My awesome driving experience at Silverstone

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Alison at Silverstone Hello there,

Sorry I'm a little tardy with this week's missive, but have been with Mum for a few days and enjoying her company and their home-grown produce! I even managed to rustle up Chicken in Herbs, Lamb Hot Pot, and Cottage Pie! Only the vegetable elements were theirs – they manage an allotment not a farm! :)

She's not a million miles from the coast, but quite a long way from me, and so as I left the countryside behind and hammered home down the motorway, I tried to imagine how much better the journey would be if I was driving an Aston Martin… 

But I don't have to imagine any more as I can finally tell you about my long-awaited Aston Martin drive around Silverstone, and better still you can watch it for yourself as I've got video footage too! :) OMG!!! Hopefully it'll be as if you were there with me :) You can forget Top Gear's 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car', I am now 'Ma in an Extortionately Priced Car'!!


Alison clutching her Silverstone voucher The day dawned, as have so many over the last few weeks, grey and windy but at least dry. I had woken several times in the night with a mixture of fear and excitement and also a need to wee, but as I stood in the hall with my voucher in my hand, the nine months of waiting were finally up! (see photo left)

Knowing how much I love the Aston Martin, Sam had bought me a Silverstone Driving Experience as a Christmas gift, and we'd left it until just before he begins University to go. He drove me there and then waited as I and 18 other drivers (ALL MALE) were ushered into a small room where the rudiments of over and understeering were explained to us… not just verbally but with film to add to my general feeling of unease. 

Alison wearing her Silverstone helmet A picture of the track was then visible with little dots of different colours highlighting where one should brake, clip, and exit a corner. "You will probably reach speeds of 130 or so on the straight," our mentor announced, while pointing at a section of the track that looked no longer than London Bridge! I felt about as confident as Gordon Ramsey would be of speaking for a whole minute without swearing! 

Talking of which, those of us who'd decided to have the entire three laps filmed from inside the car were warned to watch our language… I  didn't have to worry as the instant 'dry mouth' I suffered stopped me from uttering almost any sound at all! Which for those of you who know me well, has to be a first!

Alison driving round the SIlverstone track From there to pick a crash helmet (photo above left), which was worn over a rather fetching paper cap thing… shame Sam didn't tell me about the chin bit which looked like a piece of toilet paper hanging there… (see video in the post below)!

As there were only two Astons, we took it in turns so I had a little time to try and remind myself of 'mirror, signal, manoeuvre' before 'brake, clip and exit, and then SHE arrived. A beautiful grey DB9 with a blue stripe running down her centre, and 007 inscribed on the door. It was love at first sight, as I settled into her warm leather seat and met my instructor…

"Some say he hardly EVER has to touch the dual controls set up in the car, all we know is they call him Ben…" Bless him, he drew the short straw with me! And at this point I think it's best you watch the film… (in the post below)

Alison racing at SIlverstone Suffice to say I had trouble working out how to put the window up my hands were shaking so badly, and then as we manoeuvre out onto the track – and this is a Formula 1 track! – I hear myself ask "There's nobody coming is there?"!! My hunched position over the steering wheel and inability to keep my hands at the 20 to 2 position, make it difficult for me to believe that not only did I pass my test first time, but have been driving for 32 years!!!  

I admit I had trouble taking my foot off the brake as I approached a corner at 70 miles an hour, but you'll be proud to see the speedo hit 108 on the straight. AWESOME! I even overtook a Ferrari!!! Mind you watch out for the bit where a Ferrari tries to overtake me… poor Ben! I LOVED IT.

