What can I say other than I love cars, particularly MINIs, I'm an Apple fan and attempt a bit of photography now and then. I like to stay positive as I believe that's the only way to be.

 

The day in front of us.

Hello. It’s Elliot here again.

I thought it appropriate to give you all one last update before tomorrows events.

The plans have all been made. We’ve kept ourselves busy making sure that everything runs perfectly to plan just as Andrew would have wished. I can’t lie though, when I say the nerves and angsiety have well and truly kicked in now following a couple of very difficult days for us.

It looks as if we have rather a number of MINI’s expected to arrive at the house to accompany Andrew to Vinters Park. With this in mind I think it would be diligent to arrive at the house between 1.15 pm and 1.30 pm. Andrew’s car is due to arrive at 1.45 pm and due to the limited space we will need to begin cramming the cars into the street a little earlier.

We will be departing from the street at about 2 pm. All of the MINI’s will follow directly behind Andrew’s hurse and the family limo. There will be 5 MINI’s that need to follow right behind the Limo including mine and Jackie’s cars. We would also request that everyone has their headlights on to make us even more visible and so that the funeral directors can control their speed according to the rest of the convoy.

Jayne has some signage that can be displayed in the cars in the hope that fellow road users allow us to stick together as best as possible.

Lastly, if you have any spare seats, there will be some friends at the service who may require a lift to the Golf Club to begin our celebration for Andrew. If you could kindly offer people seats, it means we can all get on with things without waiting around for Taxi’s.

Just incase anyone doesn’t know, Andrew requested lots of colour for the day. Not to say that you can’t ware black at all, but please have something nice and bright on you somewhere. Andrew was a lover of formal ware too so I think we should use the excuse to dress up nice and smart.

Again, thank you all for the hundreds of wonderful cards that we’ve received since Andrew’s death. Some of your words have brought us to tears on many occasions and we’ve selected a few precious lines to read tomorrow.

Lots of love,

Elliot. xxx

A Celebration for Andrew - The Details

Hello. It’s Elliot here again.

Firstly, on behalf of the whole family, I would like to say a huge and very sincere thank you for all of the wonderful messages, stories and memories that you have shared with us since Monday. It is a genuine help to us and serves as a constant reminder of just how amazing Andrew was.

As for the arrangements for Andrew’s send off and celebration, the details are as follows. We would warmly welcome anyone who wishes to celebrate Andrew’s life with us.

The Service will be held at Vinters Park Crematorium in Maidstone on the 26th Jan 2011. The address is:

Vinters Park
Bearstead Road
Maidstone
Kent
ME14 5LG

The Service will begin at 2.45 PM however Andrew’s journey will be starting from his home in Maidstone. Andrew would love to see a convoy of MINI’s following him. We would be meeting at the house at 1.45 PM with an expected departure of 2.00 PM (Times to be Confirmed.) We would request that only MINI’s and family members start with us from the house with everybody else meeting Andrew at Vinters Park. This is due to limited space.

Following Andrew’s service, we will be moving to West Malling Golf Club for a Celebration of Andrews life. The Address for the Golf Club is:

West Malling Golf Club
London Road
Addington
Maidstone
ME19 5AR

Andrew requested that everyone wear smart but colourful attire. We would ask that people don’t wear entirely black but instead indulge into some nice bright colours. This is because Andrew would have wanted a celebration and a party.

We are happy for both flowers and/or donations to be made. Again, we want a colourful occasion however, we also would like to show our support to Leukemia Research, our chosen cause and all donations will be being passed on to this wonderful charity. The Funeral directors will be handling flowers and donations as well as any questions that you may have about the service. Their details are:

Michelle Carter
Albany Funerals
669 Loose Road
Maidstone
Kent
ME15 9UX
T: 01622 746 688

If you are planning to meet us at the house with your MINI, then please email Jayne Bayliss at jayne.bayliss@live.co.uk or call Jayne on 01892 725514 for the address and to confirm who will be coming with you.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.

