Chelmsford (and London) 
One of my lasting memories of the pantomime was when Aladdin rubbed the magic ring. A woman appears on the other side wearing baggy trousers and a sparkly gold bikini top, turns to the audience and shouts "Well HELLO Chelmsford!" The other memory was of the genie, a big black guy with an enormous belly, pretending to play a bass guitar to What A Wonderful World complete with sunglasses. Extraordinary, especially since that tune isn't known for its base line. Possibly the best pantomime we've ever seen. They really got the audience into it by the end.

Then there was also two movies, including the new Star Wars, plus a couple of trips into London. We did the London Eye, the Thames cruise, the science museum and ice skating at the Natural History museum. Great fun, but nice to get back into quiet Chelmsford for the evening!

Didn't get very far in the Science Museum, due to lack of time. But we did have some interesting discussions. Esther is very inquisitive and technically minded. I've never met a girl that young who could talk about floats and doubles, logic gates, binary adders and carry bits as if they were perfectly obvious. I explained the workings of a Jacquard loom, a Cray super computer, a transformer and several other things along the way.

Minecraft figured largely in our stay there. Esther and Rachael spent hours in the bedroom, distracted and hindered by Sarah, who managed to blow up the house two or three times by accident. Daniel joined in after a few days. His favourite was to mine deep underground. They built an underground bunker (with a herd of cows, four furnaces, four chests and an enchanting room) which led to a door into a ravine, at the bottom of which was a staircase down to a warren of tunnels. Plus a portal to the nether world. On the surface I got a tour of swamps, deserts, mountains, forests (I do love the way you mine trees) and ocean. Esther was also trying to build a computer out of Redstone blocks, but we didn't get very far. I'm amazed by all the things you can do in Minecraft. I'm pretty sure Rachael will be logging back in.

Didn't see a lot of Daniel (physically speaking); he spent most of his time in his own room, and slept very odd hours. But he did come down to dinner. And to play chess. He thrashed everyone except Esther, who's apparently getting quite good at it too.

Waited up late for New Year, and then went back to the motel. Of course, we were probably the first into bed. At 5am, there was a kid running around upstairs, someone smoking in the corridor, and a distinct smell of cooking. I slept through the lot! At least nobody burnt the place down.

In (sorry, Near) Kenilworth now, in a converted farm building. This is obviously a much bigger farm than ours back home. And obviously some way from the nearest Vodafone mast. Looking forward to exploring more tomorrow...


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