Monthly Archives: October 2014

Toy Story

Toys (1 of 1) Niccollo (1 of 1) Minis at SOS (1 of 1)Saturday 26 October 2014 Trento, Italy: Day two of the rally. After yesterday’s debacle of ever decreasing circles before finding our way out of the city we were on a mission and the first few miles went without a hitch. The weather is fine and warm, such a relief after all the rain earlier in the week. The Mini floor well is very soggy, the carpet sodden so Peach is enjoying a bit of sun.

We had a tour of a hydro electric power station in the morning – there are an amazing 297 lakes in this area around Lake Garda. We walked around 1,600 metres inside a mountain to see how the plant works, followed by an amazing “taster” lunch at a farm with around 14 courses … We lost count in the end – it was delicious but too much! 

After lunch we visited the SOS Villaggio del Fanciullo in Trento where orphaned and abandoned children live in family groups with a house mother. This was where our toys, colouring books, pens and other items kindly donated by friends and colleagues  were destined for. We met some of the children who sat in our car, like Niccolo, left, who revelled in beeping the horn! It was a really happy place and lovely to see the teddies and other toys bring a smile to the children’s faces. This is one of the children’s charities supported by The Italian Job and we were greeted like old friends.

Later we visited the Muse Museum in Trento, like a miniature Natural History  Museum which was fascinating. The clocks go back an hour tonight but there’s no extra hour in bed for us … Our time trial starts at 8am for the long drive to Modena Autodrome where we’ll have a chance to drive the track before heading off to Alessandria where we are based for the next four days.



A photo opportunity in the Dolomite mountains above Trento, Italy

A photo opportunity in the Dolomite mountains above Trento, Italy

Well, we did it! Survived the first day of the Italian Job rally. Although it was not a promising start, I must confess. As team 12 we started eighth in line at 09.33.30 but it didn’t help that the start point, in the Piazza Dante (opposite our hotel) had areas closed off … So we were told at the start to ditch points 1 thru 7 and go straight to 8 which threw me completely. We must have driven round Trento in circles for almost an hour but I refused to lose face by returning to the start. I almost wept with relief when another classic Mini joined us and confessed they were lost too! We drove in convoy with a bit of help and eventually found the right road, although we drove round one roundabout three times and in the end a road workman pointed the way for us! We turned it into a bit of a game using phrases from the film to lighten the mood,  such as “We can’t keep driving round here all day!”

Woman with chestnut mare

Here’s a friend I made at the eco vineyard. She grazes between the vines!

No tears were shed, and in the end we had a great day. A wonderful lunch at a lakeside villa, a wine tasting (pity the drivers – I felt it might improve my navigational skills, well they couldn’t get any worse, could they?) Felt much better when I realised that almost every team had similar problems to us. But at least we made the timed trial on time.

It is a navigational rally first and foremost, so I had to remind Steve a couple of times not to try to get from A to B at breakneck speed… Once a racing driver … The mountain roads around Trento are amazing to drive and the scenery is stunning, so we’re having a blast!

Trento at last!

After a welcome rest on Monday night at Spa in Belgium it was just over an hour’s drive to the Nurburgring in Germany on Tuesday. The torrential downpour put paid to any sightseeing!

Wednesday morning we set off early for the long drive to Munich … An eight hour slog on motorways that had the longest roadworks ever. Peach leaks! The carpet in the footwells is soaking wet and underneath is a small lake. Ho hum, the joys of owning a classic Mini.

Thursday morning saw more torrential rain as we negotiated our way out of Munich en route for Trento in Northern Italy. Hah! That was nothing. We’d been warned that there was snow up on the mountain roads after Innsbruck. Well, we drove into blizzard conditions! I was trying not to worry that our track day tyres (effectively cut slicks) would not be up to the job but we survived a couple of hairy moments and the longest traffic jam over the Brenner Pass. But as soon as we drove into Italy the sun shone, magic!

The city of Trento was very welcoming … People waved as we drove into the Piazza Dante for scrutineering and a children’s choir sang to us. We’ve had our briefing for the rally … Hmmm, everyone says it’s just a bit of fun and not to to take it too seriously. We’ll see … Watch this space.

Snow and lorry on the Brenner Pass. Brrrr it was cold, too!

Snow and lorry on the Brenner Pass. Brrrr it was cold.


The road book for the rally. Easy peasy? We’ll see…


First stop Spa

Here I am at Dover before boarding the ferry. Flying the flag for Kent!

Here I am at Dover before boarding the ferry. Flying the flag for Kent!

