It’s May on Tuesday?!

Looking at the calendar with the realisation that the fifth month of the year is upon us on Tuesday scared me a little – I have no idea how 2012 is zooming past so quickly but it is! I haven’t blogged much at all this year on here which is a shame but other stuff has got in the way! I do want to share some things I’ve been up to, originally I intended to proper blogs on them all but here’s the round-up…

This year I have started e-mentoring a couple of students through a project called Bright Links run by Brightside, an educational charity. Those two websites have some fantastic resources covering careers, student life, education, all sorts. I’ve found it quite nerve-wracking being a mentor, I don’t want to say the wrong thing but at the same time I don’t want to say too little, it’s hard finding the right balance. Hopefully the students find it useful and get something out of the project. Please feel free to share in the comments any mentoring resources you have come across that I might find useful!

In March I took part in two other STEM events; I acted as a career networker at The Big Bang Fair and battled it out in I’m an Engineer Get Me Out Of Here. Both were fabulous experiences; I really enjoyed getting to speak to students, hopefully giving them an insight into engineering and answering their questions.I was lucky to have enough time to get to have a look around the Big Bang Fair, it’s such a great event I’d recommend it to any family for a day out, there is something for everyone. I managed to come second in I’m an Engineer, which involved live chats with students and answering other questions they’d submitted through the site. I blogged about it for the engineering blog I’m involved in – developingengineers.com.

The main reason I’ve been so quiet is work has been crazy hectic, and when it hasn’t been I have been ill. All exercise plans have gone out the window and I haven’t been able to marshal as work was more than I could manage for a month! I might have mentioned before I suffer from ulcerative colitis and had a bad flare up just before easter. Thankfully only one afternoon was spent hooked up to an IV at the JR hospital whilst blood tests and an ultrasound were done. The result was steroids and the promise of more tests to try to determine if actually I suffer from crohn’s disease, which seems to essentially be the same illness, just attacking a slightly different part of me. The afternoon in the hospital came at the end of a week where my families lives could have been turned upside down but thankfully we got away with it – my sister’s boyfriend was knocked off his bike by a car and only saved by his helmet, my Grandma suffered a heart attack (both have since recovered) and my sister was offered a dream PhD in Sydney, Australia! And I thought all the drama was kept to Jay’s family!

Whilst I’m here I can’t not mention the Cotswolds Wildlife Park – we visited earlier this year for the first time & what a place! I’d love a season’s pass and go every weekend, there must always be something to see. I’ll leave you with my favourite photo – Jay and a lemur in the Madagascar enclosure.

Madagascar Walk Through Exhibit at Cotswolds Wildlife Park

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The Rally Show at Cornbury Park

Oh dear, the date that the permanent link for the first draft of this post shows that I started it on the 24th May 2011….however compared to yesterday’s post about a photoshoot that took place in February I feel like I’m a bit more up to date 😉

The weekend of the 14th and 15th of May was a great one for motorsport despite there not being an F1 race on – Saturday involved marshalling at a historic sports car meeting at Silverstone and Sunday I went to the The Rally Show at Cornbury Park.

Despite being really close to work, I’ve never ventured into Cornbury Park so on the drive into the event I thought I was going to end up in Wales! Deep in the forest the stream of cars were eventually directed off the track, to a car park. As soon as I got out the car I could hear the revving of engines and something driving around, so I wrapped up well expecting to trudge further into the estate before arriving at the stage – however the car park was right by it! Brilliant! Having taken so long to get into the event I thought I had missed the MINI WRC’s first run of the day, but lo and behold the first car that swept past me was the MINI! Needless to say I got a bit excited!

The event was the first time that the MINI WRC was shown in public in the UK and the whole reason I wanted to go. Dani Sordo did not disappoint and thrashed the car throughout the stage and over the jump – it was great to see!

The rally stage started off in front of the main house, which provided a great back drop. There were tight corners through bales of hay, straight sections where the cars got some real speed up, a jump and finally a hairpin at the end of the stage. All kinds of cars were going down it all day long – from some really old Escorts, to Micra’s right up to the modern WRC cars (the Fiesta was there as well as the MINI).

Several car clubs turned out to show off their members cars, and there was also an area where the main companies had displays. One of the stands was home made ‘fuffle’ – something mixed between truffle and fudge which was lovely!

It was amazing to get so close up to what felt like a real rally stage, and so close to home as well! There was excitement as the drivers were setting competitive times and there was a knockout competition too. Adding in the extra displays made it a great day out and value for money, it was just a shame the weather didn’t get out nicer which would have drawn bigger crowds I think. Definitely worth going again next year! 🙂

Mercedes Benz World

A few months ago the Thameswey Young Members IMechE group organised a tour of Brooklands Museum. More about that another time, but as part of that day we also visited Mercedes Benz World next door.

