Brucie’s Diary: February 2016

Current mileage: 168,042

16th January – The Racing Dinner

For the Racing Dinner this year, we were privileged to be seated with Xclusively Jaguar sponsor, Keith Parrington of XJ Restorations. Keith is a well known and respected member of the Jaguar community who is a Technical Advisor for the JEC and also sponsors the JEC racing series!

Our table also included the directors of the Classic Sports Car Club

Following the meal were the traditional presentations, and of the many awards presented at the racing dinner the most noteworthy was that presented to Terry Dye for his longstanding and continuing services to Jaguar Racing as secretary of the JEC Race Series from inception to the present day.

The most notable Jaguar personality at the racing dinner was former Le Mans racing driver Andy Wallace.

Formalities over, the floor was made available for dancing and as with last year, there was a photographer on hand for everyone to enjoy having some photos taken as a souvenir of the racing dinner. Rob Jenner and I took full advantage of this, and after a few drinks, what should probably have been formal photos, turned out to be quite an amusing selection, of which this is my favourite!

Letitia Mace and Rob Jenner at the Racing Dinner 2016

All pictures for this feature provided courtesy of Bruce Foster Photography


19th January – RNLI Presentation

In January 2015 I went to Cornwall with Rob Jenner, as he was to present a cheque to the St Agnes branch of the RNLI, in his role as Chairman of the JEC. The day itself was very enjoyable, as we were made genuinely welcome by the lifeboat crew and support staff of RNLI St Agnes, and the journey memorable for a variety of reasons, all of which were reported in Brucie’s Diary – January 2015 which is well worth a look to refresh your memory before you read through the following report!

Following the same agenda as last year, our journey to Cornwall followed on from the Racing Dinner in Stratford-upon-Avon, and although Rob Jenner’s role as Chairman officially ended at the JEC AGM last November, he was very keen to present the cheque to the St Agnes Lifeboat crew and supporters as this was his chosen charity for the 2 years of his Chairmanship.

Arriving at St Agnes Lifeboat Station at 9.30am on a crisp, dry morning, we were escorted down past the boathouse to the beach, where some of the crew members proudly gathered round their new boat.


St Agnes Lifeboat Crew

The St Agnes Lifeboat Crew and former JEC Chairman Rob Jenner pictured with the presentation cheque and the new lifeboat on the beach of St Agnes, Cornwall. On the far right is Gavin Forehead, Senior Helmsman, and with 21 years experience as a lifeboat man you know you are in safe hands!


Rob Jenner and St Agnes Lifeboat Senior Helmsman

Senior Helmsman, Gavin Forehead, points to the new boats’ name plate – XKALIBUR – a clever play on words, thought out by the St Agnes branch of the RNLI to pay tribute to the fact that the JEC raised the funds to buy the new boat, while Rob Jenner displays the cheque for £18,250 raised in 2015 which will be added to the cheque for £19,000 raised in 2014, which will go towards the total cost of £44,000 for the new boat.


Having politely declined the invitation to join the crew for a trip round the bay in the new boat, on this cold January morning, we returned up the steep hill to the St Agnes Lifeboat Station where Rob Jenner officially presented both the ‘real’ and the presentation cheques to Gerald Simmons (Chairman of the St Agnes Branch of the RNLI) and Dave Nicol (RNLI South West and South East England Regional Fundraiser).


Gerald Simmons, Rob Jenner and Dave Nicol

Presenting the ‘real’ cheque to the RNLI – Left to right: Gerald Simmons (Chairman of the St Agnes Branch of the RNLI), Rob Jenner (former JEC Chairman), Dave Nicol (RNLI South West and South East England Regional Fundraiser).


St Agnes Lifeboat Support Team

The St Agnes Lifeboat Fundraisers and support staff pictured with former JEC Chairman Rob Jenner, holding the presentation cheque for the new St Agnes lifeboat ‘XKALIBUR’.
Second left front is Molly Whitworth, who has been a volunteer St Agnes Lifeboat Fundraiser since 1970.


Back in the warmth of the St Agnes Lifeboat HQ, we were treated to hot tea and traditional Cornish saffron cake, while Rob Jenner related the story of how and why he had chosen the RNLI as his charity for the duration of his Chairmanship of the JEC. Rob said that he felt honoured to be presenting the cheques for £18,250 and £19,000 towards to the cost of the lifeboat. His only regret being that it fell short of the full amount. He went on to say that he remembered, as a child, the efforts of his school, along with many others, collecting milk bottle tops to raise funds for the Blue Peter Lifeboat, and here he was all these years later, presenting the cheque for funds raised by fellow Jaguar owners to pay for the replacement for the Blue Peter Lifeboat!

