The first term over!

Well the boys have made it through to the end of their first term at school. Lachlan seems to be coasting quite a bit and finding the standard of the work easier than in the UK. Of course he doesn’t mind not having much homework because he finishes everything in class but has intimated that he finds some of his lessons boring because he isn’t really challenged. He is also still quite disorganised – lost his school planner already so doesn’t write anything down (not that he used it anyway!) Whilst he doesn’t have much to remember it’s not a problem but he isn’t getting into the habit of using a planner for when he will have more to remember. (Sorry QES but the good habits he was encouraged to have there have just gone out of the window now there is no pressure from school here!) There is a Parents’ evening after the holidays so we will address those issues then! It may just be the case that the first term is slow because all the students are new and have just come from the different Middle Schools. However having started to study the French scheme of work in readiness for my new job I think it’s more the case that the standard here is just lower than in the UK! There has also been quite a lot of discussion in the staffroom about the low standard of the NCEAs, (external National Exams) which were introduced/revamped relatively recently, being too easy. The idea being that everyone succeeds and so has higher self esteem – where have I heard that before?! The reality, of course being that most kids find them too easy, aren’t challenged and so just doss around in class because they know they can gain credits without putting themselves out too much! Balance is a wonderful thing! That, of course is a crassly simplistic explanation of a complicated educational ethos but one that, I think, has some merit.

Aonghas is enjoying school (though claims he doesn’t as always!) and he is positively challenged. A balance does seem to be achieved in the Primary School although if we had any complaints it would be that he has too much homework! He certainly has a more structured program than Lachlan and spends more time “studying” at home. They have a program called “Have a BALL” (Be a Life Learner). They have a grid of activities that they should do over a two week period which include maths, spellings and reading, as you would expect, but also has activities that involve the whole family in an attempt to encourage parents to take some responsibility for their children’s progress and also to create a healthy work-life balance. Activities include doing a 10 minute task to help out in the house each day (fine by me!), playing a game with a family member, trying out a new activity, relaxing (he’s good at that one!), doing some exercise, using a computer to do research work and so on. All activities which you would expect to do in your everyday life. In theory the children do the activities at their own level but Aonghas does get quite anxious and thinks he has to complete everything so we have had some tears!

The two week blocks tend to be topic related and obviously linked to the topics they are doing in school so last time all the work was to do with birds as they have just had a trip to Maungatautari. For example, there was some research to do about how fantails build their nests, they had to draw a bird and write some notes about their chosen bird, they had a poem as a stimulus and had to write a similar poem about a bird of their choice – all that on top of 10 minutes reading everyday, learning spellings and maths activities! Quite a lot of work and in fact there was some discussion in the playground from other parents about how much there was and how much time parents as well as children were having to spend doing it. Aonghas is quite bright and relatively well motivated – surprisingly! He comes home most evenings and gets his maths book out to complete his maths, though he is less keen on writing activities. We also have time to sit with him but families where the children are less bright or who have little brothers and sisters and parents don’t have the time to sit with them are finding the whole program quite onerous and stressful. Anyway, they have a break over the holidays – all the activities on the homework sheet are just having fun, eating healthily, helping round the house, and doing physical activities to challenge themselves. We can cope with all of those! One of them is to climb your nearest mountain so hopefully we will get out this weekend and do that! We have a few to choose from!

I mentioned Aonghas’ school trip to Maungatautari – Maunga is the Maori word for mountain. Aonghas was delighted that I could accompany him and his class – he has always wanted me to come on school trips and I never could before because I was working full time. Maungatautari is a forested volcanic cone which unfortunately over the last 200 hundred years or so since the European settlers arrived has been decimated of it’s native species – both plants and birds. This is a huge problem all over NZ. The threatened native populations of NZ are mainly ground dwelling birds such as the Kiwi which had no predators until the early settlers introduced rabbits, and then stoats, weasels (to control the rabbits), mice, rats, possums, goats etc. The trees were felled, especially the Kauri, for building which inevitably affected other species in the bush. Anyway the upshot of it is that the Department of Conservation has created an Ecological Island at Maungatautari. It is an amazingly ambitious project to clear the area of all mammalian pests and predators (non-native species) and to encourage native species such as the kiwi and other birds as well as regenerating a healthy diversity of fauna and flora in the forest. To that end they have erected a predator proof fence around the whole area and spent years tracking and trapping all the predators from within the area so that they now are pretty certain there are no predators left. In the last couple of years they have introduced several pairs of kiwi as well as other birds and just this year a kiwi chick hatched. The fence really is impressive – there is a space like a sort of no mans land either side of the fence so that creatures can’t use the tree branches as bridges and there is an alarm system in place in case the fence is breached by, for instance, a tree falling.

