Did more excavation on the drive yesterday. The youth group's doughnut machine is now occupying the little shed, and my car is next to Bronwyn's in the big shed. I excavated the driveway for the little shed last year, but the right hand side of the big shed just had grass in front of it. Discovered two concrete strips at least ten feet long, buried about two inches deep. No idea how long they've been buried for. I recall Bronwyn's dad saying that there were only stones there. Bronwyn had bought two sacks of stones to put on top, after the grass turned into a swamp with all the rain.

There's probably more to be found, but I think I overdid it. I'm not well today, and I'm taking it easy.

Quiet at work this week. Dave is in Wellington for a conference, and Phil and Ben are on holiday. So it was me and Giles. I've been given a lot of bugs to fix, and I've been slowly working through them. I might put up a chart on the wall, so I can cross them off...

Bronwyn missed Friday this week. She's been having real problems with a visiting student. This student is 47, and has got certificates from Korea, but doesn't seem to understand how things are done. Bronwyn couldn't give her particularly good marks on anything, because she tended to just stand there and not get involved. There were a few incidents which Bronwyn raised with the student's lecturer, and resulted in the student failing the practical. The general atmosphere got so bad that Bronwyn couldn't bring herself to go in the the last day, and got a doctor's note.

Next week should be better. It's the end of the three weeks, and the student is back at university. Meanwhile, Bronwyn is out fetching a chair that she's just bought. This is going to be a Birthday Chair, and they're going to paint and decorate it. It's for the child who has a birthday that day. This is as a result of an over-zealous parent who took over the centre and brought in a childrens' entertainer and various other things for the day. Like last year, and the year before. Which is a little unfair on the parents who can't even afford a birthday present. So now they have a Birthday Policy, on top of all the other policies...

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The Waitakeres 
Bronwyn recovered quickly from her food poisoning, and fortunately none of the rest of us managed to catch it. It's been cold this week. It was minus 3 on Thursday night. By English standards that's pretty tame, but here it's probably the coldest we're likely to have all year, and this big old house is a bit draughty at times. Despite having floor and roof insulation, the walls and windows tend to let us down.

Pastor Graham (his surname is Ng, which doesn't tend to get mentioned often because not many can pronounce it) made a bit of a slip this morning. It went roughly as follows:

"The spirit lifts us up, and frees us from sin.

"Picture this. There was a pilot, who was flying a little plane, when he heard a gnawing sound behind him. He realised there was a rat on the plane, and if he didn't do something quickly it might chew through a cable and he would lose control of the plane. So he flew higher, and put on his oxygen mask. He flew higher still, and stayed there. The gnawing went silent. This was because the rat was now dead through lack of air.

"I think that's a good picture..."

at which there was a burst of laughter as we all pictured the pilot and the dead rat.

Went to the Waitakere (Why Tak er ee) Ranges yesterday. Bronwyn had booked Rachael on the little train that runs through the hills up to the reservoir. It was used to ship building materials up there, and was left once the dam was built. So we drove all the way down a long winding road through the hills, arrived ten minutes late, ran down the drive and onto the platform, and found the place deserted. I looked at the ticket. It was for Sunday.

Never mind. I then took Rachael back along the road, and we had a great time exploring. There's a huge television transmitter there, which broadcasts over most of the Auckland region. There's also a water fall.

Rachael wanted to see the waterfall. Except it was down a long track, and down a steep hill. So it was nearly 5pm by the time we climbed back up again. Not often I see Rachael tired!

Bronwyn has taken Rachael off today again to the railway. Hope they manage to get on it this time!

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I fed the hippos 
It's nice to visit the zoo, and be able to go round the back. Often the animals like to hide out of sight, and it's only possible to see them if you're one of the keepers. Or you bribe the maintenance staff. I'm told chocolate cake works wonders.

Managed to get everybody up on time, and out to the zoo. I set off on the tour, and Bronwyn and the girls attempted to follow me around the front, although that was tricky because Auckland Zoo is a total maze, and there's no sense of direction. And Sarah wanted to feed the animals too.

Giraffes first. The keeper got two buckets of carrots and celery. She chucked one bucket over the wall so the zebras could eat before the big boys came over. Then we stood there feeding vegetables into this eating machine with an 18 inch tongue. Giraffe heads are huge, and apparently this one wasn't fully grown.

Hippos next. Our hippo was 50 years old, and took a while to exit the pool. This one was more a case of basket ball. We took turns throwing in cabbages and apples, while she stood there with her mouth wide open. Very messy eaters, hippos. After a while, her mouth was drooling with pulverised carrot and saliva, and every time she bent down, some of it dribbled out.

Rhinos. We were warned not to put our arms round the corner while patting them, in case they shifted and squashed us. Fortunately they didn't. They got a bale of hay between two, and spent ages chewing it. Much slower than cows.

Lions. We had a few small pieces of meat, which we fed through the wire with tongs. My bit was slightly too big, and I had difficulty attempting to prod it through while smiling for the camera and avoiding the lion. The lions like to mark their territory after feeding. They have a range of four metres. We were told to keep our eyes open. However, the male didn't put on a show. Fortunately.

Met up with the others, and did a quick tour of the rest of the zoo, but Sarah was tired and Bronwyn exhausted. But it was worth it, and the weather held off until the drive home.

Bronwyn hasn't been well. Doctor thinks it's food poisoning, so she's on antibiotics and re-hydration fluids. Today she's just very tired, and struggling to keep food down. But she's had a quiet day today. Meanwhile, she's been buying various things for work (work is paying). Including a kitchen sink, a tap, and a number of other bits. She's planning an outdoor washing sink for the play area.

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Rachael's friends have been here overnight. The lounge is full of mattresses and sleeping bags, and assorted pillows and toys. Bronwyn made a big butterfly cake with three different shades of purple icing. Currently they're all watching a Barbie movie. Not sure how much sleep they had last night. I've been clearing up chocolate and spilt drinks. Bronwyn ended up in Sarah's bed last night. I woke up to find Sarah instead. Three more hours, then they all go home. Except Rachael and Sarah of course.

Didn't go to the zoo, but I booked in for next week. It's been cold this weekend, and still a lot of rain. There's been heavy snow further south, but still no frost.

The girls have just gone off to play mini-golf. Except it's in the dark. They've all been told to wear something white because there will be ultra-violet lamps.

Stop-Press... Rachael loved it. So did Emily, the quiet little 7 year old. But big brash Moana didn't even want to go in...

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Sarah was 4 on Thursday. Bronwyn made a cake with a big rainbow, and sorted out some sugar drops into different colours to match. Today there's a party. Next week there will be another party for Rachael, who will be 9, and a sleepover. If Rachael can tidy her room, that is.

We've had quite a busy week. I've got band rehearsal on Monday nights, and my church home group on Wednesday nights. Bronwyn's group meets on Tuesday. She also had a staff meeting on Monday night, so both girls came to band with me for an hour or so. It all worked out in the end.

We've had a lot of rain, and there's mud everywhere. At least the tank's full.

Might go to the zoo next week. At Christmas, Bronwyn bought me a ticket to go behind the scenes with some of the animals. Bronwyn's mum also contributed to that. I still haven't used it yet. So with all the birthdays, we might all go, and make a day of it.

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