Lots of Love,

Elliot. xxx

"So, it’s good night from me"

"… And good night from him."

I write to you through bleary, tired and sad eyes. My beautiful better half and fiance, sadly left us today. Following pneumonia as a result of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Andrew slipped off to sleep this morning at around 10.45 am.

I can’t begin to tell you how much it hurts right now for all of us who counted Andrew as family. But in contrast, Andrew has found his peace after battling this awful disease since the young age of 14.

Both myself and Andrew’s parents Jackie an Chris held him, told him how much he meant to us all and just what a huge and positive effect he has had on the lives of all of us.

I take so much pride that Andrew was a young man with morals, vision and a powerful sense of right and wrong.  A gifted designer and writer, he even managed to achieve a degree in Design from Coventry amongst all of this pain and fighting. He was a talented driver, a good friend and a dream come true to a guy like me on the quest for his prince charming. That’s what I take the most pride in. He was my partner. I will always love him and never let his memory die.

There were many people in Andrews life who meant so much to him. Wonderful friends and an amazing family. As a family, we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone. The support that Andrew got from you all and the years of friendships, new experiences and good times that he had are worth more than any money and cars.

Although a few people knew about it, Andrew and I had decided to do the honorable thing and get hitched. We we’re planning on telling our close friends and family and having a small get together to mark the occasion. Sadly, we just didn’t have time.

Finally, we (Chris, Jackie, Stephen and I) would request a little bit of space to help us to deal with such a catastrophic loss in our world, and would respectfully ask that people celebrate his life rather than mourn his passing. Andrew had a fulfilling life that is worth celebrating so rather than saying “Rest in Peace,” share something positive and tell us what u loved about our beautiful, wonderful and inspirational Andrew.

Elliot. xxx

Friday 17th Belfast to Dublin

I’m going to skip fairly quickly over Friday, as it wasn’t exactly as planned. I woke up in the early hours with a nose bleed that just wouldn’t stop, which meant only one thing. I needed platelets again. Already?! What on earth would we do over in Northern Ireland?! I made a call to the Marsden first thing and they started to put things in place. We had to go to Belfast City Hospital A&E, where I was seen (eventually!) and they got all my medical details faxed over from Kim at the Marsden. After some time enduring the people in A&E I was taken upto the Haematology ward, where the staff were incredibly friendly and offered us tea, coffee, biscuits etc.

An hour or so more passed for my blood results to be processed then we had news that platelets were on there way! They did everything through my trusty Hickman line so no worries there, and we got out and on our way by about 7.15pm. We’d arrived at A&E at 12.30! Still, I couldn’t fault the staff and their friendliness and also I have to say the biggest thankyou to my Nurse Specialist Kim for getting everything in place for me :-)

With a day of heavy snow and still more to come, we knew we had to get to Dublin tonight otherwise we may have ended up stranded in NI. Elliot soldiered on down the nasty white motorway and we arrived at our hotel by about 9.30pm. Not bad at all considering the conditions. Luckily the hotel was stunning as was our room, so we chilled out and ordered some room service food as we were starving! So glad to be in Dublin, and topped up, ready for our next two days in the city :-)

Belfast City - Thursday 16th Dec

What a fantastic night’s sleep! Thursday started off with our tea & coffee wake up call, followed by a wonderful relaxed breakfast in the Hotel Brasserie. The Clandeboye really knows how to do a full Irish Breakfast! Set up for the day, we headed into Belfast city centre to the Victoria Square shopping centre. We’ve been a couple of times before, and it’s a great place to wander round. Elliot was on the hunt for a new pair of jeans, quite desperately, and House of Fraser came up trumps. Neither of us have really spent any time clothes shopping for a long time, due to lack of funds! Fortunately these jeans would be one of Ell’s xmas pressies from his mum, a very nice pair of Firetraps. My favourite!

