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More about our holiday w/e. On Sat we went into Basingstoke to a swimming place which was great fun, it had lots of slides and a lazy river that you swam in, it had a currant which gently pushed you around in a windy stream. It was indoors. On our return Nick disovered he had a puncture, Yvonne borrowed a tyre from our neighbours opposite and they were able to go to the shop, they found out where there was a place that would repair the tyre on Sunday.

In the evening we had another BBQ.

Sunday, Hana, David, Dave and myself went to the local country fair, it was good fun with rides and horse jumping, ferret racing and plant competions as well as lots of craft stalls, food places and a beer tent. The kids had fun as did the adults!

Nick and Yvonne went into Reading and visited Yvonnes sister.

On Monday, Nick and Yvonne and Hana went home and we took David to see “Pirates of the Caribbean”, a great movie which we all enjoyed.

Tues. Dave returned to work and I took David up to Hilton Services where Dad picked him up and took him home.

The rest of the week I spent cleaning, gardeningand preparing for my visit to my mum’s next week.

On Sunday Dave went to Sweden and on Monday I went to Knott End.

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On Wed. we had to go shopping for food and some toys! David promised to do work for me to pay for them!

Thurs. we washed the car. David is very good at this, and certainly earned his toys!!! Dave’s cousin, Nick, Nick’s girlfriend, Yvonne, and her daugther, Hana, arrived Thurs. at tea time. David was thrilled, as he had been awaiting Hana’s arrival. They seemed to get on well and played together most of the time. Hana loves to read and some of this rubbed off on David. We had a good time with Nick, Yvonne and Hana. They stayed until Mon. 25th Aug., which was a bank holiday here in England.

On Fri. Yvonne and Nick had offered to build Dave a gate in the back fence so off we toddled to get the supplies needed to complete this task. While I was busy preparing food for a BBQ, and the others were busy building the gate, David and Hana became experts at using the electric screw driver. By the end of the day we had a wonderful new gate, thanks guys.

Dave had had a very stressful week, so he was glad to get home and relax. More on this later.

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O.K. Daniel did not come in the end, he went straight home from his friend’s house. I was very grateful to Sandra and apologised profusely, Sandra was nice about it but I still feel mean. hope they can come another time.

I cleaned and missed Dave, he was in Brampton, Canada visiting Christina (read their blogs for info on this). Then on Fri 15th August I went up north to Knott End and stayed with Mum for the w/e. We had a BBQ round at Graham’s; Bernadette’s boyfriend. Mum came to that, I had arranged it and provided the food, G.&B. cooked and hosted. My dad went to Arnside so wasn’t able to come. Arnside is a holiday place where, seniors go for themed weeks and dad hosts them.

I brought David back with me on Monday 18th, where has the time gone? On Tues I took him to The Living Rainforest www.livingrainforest.org which is near Newberry, we had fun especially with the monkeys and the aligator: David was fascinated by the giant lilly pads, which incidentally, influenced the architect of the Crystal Palace by their structure.

We had to pick Dave up from Heathrow in the eve., he should have arrived at 9:15p.m. but in the end it was 11:30pm when he landed, a late night for David, but he gave Dave a BIG hug when he came through which cheered Dave up as he was sad at having left Chrisitna.

More Later.

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Thousands are dead in France because of the heat wave. That’s worrisome and sad… how can you not be concerned about global warming when things like that are happening?

Mom, Dad – get an air conditioner!

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The Great Northeast American Blackout of 2003

I should get my thoughts about this power outage that affected the whole Northeastern seaboard of the Americas, before I roam around the internet and get influenced by everyone else’s entries.

I was at work when it happened. Thankfully, I’d saved my work about 20 seconds prior to everything going out (I’ll have to remember to save this every few seconds, as is my habit, as we are still supposed to experience rolling blackouts). Of course, like everyone else, we thought it was a local problem. Soon after people started calling out, however, we discovered otherwise. When we finally decided to leave (at 4:30 – I’m not sure why we all stood around for 15 minutes, as it was pretty obvious after 5 that it wasn’t coming back on any time soon), I started to wonder about the traffic lights and how horrendous it would be to get home. I didn’t think it could possibly be that bad.

I got in my car and instantly turned on a news radio station (found two in the end and kept switching back and forth). I soon found out just how wide an area this blackout was affecting. First, I was struck with shock, then soon found it quite funny, then mild fear set in. I wondered very briefly if it was terrorist attacks. The newscasters gave out as much information as they knew, they interviewed Hydro Canada and pretty much confirmed early on in the game that it probably wasn’t a terrorist attack. I also felt fairly safe in a general sense, so I thought it probably was just an error.

