Guest blog part 5: The final episode, by Sue (Anji’s mum)

Oh oh! Almost forgot that I hadn’t rounded off the week I’ve been guest blogging about so I’d better do that and then hand the reins back to Anji and let her get back on an even keel with blogging herself. (I’m sure she has lots to write about by now.)

I left things on a high note after we’d been to the Palace v City game and we still felt buoyed up the next morning but then it was time to come back down to earth and get ready to leave London for our return to the real world. We hadn’t been looking forward to travelling early as it meant negotiating the tail end of the rush hour and carrying/dragging our luggage through all the commuters on their way to work from the suburbs but, after quickly packing our bags and enjoying our last hotel breakfast, we were on our way. The walk to the station was uneventful and we were grateful for the (newly installed?) lifts down to the platform as the line is at a very low level and all the steps would have been quite a challenge. However, getting seats on the train was another matter and though the journey was less comfortable than we’d have liked, we arrived in central London and made our way to the coach station in good time for our 1030 departure only to find that it had been delayed so we had to hang around for quite a while.

Eventually, it was time to board our coach and the lady driver then explained that the delay had been due to her late arrival on her previous journey and the need for her statutory break before she was legally allowed to take charge of another vehicle. What a difference it makes when someone takes the trouble to communicate as we fully understood about keeping everyone safe! Our driver managed to make up the lost time so, after a shorter than anticipated break in Birmingham and a change of drivers, we were back in Chester at more or less the originally expected time (late afternoon). The coach itself wasn’t as comfortable as the one on the outward journey but it did the job and we certainly can’t complain about the fare charged so ‘Thank You’ National Express for getting us safely to London and back.

A short taxi ride soon had us home and we could then relax and enjoy our final evening together. We definitely didn’t fancy cooking so we decided on a Chinese takeaway for our meal and were then disappointed to find that our favourite Chinese restaurant had either closed down or was closed on a Monday. Undaunted, we resorted to a hastily-concocted Plan B and walked to the local Chinese Chippy to collect whatever was on offer there. It wasn’t quite the same but it sufficed and I’m sure the bottle of red we opened to go with it helped us to enjoy our meal while we relived our last few days and even managed a couple more recorded quiz programmes before giving in and going to bed. Anji was due to leave Chester on a lunchtime train next day so, thankfully, she was able to ignore her re-packing until the following morning.

Then it really was our very last day and, before I knew it, I was seeing Anji off at the station to make her way home in readiness for catching up with the family’s news and getting things straight in time to return to work the next day. I hope she’s well and truly recovered from all that travelling and the strange feeling of perpetual movement that was probably inevitable after so much climbing on and off all those buses, trains, coaches, etc..

So, it only leaves me to reiterate what a wonderful mother/daughter time it had all been, how much I’d enjoyed our shared experiences and how worthwhile had been all the planning, execution and expense associated with the project. Anji, I can’t thank you enough for making all the effort it involved and I’d like to put on record that I love you and love your company very much indeed. Here’s to next time! I’ll let you have your blog back now!

Guest blog part 3: Visiting Sussex by Sue (Anji’s mum)

Saturday 26 April

After a comfortable night we made our way to the hotel’s lift expecting to whizz up to the top floor and the restaurant for breakfast with a view over London. Wrong! Since our last visit, the restaurant had been re-located in the basement so we followed our noses and found it without any help from available staff, notices, information sheets in rooms etc. Well done us! Breakfast was quite good, too, though the tea, coffee and orange juice left a lot to be desired. Afterwards, Anji having looked at train times on her mobile’s app, we set off for the station and bought the necessary tickets so that we could get to Sussex and visit the southern branch of our family. For the best value, it meant using our Oyster cards for the first part of the journey and then travelling on the new tickets for the remainder of it. Our carefully chosen train times would have worked well but for the fact that we needed to check out and in again at the interim point and that made us just in time to be too late to catch the connection. We would have had a Costa coffee to while away the hour’s wait for the next one but that was far too complicated as Costa was outside of the ticket barrier so we made do with a station buffet version served in polystyrene cups. It was OK (and better than the hotel’s) but you can’t beat a Costa coffee, can you? The weather was being kind so we enjoyed our journey into the countryside and the short walk from the station to R, M & J’s house with a stop on at Tesco en route for me to buy a bottle of champagne and a couple of other goodies.

