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1.Summer has arrived with a vengeance, it's hot enough to walk around without a cardigan (shock! horror!) and, ignored as we try to catch up with everything after our trip away, the garden has dried up to a crisp.
And who knew that carrots had such pretty flowers. The butterflies are appreciating my neglect if no-one else.
2. We took Daughter-Two out to Kaitoke where she indulged in a little duck-herding:
3. Today I took her for the long-promised ear piercing.
I half expected ear piercing shrieks but managed to convince her that it wouldn't hurt at all. Luckily there were two (very sweet) young woman in the store so she got both ears done at the same time. The speed shocked her, she couldn't quite believe it was over so quickly.
"It does hurt a little bit," she said.
"Yeah, I lied," I said.
4. Here's a sneak peek of the new kit coming to the store this weekend:
We had to check out of our hired apartment by midday, but Daughter-One and I packed and cleaned and, despite not waking up until 9am, managed to finish in time for a walk to the Mustafa Centre (a 24 hour Indian superstore housed in several buildings covering a whole block on the edge of little India, connected by overhead walkways and knocked-through basements).
From there, we walked back to the apartment via colorful Syed Alwi street and discovered a stretch of rococo shophouses.
Some of them looked less than solid:
We used our ex-link cards to catch two trains and a bus to Singapore zoo. Which was interesting, but took forever so we caught a taxi home.
We used to have annual passes to the zoo and I brought Daughter-Two here a lot when she was a toddler. We haven't been back since, and it is even better than it was ten years ago (although be prepared to shell out a lot on entry tickets).
The new "Rivers of the World" section was great - and featured the zoo's pandas of which they are very proud to judge from the panda-themed merchandise and even panda iced cakes that were for sale.
The highlight for all of us, though, was seeing The Husband high-fiving (just after this photo was taken) a macaque monkey which was fascinated to see someone tall and therefore so high up.
The Husband did a sterling job all through the trip of letting me have the odd window of time to wander off on my own, so on the second day in Singapore I returned the favour.
I bought ez-link cards for us all, and he used his to go on a rather random tour of suburban Singapore, while The Daughters and I caught the MRT to the part of town known as Chinatown. (Although Singapore is predominantly Chinese so it really should be called "Part-of-Singapore-where-there-is-a-higher-proportion-of-Chinese-shops-Town")
Daughter-One particularly likes wandering around "authentically local" shops and malls, but unfortunately most of them have "no photos" signs on the entrances.
At her request I quickly snapped a picture in this one:
As we walked off, a very serious looking woman approached us and barked out something at me.
I thought she was telling me off for taking the photos, but instead she gave a frustrated sigh then repeated very slowly: "your moles, I get rid of them for you" and pointed at my neck.
When I shook my head (no doubt with a look of surprise) she added, "only $5, then no moles".
I shook my head again and we walked off, surrendering to fits of giggles. Daughter-One said "I LIKE your moles", which only made it worse to be frank, as it sounded like my moles are some sort of distinguishing feature which hitherto I had paid little attention to. Clearly I was failing the Singaporean beauty ideal.
As Daughter-One had discovered on her own explorings, every second shop seems to be a beauty parlour (if not a maid agency).
Wounded and a little self-conscious of my apparently hideous appearance, I nevertheless recovered enough to take lots of photos as we walked on.
Now we are finally home, unpacked but faced with a mountain of washing.
The plane flight apparently did for the drenched laptop what it did for my blocked up ears on the first leg of the trip, and The Husband reports from his office that it is now working fine.
When he brings it home I will download those photos, but in the meantime I have downloaded the ones of the end of our Britain trip that were on the camera.
Roald Dahl Museum
This was tiny (quote The Husband: "uh, is that it?") but worth the visit. (They run activities as well, but none while we were there).
Harry Potter Studio Tours
Definitely a highlight of the trip. One of those things that you think will be exhausting - but turned out to be fun and seamlessly organised (perhaps because we were there on a schoolday in the middle of winter, which must be one of the quietest times, although it was still pretty busy).
The first thing we saw - as we queued to get in - was Harry's cupboard under the stairs, but the queue was moving so fast I could only get a quick, blurred snap:
The great hall was decorated for a Christmas feast, and there were lots of sets full of detail, down to the socks drying in the dorm:
Diagon Alley was amazing, but Daughter-Two was particularly taken with the card models created in the planning process:
She also had fun testing out the fake flames:
And, yes, we stole Mr Weasley's car.
