Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Things move fast...

Thank you to everyone for leaving such lovely and supportive comments on my last post.  You all realised that I was beside myself with worry and it really helped to share some of my deeper fears with all my blogging friends.

I think I have good news.... The scan shows that Mark's tumour is very contained.  There is nothing at this stage to suggest that it's removal is going to damage the tear duct or cause long-term damage to his eye.  More importantly, it is not growing down into his sinuses nor back into his brain.

The specialist is going to operate next Wednesday.  He is going to remove the tumour  - and carry out some plastic surgery to cover the effect of the surgery at the same time.  Fortunately all of this is happening during my halfterm holiday.  Basically we will do the whole 'Bank Holiday/Jubilee' thing with our families at the beginning of the week, then focus on getting Mark on his feet from Wednesday onwards.

It will be lovely to 'draw a line' under this phase of our lives!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Happy Endings... I hope...

A lot has happened since Winnie Van Kof (the old Range Rover) died on the hard shoulder of the M5.....

We've managed to find a Series 1 Discovery as a replacement vehicle. Like Winnie, she is an old car with a much newer engine. This suits us just fine. We don't really need a pretty 4X4 - we just need something which is serviceable and will move us around with the minimum of fuss.

One of her previous owners has put her on a Northern Irish number plate.  (These look like private plates but are much cheaper.)  As a result we now refer to her as 'BJ'...

On Sunday we went for our first picnic with her and we had a lovely time.  We think she was quite a bargain at £1,800.

Things are looking up for 'Winnie too...  One of Mark's work colleagues has been looking for an offroad vehicle for some time.  He has bought her this week, and is happy to do the work necessary to make her road-worthy again.  The money that he has given us has ofset the cost of 'BJ' so I think everyone feels like they've got a bargain at the moment..!

The only clouds in our blue skies are Marks' health problems.  You may be able to see from this photo that he has a large lump/cyst/tumour next to the top of his nose.  It is apparently very rare.  In the last couple of weeks we have seen four Consultants AT ONCE on the NHS (after months of messing around).  They decided that they didn't want to have anything to do with it.  

Fortunately Land Rover/Jaguar have a private health scheme and Mark has been able to access it.  In less than two weeks we have seen an international specialist and Mark has been through the scanner. We are going back to see the specialist tomorrow and he is going to explain 'how' and 'when' he is going to operate, based on the results of the scan.  I've been trying hard to keep positive about the whole process but it is immensely stressful.  We've been told that it's not cancer, but it is likely that Mark will have eye problems for the rest of his life.  My deep-seated worry is that the tumour has moved back towards his brain.

Will post again once I know what's happening...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Olympic Flame at the top of my road..

It's been an usual evening in my village. 
The main road was full of people waiting.. There was a real party mood...

Some of them had flags and were dressed in red, white and blue..

Police on motorbikes closed some of the roads and stopped the traffic..

Then a small bus arrived with the words London 2012 Torch Relay on the front.  It stopped right at the top of our close...

A young man got off the bus with an un-lit torch....

Around 6.20 more motorcycles, runners and vehicles appeared...

Then we saw another young man, dressed in white, running with a lit torch..

The runners passed on the Olympic flame and shook hands right in front of us..

The flame is staying over night in Worcester - in the beautiful Guildhall.
Tomorrow morning it's starting the next stage of its journey from the Cathedral Green.
It's been lovely to have been drawn into this national event...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mr Blue Sky...

I'm celebrating our little bit of warmer weather by creating a holiday theme as my header.  Here are a few of my favourite places...

Barmouth Railway Bridge (on the left).  I love the photo opportunities offered by this interesting bridge in such a dramatic setting.  We've stayed a couple of times in a little B+B that overlooks the bridge and the estuary.  My favourite memories are of sitting at the dining-room window, eating breakfast in the sun and watching the tide turn.  Perfect!

Bath (middle picture).  We've had loads of lovely weekends away in Bath - especially over the winter. These pictures were taken in early January.

Grandcamp-Maisy, Normandy (on the right).  We used to spend up to a month a year in France when exchange rates were favourable and holidays on the continent were really cheap.  Nowadays it seems to be almost impossible to get the deals.   This photo was taken at Easter 2011, when we managed to rent a sweet little house in Isigny-sur-Mer at a superb rate because Solihull's holidays were 'out of synch' with everyone else!

Grandcamp-Maisy is part of the Landing Beaches area.  We enjoyed some fabulous coastal walking as well as time spent exploring the WW2 legacy.

Hope that you are enjoying the blue skies!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Poor Old 'Winnie Van Kof'

Yesterday morning my dear old Range Rover finally died - at 7.10 a.m, near Junction 5 of the M5 motorway.  She'd been a very poorly old thing for a couple of months.  Mark has spent hours trying to keep her going but yesterday morning was a terminal event.  I know she's only a car but I'm GUTTED.

Almost all our 'happy' motoring has been done in this car over the last 8 years.  We bought her shortly after Mark was seriously ill with Meningitis. She was perfect for him because she was an automatic and the driving position supported his poorly back and neck. As Mark got better and we got our life back on track, Winnie's role has changed....