We received a warm welcome on arrival and had a lovely time chatting, catching up with news and events and admiring and fussing the two magnificent feline members of the family. I was very generously indulged in my plea for permission to take lots of photos and even J cooperated by letting me include him. M had prepared a delicious lunch so we polished that off and drank the champagne which was to celebrate Crystal Palace’s survival in the Premiership (I’d been promising myself that reward on the team’s behalf for some time, never dreaming that it would come actually happen) and R’s new job.

Our visit came to an end far too soon but Anji and I had to get back to London and let the others recover from our visit as we fully realise that we’re a bit of a force to be reckoned with when we get together! Sorry folks! All agreed that it had been an enjoyable afternoon, though. R walked us back to the station and when we arrived in London, we popped into the local supermarket to buy a few provisions to see us through the evening and the next day and then we relaxed in our room back at the hotel. Tomorrow promised to be another exciting day!

Food store photo foodstore_zps879a12dc.jpg

Guest blog part 2: On to London, by Sue (Anji’s mum)

Well, the SGD report was well-received by the boss so I’ll continue….

Thursday 24 April
After our lovely day yesterday and with our ‘big trip’ to The Smoke looming large and for which we both needed to pack/re-pack , we applied ourselves to the task in hand and surprised ourselves by managing not to make our luggage too unmanageable. As a reward, we had an early lunch, left the meat for the evening meal gently cooking in the oven and opted for an afternoon of pootling around a shopping area not too far away by bus. Our meal didn’t need too much effort to complete when we returned so we opened a bottle of wine to accompany it (of course!) and afterwards settled down for a natter, laugh and a bit of tele-watching and enjoyed pitting our joint wits against the questions on some recorded quiz programmes. After all, we have to make sure our brains still work whilst we’re relaxing! … and so to bed in readiness for the next part of our adventure.

Friday 25 April
Oh dear, I’m not used to this early-rising lark now that I’m retired but we set our alarms and were ready at the appointed time for our taxi to the coach stop (both of us relieved by the fact that the nearby facilities would be open and available before our long journey). Not having travelled by National Express coach for a good while we weren’t sure what to expect but found the 5 hr journey comfortable enough and kept ourselves amused by reading, talking and generally enjoying the ride. It took us a little while to understand our friendly driver’s announcements as his accent was a mix of his native language and Liverpudlian, but he and a second driver did an excellent job and deposited us at the coach station in London on time. It was but a short walk to the train station from whence to continue to the suburbs and our ultimate destination. We’d chosen a hotel in which we’d stayed on a previous football trip as, though basic, it meets our needs of a clean, comfortable bed, a no-frills (but adequate) cooked breakfast and a good location from which to reach our targeted visiting places. The only drawback is that it’s quite a walk from the station up a very steep hill! Maybe we’ll do the Ritz next time – who knows? Anyway, we were happy with our room so, after settling in, we made good use of our Oyster card/free bus pass and made our way, umbrellas in hand, to the nearest Café Rouge restaurant for our evening meal. Thank you to Billy for the voucher which covered most of that.



Puddings 🙂

To round off the day, we acquainted ourselves with the bar back at our hotel for a nightcap and use of the free WiFi and that was the end of the beginning. We retired to our room to plan for the next day and have a good sleep…..