I’d called my dad (he’s visiting) before leaving, and he’d said to take it easy and be careful at stop lights, because people would be hurtling through. The first intersection I came to was small, so I treated it like a 4-way stop like the other person who was there when I arrived. After that person left, I could see one car far down the street on one side, and the other was clear. So I stepped on the gas and started to go – but the far away car was suddenly very close, so I stopped, surprised. He obviously wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit down this small road. I then nearly got hit by a stupid woman coming up to me from the other direction, because I’d had to stop while the other guy slowed down. He stopped and let me go, but geez – I almost got hit on both ends by two cars!! I don’t see how I would have survived that one. Yeesh.

The rest of the drive home was all right. I didn’t feel that safe physically, but I knew I’d get home in one piece. There were some obstacles, but it wasn’t as busy as the opposite direction to me. I was grateful for that!

On the way home, I heard plenty of information about what was going on, possible causes, uncertainty of when things would be running smoothly again. I was really swept away by the fact that so many people were experiencing the same conditions – it made me feel really connected to the people around me, even over the barriers I’ve put up against them over the years. As the newscasters spoke about how people were being affected, how well people were taking this and how ordinary civilians were helping to direct traffic, a tear rolled down my cheek from each eye. I just couldn’t believe the spirit and well being that humans were showing towards each other. Some people threw water bottles out to the people directing traffic as they passed by. I tried to wave to them in thanks, but every time I got close enough, they turned away!

So far I’ve heard 3 stories about the cause: a power station in New York caught fire, and the resulting blackout had a cascading effect; the Niagara Mohawk power plant was overloaded and thus resulted in a cascading blackout (Later Prime Minister Jean Chretien “confirmed” that it had been struck by lightning – then I heard phone calls on the radio of people saying that couldn’t have been because the sky over the station was totally clear, which means either the people are just stupid and weren’t looking at the time of the outage, or Chretien is trying to cover something up; and I heard some nuclear power station had blown up (from a friend, not the news). Interesting, but nothing else has been confirmed, and last I heard (yesterday morning on the radio) they still don’t know what caused it.

Anyway, I wondered if I’d have the next day off as I had made a wish earlier, at lunch, I’m tired and bored, and I just want to go home and sleep and read a book!. Strange, it came true…

I made it home 1.25 hours late, so that wasn’t bad. Dad was here, waiting with cooked spaghetti sauce and no spags, so we put that in the fridge and had a cold supper of salad, sausage, cheese, chips and ice cream. We read our books until it was too dark to do so, and I lit some candles so we had a bit of light to see by (we don’t really have flashlights). Mike, Dad and I relaxed for a little while until 9:45 rolled around, and I thought I should go to bed.

After having my shower and getting ready, Mike came out of his room all dressed saying he was going up to the big hill in Caledon to look at Dark Toronto. I got kind of excited, as stargazing used to be a favourite passtime of mine, so decided to join him. I ended up driving up there (with old glasses – more on that later) and, while I was used to driving in the dark when it came to country lanes, I wasn’t used to it in old glasses. I was very careful and was unable to see dead traffic lights that were coming up – Mike was my second set of eyes. It took half an hour to get up there because of my careful driving!

Once there, we parked among a few other cars and met one of Mike’s Dad’s friends there. We stood and chatted with him for a while, as we gazed out over the Greater Toronto Area… it was mostly dark, with a large band of lights to the southwest, and a few speckles of lights elsewhere. The sky over Toronto was glowing, though not because of city lights. The moon was incredibly bright that night, and so spoiled the effect we were hoping for (complete darkness in order to view the stars above Toronto that normally can’t be seen). We could see Mars just to the right of the moon, however. I wished I’d brought my telescope up there…

We got home about 11:15, and I knew I was going to be tired the next day if I had to go to work. However, 6:30 AM came around and there was still no power. I’m glad my Dad was here – I needed his guidance to decide whether to stay home, or attempt to get to work. We decided I should wait until 8 and then call in and see what was going on. When no one answered, I figured we were all supposed to stay home and that I had a good excuse if we weren’t – the lights were out and the people on the radio told us to stay home!

At that point, I was quite happy to have a day off to rest (I was so tired from going to bed late almost every night this week). I had, however, wanted to work on my computer while having the day off… but I suppose that’s the tradeoff. I did have a backlog of books from the library that I wanted to read, so I got cracking on those. I finished off Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, flipped through a digital design book (from 1994! it was almost completely useless), and read a couple more pages from Homepage Usability: 50 Homepages Deconstructed (it’s actually quite interesting, despite its name, if you’re into designing websites). I’ve still got two more books out from the library to finish, but I’ve got a longer list I was hoping to get through this summer. Ah well, I think I’ve done well so far, considering I was working full time and took a summer course.

