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Holy smokes folks we’ve had some Wagnerian weather! Wow 2014 sure is off to a lion’s roar. {Why should that only apply to March?…lol} The trees bend over something scary in the worst of the gales. At our nearby reservoir, the gusts were measured at 56 miles/hour. Lovely to stay inside the cottage where it’s warm and dry. How lucky we feel that we have this cozy, beautiful cottage, which is so snuggly.


Chloe called at 2am. She’s come down with some sort of stomach bug and by the afternoon in Van, she was feeling like death ready to expire any minute. I stayed on the phone with her till my 7:30 when the nausea subsided somewhat, the second Gravol took some effect and she managed to drift off to sleep. Poor little button. Isn’t it the way that when your kiddo is sick, it doesn’t matter how old she is, she is immediately reduced to a five year old in a mom’s brain. Speaking of mom, she was with C yesterday and I hope she doesn’t catch this. Mom’s had the flu shot so I hope she’ll be OK. C caught it from her plague infested friends on New Years! Wonder if any of them had the flu shot. It’s still a bit of a gamble this flu shot business, isn’t it? I’ve never had one and very rarely catch anything, and mom has to have one to work in the hospital, and last year she had a monsteroonio of a flu. Anyway, I spoke to C this evening/morning Van, and she is feeling much better but still a bit weak. It’s probably only a 24 hour thing but I’m taking the phone to bed!

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In between the rains we rolled my beautiful mini shell out of the garage. Robert has been working on the body in my absence almost each day cutting out and welding in new bits to get rid of any rust and dents. Then sanding and filling and sanding and infinitum, putting the majority of his own projects on hold, and finally it is painted that beautiful Oxfordshire sky grey I was telling you about in the summer. Isn’t he just the most amazingest? And didn’t I choose an amazing paint? Look how it changes from almost blue to almost khaki under different light sources. I love it. It’s called tweed grey and is an old Austin mini colour. I’ll do a better post soon and show you the transformation. R says it’s such a Vancouver shade, it’s sooo me…allergic to colour! I’m like, “what? it’s going to have orange lights!”  :)


We’ve been putting in long days these days working on projects and sometimes our wee pea brains don’t function as well as they should. Last night one of us closed the living room door and trapped Theo in there all night. Poor little buddy, he shot out first thing this morning and has been Velcro cat all day. I gave him a slice of ham at lunch.

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Yesterday I picked up my paints again. I’ve been working on the maps and small book page paintings in watercolour and chalk and it was lovely to rummage thru my boxes of oils. Oh my gosh I love the smell and feel of oil paints.
You know the funny thing? In Vancouver I’m really big on on particular blue, an ultramarine blue – it’s a really warm, violety blue – but when I bought this lot of oils second hand from, (from the girlfriend of an American artist who left England after they broke up…without his oils and brushes), that artist who used them used blue-green cobalt colours. I thought I would miss my blue, but really don’t. The other thing is that artist had…and now I have…about seventeen different yellows!

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Anyway, R was off for the day on Thursday and I painted three canvases in acrylics as a quick under-painting, {acrylics dry fast, cover and tone the canvas and save my more expensive oils}, then I painted one of the canvases in oils. I had in mind to paint a small beach scene, a field scene and R asked for a bird of prey which lives in our fields called a red kite. I’m sure I told you about them. Graham the butcher throws them meat scraps and Theo the terrorizer sits in the middle of the scraps muttering, “here birdie, birdie, birdie” under his little cat breath.

This is what the studio looked like mid afternoon before I got to the oils.
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And here are the two smaller paintings. I think they’re finished.
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Linking with Nancy for some random, even if there are six this week…{sometimes I have too much to say} 😀 And the WordPress weekly photo challenge. 

Road trip!

Robert bought a new boot lid, (trunk lid), for his new experimental mini on Ebay.UK. So we jumped into the mini, (what else would we drive to another mini enthusiast’s?), and we drove 42 miles away to Old Stratford to pick it up.
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Beautiful day for a road trip. We started off on the A40 (it’s a highway) but soon left the tall banks of the A for the scenic, smaller country roads.
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Today was perfect with that silvery, low, cold winter light.
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We chose smaller roads,
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then lanes, driving from tiny village to tiny village
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we peeked thru every gate,
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We appreciated each village church,
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And we were very careful to share the road.
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We got lost once…
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…OK twice…
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…and we drove thru some flooded marsh lands which splattered the windshield and broke a fuse which cut the fuel pump and the indicators. Suddenly Robert was without power. We coasted to a stop and Robert rewired the fuel pump, started the mini and…
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…cleaned off the windshield so I could take some more photos. 😀 (Love that man)
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We found our destination, got the boot lid and turned round and headed for home under beautiful Buckinghamshire skies.
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We drove on till we got to Oxfordshire…
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…crossed the Thames and we were home.
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Lovely day 😀

Reducing, reusing and recycling my footprint

High excitement here at West Cottage!