There's just one thing that strikes me as odd, and that is the constant creaking noise that happens every time I move the steering wheel. Surely not in an Aston Martin DB9 could there be anything that needed oiling? I think it was my elbows and knuckles gripping the wheel :) Colin said I looked about 17 and as if I was learning to drive for the first time. He had a point… although SHE bore no resemblance to the canary yellow Nissan Sunny I took my test in :)

I had a smile as wide as the tyres on the car when I clambered out of the seat to run over to Sam and thank him. And then sitting next to him as he drove us home, patiently listening to me telling him for the umpteenth time how amazingly SHE gripped the road, I thought how incredibly kind and generous it was of him to have given me the chance of a lifetime to experience something, he would so very much liked to have done for himself…

What would you choose to as a one-off, amazing experience? Maybe you've already done it? I'd love to hear from you, as always. Off to start packing Sam's things for Uni…

Love Ali xxx

22 Comments

  1. Rosalyn Claydon September 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali, thank you so much for sharing your amazing day out with us. You write so well and for a few mins I could feel myself being as nervous as you. Well done for “feeling the fear but doing it anyway” A wonderful experience for you and made even more special that Sam made it happen and together your created another special memory to look back on and treasure.
    One off experience for me will hopefully be in October or next Spring as my lovely daughters have bought me a Balloon Flight, for my 50th birthday. I have always wanted to go up in a balloon and the voucher includes Chris so we can share it together. Perfect.
    Take care and wish Sam every success as he starts out on a new chapter of his adventures.
    Love Rosalyn

  2. Mrs Janet Jones September 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm -  Reply

    Dear Ali, Well Done!You looked absolutely terrified, but you did yourself and Sam proud.I thoroughly enjoyed watching the video footage I could image myself there!What a lovely son you have and I know it will be hard for you packing his things for uni.My son has started his 2nd year at uni, were has the time gone!Has Sam gone to a local uni or one futher afield? Glad to hear your mum is feeling a bit better, send her my best wishes.
    I’m off to Italy next week to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday, I am a bit nervous about going after all my treatment, but hopefully we well have a good time.
    You are a lady of many talents, well done again, speak soon love Janetxxx

  3. Mrs Janet Jones September 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali, forgot to say my choice for a one off amazing experience would be to swim with dolphins, I’ve always wanted to do that ever since I was little, who knows maybe one day!! Love Janet xxx

  4. Lynn Hind September 18, 2010 at 1:46 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali wowee what a day you must of had …excellent! glad you had your dream realised. mine is a bit less fast lol, love fast cars though…mine would be wait for it.. to spend the afternoon+have lunch with johny depp that man should carry a health warning lol david cassidy was my 70s wish lol
    my best experience by far was seeing my son dans face/excitment when he got his results to go to scarborough uni this year,he goes like your beloved sam next week,and as my only child who like sam has beat all the odds to be here,my pride hes done it and got to where he wants to be beats anything i could wish for myself! but, im going to miss him/worry so much,as hes such a joy to have around,not sure about the empty nest syndrome lol+i wish your son every success,and hes lucky hes got a great mum to be there+share his experience with him.god bless love Lynn x

  5. Kathleen Kape September 18, 2010 at 5:24 pm -  Reply

    Oh wow!! That was nervewracking to watch and I was both terrified and envious. Though I am also very glad I took so little responsibility for teaching you to drive! It was just as well it was a very wide track?
    You never cease to amaze me. Thanks too for all your support and the lovely food. Come back soon! Love Mum xx

  6. alison keenan September 20, 2010 at 11:57 am -  Reply

    Thank you Ros, so lovely to hear from you and I’m glad you liked the film! I’m so glad I’ve got it so I can relive the experience whenever I want :) I didn’t know about the Balloon Ride. How lovely! Your girls are so thoughtful, and it’s even better that both you and Chris can be together. Don’t forget your camera :) Hope to see you soon, Love Ali xx

  7. alison keenan September 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm -  Reply

    Oh Janet I am so envious of you going to Italy, and I am certain that once you step foot off the plane you will be so wrapped up in all that makes this beautiful country so worth visiting, your nerves will have disappeared. I am sure the trip in itself to celebrate with your husband will all help towards your recovery. The sun is that little bit warmer, the sky a touch bluer, and the pasta – perfect! :) I hope you enjoyed your time with your son before he headed back to Uni. You’re right about time flying. Can’t believe Sam is actually at University now…. a few years ago I honestly didn’t think it would happen at all. He’s at Stafford, which is quite 1 hour and 50 mins on the fast train and a couple of hours by car…just seems a bit of a way today…Please do write and tell me how you get on in Italy won’t you? Love Ali xxx

  8. alison keenan September 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm -  Reply

