Czecheap Challenge – Home to Hull to Zebrugge (Day 1)

2014 05 23 13 the polo

We left home at 10.40am and met up with Rob ‘Cafe Creme’ Grimmer and Al ‘Duff’… I don’t know his surname, viagra sale friends we’d made on Barcelona Bangers in 2013. I’ve kept in touch with Grimmer through Facebook, but I’ve not seen or heard from Al in almost a year. 51 weeks actually. It felt like we’d just woken up from a good sleep and were carrying on with our driving journey.

We reached Scunthorpe and met up with some of the other ralliers, we met some new people and got to see many of the cars before we all set off across the Humber Bridge to Hull, for the overnight ferry.

2014 05 22 02 hull

I was really worried that my best banger buddies, Rob and Si, weren’t going to be able to make it as Si’s sister had been taken seriously ill. We were waiting for news to see if she’d started making an improvement, Si was really worried about leaving her. As the Rally Events organisers started to get us together to leave, I got the good news phone call to say that they’d meet us at the ferry terminal.

We got to Hull and Rob’s girlfriend Sarah was there with their beautiful little girl, Lauren. I was really pleased to meet Lauren as I’d heard so much about her. She is brilliant! She has the most lovely voice and a really thoughtful tone. She’s super clever and super cute!

As we neared the ferry we were selected for a security check by a man who said, “Scrapyard’s that way mate!” and laughed at his own joke.

2014 05 23 06 ferry

We boarded the ferry and then waited for about 3 hours while our departure was delayed by the tides, apparently. It was weird to be sat in the port amongst half-drunk people listening to mediocre cabaret. Later there was bingo, and other things that made me want to jump overboard!

2014 05 23 01 ferry

Adam and I went to the ‘World Flavours’ buffet for our dinner. There were all sorts of random things on offer and I could have made up a very odd meal-concoction – as it was I went for lemon chicken, macaroni cheese, cucumber and cherry tomatoes… oh, and two puddings!

We spent the evening chatting to our friends, and making new ones. Last year Colin came on Barcelona Bangers for his Stag-do, and this year he brought along his wife, Ashleigh!

2014 05 22 05 grolsch tops

There were lots of bikers in Hells Angels style gear, and too many cool skull back-patches on jackets. One of them won £125 on the bingo.

Later that night I was to be found in the Casino betting Gordon’s money on Pontoon… someone said you could win chips! After a few games I managed to get the hang of it. I reckon I made him at least €2.50. Then I went to bed.

2014 05 23 04 ferry

Adam took the top bunk, and I was actually quite happy nesting in the bottom bunk. I liked the red and white colour scheme, even though the ‘room’ was much smaller than the photos had made out and was about the size of a cupboard. It also smelt a bit cupboardy.

IMG_8440
Strangely, and much to my surprise, the bed was rather comfy and I quite liked the lumpy, waviness (it reminded me of airplane turbulence), but it was noisy, and hot, and there was too much light coming under the door. By the time I got off to sleep it was time for tannoy lady to announce “It’s 8am European time and breakfast is served.”

2014 05 23 03 ferry al's breakfast

Breakfast was a buffet mountain. Sleepy people shuffled around with piled-high plates. I opted for Alpen. I did try a pastry, but it was stale beyond belief and tasted of meat fridge. Shudder.

Czecheap Challenge – This Time Last Year!

05 16 13 glitter mitten barcelona bangers car stop admiral rodney horncastle

So, we’re off to Prague on the Czecheap Challenge, in our trusty, crusty, totally rusty VW Polo, but this time last year we were heading off to Barcelona with the Rally Events guys. We managed to raise over £1700 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices while we were at it, too.

Barcelona Bangers was amazing fun, so I thought I’d share some of the gazillion photos I took on the journey… see you on the other side!

05 16 13 glitter mitten barcelona bangers car sign written louth

We took Lisa the Tigra up to Grimsby Signs to get stickered, so on the way home we stopped off at Louth for a photo with this amazing building. We also stopped at the Admiral Rodney for a Rodney Burger. That’s right, a Rodney Burger!

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_001

We dressed up in our best ‘Glitter Mitten’ gear and hung around in Calais, watching exceptional French television in our hotel room.

05 23 13 thursday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_027

Our first destination was Tours, on the way we went to Le Mans and visited the amazing museum. There were things that I wanted to bring home, many things.

