Remember November

Thank God for a village hall at the end of the road for the party venue given the abysmal rainy weather. My now three year old went to bed happy in his new George from Peppa Pig PJs, with a belly full of sausage rolls cucumber dips and chocolate cake, a head full of good memories of bouncy castles, new toys, balloons and, best of all his shiny new little tikes pick-up truck – I even have movie footage of him riding along in it with his first ever girlfriend, Sam, sitting in the back.

My father dutifully tolerated the two hours of carnage as children bounced, charged and hollered their way round the hall. The oldies and parents kept their energy reserves up with tea/ coffee/ wine on tap.

My daughter also had a good time despite it not being her birthday. She helped write the list of thank you letters and harboured a secret liking of all his new toy cars – like mother like daughter. I still remember my toy General Lee complete with speed ramp. Must make a mental note to put cars on her Christmas wish list.

For all the planning and effort that goes into children’s parties (as well as the cost), you just cant beat the excuse to share time with friends and family and have a good occasion to act as a backdrop for the pictures that you will hold dear for the rest of your life.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Speedy quotes

I have another bad case of writers block, fuelled partially, by a bit too much rose – not excessive but maybe a tad more than would be deemed suitable for a Sunday evening.

For inspiration I scanned through various social media accounts and came across Paul Walker’s charity ‘Reach Out Worldwide’ and their countdown to Fast & Furious 7 hitting cinemas next year. Since PW died, I have noticed fellow petrolheads have paid tribute to the car star through one of the lines from the first movie ‘Dude, I almost had you’, stickered across the rear of their car.

That got me thinking about other cool quotes on speed and here are some of my favourites:

“When in doubt, flat out” – Colin McRae

“It is useless to put on your brakes when you are upside down” – Paul Newman

“Racing is life, anything before or after is just waiting” – Steve McQueen

“You should never feel comfortable, there is something wrong if you are” – Damon Hill

“The more precisely I drive, the more I enjoy myself” – Michael Schumacher

“In motorsport we work in the grey areas a lot, you are trying to find the holes in the rule book” – Danica Patrick

“What’s behind you doesn’t matter” -Enzo Ferrari

“Speed has never killed – suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you” – Jeremy Clarkson

“Winning is everything, the only ones who remember when you came second are your wife or your dog” – Damon Hill

And this one from Bill Nighy “I speed up past mirrors” -I can relate a lot to that one.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

A revival of the sexes

Why do men do most of the driving?

We passed gorgeous vintage cars on their way to the Goodwood Revival, most of them were being driven by the men, with the women looking glamorous swathed in fox furs and rouge lipstick. All of the men appeared to have a semi-serious, semi-smug expression on their face depicting their awareness of their presence as part of the privileged few who can afford to own, maintain and drive the best of automotive history.

Initially, my ‘girl power’ kicked instinct kicked-in as the men drove past in…..droves, but then I was doing the exact same thing, albeit in the far less glamorous environment of the pick-up truck on our way to collect a boat for repair. I enjoy being chauffeur driven as much as I enjoy driving. The only time I dont enjoy driving is when my husband is a passenger. He is on the same level as a driving examiner, without the politeness. He is so critical that I instantly tense and drive in anticipation of his criticism, which affects my concentration levels. Sometimes I am lucky and he falls asleep, but this doesnt happen enough as he is rarely relaxed enough when I am behind the wheel. Yet he seems to ignore the fact that I have had no insurance claims, while he has has had many and I have beaten him karting every time.

So, I prefer to think that the Goodwood Revival women were letting the men drive, in much the same way that they would let their child push a trolley in a supermarket……

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

How to bruise a finger

It is actually very difficult to bruise a finger and requires the body to undertake tasks that it is not ordinarily designed for.

When we were evolving, our hands developed to hold basic tools, cook and make things. This did not include the ability to shoe-horn an unwieldy bulky child’s car seat onto two hooks located deep in the car’s upholstery.

In the effort to perform this feat, i swore in front of my children and blamed hubby because he is easy to blame as he wasnt present (plus I like to think there is no such thing as a man’s task, but as soon as a task involving a bit of muscle gets too difficult, I then curse hubby for not having the foresight o have done it himself). I am what you would call a ‘selective feminist’. Not satisfied with blaming my husband, i then started to curse the designers of the car and the car seat (who i assumed were male, because they did not think of a woman in a rush trying to fit a seat in the pouring rain.)

It required me to be a contortionist and I bruised my finger putting sheer force onto the seat, pushing it back in the hope the two little isofix grabbers would locate the docking loops connected to the chassis.

