The closest I’ve ever come to living life on the edge was probably when I saved 90% of my make-or-break A-Level coursework on a small, wonky USB stick without a lid, which I believe got lost because Dad Hoovered it up one day. The lack of a tiny plastic cap should have made the stick susceptible to dust, Dorito crumbs and other miscellaneous kinds of damage, but it miraculously made it through the entire two years of sixth form unscathed – and I still have it today. It’s been lying on a side table in my living room for a while now, and sat there largely untouched until I decided to plug it back into my laptop out of curiosity the other day.
I began to rummage through what it held, and alongside the aforementioned College materials lay some projects I probably started, but never finished, in the common room whilst I was supposed to be doing something else for a lesson. That seems to be the way in which all the best memories came about – when the teacher had left the room and we swiftly concluded that we’d “do this work later”. If I wasn’t mucking about with Will and co, however, I’d be writing something of my own. According to a file saved on my stick, I sat down one day in February 2014 to begin work on an autobiographical book that I gave the first alliterative title to pop into my head – Mudflap Manifesto, as the title of this post would suggest. It was something that would explore my oft-referenced love of motorsport and its significance in my life, over chapters that would collectively be divided into named sections. It would appear that I only got 11 pages in before becoming distracted and abandoning the project, but when I re-read what I’d written the other day, I was fairly satisfied and convinced that I might have something worth finishing at some point. And that’s pretty rare, believe me – because when it comes to writing, I often think that I am my own harshest critic.
The first section of the book was simply entitled “Guys, I’ve got a great idea”, and it opened by recounting a collision my wheelchair once had with a bench in the College quad on a rainy day. I must have felt that this was a good starting point for the book because it led to a visit to the folks in the Motor Vehicle Department, who took out their tools to bash my footplate back into shape whilst various decommissioned cars were being tinkered with nearby. As I could see them up close, I began to reflect on my lifelong passion for them, and particularly for when they are being driven at serious speed. I asked myself questions about where its roots lay, and what my feelings and standout memories are in relation to it, and I ultimately decided that the best way to express the answers would be in prose on a page. So I began with this anecdote, before proceeding to talk about how my wheelchair has always been seen as a racier vehicle than it actually is, putting forward my pitch for a less elitist form of motorsport that anyone with a working wheelchair can enter as I then paced about memory lane and my countless racing memories. Predictably, I seemed to have done this eagerly and fondly – of course, I wouldn’t ever say that the introduction was perfect, but I’ve probably written worse!
One thing that’s even rarer than a passable piece of writing from me is me giving any kind of written attention to the countryside, which many people know has never really appealed to me. Within the context of the book, I talked about our local Somerset Stages Rally and how – from our first visit in 2004 to the present day – it has been the only thing to significantly pique my interest in our local green surroundings. Whether we locate ourselves on a crest, a hairpin bend or any other sort of corner, it’s always a spectacle and one we’re very lucky to play host to in our secluded part of the world. When it leaves town, however, the forest tracks and trees lose their sparkle completely until the following year, and so does the rest of the extensive Exmoor tundra. The hills give me nothing apart from an occasionally acceptable location in which to eat a McDonald’s as the sun goes down, or a reason to prolong a leisurely evening drive with Mum, Dad or Louis. Or do they? Upon discovering the brief beginnings of Mudflap Manifesto, which have not been added to, edited or saved since April three years ago, I’ve realised that the great outdoors appear to have given me something worthwhile to build on, and something that allows me to bring back more awesome memories and connections to the sport I love. And I owe it all, in turn, to a single moment of College quad recklessness, followed by one of many fruitful common room laziness moments. Time well spent, don’t you think?