Labour Day Weekend

It’s Labour Day Weekend which means we have a long weekend.  We had thought about going away for a couple of nights’ camping but the weather forecast was rubbish, and we just didn’t get organised well enough to get away!  I could say that we have been too busy – which is true – but still no real excuse for not getting it together.  This last couple of weeks has seen the start of all the summer sports activities – the boys are playing tennis, cricket (Aonghas), Volleyball (Lachlan), swimming, and would like to do atheletics but we are just working out how we can fit it in! Every evening is taken care of as well as all day Sunday so there isn’t time to take a breath. I have also signed up for Swimfit along with Lachlan which is a coached swim class geared for Triathletes so it is quite strenuous but good fun, and I am playing tennis for the school staff tennis team too.  We won our first two matches so I feel a bit more confident now!  (Shoulder is giving me a bit of jip but we’ll see how it goes) Lachlan seems have to got over his broken wrist and had fun competing in a mountain bike marathon last weekend.  He is planning on doing another in February so we will have to get some practice in.  There are some cool tracks in the forest down at Rotorua so we’ll head down and have a look one weekend.

We spent today looking round at houses again.  We have finally got a completion date for Mount Pleasant so fingers crossed that all will go through soon. Our Landlords have put this house on the market so it looks like we will have to move soon.  It goes for auction on 25th November but they have to give us 42 days notice in writing.  We haven’t had that yet, so we’re just playing a waiting game and working out what to do – we’d like to leave on our terms but don’t want to be rushed into buying a house. On the other hand, nor do we really want to have to move twice in a few months! Added to that 42 days from 25th November means that we would have to pack up and move over Christmas again!! Nightmare!  So, do we find somewhere to rent now and move in the next 3 weeks (we only have to give 3 weeks notice) but then possibly be tied into a 6 month or 12 month rental agreement? Or hang on and look for something to buy and risk having a gap between having to move out of here and move in to a new house!? Dilemmas that we could do without – my head is sore with all the thinking!

The good news is that I have managed to get a job for next year, the bad news is that it is only part time, so only a part time salary which also limits what we can buy. The good news, on the other hand, is that the mortgage interest rates have come down, and the exchange rates are more favourable for us bringing money over from the UK, at least for this week!

My job is at the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls.  It will be interesting working at an all girls school – quite a change from what I am used to, but life is full of challenges!Bring it on!  I will be sad to leave Hillcrest as I have made some good friends, but I am sure we can keep in touch, and a new job gives me an opportunity to make more friends, so it is all good!

Just had some more bad news from Blighty – we have just heard that another of our caving colleagues and friends has died.  Phil Haigh died suddenly last week of a heart attack.  What a shock – he was a fit and healthy cave rescuer and SARDA dog handler, and I spent many a rescue alongside him searching on the Fells or underground.  Lots of shared experiences and banter, and our sons, Aonghas and Sam, were similar ages and went to Beavers together in Ingleton. I remember his older sons helping out down at the CRO depot making tea and hot chocolate for the troops, especially when our eldest, Lachlan, was small and I held the fort in the depot on rescues.   Our thoughts go out to Alison and the boys.

As I said, our two are busy with summer sports but also have new challenges at school.  Lachlan has to make his subject choices in the next few weeks – what will he do?  He is still keen to do Sports Development and despite not making the group last term is hoping that he can get into it this term.  He also wants to do Drama, Food Technology and Spanish to go with the compulsory Maths, Science, English, and Social Studies.  Since they can only do 6 subjects in total, one of his options will have to go, the point of contention is, which one? Aonghas has just been involved in Arts Week at school; last term they practised for their Year 4 Production, (which I think I have already written about), but this term they have been doing poetry and art, and last week was their showcase.  A big evening for the school and certainly the children had a great time performing for their parents in their class rooms and showing us their work.  As well as that Aonghas had a cool time just running around with his mates.  The highlight for him was winning the 3rd prize in the raffle – he was very excited coming home from school on Friday with his winnings in his bag – a bottle of wine, a voucher for a haircut, and $50 voucher for a meal in a local restaurant!