Gerald Simmons followed up with his thanks on behalf of all at St Agnes, saying that the lifeboats normally last approximately 10-15 years, and Blue Peter funded 4 lifeboats, the first of which was launched in 1968, and the JEC lifeboat replaces the last of these. Gerald brought to our attention that working on past statistics, the new boat is expected to save between 30 and 40 lives before it goes out of service! He finished by inviting all Jaguar owners, and anyone who is interested, to the official naming ceremony which will take place on the bank holiday of 30th April and 1st May 2016.


Gerald Simmons, Rob Jenner and Bruce Baker

It seemed that Gerald Simmons and Bruce Baker (St Agnes Lifeboat Operations Manager) had remembered Rob Jenner’s involvement in the craft beer scene from our visit last year, as at the very end of the presentation, they surprised Rob with the delightful gift of an RNLI plaque, accompanied by the essential RNLI beer mug!


Many thanks to everyone at St Agnes Lifeboat Station – we appreciate the hard work that goes into maintaining and crewing this essential life saving service and look forward to returning to St Agnes for the naming ceremony of XKALIBUR

The official report for the RNLI, as reported by Claire Watkins, can be seen HERE


Up Helly Aa! and a Shetland Welcome!

Although not strictly Jaguar related, I have published this as I wanted to thank everyone in Shetland who made us so welcome!

Taking a complete break from all things Jaguar, as far as is possible for two people who are as involved with the marque as we are, we set off for Edinburgh airport in our trusty X-type estate on 23rd January, the first leg of our journey to Shetland for Lerwick Up Helly Aa!

The X-type was chosen from our fleet as we were to be away for 10 days, with no idea what weather to expect on our return, so a manual AWD car with snow tyres and our winter emergency kit in the back, would equip us for all eventualities – in England at least (something I shall come back to later!) because on this occasion, unlike the trip to Shetland for the Classic Car Show in June, we were flying to Shetland in order to avoid the rough winter seas!

Despite threats of seriously bad weather we were awoken by our alarm clock at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning to average wind and rain, so the journey to the airport, and thence to Sumburgh Airport in Shetland went smoothly, and to plan.

Having only ever been to Shetland with Rob Jenner, I cannot say whether the royal treatment we receive from the Islanders is normal, or whether they have adopted Rob as a special case, but having said that, I would assume that the climate, isolation, harsh conditions, potential shortages etc engenders a camaraderie whereby everyone pulls together, similar to that seen in the UK as a whole during WW2!

With this in mind, you will not be surprised to learn that as we arrived at Sumburgh Airport we were greeted by Graham Johnston (Shetland Classic Car Club Chairman) with a 2004 Rover 75 powered by a 4.6 V8 Mustang engine, apparently 1 of a special edition of only 100. Our initial request to Graham had been to find us a cheap car to buy or hire for our time in Shetland, and the response had been ‘No need, you can use one of mine! Would you prefer a Rover 75, Lancia, Citroen, or I can dig the XKR out of hibernation?’ Not wanting to impose, we had chosen the Rover 75, assuming it to be the basic spec baby one! How wrong could we have been?

Having dropped Graham off at his house in Lerwick, we set off for Fia Cottage – again the question had been ‘Christine, we are coming to Shetland for Up Helly Aa! – will Fia Cottage will available?’ Yes, came the reply ….. ‘but I won’t take a penny for it!’ If that was not enough, Christine was waiting at the cottage, fire lit, tattie soup on the stove, salt beef and bannocks on the table …. and wine in the fridge for later! Christine had particularly wanted me to experience a traditional Shetland meal!

Once we had settled in to the cottage Christine returned home, home being another Shetland island, which involved a long drive and a ferry trip! Meanwhile, we embarked on our own trip, to do a bit of sight-seeing and ended up at the Mid Brae Inn and after catching up with some of Rob’s old friends, we returned to the Raba Indian Restaurant in Lerwick for a delicious meal.

On an unseasonably warm Sunday morning, where the temperature at one point rose to a record 14c, we headed off to the west side of the Shetland mainland, visiting Walls, Sandness, and the Papa Stour Ferry Terminal, among other places. We were already aware of a growing problem with the n/s/f brake on the Rover so by the time we picked up Graham (the owner of the car) for dinner in the evening, the problem was significant enough for him to notice, without the embarrassment of us having to point it out! We returned to the Mid Brae Inn, where we all enjoyed dinner, and here for a 3rd time the Shetland hospitality kicked in and the barmaid loaned Rob a computer screen for the duration of our stay, as his own laptop had been recently damaged. No fuss or drama was made, no payment expected, the screen was handed over, with the request to leave it for later collection after we left the cottage. Bear in mind that Shetland is made up of 15 inhabited islands, over 100 miles end to end, so we are not talking about popping round the corner to collect and deliver or do favours!