It was fun, if a little disconcerting, to return to where we used to live. And interesting to note, after the friendliness and cheerfulness so obvious up north, how different it was in the wealthy commuter belt of London.
In fact, after she spent a day in Harpenden (our old hometown) Daughter-One was fascinated to learn about the phrase 'PLU' (People Like Us). We nearly went into the Waitrose carpark, intending to buy a drink and an apple, but the minumum spend to park was ten quid so The Husband reversed out - earning a most unamused look from a quilted-jacket-wearing woman on the footpath.
We are not PLU. Never were, truth be told.
And now we are in Singapore, having left the UK lunchtime on Saturday and arrived here 12 hours later mid morning on Sunday (but actually 2 am According to our body clocks).
A very lovely local man met us to show us every detail and hidden cupboard of this small but perfectly formed apartment (very Japanese in its size and style) but we were just keen for him to leave us as soon as possible so we could collapse into bed for a "midday" nap in lieu of the lost night of sleep.
Unfortunately both The Husband andDaughter One could not be roused from the nap a couple of hours later, so it was left to me to take Daughter Two down to the amazing pool for a very reviving swim.
They did emerge in time to come with me to the supermarket and to get chicken rice for dinner - and now, at 9pm, The Husband has taken her for another swim.
Love the man on the balcony above the shop on this, taken on our way to get dinner:
Our last day in the UK was spent at Bletchley Park looking at code breaking machines etc ( a day for The Husband).
Daughter-Two got to sit in one of the sets of "The Imitation Game" (the new movie about Alan Turing, who worked at Bletchley Park). Cue more tears from her as she read the PM's apology to him which was framed on one wall of the museum. She'll have to see the movie. And take tissues.
We managed to get away early the next morning and made it to the airport in time, only to be delayed by The Husbands failure to realise that toothpaste was one of those things you can't take on board except in small tubes in a clear plastic bag. (And, no, the fact there's only a small amount left in the family size tubes tucked around the backpack to take on business trips at home doesn't make a difference.)
As a the result he got the full swab and search routine and had to empty out his hand luggage revealing that the coffee plunger (bought because there wasn't one in the last rented apartment) he was so determined to bring home he had stuffed with his spare underpants and squeezed into his backpack. To their credit the security staff didn't express any surprise. They have probably seen all sorts in their time ...
I had managed to find a serviced apartment a short walk from the railway station in Edinburgh - but unfortunately that short walk was practically vertical. So we dragged the suitcases the long way around and, after scaring the obsequious but inefficient office manager into blushing and stammering, we finally got our keys and checked in. We just made it to our booked tour of Mary King's Close (a typical narrow street between tenements). It smelt less damp than the main bedroom of our modern apartment. An interesting tour, but shocking to think of the horrendous living conditions of the time.
The next day we tried to spend on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour - but kept getting delayed. First when Daughter-Two spotted the GameMasters exhibition at the museum (she went in with The Husband while I and Daughter-One explored the rest of the museum). Then, secondly, when The Husband realised he had left his credit card in the supermarket when battling the self-checkouts to buy milk for his morning coffee. Luckily some honest person had handed it in. But it was practically lunchtime before we got on the bus. The Husband then lost his hat, and it was cold up there on the bus. I wasn't in the mood for another sidetrack, so he had to wrap his scarf around his head like a Russian babushka.
We only managed a short trip before lunch at a fun Japanese restaurant, then the second jaunt was cut short when it became clear Daughter-Two was coming down with rotten cold. I am not happy - I am now, thanks to being careful, the last one not to come down with some sort of lurgy and now she is spreading germs liberally on every surface.
But at least it meant I got to hit the sales while they went back to the apartment to rest.
Edinburgh is ridiculously attractive, if teeming with tourists like London and many shops catering to them. I particularly liked the one which was trying to hit all the bases with both tartan AND Princess Di:
She's a bit better today, and we had a lovely time driving down the so-called "golf coast", exploring a castle all to ourselves then heading to Northumberland and the Corbridge roman ruins.
We first spotted the castle when driving past the farm just below it: