Hi everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the summery weather, even if it’s turning rainy now. Today I’m combining two of my favourite things to bring you my first review on this blog: books are, of course, the first thing, and the second is motorsport. I’ve been following Formula 1 for a few seasons now, and the book I’m reviewing today is a motorsport autobiography with a bit of a difference.
I Just Made the Tea by Di Spires offers a unique insight into the world of Formula 1. Di and her husband Stuart worked in motorsport hospitality for over 30 years and met an incredible array of famous names, from icons like multiple-world-champion Ayrton Senna to F1’s recently replaced chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. They moved around the paddock from team to team as circumstances changed and almost saw themselves without employment on more than one occasion, managing against the odds to cling on and keep making the tea at some of the most prestigious motor races in the world.
I’ll start with the negatives and get them out of the way, because I really enjoyed this book. That said, the writing wasn’t great: it was fairly simplistic and quite repetitive in style, but as this is an autobiography and not intended to be a profound work for countless academics to pore over, it’s not a big issue. I also thought the beginning took a while to get going as Stuart and Di initially struggled to find long-term roles in the sport and kept returning to the mundanity of everyday life, having to go back to their old jobs, which wasn’t as entertaining to read about as their later adventures. Again, that’s one of the problems with an autobiography: they’re real, and real doesn’t always equate to exciting.
Now I’ve got the negatives out of the way, I can move on to how entertaining I found this book! My favourite part by a mile was Di’s fantastic tale about Ayrton Senna skipping a PR event to join them for chips on the side of a road; how incredible an image is that? It features in a chapter less than a third of the way through the book, but it stayed with me throughout. If that isn’t enough to entice you, Di describes another great moment later on when Michael Schumacher meets Mr Bean (or if you’d rather call him by his real name, Rowan Atkinson) and the two are in mutual awe of each other. That’s pretty cool, right?
Not only is this book superbly entertaining, but as someone who only started following F1 in the last few years and who wasn’t born while most of the events in this book were taking place, it was a wonderful source of information. Di and Stuart, being the paddock’s ever-present kindly faces, earnt the moniker ‘mum and dad’, and every time a new name appeared and referred to them as such, I got that little bit more amazed. Nelson Piquet. Johnny Herbert. Michael Schumacher. So many key figures pop up throughout Di’s book it’s difficult to keep track of them all, but whenever someone new is mentioned Di does her best to elaborate on their career and to provide a summary of where they are now (now being a few years out of date as the book was published in 2012, but even so).
I Just Made the Tea offered an interesting new perspective and made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced. The level of detail was fascinating, and it really brought to light how much the sport has changed in such a short time. From the humble days of a married couple in a little motorhome making tea and bacon sandwiches to today’s paddock hospitality – the beautiful, luxurious buildings, Red Bull Racing’s floating energy station in the Monaco harbour, the glamour and invitations extended to celebrities – Formula 1 now is dramatically different to where it was thirty years ago.
I recommend this book to anyone who follows Formula 1, and even to those who have no knowledge of it but are interested in hearing from a voice behind-the-scenes of motorsport. The book is fairly easy to follow if you don’t know much about F1 and anything esoteric is explained for the more casual reader. Divided into 33 chapters, the anecdotes can be dipped in and out of as you please; each is different from the next, ranging from hilarious to heart-breaking. She may have “just made the tea”, but Di Spires had the most remarkable tea-making job in the world.
So there you go! Have you read this book before? Has it piqued your interest? And what are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!