Buttle UK

Italian Job

Italian Job

Unfortunately the GPS Tracker we have fitted has failed.
However you can keep up to date of our progress on Facebook link above.

Saturday 1st November ’09 Calias – London

We left the hotel in Calais in time to take the 8 mile or so journey to the ferry port. Having no official passports we were shepherded into a room where, equipped with our scanned copies of our passports, we were asked to fill in forms before they would let us on the ferry. All very civil and matter of fact, we then joined the queue of Minis readying to board the ferry.
A very nice traditional English breakfast and a look around the on board shop and within no time we were in Dover.
Dover to London took no time at all, but driving through London to the assembly point before the Police escort to Kensington Park was rather interesting. The instructions which were given us were spot on, passing Buckingham Palace on the way was a treat too.
We joined the queue at the assembly point a mile before Kensington Park the finishing point, but found the engine was overheating. After we left it to cool a little and topped the radiator up we were on time for the escort.
A police escort to the finish line where we were greeted with applause by family, friends and public. It was a great finish to a brilliant journey.
That evening we went to the black tie dinner and presentation where we were staying at the Hilton Hotel Edgeware Road. Awards for 1st 2nd and 3rd places along with Oldest Car in the rally, a 1964 Cooper, and Best Dressed Mini, which we won, (voted for by fellow jobbers) were presented.
We had a brilliant time on the job, Mary says she’ll definately do it again, so keep a watch on this website!

Friday 30th October ’09 Dijon – Calais

As we had a lot of miles to cover again today we sat on the autoroute for most of the journey, stopping only for comfort breaks and fuel.
VANimal with new clutch in place went fine as did our car. Quite an uneventful trip for us thank goodness.

On arrival in Calais we met up with other jobbers for a drink and wind down, fortunately our hotel was adjacent to theirs.
We learned very quickly though that Team 37 “Bam Bam” Martin and Trina had broken down on the autoroute, it was commonly known as a “Catastrophic Failure”. Well it would be with a conrod hanging out of a big hole in the block!

The service crew towed the car to the hotel; where a swarm of jobbers looked on to see the irrepairable damage. Martin was assured that the car would be towed back to England and was bought a number of beers to soften the blow.

Thursday 29th October ’09 – Annecy to Dijon

As this leg of the journey was a mere 170 miles, we thought after yesterday’s long haul of 380 miles and 79 Euros in tolls etc, we would take the more scenic route.
This was a pleasure, seeing a kaleidoscope of autumn colours over the hills and mountains, but somewhat interrupted by VANimal developing clutch problems again. Unfortunately to save time and a possible complete breakdown we jumped back on the autoroute after adjusting the clutch as far as we dare to give Carl something of clearance, but there was still a vibration in the clutch somewhere too.
We arrived in Dijon with VANimal having little or no clutch clearance, but the service lads got to work and after replacing the clutch and finding a broken ball end on the clutch bell housing lever all was repaired to Carl’s delight and slightly empty wallet!
We stayed at the Dijon Ibis Hotel overnight, then headed off for Calais, another long haul northwards, the following morning.

Wednesday 28th October ’09 – Imola to Annecy

Today has been a very pleasant & stress-free day. We decided to set off at 8.00am from the hotel at Imola as we had a journey of about 380 miles to complete to Annecy so wanted to allow plenty of time. The roads were remarkably clear & we got onto open motorway no problem, then started gobbling up the miles. Before we knew it we were over half way there. The weather was a bit mixed at first with spells of fog & the scenery was obliterated, but as we proceeded the weather improved and as we circumnavigated the first part of the Alps the scenery was quite spectacular with beautiful sunshine. We then went through a series of tunnels, stopping briefly for a leg-stretch & to admire the views & photo opportunities before the longest, this being the Tunnel du Frejus which is 10 miles long! It was quite claustraphobic in there, although illuminated, there is nothing in the way of ventilation that we could see, the heat was unbelieveable, obviously we had the windows shut, but the temperature sensor was saying 31 degrees centigrade outside the car! We soon cleared the tunnel for even more spectacular scenery and the most beautiful autumnal colours covering the mountains up to the snow lines. We arrived in Annecy about 2.30pm so made great progress. The hotel is fab, the cars have their own little garages so are tucked up nice & snug & the hotel has free wi-fi – happy days! We’re just chilling out for a bit then going to explore Annecy & find some dinner. Annecy looks like a very pleasant place, we’re off again in the morning, Dijon is our destination tomorrow which is only about 100ish miles so that should be ok – we might even manage a bit of a lie-in tomorrow (forgotten what one of those is!)

