Working too hard 
Had a very busy couple of weeks at work. All the schools are back, and as usual, they've left things until about a week after the last moment, and we're now getting frantic calls because the parents want to log in, nobody's checked the school database and they assumed it would be done in a single click. Ah well. I guess it's nearly as bad as expecting teachers to spell correctly.

And it might get busier. We've just had four redundancies. I've been told not to worry, and that I'll probably be the last man standing. Not sure I want to be in that position; it's much easier sitting down. But I'm now taking on extrs work to make up for the guy who left our team. It's going to be chaos.

My manager finally got round to juicing some fruit and veg up for me as part of our plan to Get Healthy. However, today's juice was mostly orange and carrot, and it was rather strong. I'm hoping we can diversify a bit before my teeth fall out.

Bronwyn's been out most days handing out forms for the census. Every form has a code number on it, which she has to carefully note down in her book. She has nine different sets of forms, and nine different sets of pages in her book, corresponding to the different areas she has to cover, and she's not allowed to mix them up. She has to keep an eye out for houses that didn't exist for the last census, and many are down long winding driveways up in the hills. There are also an assortment of difficult customers, angry dogs and drug dens to deal with. But she's been making good progress so far, and met her target last week. Nobody knows the district as well as her right now...

Allan's sweetcorn is ready. Apparently he's not planning to sell it, despite having spent a grand on seed,irrigation equipment and a pump. He just doesn't have the time. So we're going to have sweetcorn coming out of our ears. Carrots are pretty much ready too, and I picked our first watermelon yesterday.

And I had a quick chat with the Prime Minister on Saturday. He was opening the new surf and community centre at the beach near us, and the brass band was playing there too. Didn't get much of a conversation. Had more fun discussing the scene with a couple of police officers. They were there on duty until the PM left. It occurred to me that if it was Britain, there would be secret sevice agents everwhere. "Ah", said the policeman. "how do you know they're not here?". He then turned to his colleague and said "Where is he, anyway?" and they went off hunting for him in the crowd...

Still no rain. At least we have a large lake to draw from. The ground is bare and dusty. One of the sheep keeps climbing through the fence and mowing our lawn for us. At least it sticks to the grass...

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The secret tunnel, and the bucket of A4. 
I've been borrowing a Samsung tablet from work. It's got a GPS function, so I took it up into the bush and I've been trying to map out some of the areas we've never been in. Today, after thrashing through a hundred metres of dense undergrowth, losing my pencil and bumping into the old (barbed wire) fence, I discovered a large bucket. It was well and truly buried in the darkest corner of the forest, and according to the label, it used to hold 20 litres of mayonnaise. Odd. After a bit more thrashing I found a track, and a label marked 'A4'. There are bait stations right through the bush to control possums, and I'd discovered the fourth on on line A.

And a secret track I didn't know about. On Rachael's suggestion, we left the bucket upturned on a tree stump for the next intrepid traveller, and marked the spot on the map. I'd lost my pencil, so in true explorer style I used some of the blood from the cut on me knee. There was another label pointing to another track which allegedly led to A5 and then on to the B line, although the track was impossible to spot. We left that adventure for another day...

It rained on Monday. Got about 4cm. You wouldn't guess it now. It's all dried up again!

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We've had a quiet week, so I might mention a bit more of the fun last week. I'm just about recovered. Mummy says I'm too old to be doing rock concerts on the night shift. Went to a few of the later bands as well. The arena was pretty well packed to the back, but round the far side it was possible to wheedle your way up to the compressed throng of bodies. Not sure why they call it a mosh pit. There's no pit, just a patch of trampled and dusty Waikato grassland. A lot of people were complaining of dust in the lungs. Fortunately I wasn't close enough to get caught up in that. Either that, or by 11pm they were too tired to kick up the dust! Afterwards, there remained a dedicated crowd of hangers on at the front, hoping for a souvenir drumstick or two, plus a pile of discarded water bottles and jandals (flip flops). Obviously jandal flinging must be in this year.

Fantastic light show. No idea how many there were, but must were motorised, and could swing round to focus back and forth, and change patterns. Plus a few floodlights lower down, and a graphical display at the back. It made the performers look a bit on the small side!

Got back to the cafe and was going to help pack down the enpty boxes. I usually use a key to cut the tape. Ah. Er... where's my keys? On a hunch, I headed in the other direction. Yup. Still in the ignition.

On the last night, half the youth group turned up near the cafe, and I wanted to buy them a few hot chocolates. Except that the whole site was running off smart cards attached to our wristbands. There was one kiosk for topups, but it didn't do eftpos at 1am. Fortunately there's a permanent ATM on site, so eventually I managed to charge up my wrist and buy some hot chocolates. As the night wore on, and the crowd thinned, but we were still mixing full jugs of chocolate, I took to siphoning off the last cup or two, and depositing it on the table for my friends to fight over. No point wasting good hot chocolate...

