Merry Christmas everyone!
I am making use of a long ride on a train to pen this seasonal missive. We are travelling back to Hamilton from Wellington on the Overlander train, a journey of about 600km which takes 9 and a half hours at an average speed of, shall we say, slow! It gives us the opportunity to relax, spend quality time together as a family and admire the scenery (much of which is not visible from the road – or so the spiel from the train crew goes). I jest; it is indeed a very pleasant journey and the scenery is stunning. On the way down I recorded some video footage of the journey, but you will be pleased to know that you won’t get to see it as I inadvertently deleted it from the camera card when transferring the data onto the computer! But wait, I have another 7 hours to go on the return journey – more opportunities for videos, so maybe you will have the pleasure of sharing our adventure after all! I ramble on and you have probably lost the will to live already so maybe I should get on with telling you some of our news.
We have survived a second year in NZ and time certainly seems to have flown by. The boys, especially Lachlan, have developed a bit of a Kiwi accent. A sort of defence mechanism, I think, to fit in with his peer group as he can slip back into “Yorkshire” when his Dad doesn’t understand him! Aonghas has adopted the antipodean inflection but his vowel sounds haven’t changed yet. (Scenery update: Misty mountains to our east but clear blue sky to the west just north of Wellington) Lachlan will start Year 11 in February and the spectre of NCEA Level 1 (equivalent to GCSE) looms at the end of that year – he will have to study a bit harder than he has this year, although to be fair he has developed more maturity and independence this year and has grown into a fine young man. (I’m not biased – I’m his mother!) Aonghas starts his last year at Primary school and is excited that he is in Mr Peart’s class – the only male teacher in the school and very hip and cool! (Bleached blond hair and trendy clothes!)
Both boys are involved in lots of sport. Squash is a new pursuit this year – after a 25 year break from the game I have started playing again and Lachlan and Aonghas have both taken to it so we are trying to persuade Nigel to have a go too!
Duathlons, Triathlons and Fun Runs have been a big part of our sporting events this year too. They are good fun and as competitive as you want them to be – of course we don’t worry about our times or where we come in the order – participation is the name of the game, isn’t it? (However Lachlan has been consistently in the top half of his age group (U17) and I have usually managed a top ten placing in my age group,and he can now beat his mother by about 4 minutes over 10km!). Aonghas has started swimming again this summer and is in the Development Squad at the local swimming club which he grudgingly enjoys. He doesn’t like the idea of going as he would prefer to play, but once he is there he admits that it is good! (Scenery update: Just coming up to Levin and the sun is shining through the heavy clouds over the mountains to the east) Lachlan has continued to play rugby as his Winter sport, but has got more involved in volleyball during the Spring, and was lucky enough to go with them to the North Island Volleyball Champs in Rotorua. Aonghas decided to play hockey this year instead of rugby and has really enjoyed himself scoring several goals and proving to be a useful member of the team.
We haven’t got out into the hills walking as much as we would have liked as life has been pretty hectic. Nigel and I have both been busy at work – Nigel has been off to several conferences about the country and also spent a couple of weeks in Australia. I have been settling into a new job at Waikato Dio and trying to make myself indispensable – a worthwhile investment of time as I now have a permanent full-time position there! It will be a challenging year ahead as although I have a relatively small teaching load, I continue in my role as Teacher IT Coach, and take on a new responsibility of organising the Outdoor Education Camps. Three of the five year groups (about 140 girls in each year group) go on camp for a week at a time, so it is quite a logistical undertaking and a huge responsibility too. Fortunately, I am taking over from someone who had everything well set up so I don’t aim to change anything major next year, just get my head around the job. I managed to go on all three of the camps this year (Yr 9, Yr 10 and Yr 12) and got the opportunity to try out white water rafting, surfing (in the freezing cold ocean in winter!!), archery and also to do the awesome Tongariro Crossing which is
an iconic kiwi walk – it’s a bit like doing the Three Peaks in terms of a must do walk. I have also got my caving count up to 4 NZ caves now – just need to get the rest of the family out to them now I know where they are.
Talking of the Tongariro Crossing – it traverses a volcanic area about 2 hours south of Hamilton where we have had our first forays into family skiing.
Whakapapa is a great ski resort on Mount Ruapehu – an active volcano which last erupted in the 1990s. The boys, of course, got the hang of planks on feet pretty quickly, and Nigel’s body took a long hard look at the memory bank and realised that it had been there too, so we were away! To our amazement (and his!), after just 3 days skiing, Lachlan was asked to be in the school ski
team and so he had the opportunity to spend a week away training with a crowd of very good skiers and participate in the North Island Secondary School Ski Champs. He went as a travelling reserve so didn’t really get a chance to ski in any races but had a great time nonetheless, and it was an invaluable experience for him.
Now that summer is here (and Lachlan isn’t playing tennis every Sunday this summer) we aim to get away for some weekends and walk or mountain bike. We have joined the Hamilton Mountain Bike Club and go every Wednesday for race night – fun for all the family, though we have yet to get Nige to join in
( he is using a broken chain as an excuse at the moment). We have also had a couple of trips to the Redwoods in Rotorua where there are some awesome tracks. Aonghas has really taken to it despite having to cycle on a rigid bike with dodgy gears! (last heard shouting “Mum, my balls hurt – I don’t think I’ll be
able to have children when I’m older!) Maybe Santa will have heard?! (Scenery update: Cows and rolling plains to the west, misty mountains to the east)
The main obstacle to getting out more regularly at weekends is the garden. It has been great to have our own house this year with space to develop the garden and grow veggies. Nigel spent a good few weekends in late
winter/early spring digging the ground and then building two raised beds which he has filled with a huge array of vegetables. We have inherited an amazing watering system – a network of plastic pipes and sprinklers which is operated electronically so we can set it to water when we aren’t there. Fantastic – no more standing around with a hosepipe! The major drawback for Nigel is that I keep sticking a fork through the pipes when I get a little
over-zealous with the weeding so he spends more time locating the leaks and fixing the holes than he really wants to! We have already harvested and eaten broccoli, silverbeet, spring onions, carrots, green beans and courgette and are looking forward to cucumber, capsicums, artichokes (globe), beetroot, rock melon, fennel, tomatoes and more that I can’t remember! Stuff grows so fast here but that also includes the weeds, so every silver lining has a cloud! (Scenery Update: Just approaching “Palmerston North which allows visitors to participate in a large variety of adventurous activities”. A five minute stop here to take on passengers and let smokers off for a fag break!)
We are looking forward to a quiet Christmas together in our new home – last year we moved in and then headed straight down to Wellington for Christmas with Nigels’ family. So this year we have spent a very pleasant week before Christmas in Wellington and Greytown with Aunty Chris and Aunty Moi catching up and being spoilt. We will spend New Year with our friends Liz and Chas and their two boys Jamie and Josh at a house they have rented at Manukau Head and then we plan to head further north towards the Bay of Islands for a few days to explore.
We had a few visitors from the UK this year and it was great to see them – Ben and Samuel Davis turned up out of the blue and we spent a delightful evening with them, and then Aunty Margaret came to stay for two weeks which was just lovely. So hopefully 2010 will see a few more of you!
Well, once again a Merry Christmas to you all. Hope that 2010 brings all that you wish for and lots of pleasant surprises. We look forward to seeing and hearing from you – e-mail, text, skype, phone or in person!