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_150

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_103

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_119

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_132

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_162

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_164

In Tours we met up with some of the other drivers, and went for dinner in an Italian Restaurant. It wasn’t very Italian. The food was vaguely edible. Adam had his steak knife thrown at him by the waiter, and then a strange little French man asked a group of Scottish guys to serenade his wife/girlfriend/female… and they did! It was truly bizarre and wonderful.

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_173

In France they have the best net curtains.

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_182

And the best names for pubs.

05 24 13 friday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_185

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0042

The following day we headed off to Toulouse. We took more of a scenic route and stopped off at many random supermarches on the way.

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0045

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0046

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0055

Simon found a race track out in the countryside, so we headed there and watched the fast cars go round. Then we drove electric go-karts. I’ve never been in a go-kart before, and I can’t say I was very good at it. Apparently it’s not the done thing to stop when another driver has gone off and ask them if they’re okay and need any help getting started again. I’m learning!

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0065

05 25 13 saturday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0089

After a night in Toulouse, where there was a very cool break-dancing event going on in the city square (I didn’t take part!), we headed off through Andorra, on our last leg of the journey, to Barcelona.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers facebook 01

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers facebook 03

I know it’s wrong, but this was my favourite car – his little arm waved when the wiper was on! There was also a missile on the roof.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0012

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0064

Andorra was beautiful. I got stuck in a toilet in Andorra, and I didn’t mind. That’s how nice it was.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0078

I forgot about that tax disc holder. I miss that tax disc holder.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0110

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0112

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0151

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0123

The weather was magnificent, and so were the roads. We stopped for lunch, chatted with other drivers, and watch some of them sledge down the icey mountainside.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0154

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0178

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0216

Finally we arrived in Barcelona and parked up in the beach-front car park. We watched the rally organisers cars get shrink-wrapped and then headed off to our hotels.

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0228

05 26 13 sunday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0229

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0039

We had an amazing night out with everyone, one of the best nights. I danced like a right pillock and had a lovely time. And then I got to eat cake and fruit for breakfast.

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0001

We stayed in Hotel Attica 21, in Barcelona. Apparently this is the swimming pool they used on the Trivago advert. I don’t know. I don’t believe anything they told me. They told me the water was 15 degrees celsius, but when I got in and thought I was going to have a heart-attack I realised they might have meant 5!

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0012

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0040

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0043

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0057

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0045

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0060

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0071

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0066

We spent the Monday wandering around Barcelona in the sun. I was so disappointed to find that the Museu Blau was closed, but we did visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was another spectacular building.

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0078

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0093

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0085

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0081

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0097

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0140

And of course, a visit to Barcelona would not be complete without a walk along Las Ramblas to La Boqueria Market. 

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0108

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0101

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0126

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0115

05 27 13 monday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_0117

On Tuesday we packed our bags, got back in our banger and made the epic journey from Barcelona to Calais, via the Millau Viaduct.  The weather got more and more stormy the closer we got to home.

05 28 13 tuesday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_035

05 28 13 tuesday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_015

We made a few ‘Yop Stops’ on the way, and stayed the night at Calais, before catching the ferry back to Dover and coming back to reality! I still can’t explain what a wonderful time we had, and although these photos serve as a reminder to me, they don’t express half of the fun, glee and freedom we felt.

05 28 13 tuesday glitter mitten barcelona bangers_047

If you want to follow our Czecheap Challenge journey I’ll be adding pictures to instagram (harveyhotdog) and facebook (glittermitten)

Cut-Outs & Lino-Cuts

2014 05 19 matisse exhibition tate modern

I spent yesterday in London with my friend Louise. We visited Tate Modern to see the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition, before going on to St Bride Foundation to launch Louise’s own exhibition that evening.

2014 05 19 tate modern 01

The Matisse exhibition was stunning. We weren’t allowed to take photos, (lots of people were, and that’s naughty!) but I did snap the picture above, of glass on a light box. (I figured it was okay because 1. I’m not infringing anyone’s copyright, 2. I didn’t use flash, and 3. The glass is lit by the light box, so if I had used any light I couldn’t have done any damage anyway. Just so you know!)

I didn’t realise how incredible the Matisse exhibition was going to be. I’d expected it to be pretty, and colourful, but I’d not allowed for the beautiful details within each piece. The tiny pin holes, the cut along edges, the marks from glue and movement. Truly incredible.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until 7th September 2014. Tickets are £18 for adults, find out more about booking, here.

