Bit strapped at the moment 
Going to be a tight month. Still haven't paid school fees and my new radiator. Both cars look like they might need new windshields. One speeding ticket (Bronwyn's, not me!) Plus the squashed laptop. Think that's the current total. No, there's the glasses too...

I lost Sarah's glasses at the swimming pools. I put them in the locker, but not in the bag, and I think they just ended up on the floor when I took the bags out. No sign of them. But having scoured the house and garden, we found Sarah's first pair. So we're back up to one set of glasses for now.

At least I've had plenty of opportunities to earn income. Or put another way, more work.

Coralie's just come back from a rapid tour of Northland, paying homage to Tane Mahuta (the biggest Kauri tree in New Zealand) on the way. She's with us for another week or so, then heading to the south island for a grand tour down there. Meanwhile, we spotted an ad for homestay students for St Dominics, so we might try that out in March. Bronwyn's been slowly making the house visitor-friendly by putting labels everywhere!

Rachael's tired. Not easy with such an early start, two long bus journeys and ... HOMEWORK!!!

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A packed couple of weeks 
Rachael survived the jamboree, and came back with a new t-shirt and several other things. They'd given her a tour of the geysers in Rotorua, which normally costs over $50 to get through the door. Plus she did the jet boat ride and all the usual activities! Bronwyn and Sarah went down to collect her and bring her back in time for Neil's wedding last week. Unfortunately, Bronwyn managed to run over her laptop on the way out. It still works, but the screen is broken so we might have to claim on insurance.

I survived Parachute, and made it home without falling asleep. I think it worked better leaving late, because I had a chance to get some sleep. The first night was very cold and most people went to bed, even the ones who had promised to stay up all night! The other two nights were warmer, and we had quite a crowd. Seemed to be a chocolate year this time. Hot chocolates, iced chocolates, chocolate milk, moccacinos. It was super strength coffee and energy drinks last year! Meanwhile I had a dual existence in the daytime with my friend Chelle, who had offered me a very welcome matress in the spare room. Not a particularly quiet room - I had the lawnmower outside the window on Saturday and a thumping party in the house four metres away on Sunday. But I have long developed a technique for sleeping with a finger in the ear, so I managed to sleep OK. Chelle showed me a bit of Hamilton, and we had some really deep chats and catch-up.

Our canaries never replied, but we've now got a French girl Coralie staying with us for a few weeks. She's been taken to the zoo, the museum, the great great grandfather's house and round the bush on the farm three times. Plus a quick trombone lesson and plenty of fun with Sarah, who absolutely adored her within 24 hours. After Coralie, we have a couple to stay for a week. March is currently free, while stocks last. Michelle, the vet student, turned up yesterday and had a quick farm tour. She spent today with Bronwyn's dad learning about sheep. Her friend Sophie had her flight cancelled and is stuck in Korea, so we might not get to see her. Ignazio the Italian inquired, but we didn't have room in February. Coralie was on the verge of offering to sleep in a tent to make room.

Both girls have started school this week. Rachael has been in for a couple of days to get used to the new school. Tomorrow is the first day on the bus, so Rach is going to have to get up early, and I'm going to have to take her down to the village. Just as long as she gets some sleep tonight! Sarah coped fine. We've lost one pair of glasses though, so we've been trying to tidy the house in order to find them.

Meanwhile, with the new uniform, books, car service, insurance excess, new radiator for my car and quite a few other things, we've got through a lot of money this month. Fortunately I've had quite a bit of extra work for the last couple of weeks, and it looks like things will change in the office too. Now my problem is going to be fitting it all in! Meanwhile I've dug the garden and planted some vegetables. Potatoes, peas, cabbage, lettuce, sweetcorn and chilli are in, carrots and beans to follow. When I get the time!

Meanmeanwhile, I've been sorting out funding applications for the youth worker at Kaipara College, and the band is on the verge of building a store room, so I've had plenty of other stuff to sort out too!

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All change 
Summer at last! I was beginning to think my patent tank measuing device was stuck. It's been showing 98% full for two weeks. But it's just all the rain we've been having. Some years we'd already be in the full swing of haymayking. They're only just starting now.

The van is sold! It's still in the garden, but some guy in Taupo is significantly poorer, so it's just a matter of time before he comes to tow it away. Martin and Bina are off in Fiji today for ten days, and then back home. Meanwhile, I've been clearing and tidying the spare room. We've got a couple of vet students doing sheep work in early February (although they won't be staying here) and two more couples are wanting to come in late Feb and in early March. Must sort out a bookings calendar. Haven't heard back from the two Spanish birds from the Canaries yet.

Rachael is off at the Jamboree, and it's noticeably quieter. For now. Bronwyn and Sarah will be off to fetch her on Wednesday/Thursday (it's a 4 hour journey so they're staying overnight) and then Neil and Rachel will be married on Friday.

Friday is also when the brass band starts up again. It's been nice having all my evenings free for several weeks. Got loads of jobs done. It's going to be odd next week having Fridays off, although I've got several possibles for part time work and I might end up with too much!

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Wet wet wet... 
The tank has been full for 9 days now. I've dragged out two paddling pools and patched them up. The better one is now full of clear sparkling drinkable water. And the tank's still full. More rain to follow.

Got a number of things done over Christmas. Decided to dig the vegetable garden again for once. Not sure what I can plant this time of year, but it'll give me something to do. Meanwhile, Rachael's off to the Jamboree at the end of the week, then Bronwyn's taking Sarah down for a day, and taking Rachael home in time for Neil's wedding (to a different Rachel). Meanwhile, we've had an enquiry from two young Spanish women who wanted to stay with us, but no idea when or if they're turning up.

Meanwhile, Martin and Bina are down in Christchurch, and their van is back in the garden. It got a window broken, but nothing stolen. Hopefully we can shift it soon, though not necessarily for the price that M&B wanted.

Off to work tomorrow. Back to normality. Our manager is planning all sorts of things for us to do independently now that our hours have been cut. Not sure how much of it is feasible though!

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Summing up 
Christmas was a day early; we had a big party at Claire's house "The Arkell Events Centre" with plenty to eat, followed by some leftovers on Christmas day. On Christmas Eve I took home the takings for the last days carolling. About 6kg of coins. Fortunately the bank has a rather nifty coin counting machine; you pour them in at the top, and it gives you a receipt. Found a few Australian and Vanuatan coins as well, so I think we might start up a holiday fund for overworked conductors.

A lot of rain since then. The tank is nearly full. Should have enough to last until winter now. The farm is green and muddy. Can't see the road at all now because of the trees. We're very much influenced by the Pacific here, and it it decides to give us a miss for the year, everything turns yellow. They were warning about that this year too, but got it completely wrong. Should be more sun next month, but I think the New Year celebrations might be a bit of a drip.

Martin tells me that as a postman, he never believes the forecast. In fact, he always beleives the opposite. I've taken to watching the Rain Radar, because at least you can see exactly where the rain is going!

Martin and Bina left early yesterday. They're spending the New Year in Christchurch (which should be a lot drier than here), then they're heading off to Fiji for a couple of weeks, and then home. The van still isn't sold. It's been left outside the mechanics place, so we've got about a week or so before it really needs to disappear. Pity; it looks quite a cosy little van, but if it's only good for 9km, it's not much good for touring...

It's been quite a full year, with some highs and lows. I can honestly say it's been worth it, although I think if I went through it again there's a few things I'd do differently. But I've learnt a lot, and I feel a lot stronger now and ready to build on it for next year!

Have a dry New Year...

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