An eventful week

Well, quite an eventful last few days have passed.

I was down in Cheltenham last Wednesday for a business meeting, which was actually quite productive and interesting. I decided, despite the very cold weather, to go down on the motorbike. By the time I was a few miles from turning off the M5 to head into Cheltenham, my fingertips were freezing cold. In all the miles I have done on a motorbike and in all weathers, last Wednesday was definitely the coldest my fingers have ever been. I actually felt the cold biting at the end of my finger tips – there’s no better way to describe the sensation – and I wondered to myself whether this pain was indeed where the word ‘frostbite’ originates. Convincing myself otherwise, I rode through the pain and was soon at my destination.

Following the meeting, I made my way out of Cheltenham. After a few minutes and increasingly cold fingers, I decided to consult Google to find a motorbike apparel shop. Sure enough, there was a branch of Hein Gericke (a personal fave for bike clothing) on the outskirts of Cheltenham, which I had actually passed on the way in. Unfortunately, they had sold out of under-gloves, but the sales assistant offered to knock 30% off the price of a set of over-gloves instead, insisting that I made sure I was comfortable I could ride with them before I bought them by taking them out to the bike and ensuring that they offered adequate handling of the controls. They were a little bulky, but were good enough as far as I was concerned, so I bought them and went on my way home.

The same evening, I had planned to ride up to Grimsby, with a view to staying over at my mother-in-law, Joyce’s house before attending my Aunty Eileen’s funeral on Thursday. In the event, I was tired after the ride to Cheltenham and back, had spent quite some time sorting out the mess that was our cupboards in the vain search for a missing under-glove I knew I had somewhere. In the event, I didn’t find the glove, it was already 20:00 and the temperature was dropping further outside, so I decided to head up to Grimsby by car. It transpired that this was a wise decision, since the normal route I drive was closed towards the approach to Waltham, near Grimsby, and the diversion took me through some treacherous, ice and gravel covered lanes, albeit through pretty villages.

On Thursday, I attended the funeral of my Aunty Eileen – the wife of my dad’s brother Bob. Bob died a couple of years ago and I had been unable to attend his funeral through work commitments, so I had resolved to make it to Eileen’s. They were both lovely people who had raised four daughters, each of which went on to have wonderful families of their own. Bob was a bit of a comedian, and Eileen always appeared to me to be acting like the sensible one when they were out together. Unfortunately, the last few years had seen a decline in their healths, with dementia taking a hold on Eileen in recent years, so, in actual fact, we lost the real Eileen some time ago. Nevertheless, their family of children and grandchildren does them great credit.

The funeral itself was, as they tend to be nowadays, more of a celebration of Eileen, and it was clear that the vicar had known Eileen, so it was a little less impersonal than religious funerals usually are. Her daughter, Barbara, read a lovely poem about her (Eileen had enjoyed writing poetry, so it was done by way of a tribute). The wake afterwards was another opportunity to see family I met just a few weeks ago under similarly sad circumstances, following the death of my Aunty Elizabeth, only there were more of the Eileen’s grandchildren there this time, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years, so it was a nice opportunity to catch up with some of them.

I also learned that it had been arranged for my Aunty Elizabeth’s ashes to be interred at the same time as those of Eileen, the following day, and that was a nice thought, since the two had known each other very well, and it meant that Elizabeth’s final resting place would be next to her brother, Bob and his wife, Eileen – a little plot of Chivers family in Lincolnshire.

I headed back home on Thursday afternoon, taking Joyce with me in the car, since the forecast wasn’t good for Friday and Joyce’s husband Ron (my ‘step father-in-law), preferred that she come down with me and that he come and collect her on Monday. The roads were pretty quiet and we had a good journey back.

In the evening, I headed out for a BAiT rehearsal, at which we thrashed out ideas for an acoustic arrangement of one of the last three songs we recorded as a full band, Sunshine song. It was starting to come together quite nicely by the end of the evening.

Friday was back to work, and fairly uneventful in work terms, although I had quite a productive day overall.

On Friday evening, I had a gig with Ministry Of Beaver at the Kingswood Tavern, in my own town of Nuneaton. It’s one of my preferred venues, as there’s generally a good crowd there and they’re very positive about the kind of music we play. We always go down well there. Phil kindly brought along an extra monitor wedge for me to use. I haven’t been using a vocal monitor at all for some time, since they usually take up a lot of room – something which is at a premium for most gigs, and I have gone with the old view of ‘if I can’t pitch to the music itself, I shouldn’t be singing’. The reality though is that you do need to be able to hear what you’re singing and can’t rely on the sound you’re getting through your cheekbones.

Phil also started singing backing vocals and did a great job, although we need to agree on which of us is singing which part in many places – something we haven’t really had time to do properly, as Phil has been learning the bass parts and concentrating primarily on them.

It was another good gig there, despite the attempts of a few local chavs who turned up after we had finished and started to wind up a few people. A fight almost broke out, but the pub staff handled it well and things settled down again. For some time, I’ve had the idea of having ready a sample of some fast bluegrass music, featuring the obligatory three note start – Foggy Mountain Breakdown would be ideal, especially if accompanied by a rebel yell or two. I’ve never had the sample ready though and trouble is extremely rare – I can count on the fingers of one hand the occasions where violence has happened at any gig I’ve ever played at – and it’s never been at the dedicated biker kind of places – always the town pubs.

On Saturday, I penned a long email to ‘hand in my notice’ to Ministry of Beaver. I have blogged about this in a separate entry, Nothing to do with the band, but to do with me switching priorities in life.

On Sunday, we made a trip to Ikea in Coventry. We went through a phase of going there very regularly, but hadn’t been for a while. The last time we went, we bought a really good desk for the living room computer for £10 – and a mighty sturdy one at that! We went back on Sunday to find a pedestal or set of drawers on which to place the printer. After much looking around at various options, we settled on a set of bedside drawers in a style we already have in our bedroom.

On the way to Ikea, I had noticed a slight change in engine noise, but, apart from mentioning it to the others in the car, thought little of it. However, on the return journey, as we pulled up at lights by the Ricoh Arena, the noise became very bad and smoke appeared from the engine bay. I managed to get across the roundabout and up to the parking bay before pulling over and examining the damage. As I opened the engine bay, we saw sparks dropping down from the timing belt (or cambelt) area and then saw that the belt itself had broken. This is bad news for a car, since it means the pistons are almost certainly bent and is a very expensive job to repair. Following recovery home (thanks to the quick response of the RAC again – for the second time in a year), and some research, I quickly established that a new engine might be the cheapest way to repair the car and so I resigned myself to the fact that our car, Mem Saab as it is known to us, is dead.

The old girl has done us proud. We paid £8,000 for her ten years ago and she has done 80,000 miles under our ownership (I tend to travel by motorbike whenever possible), so that’s not bad value, and I have to say, she hasn’t put a foot wrong besides standard wear and tear and corrosion. I have broken down three times in all that time and it was always (with the exception of this time) minor things which were relatively inexpensively fixed. She may have been a bit thirsty, but what a car! She got us down to Switzerland and back towing a caravan last summer without a single hiccough. She’ll be missed when she’s gone, that’s for sure.

Now comes the fun of investigating a new car. I’m only going to be looking at things on the basis of practicality and economy. I’m not really interested in looks at all – it’s very subjective anyway, and the cars most people consider to be beautiful, I’m not so keen on. I did have a thing for the Lamborghini Countach and the Lotus Esprit as a kid (those nice, ’70s cars with edges), but you can keep your BMWs, bling, and executive cars. They do absolutely nothing for me.

So, I guess it’s time to start doing some research. Wish me luck!

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