We had a lovely time – there were 5 parents as well as two teachers so we had responsibility for a group of 4 children each and of course Aonghas was in my group which he was thrilled about. We met a volunteer from the Maungatautari Trust who told us all about the aims of the project and then took us up to the fence and explained how it worked. The children had already done some work on the project in class so knew some of the information which meant that they didn’t have to take in too much at once and were able to ask really good questions and answer her questions too. We then walked through the forest and tried to keep the children quiet enough to hear the birds! We spotted lots of the predator tracking boxes – these are placed every 20 metres or so throughout the forest so that they can make an accurate survey of what is around. Even though they are pretty certain hey have eradicated the pests they continue the survey to make sure none get in. Just yesterday there was news that on a similar ecological island in the Hauraki Gulf a predator has killed some birds so vigilance is vital. There are Weta houses dotted around the forest too which gave us an opportunity to see these normally nocturnal spiders.

The best part of the walk was when we were entertained by a very cheeky little Fantail. These are delightful wee birds which flit around from branch to branch, chirping as they go and this one led us a real dance! I’ve included a short video I shot on our camera – not very high spec and definitely not professional quality but hopefully you can get an idea of what we saw.

Fantails are quite tame and have been known to come in to people’s houses. This is the poem that Aonghas wrote for his homework (with some parental help – but not much!) about the Fantail.

I’m a little nosey native with a big showy tail

See if you can follow my trail

Spot me in your garden, the park or the bush

I’m never still, always in a rush.

Hopping from twig to twig, flitting all around

My black and white stripy tail bobs up and down.

I love to follow visitors, tell them all I know

Scratching under my wing and squeaking as I go.

WHAT AM I?

Wooden Tower MaungatautariIn the middle of the bush there is a wooden tower which the kids had been talking about the whole trip and it didn’t disappoint. It is a huge structure which is pretty impressive, it sways in the wind and as it is wood it also creaks but the view from the top is stunning. You can look down on the birds’ nests and the crowns of the trees and we had a great view of a couple of very fat looking Wood Pigeons. Unfortunately the sway of the tower added to the number of children running round the top platform and the distance means that the photos are not the sharpest but you get an idea.

If you ask Aonghas and half the kids what the highlight of the trip was though they would say it was that one of the buses broke down on the way back and they got to play on the playground whilst they waited for it to be fixed!

Advertisements

Lachlan’s first NZ rugby match

Hi,

This is Lachlan writing for the Robertson blog about my first rugby match in NZ.

It was a pre-season friendly against a school from south Auckland. When we first saw the opposition we thought we were going to get smashed because they were really big and mean. Unfortunately we lost but it was our first match this year and it hurt! The ground was as hard as something really hard and I now have cuts and bruises everywhere L . My team played really well but got tired at the end and I think I made some good tackles. The holidays are coming up in a week so I can’t wait! We had an after match feed back at the school (we played at Marist rugby club) and we had cake and lasagne J. It was a fun game and I enjoyed my first taste of rugby for a while. Looking forward to more matches now!

A busy week

fun on the beachplaying frisbeeIt’s really strange that you don’t realise what you’ve got until you can’t find it! It goes something like this “It’d be really handy to have one of those – didn’t we have one in England – oh, it’ll be in a box somewhere – but where?!” We spent Saturday working through the boxes to try to at least locate everything and create some order from the chaos. Hot, sticky, dusty work, though Nigel was a little lighter as he managed to lose his shaggy look by finding a barber – there is a face under there! The boys have decided to go for the windswept surfer look for the time being! (I think Aonghas is secretly aiming for dreadlocks!)