The ultimate car showroom, Mercedes Benz World is spread over 3 floors. Current models right across the range from Smart cars to Maybachs were on display for sale amongst historic Mercedes. There was also an F1 display that included a Force India, a few McLarens as well as a Mercedes F1 car.

The museum side to Mercedes Benz World is really well done, and the whole place has the wow factor. As well as static displays you can do driving experiences on the test track at the front of the showroom. It looks like great fun, although I’m not sure how expensive it is to have a go!

One of the best displays was the exploded F1 car. A mix of parts from the original display done during the Honda days with newer Mercedes bodywork, it is a sight to behold! A bit like the whole place really – amazing!

British GP 2011 – Saturday

I decided ages before the race that I wouldn’t go to Silverstone for the British GP, but two weeks before the event I found myself scouring eBay for bargain tickets. I couldn’t find any good deals for race tickets but a twitter friend found a general admission ticket for qualifying for £60 including parking so I decided to go ahead and get it. When the ticket arrived I was slightly dubious about the authenticity of the ticket as it stated general admission with central admission and corporate hospitality. I was amazed to see that you get general and central admission on the same ticket! There was a dress code printed on the ticket, which presented a dilemma. I’m used to packing as many layers as possible all to be topped with a Kimi t-shirt & cap, so compromised with putting comfy trainers and a cap in my bag for whenever I wasn’t in the suite!

A few days later I found myself driving around the perimeter road on the Saturday morning of the grand prix. I still thought the ticket might be a fake but at least I didn’t have to walk far back to the car as the parking was just behind the old pit straight! I needed have worried as the ticket was real and got me straight through into the circuit and under Copse tunnel towards the centre.

The next hurdle was getting into Brooklands hospitality, so I decided to go straight there to see if I would be let in or not. And low and behold, I got straight in without the security giving me a second thought! Result 🙂 As it turned out I was the first person into the hospitality suite and was the only person until quite a bit later.  The suite was lovely, with a goody bag including radio and programme for every guest. A tv on the wall showed the action as well as interviews by the commentators, and there was a table with loads of food & drinks. I had a lovely breakfast before going out onto the balcony to see what kind of view the suite had.

Well the view turned out to be one of the best round the circuit, I’m sure of it! The suite was a couple of floors up so no fences were in the way, and the angle of the building meant that people on the surrounding balconies did not block the view either. To the left, cars could be seen thundering down the Wellington Straight and to the right a great view of the complex from Brooklands, through Luffield and Woodcote.

I stayed in the suite watching the support practices/qualifying and the third F1 free practice, before going for a wander down to the little bit of general admission between Becketts & Aintree. I watched the Porsche’s from here which was actually quite a good place as you saw them so often at one side or the other. Unfortunately I don’t find the Porsche’s particularly exciting and I was right by the road going to the new paddock so I did a bit of celebrity spotting. I was amused by the Stagecoach buses taking people to the paddock, but there was also a fleet of Audi’s taking VIPs up and down. I even saw a Range Rover with JYS on the number plate so I’m taking that as I saw Jackie Stewart 😉

I headed back to the suite for the F1 qualifying, by which time the other guests had arrived. Dinner had been served so I sat down with a plate of gorgeous food, to chat with the other guests. The food was really nice, there was even caviar (I didn’t like that though!), so I would have hated to pay the full price for one of these tickets. The other guests didn’t really have a clue about F1 so I told them a bit about what happens in qualifying and who drives which car. I tried not to sound condescending, but I really couldn’t believe that some of the best seats in the house were being taken up by people not really interested! I imagine the Paddock Club is quite similar, and it’s just a shame that the real fans don’t get to enjoy the finer side of the sport that they love.

Qualifying was amazing, the sound of the cars was so loud and it was great to see the cars going into Brooklands. I only wish I had more than iPhone with me at the time to take some good photos. Next year I will!

The day didn’t end with that chequered flag, as after qualifying I went to meet up with the lovely @Kazb711, who I have spoken to a lot on twitter but had never been able to meet in person before. She was with her friend Korin and we all met up with Dom (who used to post his adventures here occasionally before setting up his own blog)  before having a good look around the merchandise stands. We also bumped into Heikki Kovalainen!

To finish the day off I watched some of the GP3 from Luffield before heading home. The only negative of the whole day was the lack of signs in the car park to the exit and I ended up going the wrong way out of the circuit, compared to where I wanted to be. I should have gone back the way I came in but I thought signed exits would be the better way to go. I know for next time!