While all this cursing and unadulterated male bashing was going on, my children just looked on as if they were watching a demented woman having a temper tantrum.

The whole experience was further marred by the attempt to do it in a thunderstorm. All parents of children under the age of 11 (so need a car seat of some description) will be familiar with the bum sticking out of the side of the  car pose, as you strap junior in the seat. As a result, my bottom was soaked. At one point, i just stood up and rested my head on the doorframe staring down at a seat that was still miles away from where it should be. I was tempted to start searching for a branch I could thrash it with in the style of Basil Fawlty.

But, like all parents, I persevered and eventually heard the satisfying ‘clunk’ when it finally connected with the chassis.

Needless to say if it ever needs moving again………

This blog is for Unicef.


Flcking the V sign to all things ‘vintage’

Since when did everything previously described as ‘retro’ or ‘had it’ or ‘one-way ticket to the dump’ become labelled with the rather glamorous term of ‘vintage’?

Vintage should be reserved for the best old champagnes, the best old cars and anything that comes under ‘luxurious but old’. But suddenly any old tat has become vintage in an effort to ‘upscale its worth.

This observation came after watching the Irish property developers programme ‘amazing spaces’, during which he described a delapidated old camper van and caravan as a genius conversion to a mobile ‘vintage tea room’. There seems to be a proliferation of businesses starting up mobile catering in ‘vintage’ modes of transport that are cramped and frankly toxic for the environment. Pizza, cakes, coffee, pies and even cheese on toast can now be served out of the back of an old VW or Citroen at a premium price across Summer fetes this year. No doubt I will lose count of how many variations of this ‘vintage catering’ trend i see at Camp Bestival later this year.

I say bring back the good old fashioned Transit van, but with maybe slightly better options than burgers and hotdogs. I dont care how it got to the venue, as long as the food tastes good and the best before date isnt ‘vintage’, its all good in my present day hood.

Vintage is so last season darling…..

I am blogging for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

The scenic route

On a Wednesday I leave work early to pick my daughter up from school. It was a bad day to leave early. I am running late so i text my friend to ask her if she can collect my daughter from the bus-stop, she replies with news that she is witness to a bad accident and has asked another friend to pick up her children for her plus my daughter. I knew it was bad because she said she was waiting for the fire engines and paramedics to arrive. Turns out they had to cut the roof off the car to get to the elderly passengers caught up in the incident.

On my way back as i go round a bend, a lorry skims the side of my car knocking my wing mirror and scratching my wheel arch. Baby boy instantly asks ‘whats that noise?’ as i try and re-set the wing mirror. As i approach one of the main towns on my route, the police have cordoned off the main high street so that none of the traffic can bet through. Then ensues a mystery tour led by myself, a van, a lorry and umpteen cars trying to find an alternative route. It involves a couple of U turns, a discussion with an elderly lady about the best alternative route and then curses as we realise the first option is closed for maintenance.

I end up following a massive truck along a very narrow country lane and a very old bridge. I had no clue as to where the road would take us, but somehow we discovered the main road again, which had taken us the other side of the town on a diversion that took us through some glorious countryside that i would otherwise miss.

Sometimes its not a bad thing to follow an unplanned diversion, especially if you take the time to look around you.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.

Desperately seeking bikers (with boobs)

My husband has got a new helmet and pair of bike trousers. He didn’t have to change the size of his trousers, but his helmet did need to go up a size. I didn’t know that your head continues to expand into your thirties, but clearly this is the case  with my husband.

As part of his order, he was given car window stickers that read ‘Born to ride, forced to drive’. I first rode a motorbike when i was 14 and took to it like a duck to water, i wonder what could have happened if i had got into biking earlier. It certainly would have saved me a lot in fuel costs on the daily commute. I would have built up so much experience that would have helped me to ride the bigger bikes, i find them now rather intimidating because i worry if they get dropped thats it, im stuck.

Months have passed and i am stuck driving my estate, commuting on a bike now is impossible with the tiddlywinks in tow. I could go out for a ‘ride’ at the weekend but it feels wrong to be on my own when i could be with the family. Although i would enjoy it i would also feel a bit lonely riding out on my own.

I would love to have a girl friend who also rode a bike but it seems most of the female riders are lesbians, so have absolutely nothing in common with me.

Is there a biking Mum out there who is also in the same quandary. Female petrolheads keep their passion secret, particularly amongst other women. I used to stay up the small hours to watch an F1 GP live and last night was up past my bedtime watching highlights from the Isle of Man TT.

So it would be great to hear from any female bikers out there to exchange experiences and enjoy pep talks.

