 cars on a run makes for a workable agile driving group. We've seen the group's cars evolve into a mainly K-series mix and more recently a cross section of Sigma, K and Duratec engined cars ranging from 1.6 litre and 130 bhp up to 2 litre 260 bhp !  

Despite the breadth of power differential, road driving is a great leveler and driving in a like minded group is fun, but with any team activity, you need to know and understand each other's road language to a level that predictability can be added to the mix. It takes time to get that experience together and automatically, with that, the speed increases....along with the sense of balance and control.

Familiarity with a series of routes helps of course, however, shared .itn files guarantees no waiting at each junction in the event of separation and everyone can enjoy the drive.... and the subsequent, and now traditional, Breakfast!

It's all common sense now and the process of arriving at the agreed spot fully fueled with knowledge of the plan and ready to go has facilitated some superb morning runs for the 7s. Opportunities are rare that dry roads coincide with a free weekend morning , but it's more rare for a Sunrise Seven driver not to have 'the kit' ready just for the possibility of a call-up. The weather app sits in prime position on the mobile for quick reference anytime from Thursday lunchtime onward.

When it all coincides, it's all worth it. A few less glasses from the wine bottle at 10 the previous night is a required investment, a few fall at that stage, some the next morning when the night hasn't gone well when shortcomings arose! And, simply: having everything ready to go always, saves having to endure a last minute preparation session that can certainly dampen the enthusiasm. 

It's Friday afternoon again... the weather satellites gather their data and are busy forming opinions of what's to come. Across the Surrey/Hampshire borders I can guarantee a few blokes are wondering what they've promised to do this weekend and whether disappearing at dawn in their funny cars for a few hours exercise can be factored in...can't squeeze a morning slot in? There's always the night time option too.

The weekend route might even pass the broken post. Although the yellow X means its time is numbered...I wonder if its victim from all those years ago is still driving a 7?

The Sunrise Sevens 2018 :  Still here. Still hoping for Sunshine, Clear roads and no pot holes!   


Wednesday 10 February 2016

Wales Oct '15
Just a taste of what it was all about at the very end of the season last year :-)

Folembray Track Weekend from last year:
A nice Seven related 11 minutes to soak up during our 'off' season.

Saturday 24 January 2015

A Record Year

So, what’s been going on and where have we been?

Well, we’ve been here all along, but admittedly there have been fewer blats this year, certainly fewer posts! Partly due to the weather, but also due to less availability of other Sunrisers and their influence. We all occasionally need encouragement to emerge from the pit for those dawn starts. 'I’m in, if you are'  kind of thing.
Maybe we just have to admit that life has been in the way a bit, eclipsing even the most important of pastimes: our singular commitment to using ‘the toy in the garage’.

Health has also limited participation, where responsibility at home can actually override the irresponsibility of 'Seven driving for just the hell of it'.
Another health issue, for one , physically prevented use of the accelerator pedal and catching some really important road time, but we think that Qwaig’s gout is now under control…he missed the Wales trip though.
A third issue, that of ‘new’ health and the further addition to the Andy M household, has led to some heavy drinking that, when combined with lack of sleep, has excluded the man from any chance of early morning precision road performance. Bit difficult to see when your eyes are half shut!

Excuses? Perhaps, but there seems to have been a shortage of predictably dry Saturday and Sunday mornings presented for use this year: ‘3rd wettest summer since records began’ is the 2014 entry, so, there’s validity here in our poor run rate stats.. 

As the years progress and the driving 'intensity' increases, the need for a dry road is the critical ingredient to a good blat. Tyres and heat make for a happy 7, and that pre-dawn tarmac check will give a definitive Go/No Go analysis at a glance. No longer for us the ‘it’ll dry up in a bit’ cheery optimism gamble. The blat window is front-end weighted for obvious reasons: horse box homos and car boot cretins are definitely not blat chums, we want to be out and on it before they hit the tarmac. So, unless presented with that dry road element, we’re simply not gambling the time these days, especially after the absolute pinnacle of driving experiences brought by this year’s Folembray and Wales blats. These two events have given us driving days that reached a level barely even echoed by a Sunday morning blat. 

However, every meal has its aperitif and main course, every ‘engagement’ has its foreplay and its …well, you get the point, so there's always the need for a local blat, day or night. These are complementary balances that serve to enhance the experience of 7 driving, the weekend Sunriser Blat might only be the taster for what is the real thing on the big trips, but the joy of ownership is knowing there’s the perfect antidote to a week at work, and the drudge of the commute in the tin top, just waiting in the garage for that dry weekend morning. Sometimes, just the anticipation is enough without even the foreplay :-) But that might just be an age thing!