St George’s Day 2014 – Guest blog by Sue (Anji’s Mum)

When Anji bemoaned the fact that she wouldn’t have time to write a blog about about our recent week together and suggested I write it for her as a ‘Guest Blog’ I thought she was joking but, on reflection, I think maybe she was half-serious so here goes:

Anji is without wheels at the moment (her old banger having finally given up the ghost) so in order to get from A to B to C, etc., it was necessary for her (separately) and us (jointly) to use trusty old Public Transport throughout the week. Having originally planned to drive to me in Chester after work on 22nd, it became necessary for Anji to do that journey by rail during the day so working arrangements were duly changed with her colleague. (Thank you K.) As far as I can gather, that journey was without event, included a convenient pit-stop en route, and I met her at the station on arrival. We then enjoyed a good catch-up over a delicious Dominos pizza, accompanied by a bottle of robust red wine when we got back here.

Cards


We awoke next morning with an air of excitement as we had our annual celebration of St George’s Day to look forward to. After breakfast, we both did our best to do justice to the day by wearing dresses (a very rare occurrence for me!) and generally making ourselves presentable, as Anji’s dad as an ex Coldstream Guard was wont to do (not the dress, obviously!) every year on this day in honour of his ‘Battalion Day’. We visited the crematorium on the way to town to pick up our red-rose buttonholes which had been pre-ordered and, sporting those, we went on our (soon to be) merry way to see what, if anything was going on for good old St George. Apparently, the florist had had several orders for rose buttonholes and a group was re-enacting the George and the Dragon story outside the Town Hall but we saw no evidence of others celebrating our national day.

Rose buttonhole

Rose and badge


Undeterred, we wandered off to a quintessentially English tea/coffee room where we enjoyed coffees and scones then proceeded to meander around some of the shops, picked up a few small items of interest and walked by the river and through Grosvenor Park. The park is undergoing some upgrading work at the moment so it was a bit of a mess but heyho! – we enjoyed it anyway.

Coffee time

Oh dear, we still hadn’t had a proper drink so we put that right with a visit to reliable old JDW’s (“Spoons”)and then set out to find some lunch. Back to the river then to the Boat House where we found ongoing building work to restore order after the winter floods but never mind, we settled down to watch rowers practising on the river whilst we enjoyed beautifully-cooked beer-battered fish and chips served on plates lined with greaseproof-paper displaying information about fish, etc.. We did, of course, have a little tipple with our meal, as is the custom on SGD and took in our stride the interruption when one of the builders accidentally set off the fire alarm.

1st drinks photo SGD1stDrinks_zps53331b9f.jpg Spoons mum photo SGDSpoonsMum_zpsfdb092ba.jpg Lunch by river mum photo SGDlunchmum_zpsf6cfb0e3.jpg Lunch me photo SGDlunch_zps1d12614a.jpg Lunch tipple photo SGDlunch2_zpsaf1e71ce.jpg Lunch drinks photo SGDlunchdrinks_zps518ba278.jpg Lunch photo SGDLunchFishandchips_zps531eeaf1.jpg

Feeling somewhat merrier by now, we made our way to the next planned watering hole only to find it closed. However, not too far away was a new establishment – an old church converted to a bar/ restaurant – where we whiled away another very pleasant interlude with a little drink.

Church pub photo SGDChurchoutside_zpsd5b2ce43.jpg In Church photo SGDChurch_zps5892ad6b.jpg Church bar photo Churchbar_zps592a1f82.jpg Church drinks photo SGDChurchdrinks_zps813c4998.jpg Church pew photo ChurchMum_zps78aa4d22.jpg Church - me photo Anjichurch_zpsd6db821e.jpg

During our earlier wanderings, we’d called into the O2 shop to discuss my up-coming mobile upgrade and I decided I wanted to it that day so off we went back to the shop, did the deal and came away with my new toy. Exhausted by now and with home time calling, we returned on the bus to round off the day with crumpets and cakes – and more wine throughout a (very) relaxed evening.

Last drinks of the day

All in all, a very good SGD once again. Thank you Anji, for enjoying it with me.