Monday morning we awoke to a phone call from Graham who had booked the Rover into Christie’s Garage, Sandwick to have the n/s/f brake sorted. We were to drive it there, leave it, and there would be a Lancia waiting for us to use in its place! On arrival at the garage, the Lancia turned out to be a 1984 Gamma Coupe in pristine condition, and apparently one of only a handful built to rhd UK spec! Shetland being such a small and isolated community it certainly turned a few heads in Lerwick, but what were folks thinking? They’re a bit early for the Shetland Classic Car Show? Who’s that driving Graham’s Lancia? or simply Wow, look at that?

Lancia Gamma Coupe

Lancia Gamma Coupe

Arriving in Italian style at the Shetland Hotel we lunched with friends, John Webster and Amber Johnson, and later that day returned to the garage to collect the Rover and take both cars back to Fia Cottage. Wow, this was quite something, and I couldn’t quite get a grip of the fact that I was driving a Mustang V8 powered Rover through the exhilarating and beautifully maintained roads of Shetland behind Rob Jenner in a 1984 Lancia Gamma Coupe!

The following day Lerwick would be celebrating Up Helly Aa! so by the evening there was already an air of excitement in The Lounge where we met Christine and Tommy (owners of Fia Cottage) for drinks and my apparent initiation to Up Helly Aa!

Up Helly Aa! is something I had never heard of until Rob Jenner introduced me to this annual ritual which is unique to Shetland. There are numerous Up Helly Aa! celebrations throughout Shetland, but the one in Lerwick takes place on the last Tuesday of January. It is popularly assumed to be a Viking celebration but in fact it is derived from a traditional British tar barrel ceremony which has developed into a procession where the men, in their respective squads, dress up in Viking costumes and other themed outfits – women’s wear always seems to be popular, hence it is also known locally as ‘Transvestite Tuesday’!

Every year one squad is chosen as the ‘Jarl Squad’ with the leader being known as the ‘Guizer Jarl’ and in the morning this squad leads the galleon through the centre of Lerwick to the harbour where the procession is photographed. The shop windows are all decorated with Viking themes and there are all kinds of traditions knitted in with the celebration, such as ‘Posting the Bill’ in the square for all to read. The children are taken out of school to watch the procession and there is a Junior Jarl Squad too!

In the evening the head of the procession starts at Hill Head and includes all the squads, in their chosen costumes, with every man carrying a torch. At 7pm the torches are lit and a sudden glow of light flashes down the street and continues for probably a half mile of torch bearing men who then begin to move forward along a traditional route to The Park. As part of that procession the longship will have been towed by the Jarl Squad along the route to The Park. The Guizer Jarl steps aboard and the torch bearers encircle the longship, parading round it until every torch bearer has moved in from the streets. The Guizer Jarl then steps down from the galleon and the torches are thrown in, setting the longship on fire. The whole procedure is meticulously rehearsed and done to a set pattern to avoid a catastrophe. The longship creates quite an impressive blaze, complimented by a finale of fireworks over the centre of Lerwick!

Each squad has a bus, and after the ceremony, the halls are opened and the squads visit each hall throughout the night, performing an act and in return receiving drinks from the invited guests. The evening begins well, but by the morning, drink has got the better of the squads and the guests so nobody knows or cares quite what is going on! Traditionally, it is said that on Up Helly Aa! night you throw away your wedding ring – your man will be off visiting numerous halls, while you are receiving the attentions of the visiting squads! Copious amounts of food are available night long, free of charge and everyone takes their own drinks in generous quantities! The performances of the visiting squads are interspersed with traditional Shetland dances – some of the men are so convincingly dressed as women, that after a few bevvies it is difficult to see if the women are dancing with men or other women!

Those in the squads will have spent the entire year working on their costumes, the torched longship, and their act! Up Helly Aa! ends around 9.30am and the last Wednesday of January is a recognised holiday!

For us, Tuesday morning dawned wet and grim, and we almost missed the first procession because they left early (honest!), so cold and wet we retired to The Skipidock (a favourite meeting place, which bears several other names!) for breakfast, courtesy of John Webster.

From breakfast we moved to lunch with Christine and Tommy at the Great Wall Chinese – and still it rained!

Dinner was an invitation from John Websters’ sister Shona to join the family for beef olives with black pudding, oatmeal and ‘sausameat’ (sausagemeat) so a day of eating! My boots had leaked so I found myself wearing a Shetlanders’ socks, while eating a Shetlanders’ meal, in a Shetlanders’ house, having been driven there in a Shetlanders’ car, but more was to come!