Speaking of night time 'excursions', of the driving kind, now that we're all pushed for time and have a bag of reasons to not make us available for a a dawn call, the nightblat offers  whole different aspect to the daytime thing. Given a warm dry summer's evening, and with the usual road toads in bed, well, the archives serve as a reminder of that rich reserve of driving opportunity- Night Blat , Eating Late  and  Nip and Tuck
So, why none of those this year? 
(The defence and the accused exchange glances and shuffle awkwardly.) 
And anyhow, all of the Sunrisers achieved a whole lot more mileage than the 16 miles clocked by Ian ‘Fisheye’ Hayward! With valid reason admittedly, but 16 miles? And look what happens when your 7 is confined to the 'Garage-Ornament-Only' status, ouch! :

 So, long live the Sunrise Seven Blat in whatever their level of commitment ! 

Crisp, cold and clear, or, warm, muggy and overcast - we’ll be out using our now invisible tax discs at every opportunity….just so long as it’s dry! See you out there in 2015 , or, if you’re still in bed, you’ll hear us.

Folembray and Wales Posts to follow.


Friday 15 November 2013

I haven't a thing to wear.

'What should I wear in the morning?'

A sequence of words not normally associated with blokes is it?

Generally this is not even a thought process that they'd recognise, certainly not the night before the actual clothing is required 'on bod'. There is, however, one small % of the driving demographic that have regularly had to embrace the concept.

The Sunrisers have had their en-blat instincts discussed before, (in this post), but go back to a point before a blat actually takes place, and there's another discovery of note.....bare with me. It's all just a bit of fun. Or is it, are these people special? Or are these people?

Picture the pre-dawn grey bended figure (blending with the grey fug of his own making) stood, shakily, in a silent household. Ugly right?This is the very beginning of the transformation process that, within an hour, will have both machine and road dancing to the will of the maestro conductor : from Dribbling Dog to Driving God you might say.
If necessity is the mother etc...then what is the catalyst that would bring about this process of change?

One simple factor - it's a number:


These days, the alarm call for a Sunrise blat requires the most insistent of ring tones to dislodge the very deepest of sleep patterns. It's an age thing, sure, but not helped by the turn of the season which has brought darkness back to where summer dawn light previously might have nudged us closer to the surface of consciousness at such a tiny numbered o'clock. With the increased darkness comes a sloth like pace and stunned confusion to add to the challenge of coaxing the unwilling flesh to the garage! So, given the expected level of incapacity and low functionality, prep and planning are all important.

I’ve seen a friend, during a hotel stay, respond to the shattering insistence of a fire alarm at 4am by running straight out of the room stark bollock naked into the corridor with the door slamming locked behind him! (This was on a stag weekend actually, in case of any troubling assumptions here.)  This was no Best Man jape, but a real alarm that had the entire Travelodge population (cheapskates, that we admit to) standing in the car park at 4 in the morning. Luckily the fire service had blankets to hide both Mr Naked's confused modesty and the sniggers of fellow budget hotel stayers.

Would that the early blat alarm had the same instant effect to have you standing, quite as rapidly, in the corridor, ideally at home, and ready to complete the shortened ablution ritual for the dawn call. No, the reality is a slow confused set of unconnected movements about the house. Careful not to tread on that creaky floorboard, set off the noisy door hinge or crash into the late night ‘temporarily placed’ wash basket at the top of the stairs.

As an aside: Not to wake the rest of the household is rule number one here. The thing is, a Sunrise Blat is designed to utilise ‘off meter’ time, ie:  Avoiding the loss of high value brownie points that are hard won, carefully banked and cashed sparingly against 'Family Peak Time' periods , this is a whole different measure of time value. So, keeping the house asleep when stumbling about for a Sunrise Blat ensures that the meter remains ‘off peak’ for just as long as you are in the house. After that the meter can run as it likes, it's out of our influence, we can't affect that... just don’t knock the meter too prematurely into 'peak' with a ‘change down cold tyre slide’ out of the drive accompanied by a full box of enthusiastic up changes all the way down the canyon of silent windowed semis! That wouldn't do. The Brownie Point cash box will have been emptied instantly without you even knowing.

So, stealth, organisation, co-ordination and contingency are key factors in keeping that meter off-peak and all are key to actually making the RV point at all. Remember, nature is against us at this hour, and so are the neighbours, cyclists, wild animals, boot sellists and horse people, each remain part of the challenge once en-Blat....but that's partly covered in this blog elsewhere, and will no doubt re-appear again under a heading like 'Bastards'.
Back to the 'what to wear' and a point some 10 hours prior to the actual need. To present that workload of choice to the barely functional form at 'alarm + 5mins', would be like a drunk selecting pizza toppings before closing time: 'All of it?' or 'none of it?'. Hardly the ideal outcome: 60 miles in and wishing for that fleece still-folded-on-the-shelf at home. Necessity, in this case, has led to the astounding development of the actual male pre-planning thought process of 'what to wear the next day'! 