She's splashed through tracks with our friends in Mid-Wales..

And climbed rocky paths..

She's been the main tow vehicle for the whole Marcos project..

She's brought the Christmas tree from the Garden Centre each year..

And taken the whole family on great road trips all over England and Wales..

As recently as the end of the Easter holidays she was still part of our holidays.
Here she is at the top of the Gospel Pass near Hay on Wye..

I guess to many people she's just a grotty old, gas-guzzling vehicle.  To me she's masses of happy memories all tied up in a grotty old vehicle!!!!  I still get really emotional when I think about the difficult times we had when Mark was so very ill.  This car has been there every step of the way as Mark has 'come back to me'.

Mark says that he's going to take off all the useful parts that he can, then she's going to have to go for scrap.  Fortunately we have a friend who will let us keep her in his lock up yard while we sort everything out.  It will take some of the pressure of time off the job and maybe I'll get used to idea that she can't be fixed again.  At the moment she's stuck on the drive - which upsets me really.

As a footnote to all of this - if you're wondering how she came by her name - it's
'Winnie' - her red wine colour
'Van' - she's got a horribly noisy diesel engine
'Kof' - the letters of her number plate and the effect that she has on most people!

Hope that you're all having good weekends.  Wouldn't it be nice to have just ONE weekend of blue skies and a bit of warmth?!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Jubilee Plans

I'm not especially royalist but I've got a few plans for the Bank Holiday weekend....  Firstly I've invited all my family to a '1952 High Tea'.  I'm working on the menu this week and I intend to try and be as authentic as possible.  There's going to be tinned meats, simple salads, boiled eggs, chutneys and piccalilli.  The puddings are going to blancmange, trifle, sponge, jelly and tinned cream.

I'm in the process of sending out proper 1950s-styled invitations.. and I've asked everyone to turn up in 1950s inspired clothes.

I'm going to move the tables into the conservatory so there will be more space.  I have dug out my Grandma's old embroidered tablecloths from a drawer at my Mum's house.  I have also got plans to mix and match my floral china tea set (Duchess "Tranquillity") with my Mum's (Colclough "Braganza").  Neither of these designs were around in the 1950s but I think there will be nice vintage feel.

I'm just about to start making my own bunting - using Emma Bridgewater Union Jack paper and some other contrasting designs.

I'm also in the process of sourcing some wide 'champagne-style' glasses for a Babycham toast to the Queen!!!!

Later in the evening we are all going to drive a few miles to the nearest 'Beacon Site' and hopefully see several bonfires lit from the elevated position of Hanbury Church. 

Have you got any plans for the long weekend?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Rhapsody in Blue... and Yellow!

I was so glad to have my camera with me on Saturday afternoon when we went for a walk to the north of the village.  The flowers on the Rapeseed Oil crop were really vibrant against the blue sky..

Given that it's been raining for weeks round here, the path was still incredibly dry in the next field..

We turned to look back towards the village and saw the usual 'huge Worcestershire skies'...

You could see that there had been plenty of rain when we got to the Droitwich canal.  The water was really muddy and several inches higher than normal..

On Sunday we took both cars to the Prescott Hill Climb Charity event.  Mark drove 'Annie' (right of pic) and I drove 'The Kitten' (middle of pic).  This was the first time I'd actually been allowed to drive 'The Kitten'.  Between you and me, I was really nervous.  It would have been awful to have had an accident in Mark's baby!

This is our teddy bear mascot - Stirling (named after Sir Stirling Moss).  I knitted his little scarf last summer and he has a collection of badges from some of the race events we have done in the last twelve months.  He has a little rucksack on his back and 'aviator shades' - one cool bear!!!

Here's Mark junping into our friend's car for another trip up the track.  D. is a lovely guy who comes over from Essex espcially for this event.  He likes to stay in a B+B near our house and we spend the whole weekend catching up on gossip.

Thursday, 10 May 2012


Welcome to my new followers - amasmi20 and Louise.  If you haven't done so already, please could you leave a little comment?  It's the only way that I seem to be able to find my way back to your blogs as my dashboard doesn't make the link.  Grrrr! 

I haven't been near my blog for a few days this week because work has been seriously busy again.  My Year 11s did their Leavers Concert on Tuesday evening.  There was a real sense of occasion as they all played together one last time.  There was a surprise item right at the end - a 'thank you' song that had been written to the Finale of Bugsy Malone.  Yesterday a group came round at lunchtime and presented me with a copy of the words in a card that they'd all signed.  They also stuck a photo of the performers from the night before on the front.  I keep things like this in a scrapbook.  It's nice to have all my school memories in one place.

This is my class (there are two Year 11 classes) in their final Music lesson this morning. You can see how excited they are about the whole 'Leavers' thing!

These are my lovely Year 11s in form.  They really liked their cards and photo frames.

Here are the whole form.  The older pupils are at the front and the younger years are stood behind them.  My classroom walls are covered with photos from all the performances and shows that we've done in the last 18 months.

There was also a Year 10 Parents Evening last night.... another late evening.  Fortunately Mark is happy to turn his hand to a little cooking and ironing, and he was doing both when I eventually got home last night.  He's a lovely man!!!