My weekend in a few words

I drove to the match on Saturday and drove through brilliant sunshine, snow on the verges, hailstone storms, wind, rain and spray so thick fog lights had to be used! I was very surprised by how few fans Fulham brought – I’ve never seen so few (about 1/3 of the lower tier away section only, and none of the top!)

fulham fans

After enjoying the 5-0 win, despite being absolutely freezing cold, I stopped to admire the building work for our new academy which is coming on apace. The white structure is the bridge which will link the academy complex to the stadium.

etihad bridge

Then it was off to mum’s for a wonderful 24-hours of laughs and love. I even managed (at last) to do my naked face selfie for cancer awareness. If you haven’t yet done it girls,I nominate you, and boys, I nominate you to take a selfie with makeup! Regardless, go and check yourselves now for lumps and bumps please – that’s the price I’m charging for seeing my picture! 😛 (Yes. Now. Go on. It will only take you a mo. Girls, check those boobs, chaps that precious tackle!

nomakeupselfie1

Although the weather had been challenging on the drive down, the car’s new radiator (fitted the day before) behaved itself perfectly.Alas, on the way back, the weather behaved and the car didn’t! I drove home with my eyes glued to the temperature guage and had to refill the radiator reservoir several times and buy extra fluid along the way.

cartemp

Thank fully I made I made it home safely having kept the car at 60 mph / 3000 rpm or less – so it was straight to bed for me. I’ve had today off though and have been able to catch up at home with 4 wash loads done, unpacking done, finances sorted, and a lovely relaxing bath before homemade pepperoni pizza to round it off. Wonderful! Can I have a day off every week please? 🙂

Two dramas in one week: Drama 2

The second drama could have cost me my life – though happily, as you can tell, it didn’t. (Or it could have cost Raji and Nel theirs. But it didn’t.)

On the Friday night as soon as Raji got home from work with my car I loaded it up ready for going to mum’s/football for the weekend. As soon as I pulled away I knew something was wrong with the car! It felt like something was dragging on the road and the noise was very loud. Uh-oh! So I pulled over when I had a chance and got out and looked. Nothing! Nothing was hanging or dragging under the car. Weird! I debated what to do but as it was 6.30pm on a Friday, I didn’t really feel anywhere would be open so I decided to carry on but to take it easy and stay alert for any signs that the car was in bad trouble.

I drove down to mum’s doing no more than 65mph and I kept my peripheral awareness extended over the whole car so that I was listening for noises (or worsening of the existing one) and feeling for anything being wrong. There was nothing definite I could put a name to – the car just felt like it wasn’t quite handling right. Fortunately, I made it to mum’s and decided to just relax for the night and forget about it.

The next morning we planned to go to the local shops and I mentioned my concern about the car to mum. I went and had another look but again, couldn’t see anything. I studied the insides of the front wheels, not really knowing what I was looking for, and wondered if there was something rubbing on them – maybe a brake pad or something? Not knowing about cars, I really couldn’t tell. We set off for the shops and immediately we could hear the noise – it really was obvious. Whilst at the shops, we decided to get it checked – my instincts were that something really wasn’t right and that the car wasn’t safe, and mum’s agreed.

So we drove (carefully) to Halfords, parked up and went inside. The man on reception (I’d guess he was the manager judging by his manner) politely asked if he could help and I explained that we’d called in on spec as I was worried about the safety of the car. He said that they were fully booked for the day as it was Saturday and they closed at 4pm. He could tell we were disappointed and I said that I would feel much better of someone could even just take a look and let me know if I was safe to drive home even if I had to continue taking it easy and drive at a snail’s pace. He very clearly understood my position and very kindly said that if we could leave the car with them he’s do his best to find time for someone to take a look, though he made no promises. We accepted and were very grateful.

Knowing that we’d bought bacon before hand I said I’d nip to the car and get it as it was a hot day and it would end up cooking if we left it in the hot car. Mum said not to worry as it would be fine but I insisted, so she gave in. I decided to grab the paper as well so mum could read it and so I proudly informed her as I returned to reception to hand over the car key. She didn’t seem that impressed!

