Parachute and Peggy 
My car failed the warrant of fitness test on a rear light and one brake. I replaced the bulb and got our local mechanic to fix the brake. However, one CV joint makes a bit of a grinding noise when you turn a corner. Apparently this isn't part of the WOF test. And the mechanic seemed to think it had plenty of life in it yet, so I'll continue to go carefully on corners.

The car made it to Hamilton and back without incident. Parachute went smoothly, and my idea of selling marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles with the hot chocolates went down really well. It was a joy to be back in that atmosphere where just about anything goes. A regular feature was the plastic chairs. We had several hundred around the cafe; it was the focal meeting point for the site. At intervals, everybody would pick up their chair, wave it above their head and cheer. Absolutely no reason for it, but just for the sake of it. I'm told that there was a mob of about 200 running round the site carrying chairs. This was just before I arrived, so I guess they brought them all back since we had plenty at the cafe.

People would dance out in the driveways. Two girls surrounded me at one point, dancing and waving their arms at close range. They then took off and went somewhere else. I think my look of general confusion was probably the desired result. I have photos of people playing guitars, sleeping on chairs and camping on the road in sleeping bags. We ran out of the high caffeine drinks at about 3:30am on the last night.

Peggy has been here from Singapore since last Friday, and has been on a few trips out with Bronwyn and the girls. She's also learnt how to shift hay bales, and Bronwyn's brother Neil gave her a ride on the motorbike. Bronwyn wants to visit Singapore at some point, but that depends on whether she can earn some money (and not spend it!) Currently they are waiting at the airport. Peggy's flight was cancelled, and she was in a queue for the information desk. Could be there a while. Might end up having her back for another night!

It's been dry, but very humid here. Might water my trees this weekend anyway, although there are storms brewing up near Fiji. I've been collecting seeds from some of the older trees so I can try growing them myself.

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Was out for several hours on Saturday evening helping with the haymaking. They were wrapping bales in plastic sheet, which makes them ferment and soften. Apparently the horses love it. Bronwyn's dad has this attachment on the back of the tractor which spins round and wraps the bales. The bale sits on rollers which turn the bale over as it spins. My job was to push the lever, and then watch it like a hawk. Once or twice the plastic came off, and a few times the bale bounced off the machine. I also had to watch the other guys, who tended to stand within a few inches of the thing as it whizzed past their kneecaps. Then I had a knife to cut the plastic. At one point we had four people - me, another to load the bale, another to tie the plastic to the bale, and another to grab the finished bale and stack it. Even with that lot it was still nearly 11pm by the time we finished.

Went to someone's house to learn how to make coffee, and to another general get-together in preparation for the Parachute festival next weekend. Should be fun. I finished making my 'Parachute 1947' shirt, which got the approval of the cafe leaders!

Rachael is still having trouble swimming. She won't talk to me about it, so I guess she hasn't progressed a lot!

Bronwyn's friend Peggy is coming over from Singapore for a week. I've sorted right through the cupboard hunting for single duvets, and putting aside all the baby and cot sheets. Pity I'll be in Parachute for half the week, but I'll catch up on my return...

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It was a quiet, but interesting week off camping. We couldn't have picked a better week for the weather - it was the first week for months that had no rain at all. It also rained just before and after, thus I didn't need to worry about the garden or the trees. Haven't checked them all, but the ones I saw seemed to be fine.

It was a crowded campsite and each group had a different style. One man arrived on a bicycle with the smallest tent I had ever seen. It was little bigger than a body bag. Another group set up a huge marquee, under which they fitted two cars, a sun bed, a table and four huge garden chairs. Another group comprised 17 Koreans. They didn't appear to know a lot about camping, and tried bashing tent pegs in with a pole.

There was a river next door, and one spot was deep enough to dive into, with a rope hanging from a tree. So there was always someone down there swinging off the rope. Seems to be the thing in New Zealand, along with juping off wharves.

Unfortunately Bronwyn had to go to a dentist, so we spent a day back in South Auckland. It took an hour to remove the tooth, and she had to go back to our dentists here to get it checked and cleaned. Thus Bronwyn spent a lot of time resting in the tent, while I took the girls out to various beaches. But I also got the chance to wander down the river and sit and think, which is something I don't get a lot of time for otherwise.

This week is getting full already. Parachute is in two weeks, so I'm doing a coffeemaking refresher course tomorrow, and there's a general meeting on Sunday. The band has the national contest in April, so we started rehearsing this week as well. Plus the dental visit and a hair cut. And Rachael is getting swimming lessons every day for two weeks. So it's been busy.

Rachael is terrified of putting her head under water. I remember my first time. I had no choice - some other boy pushed me under! After that, I realised it wasn't so bad after all...

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I was at work for three days this week, and all was quiet. We did a lot of planning and discussing. Meanwhile, Bronwyn got paid rather late. We suspect it's because the YMCA is in financial difficulties. Bronwyn was making quite a few phone calls yesterday!

Spent about 4 hours changing a shirt from orange to brown. I first used a dye bleacher which converted the orange to a girly pink. I then was about to dye it brown, but accidentally got a few spots of dye on the shirt before it was properly dissolved. So I had to leave the dye, dash out and find more bleach, and start again. Fortunately this might have done it good, because the second bleach turned the girly pink to a pale baby pink. I then made sure the dye was dissolved before changing the shirt to brown.

This is part of my plan to create a 1947 Parachute Festival shirt. I go there every year, and people seem to enjoy wearing the old T-shirts. I found an old shirt that looked close to a World War Two style. It's probably 1950s, but it's close enough. I've now made a "Parachute 1947" patch for it. I'm planning to do some more, but it's highly tedious doing the lettering!

Cleaned Bronwyn's car. It took a couple of hours, and two bags of rubbish, but at least we can make use of the extra space next week.

Bronwyn reciprocated by mowing the lawn. She also mowed a paint tin that happened to be hiding in the grass. Part of the driveway is now speckled white.

Off camping next week. The weather looks good so far...

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At least it's Christmas 
Had a shock last Sunday. Our dog had grabbed one of the kittens and was swinging it around. Bronwyn separated them, but it didn't survive long. The vet gave us a box for her, and we buried her in the garden. I made a little cross with a proper cross lap joint, and Rachael wrote 'Saphire' on it. Diamond is a little lost, but coping better now.

We had a lot of rain this week, well over an inch. I've been firming down the soil around all the trees, and it seems to be working. I've been putting soil in a bucket of water overnight to make it soft for working into the holes. Seems to defeat the pukekos, but not sure how the trees will cope! Regardless, I'm growing quite a few from seed, so I'll concentrate on putting lots of trees in, and not worry too much about the ones already out there.

We've received a bumper crop of presents this year. Must have done something right. We had 19 for dinner at Bronwyn's mum's - all five children, all 5 spouses/partners and all 6 grandchildren. Plus our old friend Mirko, who never married, and Janet and Ross themselves. They had to borrow one of our tables and bring in two wooden benches from outside. Plus quite an assortment of chairs. Don't think I'll eat much for dinner. Lunch was big enough.

I'm anticipating a quiet few weeks, as is the custom over here. I won't be idle. It'll take a day to clear and tidy the house.

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