A Tale of Great Barrier Island by Gus

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For five weeks in June and July 2014 I went with 29 other boys and two teachers from school to Great Barrier Island  in the Hauraki Gulf.  We were there to learn some new skills, have fun, learn about the community who live there and be challenged.

I flew on to Great Barrier Island (GBI) on a tiny little plane, it looked and felt dodgy.  It was a noisy plane so we got given ear muffs.  Mr Hall,  Aaron and I landed at GBI “international” airport, and drove about 1h to Orama.  We arrived at night and put our bags in cabins and went to tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went on two long uphill walks on Saturday and Sunday with just the teachers because the OPC staff were having a break from the girls trip.  Coopers Castle was a long, very steep walk with great views at the top.  We had to keep away from the edge because there was a big cliff with a huge drop but there was a great view over Okiwi.  It was hard to walk up because it was so steep and we had to scramble parts of it.  On Monday we had the power and water tour and it showed us that Orama gets their water from a stream and power from a generator because they don’t have mains electricity.

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Next Monday we went on our first expedition.  My group walked one and a half hours to a bay.  We found a big dead  mako shark on the beach. and mussel barrels that we kept throwing into the sea and they would float back into shore. We descoverd some good climbing rocks that we scrambled on. We also found some kina it looked like a hard spiky ball but you open it with 2 spoons and there is a mussle like fish inside which Teina ate. Mitchell also caught a rat with his bare hands and strangled it to death.

When we got back to Orama it started raining that night. It got really windy and rainy on Wednesday.  We practised how to belay then went white water rafting (aka brown water floating) down the so-called stream that became a river.  It wasn’t very fun and we got  cold,  wet and numb and then we had to carry the kayaks back to the trailer .

On Wednesday night at 11:59 pm we were awoken from our sleep and were evacuated to the Orama lounge because there was a big storm.  We had to get dressed quickly – luckily I had my waterproof trousers so I pulled them on over my fat pants, grabbed my sleeping bag and rain jacket and followed the adult with the torch – we had no idea where we were going because it was dark and wild.  It was tipping it down with rain, my cabin was shaking in the wind. it was kind of scary but not really, it was more exciting than scary.  In the morning  there was mud everywhere, tractors,  trees and a generator were washed out to sea.  We sat in Orama lounge all day because it was too dangerous to go outside because of all the debris around.teenage boys holding mops as if they were soldiers

The next day we helped Orama clean up. My group had the hardest task of cleaning the classroom and gym, which had knee deep mud and took 3 days to get out of the classroom. Then we ripped up the carpet and cleaned the walls. The tables and the couches had been washed from the classroom through the gym and into the foyer on the other side of the gym. I found my student book outside with mud all through it and soaking wet.

great barrier clean up

My group spent 4 days shoveling mud while group 3 went to Glenfern and got on TV, but luckily TV3  came to Orama for a little bit and we were on TV too. Glenfern is an island wildlife sanctuary that Scott and Emma look after, they are trying to regenerate the native populations of NZ  birds and skinks.  I found a Chevron Skink buried in the mud at Glenfern; they are very rare and so it was quite exciting finding one. 10502489_242198045974132_7513004355070039754_n

Shoveling mud was boring but seeing what we accomplished felt great. Orama lounge became our new hang out space which was way cooler than the old classroom. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another gym that we could use.

Sea kayaking was the most challenging activity and I didn’t really like it because we got wet and cold.  The day we did it, it was really windy, there were salty big waves and a big swell.  We had to turn back because it was too rough – the waves were 3m high they had big white caps and the wind was 50 knots gusting to 65 knots.

I loved coasteering, it was so much fun and I want to do it again.  It was epic getting pulled in and pushed out in the swell.  I jumped in off some rocks that were 9m high.  I did a swan dive off a 4m high rock – I was a bit sore after the swan dive but it was great fun.

10336627_236232233237380_5175793285606235730_nMy favourite was surf kayaking and I really want to do it again.  It was brilliant  catching the waves and getting tipped!  I got quite good at it and I came 3rd in competition but I got the highest score  of 7.5.  We had to different heats and do tricks but it was timed and I lost in the semi-final.

