I'm staring at a photo I'm about to have issued for my international drivers licence and it's awful. Why is it that passport and licence photos always show the person as looking like a escaped con, deranged stalker or in my instance, with the stunned mullet look. My eyes are bulging as if I've been asked to do something hideous and the worried frown across my brow is so furrowed it looks like it needs major horse-size syringes of botox to uncrease it!. If truth be told, I'm hesitant of even getting an international licence. Where we're going has a notorious reputation for bad drivers, where no-one has right of way, there is only one driver on the road - HIM -, traffic lights are a waste of money, indicators don't have a purpose and only confuse other drivers if used, and if the driver knows the other driver coming towards him, he has every right to stop (smack bang in the middle of the road) and have a chat about how the family is going and did he see the latest olive-oil wrestling match. And of course everyone drives super fast.
Fair enough this is nothing new when travelling in many countries and for M it's something he eagerly looks forward to - jumping into a car in a foreign land and not having to repress his race driver fantasy, one of his favourite times was when we borrowed a friend's Audi in France and he took it on the Autoroute . He was happy. No he was ecstatic! I on the other hand was freaked out, if not a little un-glued and in need of great drops of 'rescue remedy'.
Thinking of France and race drivers has me fondly reminiscing once again about a trips past. This time the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix where the drivers were the ultimate speed demons and the great drops I indulged in were of champagne. Below is an article I wrote for a local daily:
A different Running of the Bulls.
A large black SUV inches past. Catching a glimpse of its driver, I can hardly believe my eyes. It's the twice voted, sexiest man alive. Beside him sits his son Pax, or is it Madox, I can never tell the two boys apart. He flashes a smile at me, or, is it to the four dark hared beauties signing autographs with the words "Monaco India" emblazed across their breasts.
Elegance and beauty surrounds me. Ornate black lace balconies frame pastel belle époque buildings fringed with art nouveau frescos. Tiny cobbled stone streets brimming in spring blooms and elaborate chandelier style lamps wind towards a backdrop of granite cliffs jutting into cloudless blue skies. The stone ramparts of a castle peak out from lush walled gardens.
Crowds of elegant women in pearls and espadrilles, short skirts and long legs, and men of all ages touting impressive cameras promenade the cobblestones, all heading in the same direction, gathering me and my travelling companions into their excited wake.
We are all here to watch the "race of glamour" - the Monaco Grand Prix. Once famously described by Nelson Piquet as like "riding a bicycle around your living room", it is the ultimate jewel of the racing crown for any Formula1 driver.
Our grandstand seating affords us some of the best viewing of Monaco. An azure blue harbour encased with gleaming white yachts stretches towards the sparkling Mediterranean. Aboard, tanned lithe bodies laze sipping champagne, oblivious to the frenzied noise echoing off the steep incline of nearby Rocher Hill.
Clinging to its ridged sides, crowds wave enormous banners and flags bearing the faces and names of gladiator-like drivers, the colourful vibrancy in stark contrast to the candy pink palace that sits above it all.
A cavalcade of celebrities stroll along Pit Lane - Naomi, Paris, Jaylo and Marc Anthony, Mick Jagger with all his wrinkles and Richard Branson flashing his white smile and golden mane.
A roar explodes from the crowds as the drivers, race suit sleeves casually tied around their waists, saunter by waving and blowing kisses.
Then he appears. Jumping to our feet, we cheer and manically wave the Australian flag as the tall statuesque figure of Mark Webber comes into view. The day before we had proudly unfurled the flag when Webber qualified for pole. It had already fluttered this day when another Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo won the formula Renault3.5 support race and we pray it'll only be a matter of hours before we wield our national pride again.
The high powered machines hurl around tight narrow streets, pass the baroque fortress of the Monte Carlo Casino and the elegant society of Café de Paris, where the night before we had sipped cocktails and watched a passing parade of Ferraris, Maseratis and Bentleys. Catapulting into the tunnel, where any slight error could mean certain death, the anticipation heightens as they scream past the sparkling Albert 1 dock and swimming pool. Each tense filled lap brings Australia's hope for a Monaco Grand Prix win closer as Webber inches away from his opponents. One hour and thirteen minutes later and fifty one years after the great Sir Jack Brabham's 1959 win, the Australia Flag and National Anthem is again herald in this glamorous city, the Garden of Happiness.
Back on the cobble streets, happiness reins as the party begins; music pulsates, people dance, champagne bubbles and the aromas of paella tease. Above, blue turns to mauve-grey as a pink hue licks the granite backdrop. Elegance abounds.
* Lyrics from Tracey Chapman "Fast Car"