Shutdown 2011 – Week 2: Knaresborough

After Saturday’s day across the Pennines for the football match, Sunday was a more sedate affair spent with my Mum, her brother and her Mum. It was my Gran’s 84th birthday & we went to the Anchor Inn at Whixley, near Knaresborough.

It is a lovely pub, right in the centre of Whixley village and the quality of the food was emphasised by a queue of people, waiting for opening time when we arrived. We timed it perfectly as the doors had been opened by the time we got out of the car & so we didn’t have to wait.

It was a bit confusing when we got into the pub where to go, as the bar was packed and there are so many rooms to choose from. Now my Gran is very particular so after looking around the pub Mum found the perfect spot, by a window with lots of flower boxes and no where near the bar. The food was all served as a carvery, so everyone paid the same price & could pick what they wanted when we got to the hot plate.

As it was a sunday there was only one thing I was having and that was the roast! I had pork as the crackling looked gorgeous and I wasn’t disappointed. As some of the carvery options weren’t roast meat, the vegetables were a bit of a random mix and I ended up with carrots, roast & new potatoes and courgettes with my humongous homemade yorkshire pudding and thick wedge of pork. It was absolutely gorgeous and I had no complaints. My Gran wasn’t happy as the cauliflower was too hard for her but everyone else’s was cooked perfectly! We managed to make enough room for pudding, although Mum and I had to share one. It was chocolate chocolate and more chocolate.  Some kind of double layered chocolate mousse with cream. Yummmmmm!

After the pub we went into Knaresborough town centre and had a wander around. The town was gearing up for an arts festival so there was all sorts of paintings around, including this:

We walked around the ruins of  Knaresborough Castle & looked back down over the River Nidd, before walking back to the town to find a tea shop & warm up as it was chilly in the wind. Somehow (I’m not sure how) my Uncle and I had warmed up enough and made enough space to have ice-creams – and they were well worth it too!

Shutdown 2011 – Week 2: Liverpool vs Valencia Match

The second week of my shutdown from work was spent between mine and J’s parents houses, up north. It’s the longest time I’ve spent at home since Christmas and as always it was lovely to be back. Shame time flies so quickly though!

Saturday was spent in Liverpool, taking J’s niece T to her first football match (her 10th birthday present). Liverpool had a pre-season friendly against Valencia and the match tickets are cheaper than league matches and aren’t in quite as high demand so we like to make the most of it!

J has family in Liverpool (his Dad is a Scouser) and we generally pop in to visit them whilst we are in town for a match. Unfortunately this time mis-communication meant that we didn’t get to see them but gave us an hour or so to spare, so we managed to have a wander around Liverpool One. It’s a fantastic shopping centre so it wasn’t all bad! I was a bit disappointed that the lambanana had gone, but we had a good look around & J bought a cool retro Liverpool tshirt.

The match itself was good, Liverpool played well and won 2-0. Gerard’s injury was the only downside as it meant we didn’t get to see him but Downing was great!

We were sat near the centre line in the Main Stadium, so could see all of the pitch and the action. What was quite annoying is that we had to pay the adult price for T’s ticket as children’s tickets are only available in one section of the Anfield Road end, high up in the rafters and in one corner so not the best view in the house. Probably why they do it, but still, annoying to have to pay an extra tenner.

T loved the whole experience, she stood on the seat and held our scarf up during the rousing rendition of ” You’ll Never Walk Alone” before kick off and joined in with every chant as soon as someone in the Kop started singing! Each half was just perfect for her attention span as she started to get fidgety in the last few minutes but that was better than I expected to be honest from a 10 year old at her first football match! I’m already looking forward to the next match 🙂

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Take That – Progress Live 2011 at Wembley Stadium

Saturday 2nd July 2011 will forever live on in my memory as the day all my dreams came true. I have been waiting almost my entire life for this day – I finally got to see Take That in concert!

The effect Take That have had on mine and so many others lives might sound totally stupid if you’re not a fan, but I genuinely cannot emphasis how much they mean to me!

My earliest memory is related to Take That, the posters on my walls were Take That / Robbie, my tape collection was dominated by Take That, I had videos, pencils, address book, Tshirts.. imagine what I’d have had if I was a bit older at the time! I was 10 when Robbie left so too young to have seen them in concert but still I adored them. I was one of those young girls sobbing their hearts out. I didn’t care by the time Take That split up the year after as I wasn’t interested in them as a foursome, I just thought it was a nice birthday present for Robbie.