We met up with our friend Darren who happened to be shopping in the centre too, so grabbed a coffee with him then went over to the Continental Christmas Market in front of Belfast City Hall. A quick stroll round, as it was so so cold, then we made our way back to the car and back to the hotel. That evening, we were joined at the Clandeboye by Carolyn, Jules and Darren for a fantastic meal, and a few drinks too. It was so good to see them and we had such a lovely evening. The food was superb, and really nicely presented. I had duck breast which and it was amazing!

During our meal the snow had made an appearance, and as the evening went on it came down thick and fast. Not so good! The others decided it was best to make a move so they didn’t get stuck on the snowy roads, so Ell & I retired to our room, very full of delicious food and feeling rather happy at having such a lovely day.

Off to Ireland! Weds 15th Dec

I’m not going to deny it, Wednesday morning I woke up and wondered if we would be able to go to Ireland. I felt really rough with cold and my temperature had obviously been up in the night, but, I took some more paracetamol and an all-important cuppa and started to feel brighter. I couldn’t possibly not go, we’d come this far, we WERE going to Ireland!

Ell and I set off across Wales to Holyhead to the ferry port, taking in some stunning Welsh mountain scenery and brilliant roads along the way. We checked in and in no time at all started boarding the ferry. My MINI, which had been cleaned only Monday, was absolutely caked in salt and muck from the drive! We made our way up to the passenger decks and found somewhere to eat. The crossing was very smooth, to my surprise, especially as so many people had told us the Irish Sea can be very rough at times! That was a relief, and the ferry arrived in Dublin Port on time with no problems.

Next was the drive to Bangor in Northern Ireland, to the wonderful Clandeboye Lodge Hotel. We had stayed here back in March for our friend Carolyn’s Birthday do, and loved it so much we just had to come back. Even better that they had a Winter Warmer two night offer going, so it would have been rude not to really! We were met by friendly staff and a warming festive atmosphere, and offered a Hot Port once we had been to our room. It really was perfect. The room was superb too, with a huge bed and even a Nespresso machine, which Ell rather enjoyed making use of! We settled in for a quiet evening and started to plan what to do in the next few days away :-)

Busy Busy, Mon 13th & Tues 14th Dec

There was a lot to get done last Monday. Mum and I went off the Marsden hospital early morning as I would almost certainly need a full top up before heading off to Ireland. 

Actually, my counts weren’t too bad, aside from platelets of only 3 which is a regular occurrence these days, the white count was 15 and HB around 9.2. Bronwen checked me over as I was still a bit worried about my cold, but she had no concerns and put it down to the cold snap of weather and all the other people with contagious bugs going round at the moment! It’s just so hard to avoid. She still wanted to give me 2 bags of platelets and 2 bags of blood so that I would be at a good level to go away with. It was also nice to spend some time with mum for the day, even if it was in the hospital.

We got back home early evening and I had lots of packing to do for our holiday! Elliot had been busy preparing the car, getting it washed and vacuumed out, packed some bits and pieces and made a start on the dinner. It didn’t take me too long to pack my suitcase and everything was ready to throw in the car on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday came with another fairly early start, but we were in good spirits and looking forward to getting up to Elliot’s house, our first leg of the drive to Ireland. We took a detour via Birmingham Audi, to take in some paperwork and get the Finance documents signed. All this should cut down the amount left to do on pickup day :-D

We got back to Ell’s and i started to feel a bit hot, with the chills. Bugger. I checked my temperature and it had gone right up, obviously because of the cold bug I had. First thing was to ring the hospital to get an opinion and they were happy for me to start taking the Antibiotics that Bronwen had given me, just incase there were any problems. That was a relief, I was worried they would say I shouldn’t travel. Panic mostly over! The temperature settled a little as we watched the increasingly ridiculous and hilarious Morgana Show on C4, then made it an early night as we would need to set off at about 9.30am Weds morning for the ferry!