Well we made it! At least the first 300km from Calais to Spa which is a relief, I can tell you! Even on Sunday Steve was still changing things on the car – he put in rear windows that open to aid ventilation, a sound decision as it happens because the exhaust fumes were somehow infiltrating into the car as we drove along the motorway! Couldn’t open the new rear windows or some of the teddies would have fallen out, which will never do!

So, as I write, Steve is employing tank tape to seal the gap. We only have less than two hours to drive today as Nurburgring is the next stop. Steve has raced at this iconic circuit several times, as well as Spa Francorchamps, so we are looking forward to returning. Sadly the Nordschlieffe (the scary old circuit) is closed for the season …. Or maybe that’s not such a bad thing!

Peach goes very well, stood up to the Belgian motorway well but you do feel vulnerable in a Mini as the HGVs thunder past!

The Competitors we’ve met so far seem a great bunch of people and we’re looking forward to making some new friends along the way.



Well, the clock is ticking down to our Italian Job adventure. Monday 20 October – will see us among 50-60 other Minis, mainly classic cars, as we queue to board the 10.15 DFDS sailing from Dover to Calais. Finally we’ll get to meet the other Mini “nuts” like ourselves. It’s our first time on the run but some people have done it many times before – some as many as 18!

The Kings Peach is ready – although we’re still biting our nails waiting for the DVLA to return Peach’s log book (no stress!). The excitement is building, the cats know something’s up…


some of the toys accompanying us to Italy

Here are some of the soft toys that will be accompanying us, they are for children living in an SOS children’s village in Trento, Italy. Thank you to friends and colleagues who donated toys – and the PDSA charity shop in Dover, which let me rummage through their store room stock.

There are 547 SOS Children’s Villages in 134 countries, providing long-term care for almost 62,000 children from babies to teenagers who are orphaned, abandoned or in difficult family situations. Children live in small family groups with an SOS “mother”. When they are older they are helped to find work or go on to higher education and move into shared accommodation sponsored by local supporters.

From Calais we drive to Spa in Belgium, then on to the Nurburgring and Munich in Germany. The rally begins on October 23 at 2pm in the Piazza Dante, in the centre of Trento, with registration and scrutineering of the cars. We’ll get to drive on the Lingotto test track on the roof of the former Fiat factory – it featured in the original, 1969 film, when Michael Caine says: “Do get a move on… we can’t drive around here all day!” The Minis will also be escorted on a tour of Turin by a phalanx of police motorcycle outriders which should be fun!

So… all that’s left to say is a huge thank you to the University and friends and work colleagues for your unfailing support. You can keep up with our progress through this blog and our Facebook page. We’ve raised over £3,200 so far (to be boosted by sales of official lottery tickets, £400, and whatever the Italian Job film screening at the Gulbenkian Cinema on 2 October netted – watch this space)!

If anyone wishes to make a donation you can do so via our Just Giving page at – any amount, however small, is much appreciated.



Mini magic

UnknownUnknown-3Sometimes having a deadline is a really good thing. Without it, we’re not sure our Italian Job Mini would have been ready in time for the 50th Anniversary Opening Ceremony on October 1. The car was tested on a rolling road last Monday – and everything seemed fine – and after a few stressful hours passed its MoT on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t really doubt that it would pass, but it was nailbiting waiting to hear nonetheless! The Mini was well received among colleagues in EMS and Mary Hughes, Director of EMS, was brave enough to be the first passenger. The gearbox is too loud… so the engine is coming out and a new gearbox being installed. Luckily Stephen, my husband, had a spare in the garage loft… (don’t ask!).

On Wednesday evening, the 50th anniversary celebrations went very well and our Mini, The Kings Peach, received a lot of complimentary comments… Early on in his Mini racing career, Stephen used to race in Mini Se7ens and an alumnus told us he also used to race in that series! A lot of people came up to share their “I had a Mini” stories and it was great meeting them all.

Our final fundraising event on Thursday was the Gulbenkian screening of the original Italian Job film starring Michael Caine – it was really great to see the film on the big screen for a change and huge fun! I hope our Mini Adventure doesn’t end in the same way, though.

We don’t know the final fundraising figure from ticket sales kindly donated by the Gulbenkian Cinema, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

On Friday morning we took the Mini to St Nicholas School, Canterbury, which has 190 pupils. The school has three Sunshine Coaches and it was a great way to remind us why we’re raising money for Variety! The children were great and very excited to see the car… but the Kent Bunny definitely stole the show!