Here are some of the variables:

Complex right?

Having to also take into consideration the weather, so as to give that carefully formulated collection of 'just the right garb' is , at best, a challenge, at worst, unfathomable.
And there isn't actually the right choice either, oh no, various combinations could work, but most combinations never do!
And rarely do the selections worn reflect a similar choice sported by anyone else...that is apart from the footwear of course.

Racing boots, 'pixie' boots or men's 'ballet' shoes are a given, it's from here upwards that divergence of the requirement is evident.

(Note: clothing success is measured purely in comfort and practicality, and never, it must be understood, to achieve elegance or to 'cut a dash' , whatever that means? No, the well dressed Sunriser did his dressing before sunrise by instinct and feel alone and, often, by scent.)
(Additional note: A regularly worn blatgarment can have exemption from the usual attendance in the wash basket for some reason. Perhaps 'cos it's only been worn for a couple of hours at a time, silly to wash it after so little time in service, right? Put it back for next time, and next time and ...
Beneficial then, that, amongst the grey shadows of slow motion thought, the sense of smell appears to remain strong to confirm the presence of that 'old favourite' in the waiting pile.

Yes, the waiting pile! Clothing seemingly selected for a purpose hours in advance of need. How did that come to be??

The night before: and a flick through various web sites for the most optimistic weather forecast. Probability calculations are made and messages are exchanged to fellow 'evolvers' into a consensus of decision that brings those new thought channels into action. Consider for one moment that this usually occurs on a Friday or Saturday night.! Come on, who's thinking about what to wear tomorrow mid flow Friday or Saturday evening?? There's beer, food and partying to do surely? Evidence now exists that fattened and gently swaying figures can be found in Seven owning households at the late stages of a weekend evening, carefully selecting clothing and garments from the depths of cupboards and wash baskets in a ritual that confirms only one thing

       The number of evolution is : Seven.
The number of the obsession is : Seven.
            The number of socks is : Seven.

Evolution is slow and not always progressive, but it remains the only explanation for this new and developing 'pre-planning clothing skill'. It is now increasingly evident in early rising Seven drivers. Like Madagascan lemurs, the world has left the Sunriser male to form behavioural patterns of it's own unique making...not all of them are necessarily acceptable or visually appealing!

I am not a number.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Shorts or a 'Onesie'?

The sartorial elegance of the Sunrise Sevens at play :

Well, it was early and we got dressed in the dark etc :-)



Sunday 14 July 2013

Summer Sunrise ...& silence.

The Sunday morning window had been wide open from about a week before. No surprise that a really early one would be in order. So, its easy to prepare the standard pre Blat stages when the forecast gives plenty of notice and you do actually trust it:

1) Go easy on the booze during Saturday evening.
2) Go for the least indigestion generating meal choice.
3) Find the appropriate BlatWear (an exclusive range of mismatched clothing and footwear that is acceptable only for the duration of the blat , worn outside of that and ridicule and sartorial abuse is very likely) .
4) Earlier than usual night. (Impossible! What? With the prospect of a perfect dry, cool, empty road and a morning of BlatJizz a few hours away? No chance.

Don't you love a predictable summer high that sits right over the country giving us a dose of what we should all expect at this time of year? Someone nail that jet stream right where it is and let us pale Brits fry for a bit in our own factor 50. We're currently 'all a marvel' at dry roads and dust, that evolutionary cousin of the more familiar: mud, give us more of the an Azores High Pressure system that we remember from sunny summer school days. Just 'cos we're older doesn't mean we don't still want to play rounders or maybe kiss chase that seem to have been part of our youthful summers with sunshine! Or is that just how I remember it? Years of subsequent bad summers is my excuse for not having had my full share of those innocent pursuits. Any attempt at kiss chase these days would have most of us on a register pretty damn fast....certainly faster than the actual speed of the supposed chase.

So, yeah... 4.30 alarm call and out by 5 am, seems reasonable. Right up to the point where a text from a fellow Sunriser comes in at a sweating 3.30 to say 'I'm already up'! Thanks for that. Andy M was on duty with the boy, who is nocturnal, and was keen to share the fact. It might have been acceptable if he was due to join us an hour and a half later...he wasn't. So that's just mean isn't it? Or is that just 'sharing' in the modern way?

Beautiful morning and the roads were mostly empty... to start with. What do these people do on a Sunday morning? I mean at 5.30, 6, 6.30? It's Sunday morning fer'crine out loud, any one else remember 'lie in's'? You know, maybe when you weren't  playing kiss chase!?