    I must start reading these comments from the bottom up as I always miss one! I think swimming with dolphins sounds wonderful, so never say never…. maybe it’s something you could do for your next ‘significant’ birthday? Oh when I saw mum she said how she reads all the comments and thanks you for your kind wishes. She’s doing really well. Love Ali xx

  9. alison keenan September 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm -  Reply

    Ahhhhh thanks mum :) So glad you’re feeling so much better and hope to come back again this weekend. Might even bring the damsons so you can help me to make jam – I know you told me but I’ve forgotten already! :) Love Alison xxxx

  10. alison keenan September 20, 2010 at 9:39 pm -  Reply

    Lynn you are a hoot! But I bet there are many other women besides you (and I!) who would love to spend time with Johnny Depp! In truth though I was a Donny Osmond fan, so you’d had to have fought Debbie Greenwood off to get to David Cassidy :) All that said your feelings for your son when he got his results understandably beat all else. Well done to him, and to you for loving and supporting him so well that he was able to get the grades necessary to get to Scarborough. I know exactly how you are feeling, and saying goodbye to Sam yesterday at Stafford Station was very difficult…. but he will be back, and I can always call him, and I know that BECAUSE of all he’s been through he’s well equipped to deal with anything that comes along…. far better than me I feel :) Let me know how Dan is, and keep in touch, ‘cos we can probably comfort each other :) Love Ali xx

  11. Gail September 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali, or should I call you Penelope Pitstop? It was very exciting watching you on the video even though my stomach was churning watching you, so I can imagine how you must have been feeling. How wonderful that your experience has been captured for all time; imagine showing your grandchildren when you are much older. What a lovely, thoughtful gift from Sam. So glad you survived the experience and obviously enjoyed your special day.
    I only found out recently about Sam’s horrendous accident, so I think it is wonderful that yesterday you were blessed with being able to wave him off to Uni. Good luck Sam.
    I get the impression that your mum hasn’t been well so I wish her well, and because I now know she reads all the comments all I can say is “Hello Ali’s mum, hope you are feeling better xxx”.
    My one off experience will never happen because I don’t like flying, but if I did it would be to visit Australia Zoo and see Steve’s amazing Crocoseum. It would be a complete mixture of feelings as I would feel honoured to be in his Zoo, yet distraught that this wonderful man is no longer with us.
    Take care, Gail xx

  12. Dorothy September 21, 2010 at 6:41 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    Looked like a fantastic day didnt know if you wanted to laugh or cry, but well done you are game for anything.(WHATS NEXT)sure Sam will think of something.Pleased your mum is on the mend she sounds so sweet.the last 2 weeks i have been decorating for mam just curtains and ornaments to put back then (DONE).SHE is over the moon dont know how many times she has thanked me just pleased im there to do it.Pleased Sam got away ok, he will have a ball first year its just (PARTY PARTY PARTY Laura was always skint but as she said she had a great time. GOOD LUCK TO HIM
    wish him all the best.Its awful the first time they go i could’nt stop crying, Davy kept laughing and saying she is not going to the other side world, they just dont understand.
    love best wishes
    Dorothy xxxx

  13. Rhona Fenton September 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm -  Reply

    Some say no wonder the stig left I would think he would be worried:) Well done you and a big thank you for letting us come round the track with you it was awesome I did enjoy that:) I always thought Rally driving would be good to have a go and my colin motorbike racing him and his bikes and the thought off getting let loose on a track again:) well think sam will be so proud off his mum have to say that for you, game to give anything a go I take my hat off to you I think your amazing:) glad to hear mum is doing well Alison and I wish sam well at uni, hope your holding out ok? I will write soon as some news for you, but well done once again:) love Rhona xx

  14. Susan September 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm -  Reply

    Hi Ali,
    You are such a daredevil!! Your kids must think you’re an uber cool Mum!! What a fabulous experience. I would love to do something like that – though I may buckle it & go at a snail’s pace!!! How cool is your own Mum too?! Blogging!! How impressive!! Very glad she’s feeling a bit better too. See you on air.
    Take care,
    Susan

  15. alison keenan September 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm -  Reply