The final departure for my post today is a youtube clip that one of our friends has posted.  It shows 'The Kitten' leaving the Kit Car Show on Sunday.  It's pretty noisy, given that Mark was only driving on a light throttle!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Now for something completely different....

Firstly, welcome to my new followers - Mabel and Maisy and Janet G.  Please could you leave a little comment at some stage then I will be able to pop over to your blogs too.  I have discovered that my dashboard will not provide me with a link to your blogs directly.  Hopefully I will be able to find a way round this problem soon - as it has made me seem rather unfriendly in the past!

This weekend the 'silly season' of Marcos ownership finally arrived.  We spent Saturday at Donington Park and Sunday at the National Kit Car Show near Warwick.  It's been great fun (if a little cold at times) and lovely to see all our Marcos owning friends after the quiet winter season.

It's the first time that we've been to the Donington Historic Festival.  The great thing about these historic sports car events is that there are virtually no restrictions on public access.  As a result I was able to wander around the pits, hang around the entrance to the pit lane and take all the photos I wanted.  It's great to see these beautiful cars up close and in action.

This is a general view of the pit lane during the E-Type Jaguar qualifying session.  At one time Mark and I seriously considered E-Type ownership so we enjoy seeing the cars involved in this race series. 

This is a Ford GT40.  In 2003 we started everything in process to build a replica of one of these beasts but, for various long and complicated reasons, we ended buying 'Annie' (the first Marcos) instead.  This car is a real one - with full racing history.  VERY nice...

This is 'The Kitten' (our second Marcos) making friends with a few GT40s and a Jaguar on the in-field..  This weekend was the first time that we've taken this car to national events.  People were genuinely interested in the way that Mark has designed and built a 21st Century car within a very classic-looking body.  We were actually really surprised by the number of people who came over to chat and say nice things.  To us, 'The Kitten' was designed to be a practical touring car and 'Annie' is the eccentric eye-catcher!

This the line up for the final race of the day.  This event had no noise-level restrictions and the sound of all these cars reving up was amazing...

This is the row of Marcos cars at the Kit Car Show.  Usually the cars are in a small arena outside these halls, but the grass was too wet and would have been damaged by cars that put down this level of power to their wheels..

Today I've played 'catch back'.  My lovely husband did a food shop while I spent a bit of time on some urgent school work.  Then we both went to Worcester to pick up Birthday cards, a Baby card and some 'Leavers' cards for my Year 11s.  I also found green glass photo frames for the three Year 11s in my form, which we will give to them in their last form time on Thursday.  My plan is to pop a little personal message in each one.  I deliberately chose frames that were quite neutral and fairly adult - so I hope that they will enjoy them and be able to use them for a long time to come.  Hopefully they will like them!

Hope that you've all had great weekends too.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Free.. and Really Interesting!

While we were on holiday near Crickhowell the other week we popped over the hills to visit the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.  We spent ages exploring the Ironworks.  The photo at the top shows the remains of the huge lift that moved trucks from the works to the tramway that crossed the moors.  The photo below shows Mark by the mouth of one of the huge furnaces.

My favourite part of the ironworks were the old workers cottages.  Some of them had been gutted and housed a display about the ironworks and the town.  The majority were intact and furnished as they would have been at various times since 1789.

There was mock up of the shop for the workers and a very interesting explanation of the 'truck system'.  (I'd learnt about this system of exploiting the workers when I studied O Level History but I'd completely forgotten about it since then!)

Some of the cottages had a 1930s theme.  The green doors are the 'privies'.  I started to tell Mark stories of visiting my Great-Aunt when I was a little girl.  She lived in a cramped cottage just like these in a small mill town near Mancester. 

I was just on the point of explaining about her 'kitchenette' when we walked into the next cottage and there was one right in front of us!  I just had to take a photo.  I remember that my Great-Aunt's had a small foldaway table and masses of useful storage.  It was perfect for her tiny kitchen. 

It took us about an hour and a half to read our way through the displays, listen to all the information posts around the site and walk through the cottages.   I was surprised that such a great site was completely free. 

We then walked the short distance down the hill to the World Heritage Visitor Centre. The old buildings on the right house further displays and an Art Gallery. The glass extension is a really lovely cafe.

This was the view across the valley from the cafe. The low buildings on the right are part of The Big Pit - the National Mining Museum. We spent quite a bit of time chatting to a few local people. They explained that visitors tend to come to The Big Pit but they don't tend to come down the hill and visit the rest of the site. We really enjoyed a fascinating morning.

Other news from 'Stand and Stare land'... My Lovely Pregnant Colleague had her baby at 1.30 this morning.  She's had a little boy.  Another colleague within the Arts Faculty had a baby girl last night as well - in the same hospital.  Apparently they were in next door beds!  They had joked about this happening before the event and it was amusing to hear that it actually happened.

I've got a performance with my Year 9 Btec class this evening so it's been rehearsals and keeping them all calm since lunchtime.  To be honest I feel really tired at the moment and could just curl up into a ball and sleep! I'm sure that this lack of energy comes from our ridiculous weather.  Never mind - almost the Bank Holiday weekend!