Head north we'd decided, avoiding the Goodwood Festival of Speed traffic, and early enough to tick off some of the local favourite roads (shh.... you know who you are) and then on a bit of a mystery tour as 'Tom' led the route. So good they named the device twice. The shared itinery across a set of Tom Toms however, was clearly less good, we had two alternative versions running from the same file, interesting. Hand signals and shouting at 60mph upwards don't for easy blaming make. Maybe the trick is to remember to name the file twice next time. All a mystery.

We had a Westfield 7 out with us, with a windscreen and doors on. Not very 'Sunrise' is it? ;-) Anton also had a flask of tea with him, you know, the thermos glass type , wonder if it'll make it to the end of the blat. Anyone else remember the tell tale 'shake of bits' in the flask on the family outing? Nice to have Anton back, an old Sunrise X-flow'er out for an early morning reminder after a few years abstinence. Hope he gets a chance to drink his tea having presumably got up even earlier than necessary to make it! 

So, north it was, heading for the downland between Newbury and Wantage : nice views to compliment the wide blue skies and all that.

It was worth it, despite the momentry lapse of reason as 4 Sevens in their own traffic jam sat at temporary traffic lights somewhere near Greenham Common. Red for longer than forever and not another car in sight, chuntering at idle , temperatures rising behind the steering wheel. Pointless.
You get that right?

Still, nice blue sky.

Qwaig now picks up his take on the morning:

So, for the first time in what feels like ages, I saw the Sunrise in the car, allbeit on the way to the RZ, rather then hard on the run, but hey, a sunrise is a sunrise, no?  
With the day bubbling up, we set off from base with a sortie planned as an hour or two's fun, followed by breakfast a Popham airfield and, I have to say 'planned'  'cos for the second week on the trot, mechanical failure struck!

After a fantastic run down some unplanned roads (TomTom making it up as it went along) I braked to a halt, somewhat quicker than expected for a pee break with the just a small lock up from the fronts....sorry about that Ian - but blame Steve's lack of discernible brake-lights ...anyway, I could not get the car started again, and each time I pressed the go button a big fuse blew....I reckon the electrics are a bastard child of a French and Italian wiring assignation...

Encouraging the rest of the squad away to the breakfast stop, I waited around for an hour....and from the mechanical school of hammers and gaffer tape, I went at the wires with Tasmanian Devil ferocity...jiggle here, pull there...and... bingo got the car started, switched it off, and it started again. So,as I'm on hold with the RAC (common occurrence at the moment) to cancel the call out,  the big orange van came around the corner....bugger...sorry mate etc etc. So, I head off home, with the hope that I can get back again without incident and in time to see the family.  45 miles dispatched in short order and I turn up at home with the family asking where was the low loader...thanks...back to start the car to put it in the garage and, zip... it wouldn't start.....aarrrgghhhhhhh!!
Pulled the started button out and hot wired it. Bingo! Narrowed down to starter button (I thought 'savage' switches where meant to be quality) tape, some bending and some plier work, and the car appears (though this could be an illusion) fixed :-)

I need a week's break or two to regain trust in my Japanese, French and Italian mongrel cross breed of a car.

                                                                                                                                Craig F

So, you see, Anton had plenty of time to have tea from the flask. Whilst Qwaig sorted through a selection of fuses and wires to restore noise to the silence, Anton drank tea.

Whilst Ian made electrical and knowledgeable comments , Anton drank tea.

Whilst I took a cruise for photographic vantage points (wee stops) ...

... Anton had more tea.

The flask was not broken.

Qwaig's car was. But the sky was still blue.

So we left Qwaig by the roadside at a junction called 'Blowing Stone'. We had faith in the RAC finding the stranded Scotsman up to his elbows in wires. No we didn't, but we were hungry.

Breakfast : at a 'fly in' day at Popham Airfield near Basingstoke. Still early, 9.30 , but it seems that a Cheese Burger is actually a breakfast for members of the Popular Flying Association. We weren't tempted to join them: traditional fare only for us in the rapidly rising temperatures now that we were stationary (2nd time during the morning's outing).

Anton had even more tea, and got hot.

And so endeth the blat. For which we are very grateful (not to be stuck in Oxfordshire's 'Blowing Stone' junction) and for what defines the Sunriser blat: cool but rising temperatures, empty roads and empty blue skies.

There's lots to do at the wheel of a 7even at pace, but somehow it clears the mind for a bit. So, despite the mileage, blatant use of valuable fossil fuel and artery abusive breakfasts: I've decided its good for you. Just not sure Qwaig would concur at this phase of his car's development :-)