My mini came home the other day.

Our friend Wayne made a detour with his flat-bed picked up and carried my mini to the cottage where we put it into Robert’s garage, took out lights, windows and inspected the rusty bits which need to be cut out and new bits will need welding on in readiness for a fresh coat of paint.

All in all I’m so very lucky that this shell is pretty minimally rusty. You might not realise that most people spend hours and hours treating rust in mini shells. They are most notorious for rusting.

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Oh yes, fresh coat of paint. Oxfordhire summer cloud grey. That’s what I want. With chrome detailing and black upholstery. Just like this shadowy red kite against the sky.

Actually, the proper colour name in old Austin mini catalogues is Tweed grey.

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I’m so aware that I’m putting another car on the road to burn more fossil fuel and, even though we will make sure it is a clean engine and runs efficiently and economically, I’m still very interested in saving and re-purposing rather than buying reproduction parts. (Also, I love vintage much more than repro, so no contest really! :) )

So off to the scrap yard from vintage car heaven we went today!

Robert knew exactly where an early Mark 1 mini was, and, although it’s seen better days, we still salvaged a black rear seat, a steering column and some tail lights.

This yellow mini I’m sitting in has retro seats which have a houndstooth design. Really nice and funky. We’ll remember for next time. But this yellow mini had fantastic door cards. (Those are decorative vinyl sides which adhere to the back side trim)

A third mini, sort of a funky pink one gave us a real Bakelite steering wheel, and, later when we tried it, it fit on the steering column! The mini is coming together.


This afternoon, at home, I made myself a cup of tea in this little set. It is a pottery made in Torquay of red Devon clay. It’s a collector’s type thing, but I’m not a collector; I just found it in the car boot sale and loved the sweet old sentiments on the pieces.

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Robert thinks it’s tat (this means tchotchkes) For all Terry Pratchett readers, like we are, he actually said that the set looks like something Nanny Ogg would bring back home from “foreign parts”…lol. But I like it. And it fits right in with my recycle and reuse mind set. :)

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Speaking of, I’ve ordered this incredible book and it’s come. It’s an altered book and it’s amazing. Talk about reusing and re-purposing!

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British artist Tom Phillips took a forgotten Victorian novel by W H Mallock called A Human Document and painted and collaged over all the pages leaving some text showing thru, creating a new story.

Not only is it an absolute beautiful artistic piece over 370 pages, it’s a pleasure to read the story.

It’s giving me so many wonderful ideas!

The last two Sundays at races with the turbo mini

Oh my gosh time is just flying so fast! I’ve designed and am installing a rather large garden for my friend and client Catherine, that I haven’t had much time to update.

But things are starting to slow a little and here’s my chance to show you our last two Sundays out with the turbo mini. We had a terrific couple of Sundays hooning cross country, over hill and dale and thru quaint little Cotswold villages in the turbo mini. People couldn’t help but turn their heads at the sound of the powerful side pipe exhaust. Mostly we had smiles and nods from people and loads of thumbs-up and waves from little boys, and we always smiled and waved back. We were happy about that because driving the powerful mini on a Sunday morning thru sleepy little villages, well, you could just imagine. :)

The races were at a hill climb called Prescott, (home of the Bugatti club), and Prescott Hill is in the middle of the beautiful Cotswolds in our neighbouring county Gloucestershire.

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Two Sunday’s ago: This was a Sunday of new things.

The first new was this beautiful bespoke car. This was a Salmson. (Never heard of it and I’m a car nut!) We spent a long time talking to the builder and I photographed it in detail as reference for Robert’s crazy wonderful new innovation Medusa, which he’s building at the moment.

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The next new was this: a Marcos! Such a beautiful car, like a piece of sculpture. I thought I loved Jag E-types the most but I might be changing my mind!

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And then, a new friend. This is Trudi and she paints the loveliest acrylics.

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She loves to paint around her home in the Gloucestershire hills. Her lovely website is here.


We parked up the mini and revealed the engine and, in no time, the beautiful beastie started attracting attention.

