Balloons over Waikato and an unforgiving rugby pitch

A couple of things to report today apart from the news that it looks like the weather is finally going to break. A trough of low pressure is coming in from the Tasman Sea and the temperature has already dropped, the sky has darkened and the rain is on it’s way.

This week saw Aonghas’ first rugby ttaining at Marist Rugby Club. He is in Grade 9 Gold team and he seemed to enjoy his first session –dust bowl rugby certainly held his own, and was one of the fastest on the pitch so hewas quite pleased with himself. Lachlan has been doing pre-season training at school for a couple of weeks now but it has mainly been fitness work. However they had a pre-season friendly match against a South Auckland team who were bigger and faster than them on Saturday morning. The result was predictable but, in fact, they held their own for the first half and have the makings of a good team. There are several players who have not played rugby before or only played a little bit so the team looked a bit hesitant at times when players didn’t know what to do in set pieces. They were reluctant to meet the tackles (understandably so – I wouldn’t either!!) which meant that the South Auckland lads (mainly Islanders and Maoris) got a chance to get up a head of steam so were almost unstoppable. Lachlan, as usual, was to be seen hanging onto their legs as they charged down to the try line. He managedtackle monster! to make quite a few try saving tackles and his coach was quite impressed with him. In terms of ability the teams were quite evenly matched but bulk, pace and fitness certainly won out in the end. All the lads were battered and bruised afterwards – the pitch was bone dry and as hard as hard, photos show the dust rising as they ran – another reason not to want to go to ground! The rain will be welcome! After the match we went back to the school for some refreshment. This isn’t a usual thing but as the team had come down from Auckland – 2 hours away – we felt it was important to feed them! I helped serving the food and along with the other Mums who helped was amazed at the politeness of all the boys. Lots of thank yous, no pushing and shoving – they were all a credit to their schools and parents.

Over the last few days Hamilton has played host to a “floating” of hot air balloons. (what is the collective noun for hot air balloons?) It is an annual event and balloons come from all over the world – this year there was Darth Vader from Belgium! We didn’t catch much of the ballooning earlier in the week – they do all sorts of activities but nearly all start at 6.00am or happen during the school day! Most of the events occur at Innes Common by Hamilton Lake (Rotoroa) However, on Saturday evening the “Night Glow” was held at the University so we wandered up to see what it was all about. Amazing! We didn’t have the best viewing position as we were round the side but the show was pretty spectacular nonetheless. As the sun went down and the moon came up and darkness fell the balloonists were busy inflating the balloons. As we watched we noticed more balloons – they seemed to be really close together and almost jostling for space – snuggling up against each other as they swelled. It reminded me of dough rising when you’ve put the bread buns too close together and they don’t have space to expand! The balloons lit up in time to the music – some of the choreography seemed a bit random but on the whole it was well done. There was a sort of space age theme due to the presence of Darth Vader I think, but lots of appropriate and popular music for the theme which got the crowd involved. Once the balloons had done their bit it was time for the pyrotechnicians. The wonderfully choreographed firework display, with a clear sky as a backdrop, was quite stunning. Managed to get a few pictures and there are more on flickr. though they are never as good as the real thing!

This morning we thought we would make the effort to get up and watch the “hurdling” display!? Balloons jumping hurdles – well you just have to don’t you? So despite a late night last night we dragged ourselves out of bed, packed up some honey sandwiches, made a couple of flasks of tea, grabbed some blankets and the camera and headed out to Lake Rotoroa to see the final ballooning display. It was a lovely morning, as the darkness dissipated the sky turned a beautiful red and then blue. A few clouds but generally blue and still though cold. When we arrived we wondered why some people were going in the opposite direction to us but there seemed to be plenty of folk on the common and we could see the bright orange flares of the hot air balloon burners so we pressed on. Wandered around for a bit, Lachlan and Aonghas had a peer into a balloon basket whilst the owners explained what all the gadgets were for, noticed that some of the balloonists appeared to be packing things up and soon found out that the morning’s display had been cancelled because it was too windy! It didn’t seem that way on the ground but apparently up the in the sky it was, so that was that! What a disappointment! Getting up at 5.30am on a Sunday morning for nothing!!!! Oh well! Boys had a play in the playground, we took some photos of the Pukeko and then headed back home and spent the next five hours playing Monopoly – Dad won! Enough said!

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.