Having given my mobile phone number, we left and I assumed we’d head for the bus stop across the road, but mum said she was fine to walk. It was a fair way home so I asked if she was sure and she insisted she was, though it seemed a long way home to me, what with her bad hip. As we crossed the road, we went passed the bus stop and headed towards town, and mum took the bacon and paper from me and put them in a bag she had with her. We headed towards town but clearly my brain wasn’t quite with it – too busy fearing the worst with the car I think. I was convinced it was going to be very bad news and discussed with mum what sort of price would be worth doing any work and at what point to cut my losses. I’m not a negative person, as anyone who knows me can latest, but my instincts said it was bad, and I was but fed up of always having an old car that couldn’t be relied upon. I just need to wallow for 5 minutes before giving myself a pep talk and then I’d be fine.

It finally dawned on me that we were actually walking in to town. For once, mum and I were not thinking the same as I’d assumed we’d be killing the 3 hour wait at home. We actually had a nice mooch in town and went to Tesco for the things we needed too. Being clever, mum had put the lamb in the oven before we left so it was cooking slowly, and we’d had a tea cake with our coffee before taking the car to the garage. So she had the idea of going to Wetherspoons and having a portion of chips between us to keep us going until dinner and as we were waiting for the food, my phone rang. It was the garage and they’d had a chance to look at the car for me and said it was a wheel bearing. The manager said he strongly urged me to get it replaced to which I replied that I understood but where could I get it done as he was fully booked. He said he really couldn’t let me drive it like it was and he would get it done the same day for me. When I asked what the cost would be he said £139 including VAT so gratefully accepted. What a star! I was so relieved to think it could be sorted and glad I’d trusted my instincts.

Before we picked up the car later, we bought a selection pack of biscuits to take in to the garage as a small thank-you to them for helping us. There were a few customers in front of us and as we waited our turn, we had a chance to see what fantastic customer service skills the manager had. He was friendly, professional, polite and informative with everyone. When it came to our turn he said I’d been lucky to get down to mum’s okay the night before and it was probably due to the fact that I’d taken it easy. Apparently I could have lost the wheel or it could have completely locked (not at all good on a motorway!) We paid and handed over the biscuits and once again thanked them for going above and beyond. We were very impressed at how the manager had quickly grasped the situation and then taken it in hand, albeit without making any promises, and then thankfully sorted it out for us. He was so calm and reassuring and gave us confidence in both him and the garage. This man is worth his weight in gold and I hope the company appreciate him.

As we drove home, the difference in the car was immediately apparent – what a huge relief! Once we’d got ourselves settled at home I think hysteria set in as we got uncontrollable giggles about the fact that mum had carried the bacon and her newspaper round town all day! Ooops! 😀 This lasted on and off all evening – with tears literally streaming down my face at times.

It was good relax over roast lamb with a bottle of wine and the knowledge that the car was safe to drive the next day. We had the morning together on Sunday and used it to harvest apples from the tree in the garden and rosehips from the bushes at the front. We had an early lunch complete with birthday cake in early celebration, and then it was time for me to be off to the match.

Thank goodness for mum to keep me sane(r) whilst riding out a drama. Thanks Mum, and thanks Halfords – 10/10 for excellent service.

Girls’ afternoon tea

All summer, Nel and I have been wanting to go out for a nice walk together but despite the beautiful weather hadn’t managed it because the men kept using the car for cricket (I hadn’t bargained on this when I said Raji could use my car for work, I must admit!) One evening she said to me that she really wanted to go up to Hadrian’s Wall and take some photos so I “booked” my car for last Sunday afternoon and decided to combine our walk with afternoon tea at Langley Castle as I had a voucher for this 🙂

We had a really nice afternoon up near Hadrian’s Wall with a few laughs and some beautiful photos taken by Nel. I really enjoyed stretching my legs and even managed, on slipping in the mud, to turn my unexpected descent into a graceful slide 😀 What with that and my excellent navigating which didn’t get us lost once, I was feeling very pleased with myself. A fact that did not go unnoticed by my darling daughter 😉

Finishing off with afternoon tea was lovely and we relaxed over our delicious food and tea for an hour and a half – again just chatting and enjoying a bit of a break. We had dainty sandwiches of salmon, cucumber, ham & pease pudding, and egg mayonnaise, followed by individual cakes of lemon meringue pie, raspberry and white chocolate, bakewell tart and chocolate tart, finished off with scones, cream, jam and strawberries. Mmmmmm 🙂 Nel had green tea but I had a pot of good old fashioned strong tea (I’d asked for Assam but they’d run out) Unfortunately when I got into bed that night, I was wide awake! Schoolgirl error forgetting that that much strong tea will have a fair bit of caffeine in it! Ooops! (A glug of sleep herbs soon knocked me out though, happily.)