Next up, The Emerald Isle :-D

a bit more of Saturday, and Sunday 12th Dec

Saturday wasn’t all about Audis. Ell and I had arranged to meet one of his friends for lunch, a girl called Laura who I’ve never met before but due to the wonderful world of Twitter, I feel like I’ve known her for ages! Actually if you’re on twitter and you don’t already follow her, you should, @louloubell85 - I challenge you not to laugh at some of her tweets :-D

We picked her up and went to a local pub for some hearty grub. Laura was exactly how I expected her to be and I felt so welcomed. She hadn’t seen Elliot for some time but had been following my blog and reading up on what we’ve been upto, so there was plenty to talk about! Many laughs later, and some serious putting the world to rights, we dropped Laura back home and headed back home ourselves to have some chill out time before going over to the German Xmas Market in Birmingham that evening. We went about the same time last year, but luckily didn’t have the torrential rain this time! Lauren came up with us and we met Loui & Christine, Matt & Becca and Brummie there too. First stop was a ride on the merry-go-round for Ell, Lauren & Matt, whilst the rest of us watched and laughed! Next we found the traditional garlic bread, then decided we should really go somewhere for some proper dinner, so drove down to TGI Fridays. They were completely full, and said ‘might be an hour or so wait’ but it was already 9.30pm by this time, so Brummie ran next door to see if the Beefeater had space and they did. Over we went, and had a really enjoyable meal and evening. Becky managed to join us for a while at the end too. A great end to a very good day :-)

Sunday morning I woke up feeling more rough with cough and cold, it didn’t seem to be any better. We had no plans so had an incredibly lazy morning, and I needed it too. I was a little concerned that the cold wasn’t going away but Ell reassured me that it was just a cold, and everyone has got some bug or another at the moment! Lynette cooked us a really fab roast lamb dinner and then it was time to hit the road back to Maidstone. It had been a lovely few days up there and felt like we had achieved quite a lot, seen lots of people and not rushed around either :-)

The Audi Story, Saturday 11th Dec

I feel it’s time to explain why I have been going to Audi dealers and talking about TTs and generally getting all excited.

You may remember a few weeks back when our friend Pete lent me a new Audi TTS for a day, and I fell in love. For a long time now, I had decided that one day, I just had to own one. Ell and I had a bit of a plan really, that when I progressed in my job and saved a bit more money we would have a shiny new MINI Convertible and an equally shiny Audi TTS Roadster between us. One would be automatic too, to help with my ever troublesome knees. You know what we’re both like with cars, there’s always a dream plan, and this one even seemed realistic.

The last few months have changed all that, and it felt like our plan (which was more than just nice cars) had been snatched from us in an instant. We still dropped by car dealerships but I have ended up leaving with a slight sinking feeling that I may not be able to own these lovely toys one day. My day spent with the white TTS coupe really made me determined to find out whether it was possible or not. I had no idea if I could stretch to it, and whether I could give up my brilliant MINI for one, so it was time to do some research.

Skip a few weeks and various visits to Audi showrooms, which I’ve rambled on about before, and I began to realise it was just too much and my dream roadster may end up staying that way. Until one Friday evening a couple of weeks ago Mum & Dad, to my complete surprise, told me that if I could find the ideal car and the right deal, they would help me with a little bit of my ‘plan’ and put forward the extra money I would need to buy it. Wow! I was shocked, and within seconds I burst into tears. They know how much pleasure I get out of nice cars and knew that if I had worked hard, one day I would have got there myself, so they wanted to help provide something to put a huge smile on my face :-) I still had a budget to work with and in my head I had some ‘essentials’ that the TT had to have, so there was work to be done!

Now roll forward to this Saturday and we found ourselves back at Birmingham Audi to enquire about a car that had popped up on the used website only the night before. To cut an unsurprisingly long story short, I put a deposit down to hold a car currently located at Bedford Audi that they promised to get over for me. I wanted to buy from them because I got a great first impression from Thursday’s visit and were treated extremely well by the team there.