Well, the inevitable has happened – my relaxing, work free lifestyle is drawing to a close! This week I did my first three days relief work at Hillcrest High School and have another week booked in a fortnight’s time. I have also submitted an application for a maternity leave contract at the same place. It will be for 3 terms starting 5th May if I get it. Hillcrest is the school that Lachlan is going to though I haven’t had him in a class yet. My first class was a boys Year 11 PE group – apart from the multicultural element they were no different to a Year 11 boys PE group at QES, well, why should you expect anything different – boys are boys the world over! Pleasant, lots of banter, worked hard on the whole, a couple who tried it on (I had to confiscate a plastic cutlass that one boy had brought in and then hidden down his shorts!!) And in the adjoining gym another relief teacher had the girls – reluctant on the whole to do anything, PE kit issues, needed lots of chivvying! I know which I prefer! The staff all seem friendly and helpful, though there is little in the way of induction, I have had no tour of the school or “package” which explains any of the workings of the school etc – just straight in! Anyway, armed with a map and a board marker, off I went! By Friday afternoon I felt like I’d been there forever! Found the ex-pat contingency – there are two other Tykes working in the school so we had a bit of a “Yorkshire” reunion! Also managed to find the end of the week drinkers – Friday 3.30 and the bar in the staffroom opened for business! No work booked for this week yet but the phone could ring at any time…!

Another win for the Hillcrest Smashers (Aonghas’ cricket team) this Friday, that’s 3 wins out of 4. Aonghas is not a natural cricketer. it has to be said, but enjoys being part of the team. Might try and do some practice over the next week to help Lachlan in the Steeplechasehim improve his skills! Lachlan competed in the 2000m Steeplechase on Saturday afternoon at the Waikato & Bay of Plenty Championships – he went straight through to the Regional Champs after coming 2nd in his schoolthe final hurdle! sports because as there are not many entrants for the event it isn’t run at the Zones. He was realistic about his chances as it was an open race against students of all ages up to Sixth Form. Indeed, he came last but he ran a PB and it was good experience! It is only the 4th time he has run that distance in a race and only his 2nd Steeplechase, so we think he did brilliantly – as it was an open race the hurdles were at full height which meant he had to vault them! And it’s a long drop off the water jump!

surfer boy!The weather has been fantastic for the last couple of weeks – we’re hoping it will last over the Easter weekend – so we decided that a beach day was a must. Yesterday we headed off to Mount Manganui (known round here as “The Mount”), we had a lovely day body boarding, playing on the beach and generally relaxing in the sun. It is a beautiful beach, golden sand, good surf, surprisinglyMum heads for the waves! quiet. It is about a one and half hour’s drive from here but the roads are not busy either so no stress! Just trying to decide where to go next weekend for Easter – back to the Atlas …. and the Rough Guide… and the internet…

We have furniture!.. and stuff!!

unpacking the container

I am writing to you all now in a room full of “stuff!”. Wow! All our familiar bits and pieces transposed from Ingleton to Hamilton – it feels really weird but also very comforting!

New Zealand Vanlines arrived on Thursday morning with our container that I had last seen in the wind and lashing rain of a Yorkshire Dales winter.

container on A65

saying goodbye!

When we waved it goodbye as it set off down the A65 we couldn’t really comprehend what it was going to be like to greet it in NZ. We had no idea where we would be living, what sort of house we would have, what the weather would be like – so many unknowns, but things have a way of sorting themselves out. So, in the scorching heat of a Waikato summer our belongings were carried out of the container which had been their home for 8 weeks by a couple of burly Islanders. Where it took two Englishmen to lift my dining table into the container, it was hoisted single-handedly onto Mac’s shoulder and passed over the fence to his mate on the other side! They made short work of emptying the container and we were left with a house and a garage filled with boxes and packages.

the garage!We have had a busy few days, as you might imagine, unpacking boxes and discovering the delights of our belongings. It has been like Christmas! Mind you, we have also opened boxes and wondered why on earth we spent money on transporting such junk half way across the world! Having lived with the bare minimum for 8 weeks you realise just how much useless paraphernalia we collect as we go through life and how much you can just do without. However, all that extra paraphernalia is now with us and we will just have to work out how we can dispose of it before the kids notice we have thrown out all their toys! It’s a good job that boxes …there is a large garage here as the house is considerably smaller than Mount Pleasant and the attached photos show just how full it is! I think a garage sale is needed! the “al fresco” living roomThe weather here is really conducive to outdoor living at the moment and so we have created an extra room on the patio by the pool with a settee and table. It is lovely to sit out there in comfort and relax with a book and a glass of wine watching the children play in the pool! One of the particular delights of unpacking was finding the stash of alcohol the packers (I didn’t know anything about it, honest!) had deposited in the boxes! Zoco, 43, Champagne, Glenfiddich – (actually we haven’t found that yet!).