I am blogging every day for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.


Green cred

I have often mentioned the climate change in previous posts. My husband maintains that as I get older I get more like a tree hugger, ‘Why don’t you go and marry swampy?’ he says. The most recent issue that prompted this statement was a discussion on cars.

We are petrolheads. Ever since I was in my early teens, I have been an avid watcher of Top Gear (and inadvertently observed the demise of Jeremy Clarkson’s barnet). I used to join the sniggerers every time Clarkson mocked emissions over power. I will die a girl-racer, I enjoy speed too much to give it up but as I have matured and looked beyond the realms of me, myself and I, cars for me have a responsibility to be cleaner and safer.

I believe we have been going at a snail’s pace when it comes to developing cleaner and more efficient engines that can run on renewable fuels. This is because manufacturers have not felt enough pressure from customers to change engine power.

So when my hubby started scanning the market for a new car, all the usual suspects were off my short list because of emissions. Yet it is difficult to find a car that ticks that box and looks ok too.

Its almost as if you have to compromise streetcred for greencred.

The Royals aren’t exactly helping the cause either, with range rovers chuffing around their kingdom snow-ploughing through the paparazzi and the ozone layer.

So when we do get round to replacing the car, I plan to make a green statement and get the car with the lowest emissions possible.  The best is electric but we live out in the sticks and at least an hour away from our nearest ‘plug’. So why haven’t they made them more available?

Think we should go back to the original horsepower. At least I can do something useful in the garden with the waste products.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. Check out the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.

Getting the Government to quit

The apathy over climate change reflects the apathy that used to exist over wearing seatbelts in a car, smoking, HIV and drink driving, to name but a few. While all these examples impact on personal health and safety, climate change is about global health. Reports after reports by scientists passed to Governments show our C02 emissions continue to climb to harmful levels causing more freakish weather and an environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to live in for a lot of people.

The poorest are the first to suffer, which is probably why the apathy is so severe because they rely on charities to give them a voice and power. By the time it hits the people who have the ability to do something about it, it will be too late.

In September this year Europe’s leaders will gather to discuss global issues, yet climate change is not top of the agenda and charities such as Oxfam are lobbying hard to get leaders not only discussing this life-saving issue but also committing to a crackdown on C02 emissions.

Climate change is the most important issue to address to help people in poverty and to protect our children’s future. Yet it is the least talked about and the UK media seem uninterested in giving it coverage, assisted by the sneers of personalities like Clarkson and the vanity of people driving big 4×4 vehicles on road.

It takes less than a minute to lobby the Government so do so now here.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – support the campaign here.

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The Rolls Royce of timewasters

Life is precious and in an ideal world, we would all like to make every minute count. But life is also a maze with lots of dead- ends and U-turns and times when a lot was sacrificed for little achievement. That feeling of achievement or lack of can make the difference between a bad day or a good day at work. On a minor level, failure is not getting to the bottom of the to do list. On a major level it is being in the position of someone like John Kerry who, after nine months of negotiators, has failed to engineer a framework of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Having looked at the media coverage, I get the impression peace will never be possible under Netanyahu. The whole process needs to learn from the Northern Ireland experience. In fact John Kerry needs to have a chat with Mo Mowlam. They need to stop the talk of each sore being terrorists as an excuse for not continuing. A lot of forgiveness of Sinn Fein and Unionist terrorism was cast to history for the benefit of future generations. That is what Netanyahu needs to think about, the future, rather than vengeance.

On the back of a fairly depressing news broadcast about conflict around the world, I next watched a documentary about Rolls Royce and the number of man hours and investment they channel into achieving ‘perfection’ for people with more money than sense. The average car costs 200k and options tend to be from 50k onwards, such as hampers made out of platinum to the tune of 20k. Of course the hamper will never be used, but apparently that’s not the point. A special project to embed diamonds into interior panelling hoes wrong when the RR quality control team decide it is not good enough. So the silversmith then casts aside his 350 hours spent on the project to start from scratch. Meanwhile the ‘front of house’ manager at RR scans the grounds surrounding the factory to check the grass is the right level and that the trees are the right shape. While I acknowledge it must be a privilege to work for such an esteemed brand, I do not envy the amount of time the entire staff spend on meaningless crape for people who cannot think of better ways to spend their money. 200k alone on a car is ostentatious to say the least but the average RR owner has 7 cars – and that is the best they can do with their disposable income. What a monumental waste of money.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF to raise money for the charity. For every missed day of blogging I pay a pound. As I missed last night due to internet connection problems, another pound goes in the pot. Read more about the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.