Click here for Nel’s slideshow of photos

All by myself: Part 2

For good measure, the good old English weather decided to play ball and we’ve had a heatwave. A real summer! I had actually forgotten what it feels like to wear minimal clothing, feel the warmth of the air on the skin, and to relax in comfort. I’ve walked round barefoot, worn summer dresses and cropped trousers, and I’ve had all the doors and windows open with fresh air wafting through the house. I’ve even got a little bit of colour from taking breaks in mum’s lovely garden; I’d forgotten my skin could do that! Wonderful!

Over Thursday and Friday I finished the decorating, putting 3 coats of paint of the walls and one on the ceiling and was very pleased with how well the damp-damaged wall came out 🙂

I also washed the car – twice! I was sure I’d got some car shampoo at mum’s but couldn’t find it so used washing up liquid to do it as the car was so filthy. But the next day it had more bird mess plus a load of dust and leaves all over it again so I went and bought a proper shampoo with wax and did the job again. This time the difference was very noticeable – it seems there IS a reason we have special stuff for car washing 😉

On the Friday morning I was obviously missing going to the gym and I like being physically active, so decided to walk in to town along the footpath and I thoroughly enjoyed a good walk at a nice strong pace. The weather was already gorgeous at 9am and the route was fairly quiet. I treated myself to an iced coffee at my favourite coffee shop before a wander around town for some souvenirs for colleagues and family and then returning.

Iced coffee at Costa

On Saturday morning my friend Lee was in town to see his parents so he came round for a catch-up and a cold drink in the garden which was lovely. We then went to look at a car he was interested in buying and he helped me pump up the leaky tyres on my car – Oh, OK, I confess. He did it for me while I watched 🙂 (It’s really annoying but the tyres have to be pumped back up to 32 psi every week, having gone down to between 24 and 8 psi!) I also fetched the family meat pack I’d ordered from mum’s butcher as it’s good value (8 family meals for £30, excellent quality meat) Then all I did was sort my stuff out before fetching mum from town when her holiday coach dropped her off in the evening.

We had a lovely evening and she led me astray, treating us to a Dominos pizza which we ate in the garden accompanied by a bottle of wine. We stayed out there until way past 9pm – it was just so pleasant and we were so relaxed we didn’t want to move 🙂

On Sunday we felt we wanted to share the last day of our respective holidays doing something holiday-ish, so we went in to town and walked along the river, and back up through the park. We stopped for coffee at the Blue Moon cafe by the river, but alas, its name was better than its coffee or shortcake.


Blue Moon 🙂

We shared one last lunch in the garden – Schnitzels, salad and jacket potatoes – and then it was time for me to pack the car and head home. I had a really enjoyable drive home in the warmth, just appreciating having my car for the last time for a while. As I got nearer home, I started dreading to think what state the house would be in but tried not to think about it.

The biggest “holiday” of my time away had been enjoying living in a clean and tidy house, clearing up after myself as I went along so that nothing built up into a big job. It’s just so much easier that way and so much less stressful. THIS is how a kitchen sink area should look:

Clean & tidy

NOT this:

Washing up galore 🙁

I was home by mid evening and even managed to park right outside the house which was a pleasant surprise. I had time to unpack and to give everyone their little bits and pieces and then I could settle for the night before diving back headlong in to work again next day. However, I did feel that I’d had a real holiday with precious, heavenly time alone, calm, relaxing surroundings, and glorious weather to top it off. What a contrast to this time last year! Lucky, lucky me 🙂

Car Stresses

As I drove down to Chester the day before our home game against Spurs, a light came on on my dashboard. Uh-oh! That didn’t look good! I couldn’t work out what it was – worryingly it looked like a little engine outline.