Brian & Nige hard at workAny way, many thanks have to go to Nigel’s Uncle Brian for the two 10 hour days he put in moving boxes from one side of the garage to the other (and then back again) to unearth the shelving units, rebuild them and then put all the boxes on them, braving a shower of ants, and still maintaining a sense of humour! Chris and Brian along with George and Barbara were our first real visitors and it was lovely to see them. Hopefully George and Barbara are now enjoying themselves in Bali before heading back to sunny Edinburgh. I say hopefully because their saga of cancelled, postponed and non-existent flights is a definite holiday scare story! (Avoid Quantas!)Lachlan having a break!

Lachlan spent a happy day reacquainting himself with all his belongings – it’s the first time he has voluntarily tidied his room anyway! Mind you he had to keep stopping to admire his work and have a rest!

To escape the mountain of boxes, C, B, G and B took us out for dinner on Thursday evening. We went to a place called Gengy’sGengys’s (Ghenghis Khan) where you pick the ingredients for your meal and then take them to the chef who cooks them on a hot plate. The kids thought it was great especially as you can keep on going back for more – George thought it was pretty good too! Aonghas was particularly impressed because he could have as many pancakes as he wanted for pudding! An interesting place to go if you happen to be in Hamilton (apparently there is one in Wellington too so I guess it’s part of a chain), good food, friendly staff, a pleasant though bustling and somewhat noisy ambiance and reasonably priced too.

By Saturday evening we had a reasonably functioning living room and kitchen – and we had found the Champagne so we duly cracked open a bottle and sat in our “al fresco” living room for an aperitif. Thanks to Chris and Brian for all their help.

Since then we have continued to “discover” all our treasures – Aonghas was overjoyed to be reunited with all his teddies!’ Nigel has got the computer up and running – not without some glitches but what’s new? Lachlan found his kicking tee so has been out practising his kicking in the park and I was pleased to get my bike so now I can get out and about on that.having fun in the pool

We still have a garage full and it is starting to look more organised however I am sure that much of the stuff will stay there until we move again.

Easter weekend coming up and now we have our camping gear (which, along with the caving gear was all passed ok by the man from MAF) we are hoping to get away somewhere, probably to the beach. Because of the organisation of the terms the boys only have a long weekend (Thurs to Tues inc) but it’ll be great to explore a bit further afield. Will let you know how we get on.

Our first mobile week!

Raglanplaying at RaglanNigel at Raglan Well, as Nigel said in an earlier post we have bought a car which has made managing our busy after school activities a lot easier! The only problem is remembering not to switch the windscreen wipers on when you want to turn left or right! It’s also a bit weird not having a clutch and a gear stick – my left hand and foot seem rather redundant! The “gear” lever is on a stalk on the steering column just above the windscreen wiper stalk so it has been used on countless occasions despite the sunny weather!! Nevertheless I am getting used to it now and it was quite exciting doing my first “big” supermarket shop! How sad is that?

I have started my Maori class – I had wanted to learn Japanese so I could help Lachlan when he starts learning at school but couldn’t find a class on a bus route! So I decided to find out a bit more about the Maori language and culture and have my second class tonight. It was really interesting last week especially looking at the mix of people in the class. Quite a few NZ Europeans who were learning it because they are finding that they are involved with the Maori community as part of their work. A few like me who have moved to NZ from elsewhere and just want to find out more about the culture and language And then several young-ish people of Maori origin who don’t speak Maori. They feel embarrassed that they can’t help their children who are learning Maori at school and are asking them to help them. The teacher is lovely and the lesson is a really good mixture of cultural information and language.

