Saturday, 27 May 2017

Excuses for Being a Bad Blogger...

First of all we went on a road trip with the Marcos.
On the first night we stopped over in Kent at the lovely 'Five Bells' in Brabourne.
This was our room for the night...
..And here's the spectacular open-plan bathroom.!!!
(It's great for one night of romantic luxury but I don't think I could live with it on a permanent basis.. I like to have some privacy when I'm chilling in my bath)

Then we pottered down to the Tunnel and caught a late morning train to France.
After another four and half hours of driving we reached our base for the weekend -
A hotel near the Spa race circuit on the far side of Belgium...

On Friday morning we were up really early and started to explore the track.
We've heard masses about this circuit but never attended any racing there before.
It was so exciting....
There were only two other Marcos cars at the event.
They were racing in the Sixties Endurance Race.
We spent a bit of time chatting to their drivers in the pits.
(Sadly neither of them managed to complete the gruelling two hour race on Saturday evening but it was great to see them out on the track during the practice and qualifying sessions.)

The Spa circuit is on a significant hill-side.
On Saturday we explored all the pedestrian tracks to the furthest points of the track.
The main pits is behind Mark's shoulder in the distance...
(These track days are always something of a keep fit exercise!!)

We stayed at the circuit to watch some night racing on Saturday evening.
When we came back to our car the light was perfect for this atmospheric shot of our car..

She got lots of attention and lovely comments everywhere we went..
(Not bad for a car that Mark restored from nothing in the garage!!)

Since we got back I just seem to have been 'chasing stuff'.... the dull post holiday washing and ironing piles; filling the empty food cupboards and other similar delights!  BUT I've also been catching up with family and friends; enjoying the sun at a picnic with an ex-colleague on Thursday and spent most of today on another road trip to Leicester.
The calendar for June looks slightly less crazy... so hopefully there'll be more frequent posts in the near future.  I hope that you are all enjoying the Bank Holiday.

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Special Evening...

Here's Mark and I on Saturday evening...
all dressed up for Mark's Long Service Dinner at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Mark started work with JLR 25 years ago this summer.
The evening celebrated 25 years, 40 years and even 50 years for employees across the whole company, so there were about 1200 people at the event.  We were slightly taken aback by the size and scale of it all, but it was really well organised and great fun.
The evening started with a formal photo.
(I've taken a photo of the photo so it's a little blurry.. but you get the general idea!)
..Then there were drinks, a four course meal, a full stage show (based on music from 1966/7, 1976/7 and 1991/2) and an excellent live band.  We finally got back to our room in the hotel at 1.30 in the morning!
The ladies on each table received these small bouquets.. so pretty!

Luckily for me, one of the ladies didn't want her flowers so I took a second bunch for Mum and Dad.  They've helped me with a lot of things recently and it was nice to be able to  give them a little surprise to say "Ta".
We got home (more than a little the worse for wear!!) by mid-morning on Sunday.
When we looked in the photo packaging more closely, we realised that the company has given us a further dinner voucher, which can be used at all the main chain restaurants.
We thought it would be nice to save it until mid-July, when Mark received his offer of employment from the company, and then we can enjoy another (slightly more low key!) celebration of his 25 Years.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Projects, Plans and Other Time-Consuming Activities...

