Devastation 
Spent last week in the Isle of Wight, visiting an old friend. Just days before, her husband had walked out, and announced that he wasn't coming back. So she was devastated. We spent most of the week in the house, talking, crying and praying together. She didn't want me to leave, but knew that I had to go at some point. I did my best to encourage her to make contact with a number of friends and relatives, because she had tended to restrict herself to his family. The house was full of reminders of their 5 years marriage. She was pulling herself together on the day I left, but I will certainly be keeping in touch.

I've held back from travelling north because of the floods still hanging around in Oxford. There have been tens of thousands of homes flooded, and plenty of roads needing repairs. There's one town where a main sewer has collapsed, and left a huge hole in the main road. Still plenty of houses without water. We're fine here; we're some way above the plain, so the water has all run off and it's nice and sunny again.

Put up a gutter around the shed, leading to a rain butt at the back, and helped Mum organise the back to make room for some compost bins. She had about 20 bags of sodden slimy compost which we emptied into the bins. Next job (after having a bath) will be to fill in holes around the house ready for painting.

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Paint and Water 
It's quite something to see the land you've lived in for five years suddenly spread out before you, and looking so small, with the rising sun shining way out into the endless Pacific. Anyway, I had an uneventful journey, and all the buses connected at the far end. Not sure how I'll manage it going home, since I'll probably be carrying a lot more. Mum has offered me the musical keyboard, but it weighs quite a bit, and dosn't fit in the suitcase!

We've had a lot of heavy rain here, and we're right in the middle of it! Mum had to post a form, but due to the Oxfordshire postal workers being on strike, had to try and find a post box in Wiltshire, which is just a few miles away. We had some difficulty though, because quite a few roads were still flooded the day after, with water still pouring off the fields. Managed to get to a post box. Not sure if they'll be able to collect it!

Currently helping Mum remove paint from the window ledge. There's about 8 layers - you can tell all the different colours. We're using this solvent stuff that dissolves the paint really well. Unfortunately it also dissolves everything else, so we've had to be a bit careful...

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There and back again 
Had a nice time in Rotorua, despite the cold, the wet and the wind, as well as the sore throat of Peggy's. Went to a hot pools, and had a nice long soak. It was fine until you had to get back out of the water. Fortunately there was a really hot pool where you could store up sufficient thermal energy to get you back into the changing rooms and dressed again. The weather was really quite good, considering. Up north, they had a heavy storm, and several towns were completely cut off. Even in Auckland the power was off across the region for at least 12 hours, and numerous trees were down. But it had all blown off east by the time we came back up again.

Fixed the trampoline. I've mended a few tears in the safety net, and anchored it with a couple of small logs buried underground. I remember the technique from a scout camp once, where they buried a large log and then got everybody on the rope trying to pull it up. Then they fed the rop through a pulley, (thus multiplying the force by four) and tried to pull it vertically upwards out of the hole. The rope broke. So I'm confident that the trampoline won't be sailing over the fence, unless we have a full tornado, in which case the house will probably be following it.

Preparing for the trip to England this week. I've managed to find the English driving licence, and I'm compiling a list of things to take and bring back. I'm told there's a lot of stuff of Dad's that I could use, so I'm going to leave room in the suitcase...

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Smells, wind and brass 
Bronwyn's friend Peggy arrived from Singapore last Sunday, and almost immediately we all went ill. I thought she might have brought it, but now she's got it herself! But they managed to do quite a bit this week, seeing quite a few places around Auckland, and a few trips around the farm. We're off to Rotorua tommorrow (the smelly place, with the hot corrosive steam bubbling up from the drains) for three days, and I'm looking forward to a quiet break.

The trampoline made a break for it on Monday. We had very high winds, and it managed to fly across the garden, over an apple tree, cleared the fence and rolled down towards the drive. It was just as well nobody was around, and also that it didn't hit the house. It must weigh about 60Kg. Fortunately the damage was minimal, and apart from a couple of bent pipes and a broken weld, it's all intact. Neil (Bronwyn's brother) was going to look at fixing it.

The nationals went well; I don't know how we were placed, but I'm told it sounded really good. And it was quite something to watch the cream of New Zealand bands marching out for the Parade of Bands. It was so awe-inspiring that we almost for got our place in the line up, and had to quickly assemble. It was a long march, and quite exhausting to keep playing for all that distance. Hence the bands got more of a cheer at the other end, from all the other bands that had gone before them! But now we can relax, and Monday's rehearsal will be cancelled. Just as well, since I won't be there anyway.

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Updates... 
Sorry, it's been nearly a month since the last update. Hadn't realised it had been so long. There's been quite a bit happening!

My brother Nick read out my comments at the funeral, and I understand it all went well. He met my uncle for the first time (I met him last time I went to England, and only because I deliberately tracked him down). There were quite a few from Dad's Big Band there, plus a few others. I had thought that Nick was playing trombone at the funeral, and felt that I should have been there, but I understand it was Tommy Dawcey on CD!

Yesterday was the last day for the two people who were made redundant. Both have accepted it quite well. One is looking forward to being a mum again, and the other is looking for other programming and contract jobs. He may end up being brought back on contract to us, since we've managed to gain quite a lot of work since the problems earlier in the year. We've done a lot of billable work, so although it's been busy, it's been very productive, and we've had no major issues for once. But our technical manager will also be leaving later in the year, and some other staff are considering leaving, so it could be rather quiet there in a few months. I had considered leaving too, but apart from the workload it's been a good place to work, and I don't have to fight any traffic. Which is unusual when you're so close to Auckland.

Bronwyn's friend from Singapore will be arriving tomorrow. We thought she was arriving today, but we still had her old itinerary. So it'll be another trip to the airport tomorrow. But we're planning a trip to Rotorua next weekend, and Bronwyn is taking her on several trips locally. So it'll be a nice break. I've reserved a few days holiday for it.

I'm reserving quite a few more for the trip to England. I'll be going for 5 full weeks, from 18th July to 20th August. We managed to find a reasonable price on the internet, lower than anything the travel agents could offer. I'm going to be spending most of the time in Oxfordshire to help out Mum, but I'm planning at least one weekend up in Coventry, and another in the isle of Wight if I can. Mum has planned a few jobs for me. I'll be helping her paint the house, and give her some driving lessons. She's got a licence, but hasn't driven for so long that she completely lacks confidence. So we'll probably do some laps of an empty car park first, just to get the hang of it...

The Auckland Brass contest went quite smoothly, with one or two mistakes, but we were competing against three bands in the grade above us, and obviously they were playing better this time! We had numerous soloists playing, and swamped the solo contest. The national contest is on Friday and Saturday this week. Friday will be the formal indoor contest, and Saturday will be the street march. We had a rehearsal today, and it's jolly hard work marching, playing, and following orders at the same time. The march doesn't last long, but you have to concentrate totally for five to ten minutes, and it has been known for people to collapse, especially in hot weather. Fortunately we won't have that problem. It's mid winter. Let's hope it's dry...

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