Only trouble is, we crossed the border from Italy into France in the Tunnel du Frejus & now we keep trying to speak to the French in Italian! Ah well!

Catch you soon

Au Revoir!

The 7th & 8th days of the Navigational Rally (Monday 26th & Tuesday 27th Oct ’09)

We commenced at 7.30am as planned and completed a very pleasant drive to the outskirts of Florence where we left the motorway and congregated just past the toll booth.  The weather was beautiful and the scenery was lovely.  We were then taken through the ‘back roads’ by escorted convoy to attempt to avoid the mad Monday morning traffic.  We climbed high into the mountains and saw some beautiful scenery and eventually arrived at the Mugello race circuit at Scarperia.  After a special stage, we had lunch (again, the amount of food is just ridiculous!!) then we were treated to a couple of laps around the circuit (not quite as manic as the previous free-for-all!!), then after a further special stage we continued to Imola where we found our hotel and settled in.  Dinner was at the hotel, and then the evening was spent doing karaoke and dancing which everyone entered into the spirit of brilliantly.

Tuesday morning’s start was at 08hrs 34’30” and we proceeded on roadbook to a control point and then continued to a second control point in the tiny village of Castel de Rio where we stopped for an hour, sampling the local olive oils.  We then set off again over a control point to the Ferrari race track at Imola where we had lunch (more food!!), completed two special stages and then finally completed 3 laps of the race circuit, stopping on the first lap to visit the spot where Ayrton Senna lost his life in a tragic accident.  We then returned to the hotel and are preparing for this evening’s dinner (more food!!), more karaoke and our final hike back north.  Today sees the end of the navigational rally so that’s the last of the special stages (shame!!), tomorrow we’re off to Annacy which is about a 6 hours+ drive so we need to set off as early as possible – at least we can go back to SatNav (yeah!!) and, in my case, more sleep in the car!!! (poor Ian, good job his Man Flu is on the mend)

Catch you soon

Bye for now.

The 5th & 6th days of the Navigational Rally (Saturday 24th Oct and Sunday 25th Oct ’09)

THAT CARL AND THAT BILL!! (Team 18) THEY STOLE COLLIE-FLOWER AND AUCTIONED HER!!!  And then even better(??) (or should that be worse??), they won the bidding to be custodians of her for 24 hours!  Poor Collie-Flower has had quite a traumatic and stressful initiation into the World of Carl (not a pretty sight!!!).  She was subjected to cigarettes, booze, stuffed upside-down into a bin, launched into the air, subjected to unmentionable sexual acts, to name but a few experiences!  She was taught how to use the proper toilet, and then the bidet to wash her bottom, had a shower, checked out the Mini Bar, and many other exciting experiences! (you can imagine the photos as Carl became more inebriated the more the evening/night progressed!) She appeared to just about survive to the morning, she was then allowed to breakfast with Carl & Bill after which she was taped to the back of Carl’s van to do the day’s activities.  We departed at 08hrs 34′ 30″ and, after a special stage immediately at the start which we managed OK, we proceeded on the roadbook instructions to a race circuit called Autodrome Vallelungo.  We met up with about a further 50+ minis from the Mini Club of Rome and completed a couple of special stages, and then we were treated to the highlight of the day which was a couple of laps around the race circuit.  We were led by an Italian Control Car which in true Italian driver style, was driven by a lunatic of a driver, great fun was had by all!  We flew around the circuit a couple of times, overtaking several other Minis until we were right behind the Control Car battling it out with a Mini driven by a professional racing driver – the brakes were smelling very hot at the end of it!  We then had lunch and after that had a leisurely drive back to the hotel.  Part 2 of Team 18 (Rachel, Carl’s girlfriend) had just arrived that day and was waiting back at the hotel to join us.  The evening’s meal was the first of two formal functions of this year’s IJ, we were taken by coaches to the Crowne Plazza Hotel where we had a delicious meal which was also attended by the Italians from the Rome Mini Club who were rather excitable and noisy with a few beers in them, to say the least!!!  After an excellent, if rather raucous, evening we all returned to the hotel for a very-welcomed extra hours sleep!

