Christmas Newsletter

It really has been a while since I last posted which is testament to the lack of time I have had to do anything of a personal nature.  However, it is now the Christmas hols, I have caught up with as much work as my brain can manage just now and it is time to make contact with my friends and family.  So here is our Christmas Newsletter, which is a bit of a round up of some of what we have done this year.

Kia Ora!

Well, another year is over and we are all another year older!  It’s hard to believe that my tiny 5lb baby boy is now taller than me and 16 years old!  It has been a busy year, and I still haven’t learned how to say “No”, so next year promises to be every bit as challenging, if not more so.  We have enlarged our family with the addition of two wee kittens – rescued from a building site at just 4 weeks old, they have been surprisingly easy to integrate into the house; they have needed no potty training as they used their litter tray straight away, so no nasty messes to clear up and just one (not too expensive) visit to the vet when the next door cat got into the garage when we left the door open forgetting we had babies to protect. Unfortunately “Tonks” didn’t move fast enough and ended up with some puncture wounds in her tummy and a very sore leg.  Antibiotics, painkillers and fluids soon had her on the mend and, whilst she is a little smaller than her brother, she is now growing steadily, if still a little timid (runs a mile at the slightest noise!)

The boys and I have continued with plenty of sporting activities; we all mountain bike regularly and have all had some success in races that we have entered.  Lachlan has been asked to race with some of the elite juniors and they won two 12 hour team events in their age group and also came in the top ten in the Open section.  Aonghas and his team won the schools’ mountain bike race and he has grown in confidence and now races enthusiastically at our club race nights on Wednesdays. Lachlan and I have also done some road riding and we both entered the Bike the Lake race which was twice round Lake Rotorua (84KM).  I was very pleased with my sub 3hr time, but very tired too!  Earlier this year a team of us from school entered the Great Lake Relay – this is a team run ( some mad people do it solo…) of 160km round Lake Taupo.  It is divided into legs of varying length depending on how hilly the terrain is, the physical constraint of the width of the road to allow for changeovers or the risk factor. The road is not closed for the event and there are some sections where it is very narrow and windy.  I foolishly said that I didn’t mind hills but wanted shorter legs – that was a mistake!  I got two of the steepest and most sustained hills, the first at 9 o’clock in the morning wasn’t too bad, but by the time I was on the second it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the sun was blazing hot.  Add that to the sleep deprivation – we started at 2am after 3 hours sleep on a camping mattress on the floor, having driven straight down from school after work on a Friday afternoon, lack of proper food as we were running, then having about 2 hours rest and then running again; you can imagine how we felt.  And this was supposed to be fun!? Well in a strange sort of way, it was.  Memory is odd isn’t it ? – seems to block out or blur the pain we inflict on ourselves so that, despite saying to myself that ”now I had done this I would be mad to ever do it again” as I was struggling up Hatepe Hill in 30 degree heat and high humidity, I found myself saying “Yes” when my colleague asked me last week if I was up for the Relay again!?

Camps have been a big part of my life this year; I have taken over as Outdoor Education Coordinator at school and have three camps to organise each year.  It is quite demanding in terms of time and exhausting in the couple of weeks before and during camp, both physically and emotionally.  Having responsibility for 130 students for a whole week whilst they are caving, white water rafting, surfing, tramping, mountain biking … quite a scary prospect if you stop too long to think about it.  However, we use a great outdoor company to deliver all our programmes and so that makes my job easier. I have two more to plan for in the next 3 months so the start of 2011 promises to be hectic!

Aonghas also had his school camp in March, just a week after our Year 9 camp and in the same place.  It had rained all week during our camp but the sun came out for Aonghas’ school and he had a fantastic time.  They used the mudslide that we had avoided as it ended in a muddy pool at the bottom of a cowfield!  We had used it the year before and had a great time but a lot of the girls got infected cuts from it and so we decided that it was best left alone.  However, you can’t wrap kids in cotton wool all the time, they need to get down and dirty and enjoy life while they can.  Unfortunately, the combination of cow pats, water, sun, and spa pool led to an unholy mixing of bacteria which erupted through our children’s skin a day or so after camp!  At least 12 of us spent the Holiday Sunday in the Emergency clinic having the kids checked to find out what the weeping sores were all over their torsos.  Some sort of strep was the verdict, antibiotics for a week and some disgustingly smelly gunk to coat them with! Basically the docs had no idea what it was, but no long term effects seem to have transpired so just another one to put down to experience!

We had a lovely week down in Queenstown in July. I went down in the first week of the winter holidays for a Languages conference and the boys and Nigel met me down there mid-week.  We then went on to Wanaka to stay with the Greenwoods. It was lovely seeing how easily Lachlan and Ellie slipped back into the comfortable friendship they had had when they were in Bentham.  Erin and Aonghas got on well too although neither of them really remembered each other.  We had a relaxing time just pottering around here and there and catching up on each other’s news.  A fun day’s skiing was had by all despite the paucity of snow and we enjoyed a few scenic walks in the crisp cold and blue skies once the inversion lifted from the valley floor.  We decided that we definitely shouldn’t leave it another 5 years before we meet again!