Lachlan competed in his school sports day and despite missing his first race because the school bus was late (!) he went on to come second in both the 80m hurdles and the 2000m steeplechase. That means that he has been selected to go through to the Zone Champs and will compete against the best of all the other kids in the Zone on Wednesday at Porritt Stadium. He seems to be enjoying his athletics at the moment and has been going to Porritt to the Hamilton Hawks training sessions on a Thursday evening which is quite daunting as there are “real” athletes there! He has learnt how to use starting blocks and ran in a 200m race last week and didn’t seem to be fazed at all by the other, very experienced and very fast competitors! Most of them were much older than him – in fact the age range seemed to go from 13 years (Lachlan) up to someone in their mid-40s!

Northern Wattle Moth (Pepe Atua)

The weather has been more unsettled recently but it is still very hot. There has been a bit of rain to moisten the ground but not enough according to the farmers who want another 10cms! Apparently it is needed as all the farmers are losingGisborne cockroach (we think!) money, milk production is down as they are down to one milking a day. And apparently the ewes are ready to tup but are underweight so that will have an impact on lambing! It’s amazing what you learn from Radio NZ! Did you also know that Black Cricket“marble” type sheep poo is much healthier than “ploppy” poo as there is less chance of diseases being passed on across the flock?! I think I need to get out more! Lots of insects about as well – Aonghas is getting better about them and we don’t hear him shrieking quite so often now! We got a “What’s that NZ insect?” book out of the library so are trying to focus his attention on identification to conquer his fears. I was bitten to distraction by some wee voracious biting beasties whilst I was digging up the bindweed from the garden to clear a patch to grow some vegetables. Still itching like mad a week later with large red patches all over my arms and legs – antihistamine seems to have no effect anymore, nor does lavender oil though it does smell nicer! Any suggestions gratefully received!

Any way, after a generally fine and hot week, a wet, rainy Saturday dawned. Great! The kids actually seemed quite happy to play in Aonghas’ den – his bed has finally arrived so he was enjoying creating a den underneath it! However we knew it wouldn’t last so despite the rain we decided to go for a “drive! ” Bit of a standing joke in our house because as children both Nigel and I were subject to “Sunday drives” in the country and hated them!! Well that’s what people did, isn’t it – invisible umbilical cord people – out for a Sunday drive and get the picnic out on the side of the road! Actually, to be fair, my Dad wouldn’t have been seen dead doing that and we did usually go for a walk somewhere. But it’s the fact that you wereRaglan dragged out when you were quite happy just chilling at home! Anyway, we headed off with our cags, a rugby ball and a few snacks to Raglan. Unfortunately we didn’t pack our togs or any towels (had planned to but forgot), and as you might imagine, we got over thereView over Raglan and it stopped raining! In spite of the grey clouds and the breeze, it wasn’t particularly cold and the boys would have quite happily played in the sea! Never mind we played rugby and chucked the whistling ball about, wandered along the beach shell collecting and paddled in the (deceptively warm) Tasman. We also watched the surfers struggle in the waves. Raglan is supposed to have the best “left-hand break” in NZ but the waves seemed a bit broken up on Saturday. The breeze blew the cobwebs away and we had a lovely time, it’s only about 40 minutes away too so I think we shall be spending more time there.

playing in the sea

Sunday saw us at Marist Rugby Union Club to sign Aonghas up. There is a “weigh-in” at all the clubs in the area at the beginning of March wher you sign up for the club and have a “weigh-in”. That is because in NZ the teams are formed not just on age lines but also weight which seemed quite confusing. However being the mother of two smallish boys for their age it also seems quite reassuring that they will be playing against similar sized opponents rather than some of the “huge” lads they played against in England! The clubs, though, only have teams up to U13. When they go to High school they play for the school and then go back to club rugby at U19. The other odd thing here is that, despite being a sport mad nation the kids effectively have to choose either rugby or soccer because everything happens on Saturday morning! Disappointing as our two are used to playing both but it’ll make our lives simpler!! Well an exciting week ahead as we have our first visitors arriving tomorrow and our container with all our furniture and stuff comes on Thursday. Will keep you all posted.