This morning (Sunday) we woke early enough to say “bye bye” to Bill who has sadly gone home to the UK this morning and was waiting in reception at 7.45am for his taxi.  After waving bye to Bill, we had breakfast and then all had to be at the cars by 8.45am for today’s activities.  They were to be a big surprise as the Roadbook just had a big question mark in it for today so there was various speculations as to what awaited us.  We were again joined by the Minis from the Rome Mini Club, and we then completed two police escorted convoys around the roads of Rome, bumper to bumper, with what must have been at least 120 Minis, horns and sirens blaring like you wouldn’t believe!  The first escorted convoy took us to the edge of the Circo Massimo where the ancient Romans did their chariot racing.  We spent around an hour there, admiring the scenery and generally taking in the atmosphere of Rome, walking around the locality, and talking to people passing by who were admiring the cars.  We then continued to a restaurant on the outskirts of Rome, again by manic escorted police escorts, driving straight through red lights and generally causing chaos, to our lunch stop.  After that, the afternoon and evening were free, so we are now just chilling out a bit, drinking a beer and updating the blog, and preparing for tomorrow’s early start (7.30am again!!) for the start of our journey heading back north.  We have a 211 miles journey to be completed by 10.30am, with Monday morning traffic (oh joy!!), so possibly an early night wouldn’t got a miss!  Ian’s also full of a cold (Man Flu) so is feeling very sorry for himself!!  All together now, aaaaahhhhhhh!!!
Speak again soon.


Monza – Florence – Rome

The 2nd, 3rd & 4th days of the Navigational Rally

Ha! Ha! That fooled you didn’t it!
You thought we’d got lost in the road book, in the bewilderment of Italy, never to be seen again! ‘Fraid Not. But apologies are due for the delay in updating the blog (or blob as I keep typing by mistake!!) recently.

The past few days have been hectic, extremely traumatic and stressful, and finally relaxing and enjoyable, in that order. Wednesday was a very hectic day, we left at stupid early time (7.30am) from Turin (before it was daylight) and travelled north to Monza Race Circuit which is just past Milan where we’d come from a few days ago! This was a journey of 102 miles and our strict instructions were that we had to be there by 10.30am AT THE VERY LATEST. However, traffic at that time of day is just as bad in Italy as it is in central London, and we spent as much time square-wheeled as we did on the move. We eventually arrived at around 10.45am thinking we’d have missed everything to find we were actually the 3rd car to arrive (there’s 59 cars in total taking part!). So we were panicking for nothing, but had a bit of time to relax before the next special stage which involved three timed laps around cones, one at 10 seconds, one at 9 seconds, and the third at 10 seconds again (all to 1/100th of a second). We did a little better on this one than the previous days on the roof-top which we obviously didn’t quite get right somewhere as we were well down the rankings after the first one, not to worry. We were then treated to lunch in the main stadium area, and then after lunch, we were escorted on two laps of the famous ancient Monza Race Circuit, one on the large circuit, and the second on the old banked circuit which is no longer in use and very moss-covered and slippy. At the end of the 2nd circuit whilst taking pictures of Collie-Flower on the Monza Circuit, that very naughty Bill Bell (or William as he became then), snook up behind me and stole our mascot! How dare he! Collie-Flower was Pup-knapped! They drove off with her hanging out of the window, and after chasing around after William when they eventually pulled-up, thankfully Collie-Flower was safely rescued and returned to the safety of our car! After that, it was time for the off again for a 199 miles journey to Florence. This took us until the early evening, but we all arrived at the Hilton Florence Metropole hotel without problem. After settling in our rooms, we went to an American-style diner just around the corner and had some proper food!! (ie burgers and filled potato skins!!). The Italian food is OK, but it’s a bit of a lottery to guess what you’re actually eating a lot of the time! The garaging at the Hilton was excellent under the hotel secure parking. Carl had been having problems with his clutch on Vanimal so, after we’d eaten, we proceeded to pull carl’s clutch to pieces to find the clutch mastercylinder was shot and Carl didn’t have a spare, and neither did we. The service crew possibly had one but wouldn’t be able to let Carl know until the morning, so we joined up with a couple of other teams of Jobbers who were drinking their wine purchases by their cars in the garage as the cost of drinks in the hotel was outrageous.