Here's a recent photo of Thomas.  If cats could speak, he'd be saying
"Mum, please BE QUIET!  Why don't you do something peaceful like a blog post??"
So here's a flavour of what I'm up to...
~ There's been lots of instrumental teaching.  I've picked up another harp pupil AND did some coaching for a Year 13 student (which ended last week).  A number of my pupils have also asked for extra time or additional lessons for various reasons.
~ I've been asked to learn lots of material on both the harp and the piano so I've had to expand my practice regime.  I'm now starting piano practice at 7.00 each morning (good thing we're detached!!).  My sister and I have got a medium term plan which involves some challenging flute and piano playing, so I need to brush up my technique.  I'm currently re-learning one of the late Beethoven piano sonatas which I studied at Uni. (back in the dark ages!!).  It's hard to explain just how good this makes me feel... but I'm sure that you fellow musicians out there will know what I'm on about!
~ We went away for two nights over the May Bank Holiday weekend.  We stayed at the lovely little 'motel style' guest house that we normally use for the Donington Historic Festival.  It's a great set-up for the car and fabulous value for money.   The weather was SO COLD but we still enjoyed the first racing of the season.
~ My Blue Discovery was finally towed away by the insurance company last week.  Sadly the Silver one also has had to go back to the garage that we bought her from... She has several issues that need to be sorted while she's still under warranty.  To be honest, Mark could fix her.  It's just that he's so busy with work, other jobs at home AND his building/maintenance programme for the Marcos cars.  Unfortunately, dealing with all of this is extremely time-consuming because the Garage where the Silver car is being fixed is over 30 minutes drive away...
~ There's been a steady stream of low-level jobs to deal with in the house - Such as the light bulb in the extractor fan popping; small things breaking and the whole boiler system developing a curious resonance in the loft!! (Which was resolved by cleaning all the lime-scale off.........!?)
~ AND the tray in the Shower has cracked... leaving a nasty stain on the lounge ceiling.  Grrrr!  'Kevin the Builder' is coming at 12.00 to start the process of removing the old shower and replacing it with a nice non-leaky new one.....
Thomas is not going to be impressed by all the mess and dust from this latest disruption!!!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Yeah.... We did it!!!!!!!!!

Mum and Dad were super-anxious when we set off on Wednesday morning.
There were so many things that could have gone wrong... but we dealt with the challenges as they came along and had a really nice time.  I think my role as 'useful third person' contributed to this, but it's also fair to say that Llandudno is a great place to go with someone who has mobility issues.
We stayed at The Grand, which is right on the sea front and has fantastic views.
It's a cheap hotel to stay in and is very popular with coach parties.
(We chose it because we didn't know if Mum was going to cope with being away from home, and we didn't want to waste too much money on expensive rooms if we were forced to leave early.)

As it happens, the views from Mum and Dad's balcony were worth millions...
This was the view to the right, over the town and towards the edge of Snowdonia..

This was the view straight ahead across the bay...

And this was the view to the left, along the pier...

We were allocated a table on the edge of the dining room, with more superb views and plenty of space.  A seagull became convinced that Mum's hand movements were going to result in food, so it came to watch her eat at some stage during most meals...

The hotel keeps costs down by operating a buffet service for meals.  This is problematic for someone with HD so I got Mum's meal first, while Dad got his own, then they started eating while I quickly got my meal and caught up.  It worked ok because Mum has to eat slowly and I'm a fast eater (a teaching legacy I suspect!!)
On the first morning Mum managed to walk with her frame to the end of the pier...
..... then it was time for a coffee stop!

After lunch we even made it quite a way along the Promenade...

By the end of the day Mum had walked further than she had done for months.
We were all a bit bothered about how she was going to feel in the morning....
....To everyone's delight the gentle movement on the flat had loosen up some of her muscular problems, so we decided that everything was ok to drive up to the car park at the top of the Great Orne (the peninsular above the town).  Here's Mum with the spectacular view towards Conwy and Snowdonia...

Then Mum noticed the Tramway..... and the next thing we knew she'd decided that she was confident enough to tackle the steps (so typical of her fighting spirit when she's on form!).  Mum and Dad had an interesting hour riding the tram down into town and back up again, while I had a walk between the upper stations and took a few photos.

 I think the break/sea air did everyone a lot of good.
(Mum and Dad are very close, but they do drive each other a bit mad sometimes...
It was nice to be able to step in and 'head off' some situations before Dad's patience was tried and Mum got fractious - a difficult feature of the way HD affects the brain). 
I hope that we can do something similar later in the year.
AND the house was mostly in one piece when I got home!!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Door Opener in Chief!!!!