I pulled in to the next services and looked in the car’s handbook – “Engine Malfunction Warning” was the verdict. Eeeek! That sounded BAD! I read on…. the advice was to take the car to a Nissan dealership to have diagnostic tests. However, it said that the car did not need to be towed, but shouldn’t be driven above 70mph, or up steep hills and care should be taken not to accelerate or brake too hard. Hmmmmmm. I decided I SHOULD be OK to drive to mum’s, if I drove like an old granny, and then I would be able to get advice from the web, and my brother.

I drove very carefully in the inside lane, terrified of braking or accelerating too hard, worrying over every new sound… then turning up the music so I couldn’t hear – before panicking that I needed to hear and turning it back down again. I was wrung out by the time I got to mum’s but I made it in one piece. Phew! 🙂

After lunch and a bit of a rest and a chat, I turned to good old Google for advice. It looked like it was probably my timing chain, a known issue on Nissan Almeras – and fairly pricey to fix. That was it! No more money being chucked away on this car – it had to go. It did, however, look like I might be OK to drive it carefully the next day to the match and then home, so that was my plan.

Mum suggested we went for a walk as it was such a beautiful autumn day so we went for the canal-side walk that Billy and I had done in the rain in August.


Photobucket

Mum treated us to a Chinese takeaway accompanied by a bottle of wine in the evening and at last I relaxed – and even forgot about the car for the night. However, the next morning I had to think of it again and I prayed it would see me through without the engine stalling completely on me. I was just beginning to breath a sigh of relief that I’d made it to Manchester when there was a road closure and I had to follow a diversion – which always stresses me as I can get lost in a car park! Eventually I parked in my usual place and tried to calm down before meeting Claire and Simon.

After the game I prayed I’d get home safely and again, I drove in the inside lane at 60mph (would you believe I STILL had to overtake several cars over the course of the journey!? ) As I went I was ticking off progress: “I’ve made if past Manchester/Preston/Lancaster/South Lakes/the M6/Carlisle/Haltwhistle/Haydon Bridge…By the time I arrived home and gave a heartfelt thanks to God for keeping me safe, I was in need of a stiff drink and my bed! At least now I had a couple of weeks before I needed to drive again…..

My plan was to take my car in to a used car dealer for part exchange and hopefully get something smaller and cheaper to run. However, we had another situation that arose at the same time (more on that later) so I looked in to the possibility of hiring a car as and when needed. This seemed as though it MIGHT be do-able – until I found out about the £200 deposit each time plus the £600 excess on the insurance!

On to plan C: I contacted someone to see if they’d take the car for parts. He arranged to call me at the weekend so I duly kept my phone with me at all times and remained on standby, having cleared the car out and filled our hallway with its contents. For nothing! Grrr! I HATE people who don’t do as they say and don’t let you know what’s happening! He’s burned his bridges now and I will find someone else, but I’ve lost a week!

I’m hoping to pick up a cheap run-around if I can can but until I sell this heap of metal I don’t know exactly what I’ve got for a new one. For now I am hating being car-less and feel thoroughly out of control and out of sorts. I need to sort this very soon. 🙁

Not making a drama out of a crisis.

Having driven to mum’s after the match and enjoyed a couple of drinks and a natter until gone midnight, I fell into a coma slept well as soon as my head hit the pillow.

In the morning we decided we would go to Broughton as I wanted to take my faulty boots back and mum was after a couple of bits so after a leisurely breakfast we set off. About half way through the drive, the car started making strange noises. On braking there was a low pitched droning which was quite loud and was accompanied by a dragging sensation. On accelerating there was a repetitive squeaking noise. It didn’t feel right though there was no difficulty with either braking or accelerating. There wasn’t really anywhere convenient to pull over and the roads were fairly busy (lots of people making the most of the extra hour after the clocks changed, presumably) so we carried on to the retail park as planned. After parking up I got down on the ground and had a look under the car and could see a piece of metal dangling underneath though I couldn’t work out what it was. I decided we’d need to call the RAC but we also thought we’d better do the most important things we needed first.