Nigel had a trip over to Tasmania for work earlier in the year and nearly didn’t get back in to the country when he arrived back at Auckland airport to find that his Returning Residents visa was out of date! It seems that they are issued for just a year in the first instance despite saying “permanent” on them, and you have to send them away to be renewed when they expire.  Oops! Fortunately for us, this was by no means the first time that this has happened to anyone and the immigration staff at the airport were used to it!  However, Nigel spent a nervous half an hour being detained in immigration and questioned, wondering whether they were going to transport him back to the UK!  Needless to say we sent all our passports off the next day to be updated!

Christmas last year was spent at home; it has to be said that Christmas in the sun is a little strange but we are getting used to it.  I am planning to go out and get our Christmas tree this weekend and am glad in a way that it is raining as it makes it feel a little more Christmassy!  We spent New Year with friends at a bach at Big Bay which was lovely.  Direct access to the beach, a big garden to run around in and a winery next door!  We had an adventure in a rowing boat which we managed to capsize when we got side on to the waves which fortunately were washing into the shore!  One lesson learned – don’t go out in a rowing boat with children when it is windy!  We all had life jackets on and the water was shallow, so apart from a thorough soaking (which was welcome in the heat) and a short moment of panic we were all fine.  Nigel stood on the side and took photos in between laughing at our predicament!  We collected scallops and pipis and cooked them for tea washed down with wine from the winery next door; silly games, fireworks and champagne finished off the New Year celebrations as we sat around the brazier in the garden.

We then carried on up to Paihia and Waitangi, which is one of the most historic places in NewZealand and where the Waitangi Treaty was signed marking the agreement between the Maori and the British Crown. It is truly beautiful – clear blue bays, dotted with islands – great places to swim with dolphins, play in the waves and wander around fossicking in the rock pools.  We had a fright at one beach when somebody spotted a pod of sharks and we all ran out of the water and stood watching the fins in the waves from the safety on the beach.  Gradually people went back into the sea, but I have to say that I stood on the beach and watched the kids like hawks after that, scanning the waves for the telltale fins anxiously!

The boys have both had their own successes in different sports this year; Lachlan was selected for the Development squad for squash for Waikato and played in quite a few tournaments.  He is a late starter compared to the others in the squad and it was his fitness rather than his squash skills that got him in.  However, he has enjoyed the opportunities to play and benefit from the coaching the squad offers.  Aonghas has continued to play hockey and he was selected for the Development squad for his age group.  He has gone from strength to strength and has really found his niche on the hockey field.  He runs like a terrier, chasing everything with a tenacity that impressed his coach and his stick skills and game awareness have also started to improve too.  He is keen to try out for the U13 squad next year and is booked in to a hockey camp for 5 days in January.

In October I jumped off the Sky Tower!  It was brilliant – all over far too quickly but an exhilarating feeling as you fall and great fun.

As I said at the start; birthdays have come and gone but the notable one this year was Lachlan turning 16. He had a party at home with about 20 of his friends; he is enjoying having a late Spring Birthday along with the better weather that goes with that rather than the cold wintry birthdays in the UK.  Barbecue, water fights and loud music were the order of the day for the “Ninjas V Pirates” theme that he had chosen for his party.  He has a good group of friends and has spent the last few weeks post NCEA exams doing the rounds of parties/films in the evenings, and just hanging about during the day.   Time now to get some work to pay for all the things he has planned for next year!

Aonghas has gone up to Scouts from Cubs and is really enjoying the challenge of more exciting activities; in the last 6 weeks of being in Scouts he has been mountain biking, done a bike treasure hunt around Hamilton Gardens, spent a weekend tramping in the Pinnacles, sandcastle building and beach volleyball at Raglan, and First Aid with “real” casualties!

Lachlan moves on to the Sixth Form next year and has been accepted on the  Outdoor Education course, has chosen Maths, Physics and Chemistry to study and he has to do English as that is a compulsory Level 2 subject.  It will be interesting to see his NCEA results in January and see how effective his studying was……mmmmm!?  He is also planning a 4 week service trip to Cambodia and Vietnam next December with World Challenge so he has a lot of money to raise.

Aonghas is moving up to Intermediate school in February – he is at his last day at Primary school as I write.  He is very excited and well ready to move on and face the challenges of the next stage of his school career.  He will be moving up with most of his friends, so doesn’t seem daunted by the prospect of a new school and new routines.

And what about Nigel?  Well, his major project this year (apart from being busy at work) has been the garden.  He has built raised beds for the vegetables and grown a range of tasty vegetables that grace our table.  We have an automatic watering system that constantly needs tinkering with especially when I manage to put a garden fork through the pipes and another repair is needed!  I bought the rusting remains of a wrought iron and wooden garden bench at the tip for $20 and Nigel has restored it to its former glory with loving care.  We spend our evenings, when not bogged down with work, sitting out in the garden playing backgammon.  Even in the winter, when it is not too cold or wet, we can sit out there enjoying the fresh air which is nice after being cooped up inside an office or classroom during the day.  He also had his other ear operated on in an attempt to improve his hearing – not sure how effective it was but it looked impressive!

We had a visitor from Blighty in October in the form of Nick which was lovely. A flying visit whilst he was over here on business but great to catch up and hear some news of our friends in the UK.  Must be about time some more of you got out here!?

Anyway, I have gone on again, haven’t I?  Look forward to hearing all your news; keep it coming!  Lots of love to you all and a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Robertson Clan