Sailing was fun but scary because we were in the middle of the ocean with big waves and it felt like we were going to flip.  I didn’t want to be the first to capsize but once we did, we realised that it was quite good fun and we did it lots!  The thing is once you flip you aren’t supposed to stay in the boat or the boat ends up completely upside down.  But my partner stayed in the boat and it completely tipped it so then we had to stand on top of the upside down boat to try to get it back the right way up!  It was hard but we did it.

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Long time, no see (or write)

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boys playing card game

 

I don’t like to look at the last date that I posted here, it seems to have been so long!  Work seems to have subsumed all of us and when it hasn’t been work that has been taking up our time, it has been other stuff!   Like getting eldest son back from Canada after he lost his UK passport with NZ Residency Permit in it!  Or getting youngest son to hockey, football or squash trainings or matches.  Writing exams, presentations, going to conferences, replacing dead dishwashers, taming wild gardens, entertaining guests, working ….Pink Magnolia blossom

So, eldest son is safely back in NZ, has job, is treating house like a hotel, and youngest has finished winter sport and is now busy with summer hockey and mountain biking.  I am busy with the “end of year, you must be winding down now that seniors are on study leave, manic time” when we play catch up with all the planning we don’t have time to do during the rest of the year whilst still trying to maintain “valid and meaningful” programmes with junior students who are not taking your subject next year so couldn’t give a s**t!

Oops!  I am being cynical!  Having to write reports for my form class after a week away at camp at a rate of two an hour is a daunting thought, so I am procrastinating!  Glass of red wine in hand, DS106 on the radio and a full belly are not a good recipe for report writing at 10.30pm so I have given up and will go back “refreshed” tomorrow morning. Young man wearing climbing helmet ready to support a group

 

So what of this year?  Well, Lachlan has been away for most of it in Canada working at Camp Jubilee in British Colombia.  He seems to have had a ball and has been offered a “proper job” there next year from March to October.  He just has to earn enough money to buy his airfare and pay for his life saving qualification which is a pre-requisite of them giving him a contract.  Fortunately, he has managed to get himself a job working in an outdoor clothing shop for the next couple of months.  He also has the possibility of some work with the outdoor providers that I use for my camps – Bigfootadventures – early next year.  For the last week he has “volunteered” on our school camp at Raglan and has made a pretty good account of himself so Bigfoot are keen to have him on board for next year.

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at a rugby match. Boy with flags

Aonghas is nearly at the end of his first year at secondary school.  He has done pretty well – prefers anything that doesn’t require writing – and considering that he has done very little study, he seems to have achieved in most of his subjects.  Think we may need to pin him down a bit next year!

How do you get boys who prefer to be doing sport (or computer games) sit down and study?  We didn’t get it right with Lachlan and we are struggling with Aonghas!  Both bright but no drive to achieve highly.  I guess they need to have some clear goal to aim for?  I worked hard because it was what was expected of me and out of sheer pigheadedness; my Dad made some off the cuff comment at some point about their being no point in girls studying and going to university because it would be a waste of money since all we would do would be to get married and have children!  My boys seem to have no real idea of what they want to do and with no goal there seems to be no impetus to achieve more than is necessary.

school group in kayaks

However, we have really good feed back about how well Lachlan worked in Canada, he has survived, and colleagues and friends compliment us on his demeanor and the way he interacts and communicates with other people.  It is heartening to be reassured that he has the qualities that we hoped we had encouraged him to develop – honesty, integrity, compassion, a sense of what is right and what is wrong, common sense, flexibility…..

So, what have we done this year?  Looking back at our photos we have managed to get out and about but not very far…

January – Top of the South – holiday in South Island, Wairarapa and then back to school

February – Back to school, My first MOOC, Karangahape Gorge

March – saying goodbye to Lachlan, Raglan, Blue Lake

April – Dickey Flat & Akwakatting

May – Spain

June – hockey, football

July – Fiji, hockey & football

August – mid-winter sports

September – tourist visiting out and about

October – not much! gardening,

November – gardening, Yr 10 Camp

Time to make some plans for Summer!  Head north or south?  Gus wants to go to Oz. Lachlan will be working.  Me and Nige just want to chill – anywhere!!

So many options…. will let you know.

Boy beneath trig point on top of hill.  Clear blue sky

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!

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…

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.