A Day in the Army

An early misty Saturday morning saw Aonghas and I on the road south to Waiouru.  A scouting outing to the Waiouru Army Museum which, I have to confess, I only agreed to go on because of the skiing opportunity the following day!  A brief stop in Taupo for the loo and a coffee before the last hour and a half to Waiouru.  The views down the Desert Road were stunning and we had to stop a couple of times to take photos although the sun was so bright that it was difficult to see what we were taking photos of!  We met up with the rest of the scouts at the museum and went in to meet our host; he certainly set the mood for the day!  A dry, deadpan sense of humour that had the scouts wondering whether he was serious or not about the threats he made for any infringements of his rules!  Then we split into groups for our tour round the museum.  First stop was the Wall of Tears – this is a greenstone wall with water flowing over it and a visual and auditory roll of honour for those Kiwis who have given their lives over the years for their country.  It is the place where all new recruits are brought to pledge their allegiance and where Anzac ceremonies take place; a very moving but tranquil place to be.   After that we were taken around the exhibits which are meticulously presented, thoughtfully and artistically arranged and the attention to detail is amazing.  Our guide was one of the researchers and

designers and he was clearly passionate about his subject and he kept the scouts enthralled.  The mix of social mementos and military vehicles and paraphernalia was fascinating.  Our tummies were definitely

rumbling by 2pm and we were itching for our kai.  We should have had something to eat in Taupo but I had thought we were going to eat when we arrived at the museum and not after the tour.  Never mind, a little bit of hardship is character building!  the scouts and the parents were divided into groups of 5 and each group was given a RatPac .  A RatPac is a pack of food that will provide one soldier with all the food and drink he needs for 24 hours.  The scouts were asked to nominate a leader who was the only one who was allowed to communicate with our host.  He advised us to open the RatPac and start eating as soon as we could, “you never know when the bullets will start flying” – opportunist eating!  However, remember that there are 5 people in your team and you all need to survive if you are to be a successful fighting unit!  In the pack there were three main meals as well as muesli, tea, coffee, hot
chocolate, salt, pepper, chilli powder, onion flakes….. we had to get a cooking stove and firelighters and try to cook as much as we could as quickly as we could – add whatever you want to each main meal, you can eat in any order, but … remember to check that everyone in the group is happy to have chilli powder and onion flakes in their noodles because you are a team and you need everyone to be fit so everyone needs to eat.  Aonghas’ group seemed to forget that as they added chocolate powder and chilli to the pasta as well as sugar and pepper!  Our group ate well but Gus was still a little hungry!  Cleaning up was next and then down to the exciting part of the day; a ride in an amphibious vehicle around the swampy grassland. We all watched as the first 11 scouts donned oversized army shirts and helmets before climbing into the back of the

truck; we listened to the shrieks as they went

up and down over the bumpy terrain, in and out of the swampy bits and through the mud.  Gus went next and he looked a little nervous as he climbed in but came off at the end of the 5 minutes buzzing!  Martin and I jumped in the front of the next ride to get a front seat view.  It was very noisy but great fun, up and down what seemed to be impossible angles until ….. we came to a grinding halt stranded on the top of a big bank of mud!  Our driver tried every gear, reverse, forwards, full throttle, slow and steady – nothing worked so we had to abandon ship and pick our way across the bog!!  Very funny!

Christmas message

Lachlan, Aonghas and Nigel, Castle Point December 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

I am making use of a long ride on a train to pen this seasonal missive.  We are travelling back to Hamilton from Wellington on the Overlander train, a journey of about 600km which takes 9 and a half hours at an average speed of, shall we say, slow!  It gives us the opportunity to relax, spend quality time together as a family and admire the scenery (much of which is not visible from the road – or so the spiel from the train crew goes).  I jest; it is indeed a very pleasant journey and the scenery is stunning.  On the way down I recorded some video footage of the journey, but you will be pleased to know that you won’t get to see it as I inadvertently deleted it from the camera card when transferring the data onto the computer!  But wait, I have another 7 hours to go on the return journey – more opportunities for videos, so maybe you will have the pleasure of sharing our adventure after all!  I ramble on and you have probably lost the will to live already so maybe I should get on with telling you some of our news.

Aonghas weetbix tryathlon feb 2009We have survived a second year in NZ and time certainly seems to have flown by. The boys, especially Lachlan, have developed a bit of a Kiwi accent.  A sort of defence mechanism, I think, to fit in with his peer group as he can slip back into “Yorkshire” when his Dad doesn’t understand him! Aonghas has adopted the antipodean inflection but his vowel sounds haven’t changed yet. (Scenery update: Misty mountains to our east but clear blue sky to the west just north of Wellington) Lachlan will start Year 11 in February and the spectre of NCEA Level 1 (equivalent to GCSE) looms at the end of that year – he will have to study a bit harder than he has this year, although to be fair he has developed more maturity and independence this year and has grown into a fine young man.  (I’m not biased – I’m his mother!)  Aonghas starts his last year at Primary school and is excited that he is in Mr Peart’s class – the only male teacher in the school and very hip and cool! (Bleached blond hair and trendy clothes!)

Both boys are involved in lots of sport.  Squash is a new pursuit this year – after a 25 year break from the game I have started playing again and Lachlan and Aonghas have both taken to it so we are trying to persuade Nigel to have a go too!