Thursday morning (22nd October) we rose fairly early and went down to the garage to see how Carl and Bill were getting on with Vanimal. There were still a few issues but they were making progress. We then went to breakfast, and it was as we were finishing breakfast that I picked up my rucksack to find my handbag that had been inside it was missing. Ian went to the room to see if I had left it there, (which I was sure I hadn’t but doubts do pop in to your head), when I caught up with Ian he had checked the room and the car, we re-checked the room and the car and re-traced our steps as the realisation dawned on us that I’d been robbed! There had been a couple of ‘odd’ looking guys in the breakfast room, dressed in suits, but they had at one stage sat down at the table behind us for a brief while before moving away again, and in that brief time, the guy sat immediately behind me had obviously reached into my rucksack which was on the floor by the side of my feet, and lifted my handbag! The contents included both of our passports, my driving licence, credit cards, cash, and the all-important road book and instructions for the navigational rally! Freddy, the main host of the IJ, told us we were for the high jump if we lost our road books! It’s easy to joke about it now almost two days on, but at the time, I was devastated. There were also some sentimental personal items in there that I take EVERYWHERE with me, and pictures of my beloved dogs. Of course, everything is cancellable and replaceable, which is what we spent the next 6 hours doing, but I was so furious. After reporting it to the hotel, we went to the Police and the British Consulate. Fortunately, superstar Ian took the brilliant advice of superstar Mike Caine who had suggested prior to us leaving that we scan our important documents and put them on a website called ‘Drop Box’ which means if you loose them or they are stolen whilst you are away, you can immediately retrieve and print-off copies – how cool is that! OK, it’s not the originals, but as we are not flying and we are by car and ferry, with the Police Report, we are assured we shouldn’t have a problem getting back into the UK with the copies. We also have the support and back-up of the entire Italian Job organising crew and participants, who have all been fantastic about it all, and they will be with us right up to the Grand Finale back in London so we should be fine. So many people of the Italian Job crews have been so kind and have offered to sub us money and help in any way they can, a massive thank you to them all – from the broke and passport-less Team 21! Fortunately, Ian had his driving licence and credit cards with him, and also some cash, so we are fine really, it just rather upset the whole day, but it could’ve happened anywhere. Thursday morning was SUPPOSED to be an ‘at leisure’ morning to roam Florence on our own (Ha! Ha!), but we still had a 186 miles journey to cover from Florence to Rome in the afternoon. After all the faffing around with police, British Consulate, etc, and with Carl’s Vanimal mended (of a fashion), we set off at 3.30pm for Rome. The journey was reasonably uneventful, we stopped off at services where the Service Crew for the IJ had a queue of Minis waiting for repairs. We offered a hand where possible, and then set off on our way again, reaching Rome at just after 7.00pm. By the time we’d checked in and got organised and told numerous people of our eventful morning, we rushed into dinner that was being served at 7.30pm. After talking to people it transpired I was not the only person to be robbed at breakfast in Florence, another lady at a different table had also had her bag stolen whilst she got up to get some food, and accused a couple of Jobbers who were sitting on the table with her of moving her bag. Another Jobber actually realised what had happened when the lady started to create and this lady had actually seen the two men snaffle the lady’s bag away (although she hadn’t realised at the time what was actually happening), but by then they had gone. We managed to obtain another road book and hand book from Freddy, and then it certainly wasn’t a late night for us as we were glad to see the back of a day that we don’t want to repeat in a hurry!