2014 05 19 tate modern 09

2014 05 19 tate modern 04

We had lunch on the terrace of the Members Room and looked out across the new Tate Modern development.

2014 05 19 tate modern 06

2014 05 19 tate modern 07
The sun was hot, but the wind was strong, so Louise had to hold her ham down. An unusual predicament!

2014 05 19 tate modern 08

These cakes were there, but I didn’t eat one. I just looked and thought what great hats they’d make!

2014 05 19 tate modern 05

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 02

We went over to St Bride’s to organise everything for the evening’s opening event and then did a bit of a coffee shop crawl of Fleet Street, before popping into The Blackfriar, a beautifully Art Nouveau, traditional pub.

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 05

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 06

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 18

Louise’s exhibition is in the Bridewell Theatre Bar Gallery at St Bride Foundation. I’ve mentioned this incredible place of magic and awe before, right here, if you want to have a look! The exhibition runs until 11th August 2014 and includes a fabulous mix of linocuts and etchings. If you are in the area, pop in and have a look, amongst the work on display you can view her Cafe Series, as well as new works from a series inspired by The Day of The Dead. 

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 12

If you missed the Private View, then you missed these beautiful little homemade bakewell tarts too. Poor you.

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 16

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 15

2014 05 19 st brides louise stebbing exhibition 09

If you do pop in to see Louise’s award-winning work, have a look the big green things too! There are two incredible Victorian contraptions in the Theatre Bar, a ‘washing machine’ and a ‘spin dryer’. There’s also this incredible drying rack, above (the numbered panels are hidden away in another area of the building), designed by Charles Dickens and Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts, and built by William Jeakes. Apparently they could dry 1000 items in 25 minutes. I love it!

2014 05 19 south bank london evening 06

2014 05 19 south bank london evening 05

After a really lovely evening, and a very promising start to Louise’s exhibition, we wondered along the South Bank, back to Louise’s car, stopping to feed the ducks on the way. It was warm, the breeze was gentle, and the view was awesome.

2014 05 19 south bank london evening 03

 

A Night at The Wortley House Hotel, Scunthorpe

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 06

I was up in North Lincolnshire to do a driving day at Blyton Park, so it made sense to go back to The Wortley House Hotel, where we’d stayed before when we met up with our banger rallying chums.

Driving up to Scunthorpe I saw, for the first time in my life, a farmer and his dog herding sheep. It was really lovely. I also saw this sulky driver. 

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 04

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 21

I arrived at The Wortley House Hotel and was shown to my suite, the Queen Anne. All of the suites are named after the furnaces at the local steel works, which, I cunningly deduced, were all named after queens! (Round of applause for Karen please!)

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 15

The suite was like a proper little apartment, perfect for those staying away from home for a long time and wanting to be able to relax in a more ‘at home’ setting.

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 09

Turning right, from the entrance hall, I walked into the living space – a large sitting room with kitchen area, equipped with a microwave, kettle, crockery, cutlery, fridge, and loads of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Oh, and guess what? Three packets of biscuits.

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 10

The milk was UHT, which I really don’t like, but at least it had been chilled in the fridge. I found that fresh milk was just an ask away, anyway!

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 01

The bathroom and bedroom were both well equipped: trouser press, iron, ironing board, fan, hairdryer, toiletries, stacks of towels, 2 bathrobes, and a bible. Both the living room and bedroom had a TV and a telephone.

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 07

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 02

The decor is very neutral in tone: creams, stones, browns. If you’ve ever been to our house you’ll know that I don’t do pale colours very well. Whilst I personally like strong colours, random furniture and eclectic art work, I can see why it works here, at Wortley House, to have such subtle impact – there’s nothing to offend the eye. The communal spaces in the hotel are more flamboyant, but the suite I stayed in was very subtle. The Wortley House Hotel accommodates a lot of business people and contractors who sometimes stay for a long duration (I mean long – some of the wind farm contractors have stayed for 6 months!), they need somewhere comfortable, friendly, neat and clean to stay – and they get just that.

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 19

The hotel serves the same menu in the bar as they do in the restaurant, so I opted for a booth in the bar area so that I could hide myself away!

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 17

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 12

I attempted a massive dinner of Lincolnshire Hunters Chicken, but it beat me, I didn’t even manage half of it. (I did eat all the gooey Lincolnshire Poacher cheese though!) I then retreated to my suite with a large glass of Diet Coke… the room service order of a Banana Split came later!