Fast forward a few years and the top rated songs in my playlist sound the same as my TT & Rob playlist on my iPod. The most played playlist is the same. I listen to Take That or Robbie or both, pretty much every day. I don’t have the posters on my wall (but I do have a Rob calendar).

I didn’t really like the Take That comeback as 4 of them, but the songs have definitely grown on me & I like much more of them now (perhaps that’s in reaction to not being the biggest fan of Progress) and watching the Circus tour repeats on tv makes me regret not going to what looked like an amazing tour.

Then the rumours came true about Robbie rejoining them and coming back as a 5 piece. If you follow me on twitter or know me in real life you will know I watched every tv show they did, pretty much every single one of them in tears because I never thought that day would come. And finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for since then….the tour.

It was definitely worth the almost 20 year wait!

I couldn’t sleep the 3 nights before hand as I was so excited, it was like waiting for a combined christmas and birthday (I get very excited about both of those days still, aged 25!)  and when we got to Wembley Stadium I kept thinking it was going to turn out to be some practical joke and it was going to be some fake tribute band!

We got in about 6pm and decided to get some of the seats at the back as the crowd was already quite deep at the front around the stages & I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see anything!

Pet Shop Boys were the supporting act & I totally get why as they have linked up with Robbie in the past & with Take That’s current electro pop songs. But I’m not a fan and their performance wasn’t really enough to make me change my mind. The best thing about it was the dancers! I don’t think the acoustics of Wembley helped either.

Then Take That as a 4 piece came on, and started with Rule the World and did some of their other comeback hits. They were absolutely fantastic and I really regretted not seeing them sooner. They put on a huge production (which was carried on all night) with lots of dancers, acrobats, a ballerina, fireworks and amazing lighting.

They went off stage as the music to Let Me Entertain You came on. I felt sorry for the woman next to me, I have a feeling I screamed a little to much and a little too loudly as she gave me a strange look! Searching the stage there was no sign of Robbie yet, until all of a sudden he bungee jumped down from the top of the stage! 85,000 screaming and shouting people made even more noise than they had for Take That & he was off, taking to the stage like he’d never been away. Rob did quite a few of his songs, Feel, Rock DJ, Angels, Come Undone & sounded fantastic all the way through. At first I thought the accoustics did him no favours as it was hard to understand what he was saying between songs but I think they might have changed the level of his mic as it didnt last long. He was his usual brash self, poking fun at the recent injunction stories (which surprised me given Howard set it all off) and generally being rude. Mum’s since told me people have complained but what did they expect?! This is what he does.

Angels was amazing, he sung far more of the song than he usually does & sounded brilliant, the boy can sing.

At one point Robbie went over the crowd on a platform reaching down to touch as many fans as he could. One girl had a plan and pulled her top down to show off her boobs, which Robbie enjoyed 😉  (best pair of breasts in the place apparently) and made the rest of the crowd giggle as they were shown on the huge tv screens onstage.

Before I knew it, his set was over & he was off the stage, before coming back as 5 of them. How I didn’t cry as they launched into the Flood I have no idea! They did a mix of songs off their latest album, luckily all the songs I actually like (there are more than I realised).  As well as all the dancers, the stage came to life throughout this bit of the performance with a huge robotic man coming out from behind a screen to eventually be stood on the end of the stage in the crowd by the end of the night.

Then they did a medley of old stuff, and oh my god I thought I was going to burst. Totally stripped back from the massive production of the rest of the show, sat huddled around a piano, the five of them egged each other on to start to sing one of their old songs. They randomly burst into old dance routines & all of them (including Gary!) danced to a great reception from the crowd, and they did a few full length performances. It was breathtaking. And I still wasn’t crying, my parents were glancing at me every 30 seconds to check I hadn’t set off yet.

Gary got some drinks brought out at one point as they are now a ‘man band’ they can do that sort of think. He gave Howard & Jason red wine but Mark & Rob weren’t allowed anything alcoholic which was amusing!

One of my favourite Take That songs is Never Forget and that was the song that finally got me on Saturday night. I managed to hold it together with just a few tears….and then the five of them launched into No Regrets. I filmed a snippet of it which I will link to in the comments once its uploaded – the shaking is where I am sobbing so much I can’t hold the camera straight! Who would have thought that the five of them would be performing that song?!

After briefly going off stage, they came back on for an encore & finished off by Gary singing Eight Letters as they were walking along the front of the crowd, greeting the fans & taking gifts from them. I love the lyric ‘eight letters, three words, one meaning’ and it was fitting way to end the show.

Take That – I love you!