Lachlan’s Sport

Hi there, this is Lachlan speaking. I’ve been doing lots of sport. First of all I did a swimming sports day at the Victoria Street Municipal Pools. It was the school inter-house competition where I had great fun and I came 5th in my race in Breastroke! I also competed in the school sports Day on Monday at Porritt Stadium. I came 2nd in my 80m hurdles race and 2nd in my 2000m steeplechase. I had a good time because I like doing sport, I was with all my mates and it was a great atmosphere and there was a water jump in the steeplechase. I also entered the javelin, long jump & 100m sprint, I was going to enter the 300m hurdles but the bus didn’t get there in time so I missed it. This week and last week I went to Hamilton Hawks Athletic club which is at Porritt Stadium. I have learnt how to use starting blocks and today I did a 2,000m run in 9 minutes.

life starts to settle down…

Lachlan, Romulus and Remus

Well, we have been here nearly a month now and life is starting to settle into a sort of routine. Lachlan has got involved at school – he has gone to represent his house at swimming today at the Municipal pool in Hamilton. Went on the bus on his own this morning and he’ll roll up home whenever! Paperwork seems to be just about non-existent here as far as school trips are concerned – he came home the other day saying he needed $3 for the bus to go to the swimming pool, no forms to fill in, medical details etc, he then forgot to take the money with him so couldn’t go on the school bus so just went on the service bus (which was cheaper anyway!)

Aonghas is still a bit wobbly but has made a friend called Hong who is coming to play tomorrow evening after school, so he is feeling a bit more confident. He is going to play cricket in the school cricket league on Friday and yours truly volunteered to be the team manager as there was nobody else! Well. it’s a good way to get to know people and I was assured that I really wouldn’t have to do much! Both boys went to athletics training at Hamilton Hawks last Thursday, Lachlan is going to go to the senior session next Wednesday as the junior one was a bit tame for him but they had some fun anyway. We ended up walking home as there was a 20 minute wait for the bus into town and then we would have had to wait another half an hour for the bus out again to our house. I looked at the map and persuaded the boys that we could walk the 5km quicker! We did – just! The bus went past our house as we walked in the door!

one for Dad!
Walking gave us a chance to get our bearings a bit and one section took us through Hamilton Gardens which are beautiful. We had a day out there last Sunday as it is within walking distance of the house and there are no buses on Sundays. The grounds are beautifully laid out with different styles of garden going off from a central courtyard.
The Chinese Scholar’s Garden
The Japanese Garden of Contemplation Each garden leads round labyrinth-wise back to the courtyard and then you can go into the next. Each has its own particular atmosphere and despite there being a lot of folk around there was a sense of serenity and calm in the Japanese and Chinese gardens.
colours in the Indian Char Bagh Garden

A chance to sit and thinkThe Indian Char Bagh garden reminded me of the Alhambra in Granada – the colours were just amazing and a host of butterflies flitted their way through the flowers, there were little corners to sit and just drink in the fragrances and you could almost believe you were in another world.
Italian Rennaissance Garden

Walking through to the Italian Renaissance garden with its fountains and columns the brilliant blue of the sky contrasted with the white and terracotta of the walls and the smell of the herbs in the carefully laid out flowerbeds was lovely.
Cooling off in the American Modernist Garden

Nigel and Marilyn

Contrast that with the modernity of the American contemporary garden with a welcome paddling pool for the children and the clean cut shapes of the sculptures and a huge mural depicting Marilyn Monroe. Deckchairs to recline on and we spent a good half hour there as the children cooled off in the pool.
Nigel and Aonghas enjoy the flowers in the English Flower Garden The Englsih Flower GardenA celebration of garden styles wouldn’t be complete without an English country garden and sure enough there it was, lawns immaculate with sight lines through to a fountain and the summerhouse. Holly hocks and roses filled the borders and shady bowers to shelter from the sun. We used to love going to the Botanics in Edinburgh, there is plenty more to see at the Hamilton Gardens and I am sure we will go back soon.

This weekend saw us trailing round car showrooms looking for some wheels, we test drove a couple but just like in GB buying a car is fraught with complications and worries. It is one of our least favourite things to do but we really do need a car! Which dealer to go to? What sort of car? A small one to tide us over until we have a bit more money but which may not big enough to get the camping stuff in or a bigger, more expensive one that we may not be able to afford to run?! We then spent the rest of the weekend on the internet checking out the makes of car we had seen to compare performance, cost etc. We still don’t know! Perhaps we should just go for the first one we see at the right price and a nice colour!