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 14

When I awoke from the Banana Split induced food coma I trotted off to breakfast.

The staff were so helpful and it felt like they really cared about getting everyone set up for the day with a good breakfast and a gentle approach. The room was full of happy looking men having more tea, toast and marmalade brought to them!

They offer a full English breakfast, and I mean FULL (sausage, bacon, tomato, beans, fried egg, scrabbled egg, mushrooms, black pudding, fried bread, hash browns, and so on, until I run out of space to type!) I opted for a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and a raspberry yoghurt. I didn’t go any further, I was still full on Banana Split!

2014 05 14 wortley house hotel 16

If you are looking for a place to stay in Scunthorpe I can highly recommend The Wortley House Hotel as a straight forward, good value, friendly and welcoming place to stay. They have kind hearts and hearty meals.

The rate for an Executive Suite, like the one I stayed in, is £110, including breakfast. Double rooms start at £63, including breakfast. If you are thinking about staying at The Wortley House Hotel, give them a call, let them know when you’d like to go, and, if they can, they will definitely give you the best rate.

Thank you to everyone at The Wortley House Hotel for another enjoyable stay, and an extra big thank you to all of the staff who didn’t know that I was going to write this review, but still answered my random questions with interest and made me feel more than welcome.

Sculpture Cutting & Chicken Choking

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 07

I’m working on a public art commission for the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust. They are one of the world’s largest and most respected conservation organisations, working globally to safeguard and improve wetlands for wildlife and people. It’s been a really enjoyable job, working with hundreds of community members to create something site specific for Welney WWT,  but it has involved a lot more work than I had first thought. This week I was up in Herefordshire at Ledbury Engineering, overseeing the first part of the manufacturing process. It’s exciting to see that we’ve got this far, and I can’t wait to share the finished sculpture with everyone.

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 12

I had a good nose around the site whilst I was there, I find places like this really intriguing, so many interesting things, so many things that are everyday sights to the people who work there, but are so unusual to me.

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 06

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 04

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 03

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 05

I’ve been rushing around all over the place lately, and I’m looking forward to a few days off next week when we drive off to Prague!

2014 05 13 ledbury welding sculpture 00

Lisa and I went to a photography convention. We met a funny little man who was selling hammocks for babies. He told us that everyone at the convention needed to learn from him – he was a millionaire and a Lord. I thought he was a Time Bandit. Who knew there was so much money to be made from selling baby hammocks!

IMG_8182

Sandra and Cheryl invited April into the house. Have you met April? She’s new around here, and VERY pretty. She’s an Appezeller Spitzhauben, or Schnitzel Wanger as Adam calls her!

IMG_7808

Poor Cheryl choked on a peanut. She wouldn’t take any water, or anything. She was really struggling, and when her eyes started rolling I knew it was time to put my first aid training into action! I grabbed her by her tail, picked her up and gave her three big whacks on the back. It did the job. I am very pleased.

IMG_8226

The next day she made herself very grubby with a dirt bath after a heavy rain storm. Good chicken Cheryl!

Isi and Neil had a lot of bees nesting in their house, and I got to watch Sheriff Beekeeper (that’s what it said on his badge!) capture a swarm of 2500 of them in a box, so that he could take them to a safe and proper place to live.

It reminded me that, the other night, as I was going up to bed, I was greeted on the landing by an orange bottomed bee. He was a delight to behold at just gone midnight! I took him downstairs and fed him some honey. In the morning we put him outside in the sunshine. You’ve got to have a look at this little video of him eating… he is so incredible!

IMG_8128

MoJo! Every morning he comes and prepares my clothes for me by poggling them! (Is that a real word? It might not be. I mean kneading).

You know when you go to the gym they have those cone shaped water cups? Is it wrong that I only go to the gym to get those cups and turn them into baby party hats?

2014 05 08 baby party hats from water cups

Adam and I went for a barbeque at Matt and Natasha’s house. The weather turned bad, so we ended up having an indoor picnic.

We also went to the Folk Club at the Cock Inn (I call it Cock Folk). My friend Derek sang a new song he’d written, called ‘What shall I do with my herrings head?’ and he dedicated it to me! It was nice. Derek knows I am a collector of strange and random things!

IMG_8349

Nico sang an incredibly moving and beautiful song he’d written, one of the lines just stuck in my head, “When I die, don’t bury me where I’ll be lonely, scatter my ashes at sea and let the tide carry me home”.