Tuesday 13th January. Redhill, England.

Sorry it's been so long between updates. I've been absolutely flat out- flat out like a lizard drinking. After a few days at John and Pam's, my services have been sequestered by Phyllida as her place is in more dire need of a facelift. Her house has suffered the onslaught of three young boys and their grubby fingers over the last eight years. I'm sure I don't have to describe it to you. I would've taken some 'before' photos, but I refrained, out of respect for Phyllida! It's been a satisfying job, watching each room transform. We chose a pale lilac for the lounge, dining and hall, to replace the boring off-white colour. For the bathrooms, I used up a tin of 'bright jade' paint that was sitting in the garden shed, and tomorrow I'll be starting on the trim, which will be a soft cream colour. Gorgeous. There will still be work to do, but I'm heading back to John and Pam's to finish off a few bits and pieces there on Thursday. Then Friday the big job starts for me in nearby Bletchingly.

I'm going to miss my host family here. They're not sick of me yet, and have insisted that I must come back from time to time for a home cooked dinner. John and Pam have been wonderful to me, and have been very interested to hear about how we do things in Australia. John has successfully taken over from Dixie as being my oldest host on this trip so far. For John's birthday, we had roast duck- the first time I'd eaten duck. Tasty, but rich. Pam also taught me how to use a napkin!

The view from my room at John and Pam's house, on a sunny morning. John and Pam, on John's birthday.

I had my own room at John and Pam's, with my own shower and toilet. The last three nights though, I've been bunking down on the loungeroom floor at Phylida's, even though we've been going to Pam's for dinner every night! It's a miracle that my jeans still fit, with the calories I've been consuming. Second helpings of chicken pie, finishing up all the leftover vegetables, then fruit flan, apple pie and four flavours of ice cream for dessert. *I've been thoroughly spoilt. Next week when I'm sitting alone in my cold loft, eating dry bread and cheese for dinner, it'll feel like my throat's been cut* After dinner, Phyllida and the boys and I come back here and I continue painting till late at night. Then if I'm lucky, Phylida finds a bottle of wine somewhere and we sit up chatting. In the morning, I don't bother getting up till everyone's gone to school. Such sleep-ins will soon come to an end, too!

Phyllida and Sebastian, dancing. Jacob, Kahiso and Sebastian, rustling up a quiet late night snack.

Meet the family- John retired from a career in Midland Bank, only to then take up a job as a hospital storeman. Even now at the ripe old age of 82, he still volunteers regularly at a Children's Society charity shop in town. Pam worked as a physiotherapist, taking time out to have their kids, then re-entered the field after being retrained. You can tell she's always been very active, but has been slowed down by a recent knee replacement, and is still using one crutch most of the time. It's not her first knee replacement, but she's determined to make it her last. Their daughter Phyllida has recently completed her teacher training and has been enjoying teaching high school for the last year and a bit. In her spare time, Phyllida drives her three kids to scouts, cricket, rugby, dance, choir, skateboarding, kiting, gym and of course parties. Her eldest son Kahiso is sixteen and as the man of the house, was a bit dubious about his Mum allowing a stranger into their midst. He grilled me with questions on the first night, as to what training and qualifications I have. His conclusion had Phyllida and I in fits of laughter- "So, no offence but you're just some random guy that travels round painting people's houses" Got it in one, Kahiso- I'm about as random as they come! Jacob, twelve years old, likes extreme sports and is apparently quite a hit with the young ladies. Sebastian, eleven, sings and dances- ballet, tap and modern. Sebastian and Jacob have been great little helpers with the painting, scrubbing the walls, masking the skirting boards and doorways, and painting the edges for me.

Well, folks... I may not have a chance to update this page very often while I'm working at Bletchingly. However, I'll try to jump on the net once or twice a week to check my emails *wouldn't want to miss out on any of those great viagra offers, or the once-in-a-lifetime oportunity to help some dude funnel $25 million dollars out of Ghana* and when I do, I'll post an update in my backup journal or post any news on my messageboard. You should know by now that I love receiving emails, and up till this point have tried to answer every one (except the enlargement offers). I hope you understand that I might not be able to keep that up once I start work on this big project.

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