Erica didn't want to leave. She did really well at the airport, but told me not to say too much, in case it made her cry. She was so overwhelmed. Apparently, her parents think we're angels, and they want us to come and visit them in China!

I took a couple of days holiday to make the most of a couple of days of good weather, and one of the sheep produced a couple of lambs just in time. (More lambs to follow.) We've done quite a bit last week, and we're all tired. The rain has returned, and looks like it wants to stay for a week or two. Meanwhile, two more Chinese girls want to stay from late August and Weiming arrived today for three weeks. Erica agreed that we ought to start a hotel for Chinese girls...

Rachael's doing well at swimming lessons, and has managed a length with a flutter board. They're training her to be at home in the water, which is the main obstacle since she's terrified of getting water in her ears. Bronwyn has been working hard on Sarah, and getting her to read a book every day. She's finally picking things up, and can just about pick out her favourite programmes on the Sky TV guide. Bronwyn's been sufferring with asthma, made worse by the cold weather. She's managing it better now, but still finds it hard to sleep at night sometimes.

Brass band AGM yesterday. Managed to survive as treasurer. Not that there's anybody else willing to do it instead. Hopefully now I've has a full year's experience I'll be able to do it properly this time! Meanwhile, two funding applications send off for the youth work, including letters of apology because I'm still awaiting the audited accounts. Another couple of applications coming up next month. Hopefully someone will give us some money this time.

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I'm learning mandarin 
Golly, it's been a while since the last update. Robin (Chinese girl number 2) came back and stayed another week. She's off in Auckland Uni now, doing postgrad statistics. Next week, Erica (Chinese girl number 1) is back after her amazing tour of New Zealand to stay for another six days. After her, Weiming (number 3) arrives, closely followed by Tracy (number 4). Alas, we couldn't have Phoebe and friend (numbers 5 and 6) as well, because we didn't have enough beds! Happy Birthday to Coralie (French girl number 1), and congratulations to Martin and Bina (English couple number one) on their first baby.

The conference went really well, and since it was in Auckland we managed to stay for the whole duration and get back home the same day. We got a trip up the sky tower, and a fancy meal in town (it's not often I get taxi drivers apologising to me. Must wear that suit more often.) The day after, it was our 15th wedding anniversary, so we went to the restaurant in the village for once, and had the whole place to ourselves!

I've been frantically preparing the brass band accounts for the audit, as well as trying to get three accountability reports and funding applications out on time for the youth work. I now know all about audits. Not sure if I wanted to, but at least I can look a balance sheet in the face and not get nervous.

Our boss has resigned. It's a long story, and not all a happy one, but I hope he can find a place where he can feel at home and useful. It was ten years ago that I joined the company as employee number one, and he had started the company 18 months before that. So it really is the end of an era. Now, I get the impression that I'm having to attend all the meetings that he used to attend, as well as everything else!

Rach and Sarah are back at school. Sarah's been to the opticians again, and they're getting her new lenses because her eyes have got a lot more short sighted. Rachael's off on camp tomorrow night, and then Bronwyn will pick her up to go to swimming lessons. We've found an instructor that specializes in difficult cases, and he reckons that he can get Rachael swimming properly despite her phobia of water in the ears. New Zealand life tends to revolve round water, so it's important to learn how to swim.

Some very cold nights recently. Well, cold anyway. Alright, just below zero. But pretty cold for these parts. We ran out of firewood. Bronwyn dragged some branches back to the house, and hired a chainsaw to chop them up. But she couldn't start it, and ended up with an asthma attack. A friend leant us an electric circular saw, and I managed to chop most of the branches. Bronwyn's parents have returned from holiday now, so once the weather clears hopefully we'll get the shed full again.

My car's in for welding tomorrow. There's a couple of holes on one side, and a suspicious lump on the other. Nothing too major. Already fixed the brake hose, shock absorber and headlamp. Brakes are squealing a little. Small chip in the windscreen probably needs fixing. Other than that it's fine...

Think that's about the lot. Apart from the Android tablet we bought six weeks ago. It arrived yesterday. The wireless didn't work. But Bronwyn found Angry Birds on it, so we spent an hour playing that until the screen broke. They're refunding us. Apparently we're not the only ones...

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Robin flew back 
Bronwyn's sounding a lot better, and I've managed to clear most of the slime from my throat. Rachael's managed to get a nasty cramp in her neck after trying the 'who can do the hula hoop longest round the neck' competition at youth group. Sarah's fine. Nothing seems to bother her!

Meanwhile, Robin was with us for just the weekend, and then left for the city armed with nothing but a backpack. She spent the whole week looking for accommodation for when she starts university next month. She finally found a rather expensive flat right next to the university. She's back with us until Thursday. I took her around the forest again yesterday, armed with the tree and bird books. Bronwyn took her to Alberton House this afternoon. I think she's really enjoyed staying here.

I'm off to my third youthwork conference next week, which this time is in Auckland. I'm looking forward to meeting up with the friends I've made around the country from the first two conferences, and getting the chance to ask a few questions and generally have a fantastic time. But I've also got three accountability reports for last year's funding applications to hand in, and then three more to write for this year. And we still haven't got last year's accounts sorted yet. "How much did you spend on the project" - "Dunno - nobody's told me yet...".

It's our 15th wedding anniversary next week. So we're planning to head up the Sky Tower to the restaurant at the top. Not sure if it's going to be feasible next week though! But looking forward to it all the same.

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Coughs, colds, and a queue outside the door 
I've been off sick with a cold this week. Sarah's had a bit of a cough, and Rachael's been rather tired. It's been quite cold this week too. Last night, Bronwyn had trouble with asthma, and rang up the doctors, who told her to call for an ambulance, and they took her into hospital. She still had her pink fluffy slippersm which caused quite a stir with the paramedics, and enabled me to identify her room when I arrived because her feet were sticking out... We were there for about four hours until everyone got bored and they let us go home. Bronwyn's back on steroids and extra ventolin.

Robyn from Shanghai arrived on Friday, and got thrown in at the deep end when Bronwyn went into hospital! She's going to be joining Auckland University in July, so she's off into town tomorrow to look for student accomodation. We had three others wanting to stay too, and three more emails came in today. Not sure why everyone wants to see New Zealand at this time of year!

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Erica, sideburns and Colonel Bogie 
Had a really good week with Erica from Taizhou near Shanghai in China. She settled in really well, and although she was only with us for six days, we all became quite close friends. Tidied up the house, cleaned the kitchen, did the washing up and made us dinner once as well! She's working her way towards Tauranga at the moment, and hopes to make it to the south island as soon as she can. We'll miss her. She misses us too! We took her round the farm (once by tractor, once through the bush on foot), to the zoo, two beaches, and several other places as well. Another Chinese girl arrives in a week...

Spent the whole day at a film shoot in Thames (Coromandel) today. I had to get up at 4am. We arrived early, but they were already well under way, and we got sent straight in for costume and make up. I got a new moustache and a couple of very furry sideburns. They had wanted 6 musicians as a brass band, although they weren't going to record our sound. However, they wanted us to play something so that the crowd had something to move to. Good thing I raided the library (sorry Martin) and arrived with Colonel Bogie (Hitler, has only got one ...) which went down well until we'd played it forty times... I'm not allowed to release details, but some highlights were getting nearly hit by flying hats, watching horses poop and attempting to find a quiet toilet. The dressing room was only accessible through the gents for some reason, so everybody was walking through it!

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