We were very privileged to have been invited to the house of Inga Scott, on King Harald Street to watch the evening procession – this would give us a VIP view away from the crowd, and indoors if it continued to rain! King Harald Street is the Park Lane of Lerwick, and the houses there have the best view of the procession and the ceremonial burning which takes place in the park opposite. The invitation to Inga’s House stands, should we wish to return in the future!

After the procession we dashed off to Christine’s daughters’ house in Gulberwick to change for the all night party that follows. Tickets for the halls are like gold dust, so we had been extremely lucky that someone was able to get tickets for us! We were in Islesburgh Centre. As most of the men are away in the squads, those left have to do door duty in the halls, so Rob did his share in the early hours, the last being 6-7 am! The doormen have to keep drunken gate crashers out and see the squads in – by the time Rob was on duty, half of one squad had gone missing, and another (themed as ‘Stars Wars’) had a big falling out! Up Helly Aa! finally wound up about 9.30am and although we were invited to a Champagne breakfast we gave up at 7.30am – John Webster had kindly allowed us to recover from the night at his house rather than returning to Fia Cottage in Quendale, which is a fair way out of Lerwick!

It took us a day and half to recover from Up Helly Aa! but we finally re-emerged on Thursday evening for dinner at the Lerwick Hotel to celebrate the 17th birthday of Ross Stewart, the son of Wilma Smith, a close and longstanding friend of Rob’s.

On Friday morning we awoke to 100mph gales which Rob was rather pleased about as he had wanted me to experience the worst that Shetland could throw at me! The boat was cancelled and Shetland had closed all the schools for the day, which I was told is rather rare, but other than that, life carried on as normal, so we dressed sensibly, got in the car and did what many other Shetlanders appeared to be doing, which was to go storm watching on the west coast, starting at Garths Ness, through Spiggy, round to Scalloway via the Black Gait (aka ‘the Lerwick bypass’ – as if Lerwick needs a bypass!) taking in the bridge connected islands of Trondra, West Burra and East Burra along the way.

Quendale Bay, Shetland

Storm watching!

Back in the 1980’s when Rob Jenner lived in Shetland he had been one of a small group of men who had formed the Shetland Classic Car Club, so for the Friday evening Graham Johnston (current Club Chairman) had suggested a dinner for those founder members, most of whom are still around! The venue was Da Steak Hoose in Lerwick, but of course, the evening drifted on from there to The Lounge where we finally emerged at 1am to a blizzard and snow on the ground! Cocooned in the atmosphere of The Lounge for the last 3 hours, we had been completely unaware of the weather and I had opted to drive home that evening! Too late to change my mind now, as Rob had taken full advantage of the opportunity to test the local brews! Given that I have only driven in snow about 3 times in my life, a friends’ 4.6 RWD V8 Rover would not be my first choice of transport! The wind was fierce, the road icy, and driving in the dark, through blizzards, visibility was shocking, so I made very slow and careful progress back to Quendale on the exposed and isolated roads!

This is where I return to my comments about the X-type – a manual AWD car with snow tyres and our winter emergency kit in the back, which would equip us for all eventualities – assuming you have said car with you, of course! They say if you don’t like the weather in Shetland, wait an hour, well I had now experienced Shetland wind, rain, snow and ice, as well as a record high of 14c, and all in the space of 10 days!

The snow quickly melts in the salt-laden atmosphere of Shetland and by the time we ventured out on Saturday much of it had turned into a slushing mess, leaving a few casualties at the side of the road, from the night before!

On Saturday we dined at The Spiggy Hotel and on Sunday we spent most of the day at the Northern Lights Spa, finishing our visit to Shetland, with Christine and Tommy at The Ghurkha Kitchen.

On Monday, more high winds predicted, the boat was cancelled once again and we thought our flight would be cancelled, but it left 15 minutes late and coming into land at Edinburgh Rob commented that it was probably the worst landing he has ever experienced in all the time he has been flying to and from Shetland – I was completely unfazed and had to admit that it was rather like being slung around in a car when Rob is driving, so I didn’t really notice!

Shetland farmhouse
This is what I love about Shetland, a typical house where you have to ponder, did they run out of paint, time, ladders, or simply the will to carry on and finish the job?


Shetland sheep eating seaweed
Shetland sheep have adapted to eating seaweed with no ill effects – apparently this is why Shetland lamb is so delicious!


Of these two Daimlers, the eldest one has weathered the Shetland climate better!


Well cared for cars can survive in Shetland, as demonstrated by this almost perfect Ford Cortina 2.0 Ghia (Mark 5) which has spent all its life in Shetland and covered 24,000 miles from new! (Currently displayed in the showroom at Leask Motors Garage).