    Hi there Rhona, lovely to hear from you, and so glad you enjoyed your ‘track’ experience with me :) Aren’t these in car camera things amazing? I know that Sam would give his eye teeth to be able to drive a stick shift car again, and when you write about your Colin and him motorbike racing around a track again, I also know that inspite of his accident, Sam has never really laid to rest his desire to ride a bike….. I have to admit to very selfishly asking him not to try it again during my lifetime…he very unselfishly agreed. Mum amazing, and Sam getting used to his new room and timetable… me drifing a bit, but one day at a time :) Take care, Love Ali xx

  16. alison keenan September 22, 2010 at 9:21 pm -  Reply

    Dorothy, how lovely are you? No wonder your mum has been thanking you – sounds like you’ve done a sterling job. I remember when my mum was in hospital years ago, and I decorated the loo and put new carpet in, and she was delighted when she came home :) Sam has already had a introduction party, beach party, 80s party, and it’s only Wednesday! Considering I was in A & E with him just over a week ago makes it even more amazing – but I’ll fill you in with my next blog.. Colin said to me as I called him from the train on my way home from Uni “I knew it wouldn’t be as bad as you thought” but as you say, I don’t think they truly understand :) Love and best wishes to you too Dorothy, and lovely to hear from you. Ali xxx

  17. alison keenan September 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm -  Reply

    Gail, I so love the idea of being Penelope Pitstop :) ! She was one of my favourite characters from Wacky Races – great boots! I hadn’t even thought of the fact that my grandchildren could see this when I’m old and grey and not driving anywhere :) What a thought….Yes it was great to see Sam settled in his halls of residence at Uni, how far he’s come, and how positive he’s always been. Same with mum really, must be a family thing. Either way, something to be inherently proud of :) Your choice of Australia Zoo is completely understandable, as is your desire to visit the crocoseum. I promise if I make my trip to Oz in January, I’ll visit and make a film for you to see – hopefully almost as good as being there. Take care Gail, and feel proud that through your memories Steve is kept very much alive for so many of us. Love Ali xx

  18. M Davis September 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison
    So love your style. I always watch your shows they are such good fun. Yesterday you were wearing pearls and earrings to match. I have a “large” occasion coming up soon and loved your black pearls & earrings. Did u get them from QVC? Also loved your outfit last night (mushroom colour) dress/top & skirt. I am a similar size to u and u give me some great ideas. All the best Alison. Marie Davis

  19. alison keenan September 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm -  Reply

    Hi Marie, Lovely to hear from you, and I thought I should let you know that the pearls are my favourite and from the Honora range. They are baroque pears – around 12mm – and I believe we still carry a necklace that is very similar in stock. Have a look on line and I hope you find something you like. Earrings too! Oh and thank you for your compliments about my dress :) It’s a Karen Millen and I put the belt with is as it matches my shoes! Hope you find something you love to wear for your ‘large’ occasion and can find the pearls to match.. Love Ali x

  20. Una September 25, 2010 at 11:20 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    Wow, what a day out and a half!!!!!!!
    Ive not been so well the last few weeks, but still managed to tune in to QVC!!! Got a few more xmas gifts on beauty day, so Im quite organised already.
    Just saw Julian present the QVC calendar. What a really good idea, and for an extremely good cause, which is very close to my heart at the moment.
    You look FABULOUS, the dress you are wearing is just GORGEOUS. I WANT IT LOL.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Love Una x

  21. alison keenan September 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm -  Reply

    Una, so sorry to hear you’ve not been well, and hope very much that you are now on the mend :) Glad that we’ve been able to keep you company though and that you saw the calendar…We have our special night for BCC on the 13th October and I reckon it’ll be the biggest fundraiser yet – I may even wear that dress! Bless you for your compliments and if you ever want to borrow it, just let me know :) Love Ali xxx p.s. Take good care of yourself

  22. Una September 28, 2010 at 11:17 am -  Reply

    Hi Ali
    Feeling a bit better the last few days, just taking it slowly.
    I do hope the fundraising night goes well. You should definately wear the dress, its so unusual and very flattering. I may just hold you to that!!!!!!
    Love Una x

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