I spent most of yesterday hurtling around a track in Northamptonshire on the thing pictured below, which probably looks like little more than a tea tray on wheels. In fact, it is a 1965 kart, as raced by my stepfather, and it carries the letter ‘E’ on the back, to denote that he is European Champion in his class.

He would be the first to point out that most of his competitors in said class have passed over to the other side, but he still has to turn up and put in the miles, although yesterday was merely about going round in circles at progressively higher speeds without competition. We were routinely passed on track by affluent businessmen and hothoused teens in more modern machinery (one of the latter said Why don’t you have proper tyres on that thing? as they walked past it in the pits, genuinely confused at what it might be), but by the end of the day I was gunning it properly down the straights, correcting mid-corner oversteer with glee, pushing to and sometimes beyond the limits of adhesion.

In the end the vibrations proved too much for the gallant trolley and the carburettor fell off, although this happened right at the entry to the pit lane, which was fortuitous. We duly packed the machine into the car and headed home, but plans are already afoot for the next session.

In another life I might have done some proper racing, though I have little doubt that my nerve would have failed me at some point. I raced online about twenty years ago, won a couple of championships, but doing it from the safety of one’s armchair is not quite the same as the real thing. Even so, I was encouraged by the way I was able to apply the principles I had learned back then to the genuine article, and my lines were not too shabby at all.

If this all sounds to you like a rather flowery way of saying that I did no composition yesterday then you are right on the money. Thankfully my work life is almost entirely pleasurable and very little of it now feels like “work”, but the opportunity to spend time with my stepfather in his native habitat was too good to miss, and this was pleasure of a different order. He may appear to be indestructible at an age which is some margin higher than the national speed limit, but time is a precious thing.

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