A visit from the mob 
Had a fantastic, but very tiring time up in Waitangi. Two maori welcomes, a boat trip across the bay, several seminars, a lot of history and a visit from the Mongrel Mob.

There are two maraes at Waitangi. One is where the Maori gathered to debate the treaty, and we were taken to the exact spot. The other is on the grounds where the treaty was signed, and again we were shown the exact spot where the tent was erected. I've already heard a lot of the history of Waitangi, but there was still plenty I've never heard before.

The boat trip went out to Marsden Cross, where Samuel Marsden preached the first sermon (Christmas Day, 200 years ago). This was shortly before he founded the first oil refinery further down the coast. We had hired a ferry and a smaller jetboat, and the jetboat was the only one able to land on the shore, so it took at least half an hour to get 230 people off the big boat a few at a time. Glorious sunshine, which turned to a heavy downpour as we gathered round the cross. Funny how disaster gives you a sense of togetherness. Fortunately someone had checked the forecast, and had hundreds of cheap plastic ponchos, so we huddled under our plastic bags together.

We had a number of Maori bigwigs including one who had enormous sideburns. In some cultures, you show your status by the size of your moustache. I decided he must be absolutely up there at the top.

One evening we had a visit from ten gang members. Mongrel Mob and Black power side by side. They were largely older men, who had been in the gangs since the beginning, but had decided they had had enough of the violence and wanted to change things. So they had raised money and run family days and children's camps, and used their influence to try to persuade others. What struck me was the historical parallel. We'd been hearing stories of how the warring tribes had made peace long ago after long and bloody conflicts. Now we had the beginnings of another reconciliation. Sure, they were rough and they swore and they still liked their marijuana. But it was a movement from within, and we had the sense of history in the making.

It's taken me a few days to get my energy back. Meanwhile, Bronwyn has been up early getting both girls ready, and also doing quite a few hours working. The manager absolutely loves her. One day, they had rice to eat, and of course it went everywhere. So Bronwyn picks it all up afterwards and mops the floor. The manager was so stunned she decided to pay her for the time even though she'd been voluntary that day.

It's been rather cold and wet. We're expecting a few lambs this week. They usually wait for the most miserable weather before giving birth. We're going to have to keep an eye on the sheep - we've just lost one this week, probably from the cold and damp. No frosts recently though.

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Edible mud 
Bronwyn's dad is turning 70, so we had everybody round for a birthday party. Claire made a cake. She's definitely getting better. This one had two round tiers decorated as paddocks, with the hay barn on the top. She'd made sheep, a cow, several birds, the dam with water lillies, fences, straw and even a smear of brown colouring for some mud. Only room for four candles though!

We still had a couple of tents with broken carbon fibre poles. Apparently you can get new poles to repair them with. So I finally went in and bought some, and then spent a couple of hours with a hacksaw cutting them to size. Not as hard as I'd thought. The hardest bit was threading the elastic string all the way through them again. So now we've got a couple of decent tents, and a few leftover poles. I think I'll bring a hacksaw on camp next year.

Sarah fell while doing cross country, and it looks like it triggered off the concussion from a previous couple of bumps. So now she's banned from sports at school for a few months, and has tablets to try and reduce the inflammation. But otherwise she's fine. Rachael's in fine shape. Plenty of homework though.

I've been busy this last couple of weeks. I've been working on three different projects, and managed to finish two last week. The third, which has been going on all year, is due to be demonstrated at a conference tomorrow, so our customer is busy checking it all out, and we're on call to fix anything he spots. He's currently in Mt Isa. This is a small mining town in the back of western Queensland. Internet is not good. So he's been working from a coffee shop. Except they don't provide mains power, so he's been going back home to keep the battery topped up! It's a website for home buyers, helping them to identify the services they're going to need, and linking them with providers. It's also got quite a sophisticated search facility. My favourite is the owner search. Type in someone's name and you can find out what properties they own. I wonder how long it will be before someone complains...