In just about an hour I'm leaving for a short break in North Wales with Mum and Dad.
Thomas was completely unimpressed with the idea that one of his 'servants' should be even considering the possibility of leaving him...

After all, who's going to fill his food bowl at 4.30???
Male servant never feeds him before 6.00!!!

I hope everyone plays nicely!!!!!!!!!!
I hope I don't come back to this scene when I get back on Saturday!!!
Basically Mum and Dad have always loved going away, and travelled extensively before this stage of Mum's HD took hold.  Last summer they had two holidays that didn't really 'work' because of Mum's needs and they lost all confidence in travelling, even cancelling a trip to a cottage with all the family at the end of October.
These three nights away are a kind of 'test trip' to see if we can find the right elements of a holiday for the next few years.  I'm going along to open doors for the wheel chair, share the pushing and help to keep everything calm.......
Will report back at the weekend.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Celebrating 50 Years...and Other Nice Stuff

On Wednesday evening last week my Mum celebrated 50 Years of Mother's Union membership.  Here she is (in the plain purple top) with the some of the other ladies of Claines Mothers Union, my Dad, me (right at the back) and my sister (second from left).
It was a really poignant evening because, coincidently, the speaker for the evening was from the Huntington's Disease Association.  This meant that the group first heard about everything that Mum had done for the organisation (in Oxford, then in Manchester and lost recently in Worcester) then they heard more about the challenges of having a disease like this in the family.  They particularly became more aware of the health issues and enormous decisions that it creates for myself, my sister and her girls...
But most of the evening was about celebration.
Mum received a huge bunch of blue and white flowers (the colours of the Mothers Union)

We all chatted.....
(Mum's HD means that she rarely smiles, but she was really happy here!)

...and ate plenty of cake

AND FINALLY... my silver Disco has arrived!!!!
Although a small failure of a connection piece and a hose meant that she came home on the back of a recovery truck this lunch time.  Fortunately my wonderful husband has already found the fault and will be able to fix her tomorrow morning.
I hope that you are all enjoying the Easter weekend.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Nice Things and Good Times..

The doorbell rang on the Friday evening of our NEC weekend and our lovely neighbour from across the road handed us a parcel.  "What's this?" said Mark "I don't think I've ordered anything from Australia."  "Ooooh," said I in a very squeaky voice "THAT'S MINE!!"
...And it was full of fabrics.  A lovely gift from across the blogosphere from Susan at Granny Smith's Quilting (Click on her name to hop across to her blog.  I am in AWE of her quilts.. they are beautiful)

Behind the floral fat quarters, Susan tucked these musical designs as a special surprise.
They are fabulous together.  I want to make something for my music teaching spaces, but I can't quite decide what/how yet...
Thank you again Susan - such a lovely and unexpected gift!

On the subject of Music - I've just got to the end of my second 'financial year' of private instrumental tuition.  I'm pleased to report that my business is growing more or less as I hoped.
It's all very 'low key' and laid back.. but I'm just about making enough to cover all the household and food bills, plus a very small amount for pocket money for myself.
I think the most important thing is that I'm happy, so my pupils get the best of my enthusiasm too.  I now have four harp pupils, six piano pupils, one violin pupil and some A level coaching.
The best things of all???? No crazy management team and NO OFSTED!

And finally... we've found a car to replace the one that was written off in the accident.
(All our cars have names, generally based on their registration plates, so 'Silver Su the Disco 2' is coming to live with us on Friday.  I'm very excited!!)
In addition, we took the Silver Marcos out for a 'post-winter maintenance shake down drive' yesterday afternoon.  She behaved perfectly - which cheered Mark up no end!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mark's Project at the NEC

Good grief... is it Thursday already?
Anyway, here's a few photos from our weekend as part of the Classic and Restoration Show at the NEC Birmingham.  The Disco 5 hire car did a great job of towing the Marcos on the trailer round the west midlands motorways and in through the doors of Hall 11...
It always seems a bit strange to be driving around these large halls on set up day...