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The the race announcer came by and spent twice as long interviewing Robert than any of the other car owners around. This was broadcast over the loudspeakers thru the whole venue and soon the mini had loads of admirers. And no wonder, the beastie has 248 bhp and is the third fastest five port A series road going turbo mini in the world!

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While this was going on I found this beautiful TVR. R has a deep ruby red one and one day soon we’ll take it racing too.

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Then I found more Marcos!

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Last Sunday it was back to Prescott Hill for a Retro Rides get together and I was really excited because a lot of our turbo mini club was going to be there and a lot of the minis would be parked up together in a club stand.

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We soon met up with our friends and caught up with everyone’s adventures.

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The minis and honoured guest cars were parked up, bonnets removed, engines exposed for all to admire.

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There was a lot of car talk and innovative information was shared.

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And we went to watch the hill climbs.

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There was a small parade of very special low riders and then the cars started racing up the hill. This car was a bit of an oddity. It was an American racing car called a Chaparral with some terrific improvements. :)

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We had a couple of the loveliest Sundays this summer and enjoyed ourselves to the max.

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Why is a woman like a hollyhock?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write this blog.

A friend once said that it’s all nonsense. That my life…no-one’s life is like the pages of this blog, all sunshine and lovely images and happy outcomes. I think the words he used were, “get real.”

Real? Real is where I have to be and real hurts. Real is life and all the messes and sadness and miscommunications and spelling mistakes and loud, angry run-on sentences.

But translate that to this space, to these few thoughts per post and suddenly there’s spellcheck and censoring and run-on sentences become poetry and this whole massive unstructured expanse of problems in front of me becomes a myopic view into a small but lovely part of that massive unstructured expanse; a place to focus, a sanctuary.

These past few days I’ve printed some lovely prints and got the hang of printing. But I’ve also had two nuclear meltdowns, cried myself to sleep, spent several sleepless nights listening for the slightest noise and generally waited for something to happen, had arguments with my love and been completely emotionally unstable, headachy and probably hell to live with.

Lately, each day dawns as this massive expanse of problems.

The Oxfordshire saga:
– Some of you know that my beautifully restored mini, which has been stolen almost a year ago, will most likely never be returned. Robert’s work of love to me. A £500 shell we restored to a £5000 thing of beauty. And nothing can be done.
– Robbie says let’s build a new mini, a new cherished car, but to me it’s like trying to replace one’s beloved pet, I know that doesn’t translate quite as well as I’d like it to, and I know, I KNOW, it’s just a thing/possession/meaningless in the big – I’m healthy, Robbie, my children, mother, loved ones are healthy – scheme of things, but, no matter how hard I try to adjust, to wrap my brain around the concept of a beautiful new mini, I just can’t seem to go there right now and I can’t seem to let it go either. I am trying.
– There are very few external forces here. The phone isn’t ringing, workmen aren’t coming and going, there are no meetings; it’s a very quiet country life. The quiet becomes wildly uncontrollable in my mind.

Vancouver saga:
– The house is still in restoration mode, way behind the time line restoration mode, and, as much as I’m the client and make all the decisions, Chloe is there, on site, living with the mess and displacement and temporary loss of our serene space, and having to handle it.
– Most early mornings British time, C calls needing a talk and support. It’s evening in Vancouver, C’s had to deal with a multitude of uncomfortable things, and things are not easy for my girl, and, as much as I want to talk to her and offer as much support as I can, I’m concerned that she’s not wanting to wake us up so waits till 6:30am-ish to call, which means it’s already 10:30pm-ish in Van, which means that before she feels better and manages to get to sleep it’s practically midnight, which means her tomorrow is going to be twice as hard for lack of a proper night’s sleep.
– Then, when C finally gets to sleep, I’m grateful that we could help her calm down but it’s my morning and she stays on my mind all day till 5pm-ish British time/morning Vancouver time, when she wakes up and I hear from her again.
– Switching from Vancouver to Oxfordshire and back again in my thoughts and worries is exhausting.
– I’ve been out of touch with Kerstie and Jonathan and I miss them so much it hurts.

My shrink tells me to focus on what makes me happy. At the time she said it, I wasn’t doing much art and nothing I could think of made me happy. She advise I do something creative every day…it’s almost impossible for me to make myself do something creative if I want to be in a dark place. It’s very hard to climb back into the sunshine if I let myself fall down the hole of depression and it takes days and days. So I force myself to pick up the camera and at least take some photos every day and sometimes specifically for a blog post. As time goes on and I start to feel better, I can pick up the pencils and brushes and do more.