Girls are back at school tomorrow. I'll have to get up early for once and take Rach to the bus. Ug.

Bronwyn's got a job doing the census in a month or two. She's got a patch covering the farm and half the village, so she knows most of the houses. She's had to sign the official secrets act, and the completed forms have to be kept in a locked cupboard. Hmm. We don't have a lockable cupboard that big...

Might even get rain tomorrow. It's been long enough. It's dry and dusty out there. The garden hasn't done a lot for several weeks, although the watermelons are showing promise. Apparently they live in the desert. I remember we had quite a few in Botswana. Allan's sweetcorn is not far off harvest. Mmm...

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I've been to Hamilton and back via Tauranga. We took both cars down to the campsite at Omokoroa, near Tauranga. It's got a mineral hot pool (and it's actually quite warm). Bronwyn took the girls out to visit a friend, as well as a huge (and very deep) open cast gold mine at Waihi, the Katikati Bird Park, and of course, the beach. On the way out, we stopped in the Karangahake Gorge, where there used to be a substantial underground gold mine. There's still a few tunnels there it you've got a torch.

On day 2, I drove to Hamilton for the Parachute festival. Night shift at the cafe as usual. First night was cold and a bit windy, and hardly anyone stayed awake. I went home early. Second night was a bit more lively, but at 3am it was pretty quiet, so one of us brought out some pouches on strings and started swinging them around. She got an instant audience, and we spent a couple of hours learning how to swing them. I think we made a few sales just by bringing people near the cafe! She also brought out some black ones that you can soak in kerosene...

Last night was, as they say, absolutely cranking. I lost count of how many hot chocolates we sold. Hundreds. For several hours straight. And moccachinos. Very few straight coffees. I brought in my usual marshmallows and sprinkles. One girl asked for "extra chocolatey" so I doubled the sprinkles, squirted on a huge amount of chocolate syrup and then a bit of chocolate powder on top. Made her day, apparently.

I was about to set off for Omokoroa, and decided to check the car. Oil no problem. Water a bit low so I poured in some that I'd taken with me. Now, I'd been staying with my friend Chelle and her boyfriend Joel. Joel works at Repco and knows a few things about cars. He spotted a leak. So we spent the next half hour trying to plug it, and eventually lashed it up with duct tape. Good old duct tape. Joel loaded me up with five litres of water and I set off.

Then I went back. Chelle texted me because I'd forgotten my pillow.

Made it to Omokoroa an hour and a half late. Had one more night there, and we all set off home. Stopped in the Karangahake Gorge again, and this time Bronwyn had kept the best torches handy, so we set off and explored the tunnels properly. Well, not immediately. I carefully locked my keys in the car, so Bronwyn found a random stranger who knew about breaking into cars "that was some years ago". Between Bronwyn's car aerial, Rachael with a torch, and some luck with a lose window, we managed to get back in.

Please don't tell Chelle. You know how she worries about me.

Just about made it home. The car started overheating in the traffic going out of Auckland, but cooled down quickly once we got going. I've spent the day catching up on all the problems that happened at work while I was away. I got phoned up five times. Once when I'd just emerged from the tunnel in the gorge. Amazed that there was cellphone coverage out there!

Bronwyn's got a job! It's only six weeks, but it's for the census, going door to door and collecting the forms, and making sure they've been filled out correctly. Should be fun. Hopefully there won't be too many dogs...

Allan's sweetcorn is growing fast. It's been really hot and dry for weeks, but the sprinklers obviously have been doing their job. Harvest won't be far away. My kale is also turning into a jungle. Got quite a bucketful of potatoes too, last week. I spent ages weeding the onion patch, but everywhere else now needs weeding instead!

Should get rain next week. And the girls will be back at school.

Anna, with her "extra chocolatey" hot chocolate. Must check out her dentist.

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Summer fun 
Still no rain. Might get a sustained drizzle tomorrow. Allan has his sprinklers on a timer switch, but the pump keeps cutting out and needs resetting. So we have to remember to check the pump every evening. Which kind of defeats the object of having a timer switch.

Last weekend we went to Tree Adventures in Woodhill forest, where there's a lot of high altitude ropeways all the way through the trees. Sarah managed bravely through course number 1, then got a refund. Rachael and me continues to course number 4, and then decided to call it a day. It's suprisingly tiring when you're clinging to a rope all the time. The course continues to Number 10, which finishes with a horizontal 150 metre long rope ladder and a very long zip line. It made me dizzy just looking up at it.

Our second English couple arrived a week early, stayed just four days and then left quietly at 7am without giving any reason. Well, I didn't ask them, anyway. It was 7am, after all. Bronwyn phoned them. Apparently they weren't happy about the condition of the horses. They're very long in the hoof, and in need of a serious haircut. And they said that we hadn't really given them much work to do. I had quite a few things lined up, but they were out most of the day until 8pm, and disappeared before the weekend.

I think I prefer the Chinese...

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