An incident on the road. 
The lights flickered, and went out. Looked like a power line down somewhere. Bronwyn and Rach jumped in the car and drove around looking for clues. I went in search of some torches. Then we saw flashing lights over by the river bridge. Sarah wanted to go and see, but Bronwyn had told her to stay there.

I tried to get some water out of the tap, but our new pump doesn't let anything through without power. So I got a bucket, tied on a skipping rope, put the ladder against the tank, and managed to get a bucket mostly full out. It's not easy when the bucket floats!

Bronwyn and Rach returned. Apparently there was a car with five people in it, crashed against a power pole. Fortunately no serious injuries. But there was a strong smell of alcohol, and the driver appeared to be searching on the floor for something, and some talk of a package on the grass. And an extra handbag. Eventually Rach realised that she'd seen a woman legging it away from the scene when they arrived. So there were probably six in one car. Rach was a bit shaken.

Just as I'd boiled some water for drinking, the power came back on!

Rach was also in another incident. She was on the bus home, and put her feet back under the seat. There was a hot pipe under the seat, and she got an immediate burn. So Bronwyn phoned up the bus company. She also phoned up the woman in charge of the school buses, who was most surprised that nobody had notified her. Nor about the bus breaking down that morning. Or the flat tyre on another bus. So there was a bit of an investigation. Actually quite a big one. Now the bus company are under close observation, and have to strictly follow the rules. Chaos has ensued. Apparently they're not supposed to have people standing, so now quite a few students have got left behind!

Haymaking. They're selling bales straight off the paddock. Bronwyn and the girls are guarding the gate and taking the money. We've had some people wanting to collect on Tuesday, but they can't do that at the 'straight off the paddock' price, because it'll be raining by then, and we'll have to move it all into the shed.

Had quite a bit of rain last week. The tank is just over half full. I think we should probably be OK for the rest of the summer, so long as no other pipes burst!

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Zombie pig men 
It feels weird. Like I lost my memory in mid December, and came round at the end of January. But somehow I had this bizarre dream about driving all over England for five or six weeks.

But we've had some busy Saturdays. We promised that we'd keep in touch with a few people, and our Saturday morning is probably the best time. So we've had people queueing up for Skype sessions. And Minecraft. We got introduced to it at my brother's house. His daughter Esther is really into it, and we played it just about every day. So now our Saturdays are filled with creepers, slimeballs and zombie pig men. But I think it's helped Esther cope with stuff a lot better.

Back to school. Both girls have survived so far. Sarah is doing extra maths homework. Rachael is going ahead with Japanese, despite being terrified by the requirement to do public speaking. But all going well so far. The band has also started up, and we're about to sort out swimming and guitar lessons. Back to the usual...

We had a bit of rain, which will keep us going for a couple of weeks. There's a couple of cyclones up north, but it looks like they're staying there. However, there's another depression coming up from the south, so hopefully it'll bring down some rain. Ross is getting a little irritable. The forecast keeps changing, and he's got no idea if he can cut hay!

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Water, water, in the wrong place 
Still rather hot, but it's supposed to get a little cooler next week. Hope it rains, too. Our tank is a little on the empty side. Thought it should be nearly full, since there was a lot of rain over Christmas. But it was below half full, and seemed to be dropping rather rapidly. Today, I found the cause. Another loose joint. I'm not sure what that plumber was thinking when he installed the new pump, but that's the third joint that's come loose. It was put on as a weird angle, which is probably why it came loose, so we had to dig up the pipe and shift it slightly. In the process, Ross put a hole through another pipe, so we had to dig that one out as well!

Our lawns have been mowed. Our very nice neighbour (who replaced Bronwyn's wing mirror and sent us an invoice for $0.01) came round with his lawnmower and did it all for us. Unfortunately, he's mowed the ventilation pipe from the septic tank (it's a big lawnmower), so we've got another little job to sort out. However, he's also offered to take away our old lawnmower and attempt to get it going again. He's a nice chap...

Forgot to mention my birthday celebrations. Bronwyn had planned a few things. In Coventry, she'd got Rachael to distract me while she bought a chocolate Happy Birthday Tim slab from Thorntons. At breakfast (in Disneyland) she presented it to me. Straight after, we came across Minnie doing a photo shoot, so I've got photos of me, Minnie and Sarah holding the Happy Birthday slab! Bronwyn organised a cake for the evening dinner. It seems to be quite a regular occurrence. They wait until you're eating dessert, then put the music on (in the correct language) and bring out the cake. It was an ice cream cake, and too much to eat, so several random strangers got a bit too.