Friday morning (23rd October) has been a quite early start again, as we had to be ready on the start-line for this morning’s first time controlled section with the first car leaving at 8.15am, so our start time was 08h 19′ 30″. We set off no problem, the first special stage was as you crossed the start line, and you had to do the next few yards in exactly 4 seconds. My time keeping left a little to be desired on this, I think we actually crossed the 2nd line at around 5 seconds, so I mucked that one up I’m afraid! We then continued on the timed control-section for 25.5 miles that we had to complete in exactly 1hr 10mins, that we managed no problem at all and arrived about 15 minutes early, so sat before the control point along with all the other cars waiting for our specific time-slot. We then had a 40 minute re-group and then we were off again and the next control timed section, again with a special stage at the end of this control, after having to arrive at precisely 15 minutes at the control point for a 4.31 miles journey – all very technical stuff! I think we managed all of that bit OK, but we will see what the results show! We then spent exactly an hour at a wine producing place who provided us with refreshments and we were able to purchase their produce, which is the wine being supplied to the Italian Job whilst we are in Rome. The final leg for the morning was the last timed section, for 15.85 miles that we had to complete in exactly 40 minutes which took us to a beautiful restaurant on the side of a huge lake called Lago di Bracciano where we were provided with lunch. After that, we were at leisure to follow the road book (untimed) which took us right round the lake and eventually back to the hotel, or whatever else we wished to do. We opted for the drive around the lake and we are now back at the hotel, the Mini is as I right getting some adjustments to the suspension as it is a bit front-end light, even with no luggage in, so some adjustments are currently underway, as well as a bit of a wash. We’ve given our presents in for the children as there was a trip to the children’s hospital at 5pm for those who wished to go to give the gifts brought by the Jobbers to the children but unfortunately with the Mini on ramps, we can’t go. It is also the IJ Auction this evening at dinner where Jobbers auction items they have brought with them to raise more money for the children’s charities (and also Rebecca House in our case). Bill and Carl forgot to bring anything with them, and I’m getting increasingly concerned that I’m losing the plot as Collie-Flower doesn’t seem to be in the car where I left her, have I mis-placed her, or, heaven forbid, has she been pup-knapped again!! Wait and see! Although today has been all road-book, by comparison it has been very enjoyable and relaxed and we’re at the stage where we are enjoying ourselves and not fretting about the roadbook, although it is getting easier as we get the hang of it – if we cock-up on the timings, SO WHAT!!!

Just to finish on the most important subject of all, Baby Joshua is now doing great, he returned to the normal ward today to his Mum and they are going home tomorrow – hurrah!!! We’ve been hearing reports from Aunty Nicki how utterly adorable he is, and we can’t wait to get home to meet him – what a fantastic reason to rush home for! Can’t wait.