To make us feel better and as a treat for the boys as they had (quite) patiently put up with trailing round car places, we found a lovely little Italian restaurant in a tucked away alley and ate Italian. It turned out to be a real gem and we will definitely go back there sometime! It was rather an indulgence as Nigel still hasn’t been paid (some cock up in the finance department) and the bank have given us a short term overdraft to see us through this week!

fun in the pool
Well the weather has changed a bit – still quite warm but there has been a bit of welcome rain and the wind has picked up which means the pool keeps filling with leaves – more work for me! What a shame! The boys continue to enjoy jumping in the pool and having great fun though Lachlan has taken to putting his wetsuit on now as he gets cold easily! (Aw, Bless!) The Uni pool is really good – 50 metres so it feels like an age to get from one end to the other! It is unheated so it is a bit of a shock diving in but once you get going it is fine. It’s the pool that Lachlan goes to with school for lessons – he came home after his first lesson to say that they had to run up there in bare feet (about a mile) with their togs under their PE kit, they then had a swimming lesson and ran back to school. No towel, no shoes, no forms to fill in, simple! Just about to head up there now as I plan to try to get fit! It will only be open until the end of March so need to put my time in now. There is a swim in the river called the 5 Bridges swim which I fancy doing – it is about 5km long but downstream – we’ll see what happens!

No more news for now, keep you posted!

PS. Lachlan won his heat in the Breaststroke and then came 5th in the final, he thinks his relay team came 2nd but isn’t sure! He is quite amazed by the fact that he is still in the “Green” team – he started in St Mary’s in Green, then into QES and now in NZ! His house is called Kikoriki.

PPS. Started my training regime with a run up to the pool and then 1000 metre swim. Think I might ache tonight!

..and the wickets came tumbling down!

covers on!Yesterday the boys and I went to see the ODI between England and the Black Caps (Nigel stayed at home as he is a Scotsman and good Scotsmen don’t do cricket!!). We set off on the bus after the boys finished school hoping to get the second half of the match but it had rained properly for the first time we got here, and as we approached the ground people were leaving in their droves! Typical! We come all the way to NZ to see a cricket international and it gets rained off!

super spongeEngland battingBut in true Brit style we sat there and watched the groundstaff working on the rain sodden pitch and the sun started to shine. The PA system boomed out all the weather related music it could find – “It’s raining men…”, “Mr Blue sky”, “4 seasons in one day”, “Here comes the sun”, and so on – you can imagine the rest! Play reccommenced at 6pm with England on 85-2 so things looked promising but in true English style 3 wickets fell in very quick succession and England were on the back foot, the Black Caps were merciless and England were soon all out for 158.

Black Caps supporter!

Aonghas by this time had bought a Black Caps flag and was waving it as each wicket fell! Lachlan bumped into two of his new found school friends – another Lachlan and Abraham. Abraham was sporting a daft England hat as his Dad is English but he soon changed allegiance to the winning side too!

kiwi kids cricketAt the interval there was a display of cricket from the Kiwi Kids cricket schools – loads of Primary aged kids playing which was great to see. Aonghas has signed up to play at school now so we’ll see how he gets on. When play resumed we were treated to a magnificent display of batting from the Black Caps and the banter in the crowd increased between the English and NZ supporters, all good natured but by now quite drunken! More opportunities for flag waving for Aonghas. He was amazed by the vociferous group of young men sporting a variety of fancy dress who heckled every English supporter who went past them! He was particularly worried about the young man who, sporting a rather fetching dress and wig of long flowing locks, made a frighteningly good go at being a woman!!

In the fieldmagnificent batting from the Black CapsThe inevitable happened at around 9pm – a bit earlier than scheduled – when the Black Caps made the run target of 164 with the loss of no wickets in 19 overs! I haven’t been to many cricket grounds but Hamilton seems a very pleasant place – mostly grass banking so everyone sits down with picnics etc and with the sun shining it made a great evening’s entertainment.

sunset over Seddon ParkThere is a full test match here in March so we may have another day out then, who knows?