It took a few hours on Thursday to clean up the Marcos (she'd collected plenty of water when we drove through several showers on the way).  We also had to off-load the display boards and carpets from the club van, and set up the whole display.  By the time we left on Thursday we were already pretty tired...

The weekend was fun but exhausting... three more very early mornings and long days.
By the Sunday morning Mark just wanted as much sugar as he could reasonably eat on one iced bun!

Younger niece I. joined us for Saturday and Sunday.  She's been working with Mark for the last two years on the project and is very enthusiastic about the cars.  However, this was the first time that she'd got the chance to come a show.  She enjoyed the chance to sit in the other cars on the stand and generally assess the engineering and design that's needed to finish our project.

We also put her to good work at the end of the show when everything had to be pulled apart again..

When Mark went to get the Disco and trailer, I sat down to eat in the middle of all the chaos.
(At events like this it's important to take every advantage for 'fine dining'... haha!!)

In the end it was easier to push the Marcos out of the hall than try to get the car and trailer in through the doors.  As the lightest member of our team, niece I. got the chance to steer while we pushed.  You can see that she can't wait for the day when she gets the chance to drive this car for real!!!

Fortunately the daylight just about held until we got home.  I think we did a 14 hour day on Sunday.  Mark took the day off on Monday so we all had chance to relax and recover..

Since the weekend we've been trying to resolve the issue of the damaged Disco 2.
On Monday afternoon Mark and I went to look at 4 cars that are similar or lower spec/mileage than ours, at several different garages.  All of them were more money than the insurance company has offered - so Mark is spending a lot of time having very irritable conversations with them to try and bring about a resolution.  Bearing in mind that we are completely 'blame free' in this whole episode AND we have a 'like for like replacement' policy... we are starting to feel  extremely annoyed about the whole thing.
There's lots of other stuff going on... but I'm running out of time today so it will all have to wait for the next post.

Monday, 27 March 2017

'C' is for.. stuff that makes me smile

'Crafting and Creative Projects'
Here are the placemats and coasters that I made for Mum for Mother's Day.
They're made with poly-cottons and brushed cotton (rather than batting) so they should go through the washing machine without problems. This was my first 'go' at anything like this so I was really pleased with the result.  Mum really liked them too.
I've also been flexing and stretching my 'musical creativity' recently.  I write material for harp on a regular basis but it's been a very, very long time since I last wrote anything for piano.  This week I finished a piece called 'Prelude' for one of my intermediate piano pupils.  It's been nice to exercise my brain in a different way... and quite challenging to make sure that the music is of the right level to have 'durability' but still accessible to a 11 year old boy.
'Cats getting in the way of crafting'
Thomas is really back on form.  I took him to the vets last Wednesday and she said that his heart was good, the thyroid tablets are keeping his weight up, and he's enjoying a pain free life with the pain medication.  He was slightly puzzled to find Mark sewing on badges in the conservatory.. he jumped up and started to play with the thread and needle.
Eventually Mark gave in and 'fussed' him for a while.  The net result is that we now have new black tops for the show that are generously covered in white cat fur!!

Mark has worked really hard to get the current project looking good for the 'Restoration Show' at the NEC next weekend.  Obviously she still needs paint, glass and a new interior - but the new wheels and all the mechanical modifications under the bonnet give a pretty good idea of his creativity.  It's also given him the motivation to start scheduling the final stages of the build.  Hopefully I'll be posting pictures of a finished car by the end of the year!!!

And the meanwhile there's been no confirmation of the situation with regards to the damaged Series 2 Disco - so we're still waltzing around in this wee beastie..

Actually we've become rather fond of this car and a custody battle is starting to develop.  This week Mark has got her today, I'm driving her tomorrow, Mark has her on Wednesday, we're sharing Thursday and I'm driving Friday! This was a photo of her first 'grass between the wheel treads' moment at Croome Park yesterday afternoon!!  A little bit silly, but also fun...
Ofcourse there's always some serious stuff going on in the background... but these are things that have made me smile in the last few days