Speak soon


Start of the Navigational Rally

After we spent the breakfast time grinning like Cheshire cats and showing everyone and his dog pictures of our new grandchild, Josh, we got ready for the off. Today was the first day of the Navigational Rally where we have to use our Road Books to navigate from A – B via a prescribed route and the cars leave at precisely 30 second intervals. We are team number 21, but we are actually 10th in the running order of departures due to various reasons, so our departure time was 09.04.30, the first one having left at exactly 0900hrs. We are not allowed to use SatNavs!! The Road Book provided contains a number of boxes which represent land marks and signs along the way and give directions. In theory they are easy to follow!!! Today’s was only a short 7 mile route and was not timed, so allegedly an easy one to break us in gently, but we managed to take a wrong turn within the first ½ mile and ended up the wrong way along the one-way system! Oops! Nevertheless, we managed to regain the correct route and after that we got the hang of it and it was relatively plain sailing. We all arrived at our destination rendezvous point in the centre of Turin and we were then split into three teams to do a treasure hunt on foot around the city of Turin! This lasted for about 2 ½ hours and was quite interesting in parts, although rather rushed and hassled trying to find all of the correct clues and keep around 30 people in the same team together! We eventually made it to the end of the treasure hunt where we were given some lunch in a café in one of the Piazzas of Turin. The most fun part of the day was to follow where we all congregated back at the cars parked on the side of the river Po, and waited for the Police escort motorbikes to arrive. They turned up, there was about 6 or 8 of them, in their bright orange coats, and we then had an hours police escorted tour around Turin with all the Minis decked out with flags and banners and generally making lots of noise with all manner of horns and sirens, and causing general chaos, including going through several red lights whilst the police escorts held the traffic up for us – how cool is that! A convoy bumper-to-bumper of highly decorated and very noisy Minis being generally rather silly certainly caused some interest and raised quite a few smiles and waves from the crowds of on-lookers!
The police escort finished back at our hotel, the famous Lingotto ex-Fiat Factory, where the escort continued up the winding car ramps to the roof-top test track. First off there was the first of the special stages, which was a precisely-timed to 1/100th of a second, course where the Minis had to negotiate a number of cones, and cross three different lines at precisely 10 second intervals, making the whole test 30 seconds long. Everyone having completed that, we were all then allowed two laps of part of the roof-top test track which banks to seriously scary degrees at the bend at the end, but was less scary in reality than the anticipation!
We’re now back in the hotel phoning home to see how Baby Joshua and Mum is doing. Josh is apparently a bit anaemic so is having a blood transfusion, but the doctor has assured Chris it is nothing to be alarmed about and he should be absolutely fine. Our daughter-in-law, Ewelina, is unable to see Josh tonight as she is confined to bed, having had a c-section birth, but he’s in good hands and will be back with Mum tomorrow. We’re just getting ready for this evening’s meal which is at a restaurant on the roof-top right by the test track, so must dash and get ready, tomorrow is a long day off to Monza to the racetrack (approx 100 mile journey to there), and then after lunch continuing to Florence, a further 200 miles, so tomorrow will be a long and tiring day, and all of that route is on road-books only – we could end up anywhere as I tend to spend most of long journeys asleep!!! See you soon, maybe …………???!!

We’re Grandparents!!!!

Baby Joshua
We had a disturbed, but very welcome, sleep last night, our son Chris and his wife Ewelina brought our first grandchild into the World at 2.30am GMT. A beautiful healthy 6lb 15oz boy who is to be named Joshua, we are so happy for them and really looking forward to seeing them all on our return home.


After a leisurely breakfast here at the Lingotto Hotel, we decided that the cars really could do with a wash after all the salt from travelling over the Alps. We spoke to the hotel reception who guided us to the nearest facility.
For 7 euros an army of men set about to clean the cars inside and out, what a transformation.
Once done we returned to the Hotel to get the cars scrutineered, this was a straight forward process and both Team 18 and ourselves flew through. By this time most of the cars taking part in the event had arrived, 59 in all, unfortunately there had been a lot of teams drop out of the event (recession has even hit The Italian Job).
After scrutuneering we went for something to eat at a complex called “Eatily”, where Carl and Bill stocked up on many bottles of wine.
Briefing for the navigational rally began at 4.00pm after which we were able to get the key from reception to gain access to the famous roof top test track, which the Fiat Motor Company used for testing the cars, and which was used in the Italian Job film.