A couple days ago I sketched a hollyhock flower on a page of the old dictionary while I was talking to Chloe, who was feeling poorly with some 24 hour bug and was worried about her health and going to work and workmen and students and her last year of uni…etc. I talked to her off and on for over two hours and I completely overworked the hollyhock.

Overworked it to mud.

And then I hated myself for doing that, because I should be able to draw a hollyhock in my sleep, and I felt useless as an artist.
I showed Robbie and he said, “maybe deepen the colours?” And I made a motion like I was ready to rip it into two pieces, and he said, “No, don’t do that. How are you going to realise what you label the good without having a reference to what you label the bad?” He had a good point. He always does. And so I put the drawing on the dresser to look at it afresh in the morning.

The thing is I wanted to draw it on the page of the dictionary that had the word hollyhock on it, but I didn’t remember I sketched Theo on the other side of that page, making that page unusable, and so I drew it on the page which had the word woman. The one precious page of the dictionary that had the word woman. (No I don’t know why I think this is the last ever old dictionary I’ll ever find to sketch in.)

I chose that page specifically. To me, the hollyhock has always been a strong representation of a woman more than any other flower. I know all the romantic notions of fragile flowers such as roses or lilies for women, but what good are they? What good is vulnerability or fragility even in the most beautiful package? No, give me a hollyhock any day. Hollyhocks are not susceptible to too many diseases, they bend in the strongest gale without breaking, and, drop something on them, suppress them with a ton of weight, they will seed and carry on in a new location as shiny and as beautiful and as tall as before.

So I’m looking at my overworked sketch on the page which says woman and thinking how absolutely accurately I portrayed myself right now. It hasn’t gotten any better over night, or even over three days, even with the wind blowing it off the dresser and onto the floor several times, but I have grown to love my little flower. No matter how many times this week the wind has blown me over, I’m still standing just like the hollyhock, trying to bloom with all that pressure on me, and, with time, the tears will stop, the weight will slide off and life will be sunny again.

Weekend camping at Shakespeare County Raceway

It’s been a while since I declared Sunday Race Day!

Saturday morning we were sort of thinking of getting up and heading down to the weekend open races at Avon Park and then our friend Simon texted to say he’s coming round and we can drive up in a mini convoy!

How exciting! So the two minis chased and raced up country and when we got to Avon we pitched the tents and Robert and Simon went for a walk about, while I stayed at the camp and looked for some wildflowers to sketch.

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Later on in the evening Robert was telling me stories. He’s the best storyteller.

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Jason drove the Caterham up on Sunday morning and everyone was ready for a fun day of seeing how far they could push the cars.

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By this time I had painted five wildflower portraits and ran out of wildflowers to paint. It’s just too dry right now for them to bloom.

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So I grabbed my camera, signed my life away in exchange for a media vest, grabbed ear protection and waited for my boys to race.

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I photographed all our friend’s races and took a video of Jason racing against a brown mini.

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I took loads of photos of Simon and his beautiful mini and then, on about his sixth race, something went wrong. He pulled the mini back up to the tents and, on investigation, we found out that he blew the head gasket.

Aw, that’s the face of a boy who’s just blown up his mini.


When the races were over we raced and chased Jason to his house and ordered Chinese take out, and drove home very late, but very happy, under a beautiful orange moon.


Now I have these five lovely wildflower portraits. Robert says I should consider selling them. That’s a bit of a new concept for me because I usually stick these little things in a drawer or send them out into the world. What do you think? Etsy shop maybe?

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Hello from the British car show

Aint it the truth?!?
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I was just telling Robert that I’m a pretty lucky girl. I have the potential of driving seven cars, three of my own, three of Robert’s highly experimental beasties, (two of which I can’t quite control), and my mother’s waaay too much car for her Mercedes. (If you’ve ever seen my mother drive you’d take over too. )
But you know what I really love?
I love the sculptural aspect of practically any work of art, and, to me, cars can be a sculptural bit of art…and ours certainly are.
So we thought we’d wend our way to the British car show this weekend and have a look.

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Everyone who knows me knows that I’m crazy for minis. Love them to pieces. And this is where our tour always starts, at the mini stand.

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But along the way there is so much glorious sculptural beauty to see.

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From the engine bays to the interiors.

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I love the badges. Some have been restored, some are new. I remember painting the badge of my own mini from the inside out to restore the colours. That was a job and a half that was!