So, I suppose you’re wondering what the car is? Well, I haven’t even seen it myself yet! It might sound like madness, but I’ve driven an identical car, I’ve had the spec verified and have their assurance that if the car is not perfect I have every right to walk away. It is a 2009 TTS Roadster with the S-tronic automatic gearbox (no more clutch - yay!!). It’s got just the toys I ideally wanted and, quite frankly, I can’t wait!

If you’re shocked and horrified that I’ve decided to get rid of the lovely Shadow, please don’t be. I still love that car to bits and it will always be my dream MINI. But there lies the problem, no other MINI, to me, would match that car. I’ve covered 35000miles in less than two years, driven across the UK & Europe, met loads of new friends with it and been on so many adventures I’ve lost count. Shadow has done me proud and all the memories I have are great ones. Plus, at the time of writing this, we’ve just been on our last big adventure over to Ireland in it, and that was about the last destination on my check-list :-D

I feel it’s the right time to move on now, and I’m really excited about it! 

Tues 7th to Friday 10th Dec

Now I know I keep covering a few days at a time, but we’re off to Ireland on Wednesday (yay!!) and I really want to get upto date before we go away, so here sums up last week!

Last Tuesday involved a trip to the hospital, a day earlier than planned because I was showing symptoms of low platelets again and I didn’t feel I could last the extra day. They just don’t seem to be lasting as long as before but that will be mainly down to the chemotherapy tablets I’m taking. It’s swings and roundabouts really, we want the white count to come down but we don’t want anything else to drop. Even so, I got my blood results back and my HB was still excellent at 10.2, white cells had come down to 11.5 which was fantastic news (after just two weeks of chemo!) but my platelets were only 3, as expected. I had two bags and a few hours later we were on our way home again.

Luckily, because we got the hospital trip out the way a day early it meant we could drive upto Ell’s in Kidderminster earlier too, so on Wednesday we packed our cases and went off upto the Midlands. We had a long list of friends and family to see and first stop was to see Ell’s Mum & Keith, then over to his Dad and Carly’s for the night. 

Thursday morning Elliot and I thought a trip over to Birmingham Audi would be in order to check out their latest stock and drool over their lovely showroom, even better that David had taken the day off so he came with us too. We were greeted by friendly, helpful staff and treated to free teas, coffees and hot chocolates whilst we were there. I think I’ll do a little separate blog to explain exactly what is going on with all this Audi business, but I can assure you it’s all good :-D Next stop was over to Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihul to pick up some Christmas cards, grab a bite to eat then back home again. Once Carly had got home from work we headed over to see Elliot and Lauren’s Nan, the first time I had met her. I have to say I was a little bit nervous about meeting a new member of the family but I needn’t have been! She had even bought me a bottle of something (wrapped up so I don’t know what yet!) and a Christmas card. Lauren met us there and we went over to Merry Hill for a Pizza Express dinner. Yum! You just can’t beat a bit o’ Pizza Express.

Friday morning came and by now I seemed to have developed a very irritating tickly cough. Naturally, alarm bells started to ring in my head but really is it any surprise that I would pick something up this time of year?! My temperature was still fine so that was reassuring. I bought some of that Buttercup cough syrup which did the trick and eased it quickly. Just as the advert goes ‘because just one bottle of Buttercup treats any type of cough, you’ll only need one bottle of Buttercup sitting on your shelf…’ Ahem. Sorry!

We lazed around a bit on Friday and in the afternoon went to visit Elliot’s Nan & Grandad over in West Bromwich. It was lovely to meet them properly as the first time was a very quick hello several months ago, and Ron had been reading my blog too so they have been following what I’ve been up to. Apparently my rather large photo collection on Flickr has been keeping them occupied as well, and I was really chuffed to hear that! From there it was back over to Ell’s house for a quiet evening in, mostly spent writing on Christmas cards!