Aonghas’ ready for school in his hat!
Back to school this morning though and we had to wake two rather tired boys! It is Aonghas’ turn now to have a little crisis of confidence. He was so eager to start school and is enjoying the daily swimming lessons and playing in the brilliant play parks every interval (break) but has realised that he doesn’t have all his friends, and is finding it difficult when the others go off and play in their ready made friendship groups. However, the other boys all seem very kind and are good at asking him to play so I think it will be just a matter of time before he forges some new friendships.

We are now starting to get to grips with the money a bit more and learning to compare NZ prices with each other rather than converting to pounds all the time to compare prices between the UK and here. Looking now to buy a car so we can get further afield at the weekends since there are no buses on a Sunday! Still no news on our house sale so if you know anyone out there who wants a nice house in Ingleton…..!

I am still washing all our clothes by hand as our washing machine is still in a container somewhere on the ocean (hopefully still in a ship!) which gives me something to do during the day apart from writing this, dipping in the pool and reading! The library is a five minute walk up the road so that’s really handy. The sound of the cicadas outside is constant and puts me in mind of mediterranean holidays. praying mantisThere is an amazing array of insects too – loads of grasshoppers, some big black/brown beetle type things about 3 cm long, praying mantis, moths, little green bugs, little bright yellow bugs, spotted shiny bugs and lots of spiders with really long legs. We hear a shriek from Aonghas about once every 10 minutes “Mum, come and look at this….aaaagghh!” He is coming to terms with them but we have to do a bedcheck every night before he will go to sleep! I think I’ll have to get a book from the library to find out what they all are.

Starting school and work

Lachlan’s first day at HillcrestMonday 4th brought reality to Lachlan and Nigel when we had to start school and work. Lachlan went off a little nervously Lachlan’s first day at Hillcrest as he really had no idea what to expect unlike when he started QES which he had been familiar with since he was born! He came home smiling though so it can’t have been all bad. In typical uncommunicative teenage boy fashion getting any real information from him was like getting blood from a stone! Aonghas and I had a leisurely day at home – it was too hot to o anything else! We walked to the library to get signed on there and check or e-mails and then went to register with the doctor and dentist – all in one place with the chemist, physiotherapist, homeopath etc so really handy. Everyone is really helpful and very pleasant.

The University campus is pretty neat with tree ferns here and there and Maori carvings fronting some of the buildings. Starting a new job Nigel ready for work is always a bit of an anti-climax I’ve found as you have this great expectation but then can’t actually do any real work as you are too busy finding out about how the place runs, what the systems are, meeting people, finding out where to have lunch, where the loos are, etc, etc. The folks that I’m working with are really cool though and a week in, I think I’m starting to find my feet. Also found that there seems to be a delayed jet lag – by the middle of the afternoon I could happily fall asleep at my desk.

Sorting Schools

Went for a tour round the local schools. It was easy for Lachlan as we are about 150 metres from the local high school, Hillcrest High. It seems OK and has a reasonable reputation. The folks living next door to us actually moved here so that there kids could go to it.

For Aonghas, there were two options. Silverdale primary was at the end of the road, about 5 minutes walk away. We went there first and met the deputy head in charge of his year range. Aonghas has just come out of a UK Year 3 class and we were a bit non-plussed when it took her several minutes of leafing through a booklet to work out what class he would be in. She wanted him to start year 3 again, in a mixed class with year 2’s. Seemed a bit strange to us but we carried on and let her show us round. The school seemed alright-ish but perhaps a bit dated. The telling thing for us, though, was the fact that she never talked to Aonghas the whole time that we were there. She never once said anything to him, she never asked us his name and she just said “He will do this” and “He will do that” all the time.

In the afternoon, we walked over the park at the back of the house to Hillcrest Normal School. It’s a bit further away but we timed it as a 12 minute walk. As soon as we walked in, the receptionist asked Aonghas what his name was and when his birthday was. “You’ll go into year 4 then” was her comment, as she continued to talk to him while we arranged to see the deputy head. We walked away with little decision to make!

One thing that we did discover is that state education in NZ is, on the face of it, more expensive that the UK. We have to buy all exercise books as well as pens, pencils, glue sticks, scissors etc, etc, from a fixed list, plus contributions for photocopying, computing, the school in general and various other bits and pieces. Fixed uniform for Lachlan too and that’s only available through the school. Makes a request from QES for a £10 or £20 contribution pale into insignificance.