Bronwyn's been busy with work and various courses. Sounds like she's been popular at the childcare centre. She does her best to bring in lots of different activities. Especially ones that involve scaring the other staff! Meanwhile, I'm off to Waitangi in a week for the youth work conference. This will be my fourth conference, and the first one was at Waitangi too. It's the place where the treaty was signed between the British and the United Tribes. There are plenty of long stories about that, but it's really quite a special place. I'm looking forward to going back.

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Peas, eggs and carrots 
OK, so we had a couple of frosts just after the time I posted here. We have a flame tree in the driveway. No idea what species, because there are a dozen trees with that name, and it never flowers. It grows, and then it gets killed by the frost. Then new shoots come up from the stump. I managed to protect our pea plants. They were Bronwyn's idea because Rachael loves eating beans, and we thought she might like the sugar snap peas where you eat the whole pod. Rachael has curious eating habits. Last night we were tucking into chinese dumplings, risotto and chicken drumsticks. She was eating grapes and pea pods. She does eat chicken, but only if it's carefully prepared to remove all trace of bone and gristle. But she looks fine. It's Sarah who needs to lose a few pounds!

Last week, one of our chickens was missing. After a bit of calling, she came home, but very hungry, soaking wet and covered in mud. This is odd, because chickens don't like getting wet. We put her under the old heat lamp overnight, and now she's more or less back to normal. Bronwyn managed to find some trails in the swamp, and it looked as if there was another animal involved, so we're concerned that there's a dog about. All quiet since then, but we're keeping our eyes open.

Plenty of eggs though. Don't think the experience put her off.

And carrots. Haven't managed to eat them all yet.

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Another party 
Rachael turned 14 yesterday! Well, technically today, because she was born in British Summer Time. It was a long day...

We held a surprise birthday party for her. We had 11 altogether. While Bronwyn had taken Rachael and Sarah to their swimming lesson, the early arrivals hung up the decorations and got the house ready. Everyone managed to get here before they came back, and it wasn't easy hiding everyone in the corridor.

We went out for dinner with the two girls who were going to stay the night. I chose the curry. The girls decided I ought to go for the hot version. After a day of party food and hot chicken tikka, I was rather full! And tired... They came home and watched a movie afterwards, and eventually got to sleep. I think it was 3am by the time it got quiet. Rachael's pretty tired today.

The swimming lessons have been going well. Sarah needs to learn breaststroke and then she can move up another group. Again. Rachael still can't get her ears underwater, but has learnt to swim and tread water, and so long as she can cope in an emergency, it's good enough. There's a big push here to get everyone learning to swim, because we have so many beaches and a lot of the culture revolves around water.

I've gone up in the world. Well, about two inches. Bronwyn's bought a couple of chairs for the office to replace the dining chair and ancient bucket seat that we had before. Now I can choose between a fully adjustable operator chair and a high backed executive chair. I do love the arm rests.

Plenty going on otherwise. Bronwyn's going to get a new T shirt at her work, and they're going to fully support her to get full teacher registration. She's working Monday, she's been put top of the list for relief work, and she's going to do some voluntary work to make up the hours. She's also womanning the school crossing, and looking after out nephew Cooper after school several days a week. Meanwhile, I've now got 5 on the payroll for the youth charity, and another in South Africa trying to get a work permit. I've been tasked with buying laptops. And a car. Fortunately we have the money. We just need to work out what we need. So do we really need macbooks, or will a second hand Windows laptop do just as well? And why do we need a $30000 Hilux when we can get a minibus for half that?

Getting cooler, but no frost yet. Didn't get a frost last year. We have a tree stump in the driveway that keeps growing and then getting killed by the frost. Last year it just kept growing. Maybe another winter like that and it could just get big enough to survive...

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The birthday zone 
Four screaming girls. Plus Rachael, who spent most of the night screaming At the girls. But I'm glad to say everyone survived. Sarah had a glow-in-the-dark party sleepover, so we dug out the UV lamp and the fluorescent face paint and far too many glow sticks. I used a hula hoop and made a network of white streamers around the UV light. Looked like a rather eerie purple cobweb in the dark. We were all rather tired on Sunday, but Bronwyn managed to get everyone to bed early last night.

Rachael's birthday in two weeks time. Haven't planned a lot yet...

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