After taking back my boots and getting a refund (YAY!) we did the other couple of things and then went back to the car to call the RAC. It took rather a long time to get through as they were busy (oh dear!) but eventually we did and mum was giggling at me trying to imitate the droning noise and the squeaking for the benefit of the poor bloke at the other end of the line. I was just trying to be helpful and give as much information as possible 😀 We were told we may be waiting between 1-3 hours but that the patrol man would call us when he was on the way. I said that was no problem as we were safely parked and could amuse ourselves and then we worked out what to do. Originally we’d planned to have a nice lunch out and although there was a likely looking pub restaurant opposite us, we were a bit concerned that we’d have to rush. In the end we opted to go to the Asda cafe and we had a hot panini and a cuppa. Just as we were finishing, we got the call that our rescue was imminent, so that all worked out well 🙂

Our hero was called Steve, and he immediately saw that the bit of metal dangling underneath the car was the heat shield and he removed it, assuring me it wouldn’t be a problem in the short term. He then got me to drive around the car park to make sure the problem had resolved. Er…… it hadn’t! He stuck his head out of the passenger window so as to locate the noise and when we parked back up he went straight to the front left wheel. On taking it apart he informed me that my brake pad had completely disintegrated, damaging the disc …. and where did we want to be towed? 🙁 I chose to be taken to Kwik Fit in Chester as it was my local Kwik Fit that had fitted new brake pads only last December (and they have a lifetime guarantee and should be on record) and because I knew that it was conveniently located for us to get the bus back home and for me to get the bus in to collect it next day.

I tell you what – Steve played with Lego as a boy, and his favourite cartoon must have been Transformers! 😉 As I stood with mum watching the poor man work, and worrying about whether I’d have to sit in the car and steer as it was towed, he set about turning his van into a transporter – a trick which James Bond would admire!.

It went from this:

to this:

until we were like this:

Seriously impressive! Mum and I hopped (well, maybe not quite “hopped”) into the van and were taken in comfort and safety to the garage (and saw a couple of other cars being towed in similar fashion so it must’ve been the day for it!) Once there we booked the car in with our saviour, Steve, parking the car in a corner of the packed workshop and then we caught the bus back home.

We counted ourselves/me lucky that I hadn’t come a cropper on the motorway (I’d had no problems or symptoms whatsoever on my drive down to the match or over to mum’s) or caused any accident. Also that it hadn’t happened on the way to the match so that I’d have missed it, we hadn’t really been much inconvenienced, not had a dinner cooking (as is often the case when we go out). It was a good job I’d got my RAC cover and that we had been able to be towed to Kwik Fit which was conveniently located and my car’s history would be on their system. Further, having swapped working days with my colleague, I didn’t need to fret about getting home that day. All in all, if it was going to happen, there would definitely have been worse times and places for it to do so. (I do like to be more Pollyanna than Victor Meldrew 😉 )

Mum was up and out early on the Monday as she was booked on a coach trip, and I spent the morning packing, pottering around and passing time – it was quite pleasant to get a bit of time to relax actually. Well, my brain wasn’t QUITE relaxed as I waited for news on the car, and wondered how much it would cost. Eventually I got a call and was told that the front brake pads would need replacing, as would the left disc and the caliper which had been knocked out of alignment as a result of the other problem. Just under £400. Ouch! Fortunately I’d been trying to put some money aside in anticipation of work needed for its MOT in December, and I’d just been paid, so was able to cover it – and in fact when I picked up the car at 3pm, they knocked off the price of the brake pads since I’d already paid for those last December. The mechanic couldn’t say why the problem had occurred and explained that newer cars have a warning light that indicates brake pads are wearing thin, but my car doesn’t, being older.

By 4pm the car was packed and I was on the road home, grateful to the RAC, Kwik Fit, and all in all counting myself rather lucky…