10th Birthday - Aonghas 2009

Duathlons, Triathlons and Fun Runs have been a big part of our sporting events this year too.  They are good fun and as competitive as you want them to be – of course we don’t worry about our times or where we come in the order – participation is the name of the game, isn’t it?  (However Lachlan has been consistently in the top half of his age group (U17) and I have usually managed a top ten placing in my age group,and he can now beat his mother by about 4 minutes over 10km!).  Aonghas has started swimming again this summer and is in the Development Squad at the local swimming club which he grudgingly enjoys. He doesn’t like the idea of going as he would prefer to play, but once he is there he admits that it is good!  (Scenery update: Just coming up to Levin and the sun is shining through the heavy clouds over the mountains to the east) Lachlan has continued to play rugby as his Winter sport, but has got more involved in volleyball during the Spring, and was lucky enough to go with them to the North Island Volleyball Champs in Rotorua.  Aonghas decided to play hockey this year instead of rugby and has really enjoyed himself scoring several goals and proving to be a useful member of the team.

We haven’t got out into the hills walking as much as we would have liked as life has been pretty hectic.  Nigel and I have both been busy at work – Nigel has been off to several conferences about the country and also spent a couple of weeks in Australia. I have been settling into a new job at Waikato Dio and trying to make myself indispensable – a worthwhile investment of time as I now have a permanent full-time position there!  It will be a challenging year ahead as although I have a relatively small teaching load, I continue in my role as Teacher IT Coach, and take on a new responsibility of organising the Outdoor Education Camps.  Three of the five year groups (about 140 girls in each year group) go on camp for a week at a time, so it is quite a logistical undertaking and a huge responsibility too.  Fortunately, I am taking over from someone who had everything well set up so I don’t aim to change anything major next year, just get my head around the job.  I managed to go on all three of the camps this year (Yr 9, Yr 10 and Yr 12) and got the opportunity to try out white water rafting, surfing (in the freezing cold ocean in winter!!), archery and also to do the awesome Tongariro Crossing which is

Tongariro Crossing, November 2009

an iconic kiwi walk – it’s a bit like doing the Three Peaks in terms of a must do walk. I have also got my caving count up to 4 NZ caves now – just need to get the rest of the family out to them now I know where they are.

Talking of the Tongariro Crossing – it traverses a volcanic area about 2 hours south of Hamilton where we have had our first forays into family skiing.

"Snowplough king understudy"

Whakapapa is a great ski resort on Mount Ruapehu – an active volcano which last erupted in the 1990s.  The boys, of course, got the hang of planks on feet pretty quickly, and Nigel’s body took a long hard look at the memory bank and realised that it had been there too, so we were away!  To our amazement (and his!), after just 3 days skiing, Lachlan was asked to be in the school ski

"snowplough king"

team and so he had the opportunity to spend a week away training with a crowd of very good skiers and participate in the North Island Secondary School Ski Champs.  He went as a travelling reserve so didn’t really get a chance to ski in any races but had a great time nonetheless, and it was an invaluable experience for him.

Now that summer is here (and Lachlan isn’t playing tennis every Sunday this summer) we aim to get away for some weekends and walk or mountain bike.  We have joined the Hamilton Mountain Bike Club and go every Wednesday for race night – fun for all the family, though we have yet to get Nige to join in

Pukete Spaghetti 2009

( he is using a broken chain as an excuse at the moment).  We have also had a couple of trips to the Redwoods in Rotorua where there are some awesome tracks.  Aonghas has really taken to it despite having to cycle on a rigid bike with dodgy gears!  (last heard shouting “Mum, my balls hurt – I don’t think I’ll be

Pukete Spaghetti, 2009 Aonghas

able to have children when I’m older!)  Maybe Santa will have heard?!  (Scenery update: Cows and rolling plains to the west, misty mountains to the east)

The main obstacle to getting out more regularly at weekends is the garden.  It has been great to have our own house this year with space to develop the garden and grow veggies.  Nigel spent a good few weekends in late

Veggie bed, October 2009

winter/early spring digging the ground and then building two raised beds which he has filled with a huge array of vegetables.  We have inherited an amazing watering system – a network of plastic pipes and sprinklers which is operated electronically so we can set it to water when we aren’t there.  Fantastic – no more standing around with a hosepipe!  The major drawback for Nigel is that I keep sticking a fork through the pipes when I get a little

Aonghas, October 2009

over-zealous with the weeding so he spends more time locating the leaks and fixing the holes than he really wants to!  We have already harvested and eaten broccoli, silverbeet, spring onions, carrots, green beans and courgette and are looking forward to cucumber, capsicums, artichokes (globe), beetroot, rock melon, fennel, tomatoes and more that I can’t remember!  Stuff grows so fast here but that also includes the weeds, so every silver lining has a cloud!  (Scenery Update: Just approaching “Palmerston North which allows visitors to participate in a large variety of adventurous activities”. A five minute stop here to take on passengers and let smokers off for a fag break!)

We are looking forward to a quiet Christmas together in our new home – last year we moved in and then headed straight down to Wellington for Christmas with Nigels’ family.  So this year we have spent a very pleasant week before Christmas in Wellington and Greytown with Aunty Chris and Aunty Moi catching up and being spoilt.  We will spend New Year with our friends Liz and Chas and their two boys Jamie and Josh at a house they have rented at Manukau Head and then we plan to head further north towards the Bay of Islands for a few days to explore.

We had a few visitors from the UK this year and it was great to see them – Ben and Samuel Davis turned up out of the blue and we spent a delightful evening with them, and then Aunty Margaret came to stay for two weeks which was just lovely.  So hopefully 2010 will see a few more of you!

Well, once again a Merry Christmas to you all.  Hope that 2010 brings all that you wish for and lots of pleasant surprises.  We look forward to seeing and hearing from you – e-mail, text, skype, phone or in person!