Dad and I spent almost the entire day reading yesterday. Mike slept for a while and did other various things that he does. In the later afternoon, we called some friends who had invited us over for a BBQ (they live across the street from our old house) and found out they had power and no water (we had water and no power). We went over there early to swim and enjoy their cool backyard.

It was nice to see them again. I’ve seen them once since my parents moved away – they had invited me over to fix their computer and feed me dinner. Anyway, I got in the pool and swam (well, talked to) their two youngest daughters – Alana and Marissa. They’re 13 and 11, respectively, and, since the days they used to come over to annoy me, they’ve certainly calmed down! They’re still hyper with their friends, but they can have an actual conversation with me now, which is nice! Alana went on and on about how the people she was friends with at her last school (a grade 7-8 school where they teach everyone on the computer all the time – I wish I’d been able to go to a middle school like that!) were strange, backstabbing, and immature. It was really odd to hear her talk about people like that. She talked a lot, and fast, and poor Marissa tried to butt in every now and then to add something, but it was hard to hear her over Alana! It was enjoyable, as I still felt like they liked me (when they were little, they LOVED me) and would accept me, even now I’m so old.

Dinner was ready, so we all got out and then Mike and I sat with the adults the rest of the evening. It was interesting to listen to their stories, but at times I wished I was still a kid so I could go off and watch a movie with their kids, or play and just hang out and be a kid again. But I suppose everyone has to grow up… and I’m better for it, I’m sure.

We came home fairly early – 11:15 PM. I drove my dad’s rental car (that’s illegal – you’re supposed to be 25) because he was drunk (so I’m sure it would have been fine). We came home to the power having been restored, and, judging from the flashing clocks, it had come on 4 hours earlier (so about 7:30). I was so happy, and the relief… it was just incredible. It was fun not having power, but only for a little while. After that, you start to feel withdrawal from your computer, your tv, your fridge, even your clocks. I didn’t like staring at their black faces. I felt vulnerable.

I checked my email, but Dad and Mike had gone out to sit on the deck Mike made in the backyard (more on that later) so I went down to join them for a bit.

Overall, it was quite an experience – especially yesterday. Everyone was out on the street talking, a car was playing music quite loudly and you could hear cars crackling as they moved around the ground, just like when you’re camping! It was very quiet (machine-wise – people were still loud), and so “back to nature”. But I tell you, I like my air conditioning too much! Sorry, I just can’t deal with the extreme heat (or any, really). Give me a mild, cool spring and fall any day! To quote my mom (with a slight variation) “Roll on, fall!”

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Dad’s visiting – he came in on Sun. at 2 AM. Yeesh! I was wondering what was going on, thinking he should have just had me pick him up. When he finally got home, he didn’t have a car! The rental place was closed when he arrived – what a crappy welcome. He had to get a taxi to my house.

Sunday, we went shopping and picked up a few things I needed. We went for a nice meal at Swiss Chalet (they served us really quick, it was quite amazing – dinner took less time to arrive than dessert!), as no one felt like cooking. Mike built a deck in our backyard that day, as well, using wood from his parents’ house. Two of his friends helped, and one of them had a powerwasher that really took off all the nasty grey dirt from the boards. It looks great, and apparently we’re going to have a deckwarming party at some point. It still needs to be coated with protective stuff first.

Dad visited some old work friends Monday morning and lunchtime, then came home and fixed some things in the house – we now have a nice showerhead that doesn’t fall out of its prop and our kitchen tap is now fixed and doesn’t need to be wrenched every which way to get it to stay in place. Monday evening, he prepared pork chops, potatoes and broccoli for us. I haven’t had a simple, healthy meal like that in a while. Mike and I usually cook quick meals (spags – sometimes with sauce, taccos) or more complex, but healthy, meals (chicken and rice, fish on rare occasions). I didn’t realize how quick it is to cook pork chops – but meat’s expensive so we don’t buy too much of it (just ground beef, since you can use that in a lot of stuff and it’s fairly cheap).

Yesterday, we had some people around to fix some pipes round the side of our house, outside. Sewage had been coming up for quite some time, and it was really disgusting. People had also been throwing stuff there and the whole place just reeked. They fixed the pipes and put caps on them, but discovered that pipes somewhere in our block had probably collapsed, and that was one reason the sewage was coming up. Anyway, it’s fixed now, but they left all the sewage on the grass, which is a health hazard. Not sure what’s being done about that.