The hood ornaments are also so beautiful. Don’t you love the heron one? I think it’s my favorite. Although the winged angel is amazing too.

Some are custom made. I love the queen. She’s got a little photo cell in her handbag and it powers her wave. She stood on a Land Rover waving at all her subjects. (Got to get me one!)

One more shot before we have to go. Some of the most beautiful bums in the world: E Type Jags. In my next life….

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Some terrible things in my life have resulted in some black poetry…please forgive me while I try to work it out

Brenda, at the Sunday Whirl sent along this week’s words.

While I know they can be tumbled in any way, my mind is black and all I can write is black.

You see my dear friends, there’s been too much lately. Too much pressure, too much heartache, too much jet-lag and now, if you can believe it, my precious mini, my birthday present, a labour of love and restoration over these last 3 years, has been stolen in the most horrible, underhanded, threat-of-violence way.

Please forgive me while I get my black mood out in my little public forum.

In the end, I know that my family and the people I love are healthy and love each other and that I’m a lucky girl to have wonderful friends who love and support me. And I know those are the most important things in the world.

dazed, incense, ambivalence, empties, holy, scurries
breathing, fear, flaps, prayers, water, tenderness (Couldn’t manage “flaps”)

The trees are dazed.
They stand at the bottom of the garden weeping tears of blood. Their soft maple incense, their whispery, windy tenderness is silenced; their branches hung with tattered lace.
The tears drain into the ground and mix with water causing the ground’s sorrow to rise in a billowing cloud of mist in which the breathing of the drowning sun is stilled and silenced.
So are my prayers.

Black birds fly to me carrying invisible messages of violence and fear. I wonder who you are who sent them and what they have to say.
The cold of this evening of tattered branches and black birds holds me in its ambivalence and prevents me from stretching my hands to you.
There is no tenderness in my hands.

My words dissolve in the mist along with the last of the light.
But whether you hear them or not, my words will creep into your mind and tend your memory of me till I am there to balance it on the tip of my finger and send it spinning into space.
A pale star in orbit round your head.
Empties your inhibitions, entices with what you hold holy, and scurries over your skin like a featherweight finger or the tip of a tongue. Then silently draws a knife from its velvet sheath and plunges it into your heart.

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!!

Sunday morning, jumped out of bed, fed the cat and hooned 90 miles X country in the turbo mini.
What’s this we found?
Mini Day at Santa Pod raceway!
I know I do go on about minis…but I just love them so much.

Hello mini!

Oooo, got to get a GB badge for my mini!

Look at this amazing thing! It’s an extremely valuable and rare mini cooper from one of the early years. Comes with its own swamp garden too!

It will end up being restored and looking spectacular and be worth maybe 25,000 GBP, ($38,000)…like this one:

Here are some lovely mini fronts…

And some mini bums too.

Some minis were dressed for the club shows,

Others were just…um…indescribable. :) Doesn’t it make you smile?

And some minis were beautifully engineered for power…

And this one for sheer speed!

Looking inside R’s turbo mini…it’s hard for me to drive this powerful beastie.

And this says it all!

Some fun!

Where she links dead foxes with croissants

Today I drove over a dead fox on the A 404.
I was driving my Austin 7 and going about 60 mph and, well, I’m a complete wimp about these things. The problem is that the fox was right in the middle of my lane and I didn’t have the time or space to swerve around it. I didn’t have a choice but to straddle it hoping my wheel base was wide enough and my clearance was high enough that I wouldn’t drag, smush, squish, or otherwise attach the fox (or worse – bits of the fox) to my mini.
It was a big fox.
Ug. UG!
Poor innocent fox.
Stupid A 420.
I should write a letter!
There should be fences! All the foxes, badgers, pheasants etc. should be relocated away from roads!
I looked in the rear view mirror to see the fox still in the middle of the road and everyone one behind me driving normally.
Am I the only one having problems with killed foxes on roads?
Maybe the British collective consciousness weighs heavily on the dead fox idea. Let’s face it, historically foxes have not had an easy time frolicking around in lush woodlands, sleeping out in a verdant and sunny meadow for any longer than three minutes before some pack of dogs and hunters set on it, chase it down with fanfare bugles and a hearty “tally ho, what”, drag it out of any hole or den it might try to hide in and rip it to shreds.
Maybe the fox intentionally hurled itself under a car.
Wouldn’t blame it.
Had to lose myself in retail therapy and buttery croissants for the rest of the afternoon.