Any way time to go.  It is Ann’s 80th Birthday today – I have just tried to phone but there is no answer.  I guess she is probably away with David , Paul or Jonathon.  Will try again later!

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Mixed Feelings

We have just heard of the death of a caving legend, Jim Eyre.  We didn’t know him well but had the honour of his company in the New Inn in Clapham,  and at Caving Club dinners, listened to him talking and read his books.  Coming hot on the heels of the death of JRat, another caving legend, and friend, and Pete, fellow Grampian member and friend, it suddenly makes life feel quite fragile.  Three different people and I suppose three different generations.  Jim passed away at the grand old age of 83 after a long, happy and eventful life, JRat succumbed to an illness we all fear I suppose, and one that too many of our friends and relatives have died from in recent years.  The result of a life of carefree living and that feeling that “it will  never happen to me” , but a life, nevertheless, that was lived to the full, on the edge and with much laughter.  Pete died doing what he enjoyed most in life but far too soon nonetheless and in some ways we probably feel most sad and shocked about his death.   The Caving community is relatively small, disparate, anarchical but pretty close knit and the sense of camaraderie and “family” is strong.  It is difficult to come to terms with friends no longer being there especially when they die in tragic circumstances but that is perhaps the nature of having been involved in an “extreme” sport for so long.  We are sorry not to be able to be there to celebrate the lives of these friends and fellow cavers but they are in our thoughts and we can at least keep up with all that is going on through regular e-mails and blog posts.   Our thoughts and best wishes go out to their families.

These sad events happen just as we make our first forays into New Zealand caving. As I mentioned in my last post, I accompanied the OE group from school on their caving weekend.  Well, we followed that up with another trip last week.  Hans, the head of PE and OE was keen to check out another cave that we could take the OE group to, so during the holidays we headed off to Waitomo with Nigel and the boys.  We managed to find someone who could tell us where the entrance to a cave called Shangri La was and off we went.  It seems that whilst many of the caves in the area are on DOC (Department of Conservation) land where there is generally open access, many are on private land.   The landowners are usually quite happy to let you access the caves as long as you ask permission as there are no real permit systems in operation. Indeed we knocked on a couple of doors and met pleasant, friendly people who were only too willing to help and point us in the right direction.

We had been shown towards an obvious sink area and after a few minutes of poking around soon found the entrance.  A muddy slope led down to a stream way which was rather squelchy – Aonghas was in danger several times of losing his wellies as the mud threatened to go over the top of them!  We picked our way through the more solid sections of it until firmer ground was reached!  We had called in at the Black Water Rafting place where we had managed to get John – our cave guide from last week – to copy the survey for us. Route finding was pretty straightforward, there were several cross passages to explore before we reached a climb down – probably free climbable but since we had an 8 year old with us and a 13 year old only 2 days out of his plaster cast we stuck a ladder  and lifeline down.  More splashy stream passage – some bits quite deep – well it was for Aonghas! – and we came across a bit that looked like we might have to crawl – in water – under boulders !  Lachlan, Hans and Aonghas went onwards as Nigel and I brought up the rear looking at some dodgy looking hanging boulders until we heard Lachlan shout back that there was no way on! I backed out and climbed up over the top to look for the way on which I duly found.  An easy climb up and across the gap for an adult, but rather wide for the boys, so we rigged a ladder and line for them.  Not a lot of belay points as we were in some quite dry passage – loose boulders covered in mud equals not very stable anchor points!  Anyway, obstacle overcome, we headed on to find that, not surprisingly, we had to go down again! Again an easily negotiated (for adults) climb down into a rift passage and then a short crawl to a muddy, vegetation strewn, ramp out to the surface.  All in all a quite a good little beginners’ cave, a bit of variety – some stream, a bit of climbing, the possiblity of exploring some side passages. The boys had a great time and we enjoyed getting our caving gear back on – even if in Nigel’s case it was a litlle tighter than the last time he wore it!!? – and getting underground again.