The Buffalo Bill Wild West show was also meant to be a birthday treat, but got shifted to the day after as I mentioned before. But it was great. You have to turn up an hour early. There's a Country and Western band playing while you wait, and you're all given a straw cowboy hat, with a coloured band. This puts you in a certain section of the audience, and also in one of four teams. They then give you dinner while you're watching the show. The show involves some spectacular scenes with horses, longhorn cows and buffaloes. It can't be easy controlling buffaloes, but they seemed to manage it without a hitch. Then they split the horse riders into four teams, and you have to cheer your team for the competition, which involved some quite dangerous stunts. Obviously all well staged and managed, but really quite something with all those large animals involved. And we got to keep the hats.

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The land of mouse 
Back home at last! Seven suitcases, three or four bags, and we had about 9 parcels waiting for us that we'd posted back. Now that they're all back in the house, I don't have to count them every step of the way!

Managed to fit in a number of jobs for my mother in the time available, and then we set off to Oxford to take the hire car back. Her ladyship had become part of our lives. The GPS spoke in a Chelsea accent, and we were constantly making fun of "Now turn LIFT!" and "You have reached your Dare-stination". It was a virtually new car, and they found a small surface scratch on it, but let us off since it may not have been visible when we picked it up.

Took the bus back to Heathrow, with the same driver who had taken us out. This time we made it to the correct Premier Inn, which was an absolutely huge place. Left a couple of suitcases in the airport to avoid carrying them to Paris and back.

We got up stupidly early to catch a taxi to catch the underground to catch the EuroStar. The taxi driver offered to take us all the way in for a reduced rate because we were so early that there wouldn't be much traffic.

The journey went smoothly apart from a few tunnels, which we blasted through at great speed and sent pressure waves down the carriages. Had to change at Lille. Here we met the SNCF announcement jingle.

In British stations, they start the announcements with a pleasant C E G. In France, it's C G G#. It was a little painful. And it repeated every couple of minutes. It was nice to escape from it at the other end!

Disneyland Paris is a world apart. The bathroom mirror had Snow White and the seven dwarves mounded into the frame. The restaurant had various Disney characters wandering around greeting people, and generally causing havoc. I had a photo with Minnie, a hug from Mickey and a bounce from Tigger. Rachael had a scare from Pinocchio. He crept up behind and covered her eyes with his hands. The result was so dramatic that he did it a couple of times more. Then we ganged up on him and he hid inside a curtain. Goofy goofed around, and generally got in the way of the waiters. I'm not sure how they cope with it!

The park has different zones with different themes. I'm amazed at the attention to detail - even the railings and pavements are themed. They must have spent ages getting the rocks to look just right, and make lifelike palm trunks out of concrete. Or were they real? The cleaners and shopkeepers were in costume, each different for each zone. The restaurants and shops each had mini themes of their own.

There's a rather silly building with a clock on it. It starts making funny noises every fifteen minutes, and then goes through a sequence leading up to the main doors opening to show the time. I watched it four times, just in case I missed something! We also met the rubbish bin. It chased people around, and tried to get Sarah to put in her half finished hot chocolate "I want the cup!". It was obviously remote controlled, but was very well done, and could quite easily use French or English just by picking up people's conversation.

Because she's got autism, Rachael had a green card. It enabled us to jump just about every queue and go on far more rides than we would have done otherwise. Rachael loved roller coasters. Unfortunately because of the green card she had to have an adult with her. Bronwyn didn't want to go on many of the roller coasters, so I had to. Now when I was seven, my mother took me on this ride in the market place. It was just a little oval track, and each end went up a couple of metres. But I was terrified, and I've never been on a roller coaster since! So, the first one at Disneyland was a case of clinging on and hoping it would stop soon. But I learnt how to brace myself effectively, and by the end I was really enjoying it. I even wanted to go on the House of Terror, but Rachael didn't, so I would have had to queue up!