Dad also fixed the pipes under the sink in the laundry room – no longer will water gush out at our basement wall!! Thank you, dad, it’s wonderful! It’s so nice to have a house that functions properly, and not have to worry about these things anymore.

We had “stew in brew” (or something like that!!) last night for dinner. That was a good, hearty meal. I think I might just be having a proper meal every night this week!

Mike’s parents came over for a little while in the evening, to talk and relax for a bit. We traded stories for a while, until it was past bedtime! Not too tired today though, I must have slept well last night.

Well, must be off. Lots of work to do!

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It feels cooler again today, consequently, I am embarking on some cleaning.

Have just discovered that I am supposed to host my nephew, Daniel, this weekend!!! Quick thinking and reorganising is on the cards, looks like I will be returning on Sunday with young David. Sandra (Dave’s sister) and Daniel will also arrive then and stay until Wednesday, at which time Nick, Hanna and Yvonne, will arrive. Sounds like fun to me, and even more reason to do the aforementioned cleaning!!!!!

I am obviously procrastinating by writing this, as I should be writing a small piece for the WI meeting next week. See ya.

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Today I woke up at 8am to find it was a little cooler and overcast, “hurray!”. I thought, it will be cool, I can get something done. Well, the sun has come out now, 11am, but it is cooler than it has been. Still feels like living in Montreal, 20 years ago!!!! Roll on, winter! I am definitely not a summer person. However, yesterday I picked and ate a ripe fig off our fig tree, and there are more where that came from. Lovely and warm it was, and juicy, mmm. Poor roses don’t like it though, they bud and open and die in 2 days.

I am waging a loosing battle with spiders and their webs! Never seen so much activity from these arachnids before, no sooner do I attack them with the extending brush, than they are back again! Now I understand Robert the Bruce’s resolve. However it gets very tedious explaining to visitors why we have copius cobwebs all over the house. No, I was not put on this earth to spend my days destroying spiders’ designer weaving. The ones outside are especially beautiful when covered in dew.

More later.

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OK. Right now I hate it here, it is far too HOT. Yesterday my garden was 98°F in the shade! You don’t want to know what the house was like. It has been like this for a week now and the forecast is for more of the same. It is like living in Canada, only 70 years ago, with no air and no pool. The only way to cool off is to take a cold shower. Honestly I am really fed up as I can get nothing done. I hate the humidity and the heat, it makes you feel worn out. Cannot even work in the garden as it is too hot. I want to be back in Canada.

Dave left last night for 10 days in Toronto (TO) with Christina, he is missing her and this seemed like a good idea. I am going up home (Mum and Dad’s) next Fri for the w/e and will bring young David back with me for a visit.

We went to John and Kath’s last w/e. They live in Greet near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, a beautiful area. Steven, their son, was over on a visit from Montreal with Daniella, his girlfriend. We had a lovely BBQ, and on the Sunday we brought S&D back with us to Reading so they could have a couple of days site-seeing in London. It is only 35 min. on the train from here. They had a great time and loved London, such a lovely couple.

The trains are another story – with the heat the tracks are buckling, so the trains are delayed. They have to put buses on, which take twice as long!!!! Why do the trains manage to run in Canada and the States? Because they are used to the heat – prepared for it!!!! Get with it Britain, this is the reality – it will be hot in the summer.

Also managed to visit my old school friend Celia. I met her first in Knott End at our local church, even before she was school age. I used to visit her when she moved, which was quite often and we kept in touch by letters. I recently found a bundle of Celia’s old letters to me, quite a treasure. Celia now lives in Shilton, a village near Burford, also in the Cotswolds and only an hour drive from me. I spent a pleasant day with her and her family, actually meeting them all despite all of them working in various places. We even got to see Katia at the local garden centre where she works. Celia and Tim have 4 kids: Joseph, Katia, John and Camilla. Lovely family. They run a farm.

None of the shops, or very few, have air conditioning here, so I keep out of them. Only the super markets are cool. Also, lots of people smell – not many have discovered showers yet!!! So you can see why I don’t like it here, I would honestly rather have rain, at least I could do things then.

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Whew! I finally got the new site design up. The photo albums don’t work just yet, but I’ll be fixing those soon (maybe). At least the main site is now a little easier to use for the people on older computers and small resolutions (I realized just how many people have those specifications, when I visited my dad’s family in England, and my mom’s family in Seattle). So hopefully this works a little better now. Please let me know if you’d want anything changed (I hope the fonts are big enough for you all to read, because they get really ugly if I make them any bigger).

Anyway, enjoy! 🙂