There was a mix up in the booking. In December, we got an email detailing an alteration to our booking. Thought that was a bit odd, but didn't think it was anything significant. When we arrived, they looked at our details and it said we'd been there ten times before. We've never been there before. Then we went to the Wild West show on the 16th, and our tickets said the 18th. We managed to rebook for the 17th. On the 18th, we turned up in good time for the trip to Paris. Nothing arrived. They looked our name up on the system and it had a different first name. We went back to the hotel, and fortunately Bronwyn had the original email with our request on it, and the concierge realised it was all their fault. She couldn't organise a refund on the spot, but in the meantime got Sarah the Rapunzel doll she'd been hankering after, and for Rachael, an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit plush toy. Oswald was the original Disney character, even before Mickey. They tried to celebrate the anniversary a few years ago, but no longer had the copyright. So there's still a few Oswalds lurking around the park, but strictly limited edition!

It was cold. I made full use of gloves and beanie. Some days it barely went above freezing. But we had no rain. In fact, we've had very little rain at all!

We made it back to London, and back to the same Premier Inn again. The day after, there was a power cut, and half the building was out. Our room was fine, but it was cold and chaotic downstairs. I got the two suitcases back, and then we headed into London for a day trip. Spent a long time in the Hamleys toy shop. They've got all sorts of stuff there, including a vacuum racing car that can run upside down. Eventually managed to escape, and continued on the Big Bus tour. You get three different views of the houses of parliament, but you only see Buckingham palace over a corner of the wall, and it was dark by the time we got there.

Very cold on the way home. All the puddles were solid. Tried to smash through one but it was obviously frozen right through.

So finally we headed back to Singapore. Didn't do so much this time apart from a little shopping, and dinner with (some of) our friends there. Plus a trip to Wild Wild Wet (or is it Wet Wet Wild?), which is a big water park with slides, a river loop, a wave pool and a huge bucket that empties every ten minutes or so. Plus quite a few other things.

So now we've not only got jetlag. We're also rather sunburnt!

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Wales. And Coventry again 
Currently back at my mother's house, sorting through suitcases and planning the journey to Paris. Or at least to Euston. The rest is a lot easier.

A lot has happened! We spent a few days in Wales, in a cottage near Dolgarrog, somewhere south of Conwy. The lounge window looks out to a bird feeder, specially designed for small birds. Rachael was most perturbed by our discussion about tits. Beyond that is a small paddock with some one-year-old lambs, and beyond that, open marshland stretching out to the hills on the other side. A very cosy and well catered cottage, although they seemed to have an issue with light bulbs!

Went around Conwy Castle. It's remarkably well preserved, but lacking in roofs and railings, so it's a bit scary from the top, but a fantastic view. We then did a trip round Anglesea. There was a lot of rain overnight, which had turned the tops of Snowdonia brilliant white, but had cause quite a few floods. We stopped at Llanfair PG, and got the obligatory photo by the railway station. On the way back, we attempted to visit an ancient burial mound. However, there was a puddle. It was six metres long, about four inches deep and covering the entire width of the path. On one side was gorse and on the other side brambles. It was also very cold. After toying with a few stepping stones, we gave up!

Headed back to Coventry for the big reunion on Saturday. This was in our old church, or rather on the site of our old church. Nothing is left, although I recognise the paving slabs still around it! They're about to split the morning service, since their 600 seat main hall is already full. I can remember the days when we were lucky to get 80.

The reunion went spectacularly well, but very noisy since everyone was trying to talk to everybody else! We appear to have triggered quite a few reunions, because several people turned up that hadn't seen each other for twenty years, let alone us. It went on an hour longer than planned.

Sunday morning was more of the same. There were a few people who hadn't made it to Saturday, and a few who wanted to talk some more. We had a great afternoon at the Browne-Markes, a brief visit to our old neighbours and then back to church again in the evening.

I'm going to have to sit down and process it all. There's a number of people I want to talk more to, and a number of births, marriages, divorces and deaths to catch up on. I was pretty shattered by Sunday night. Rachael was finding it all hard to cope with. Too many people. But she's a lot better now it's quietened down.

A few more visits on Monday and Tuesday, plus a bit of shopping and wandering round the city centre. Posted a pile of stuff back to NZ to reduce the amount in the suitcases. Then met up with Bronwyn's aunt who had a pile of stuff for us to take back to Bronwyn's mum!

Warwick Castle on Wednesday. They've changed it a bit since we last went, but that means there's new areas we hadn't seen before. We had a rather full on history lesson from the tour guide (the saga between the different kings and owners is rather complicated!) but managed to piece most of it together as we went round. Sarah had issues going up the spiral staircase, but it was a lot safer than Conwy, where Rachael decided to sit on a ledge with a 20 metre drop on the other side!

Back at my mother's. We've got a few hours to pack and head out again...


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