T minus 17 
Our night in the Penthouse Suite was very comfortable. And we did get reimbursed for the breakfast and dinner. Although as far as I can tell, the Penthouse Suite looks just like all the other rooms except... bigger. It had numerous empty cupboards. I went through checking them all. I found three saucepans and a frying pan, plus less kitchen equipment than the average motel. OK, so it did have a second TV in the master bedroom. And five coathangers. But we did get a good night's sleep.

The house is slowly returning to normal. The front lawn has been mowed and one wall painted. We're slowly bringing stuff back from the pile in the spare room, but we had far too much stuff in the lounge before so most of it is likely to end up in the bin instead!

17 days until we fly off. Passports and tickets are ready, schedule has been organised. Still plenty more to sort out, but Bronwyn's brother Allan and family will be looking after the house over summer. Just need to clear the spare room...

First Christmas parade of the year. Quite a few more to go, but I'll be missing out on some of them. My first Christmas in the cold for quite a few years!

Warm and humid here. We're about to be plunged into a British December. After a Singapore one first.

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Far too much happening 
Incredibly, Angus got first prize for walking up the plank at Group Day. This in spite of the fact that Cooper has hardly given him any training. An almost perfect performance, apparently. Claire was beaming. Sarah was somewhat upset. But Claire has given Bronwyn a voucher to thank us for all the training (and bottle feeding) we've done in Cooper's absence. And Sarah managed to get Reserve Champion in another class, plus a few other ribbons. There were a lot of entrants this time, so there was a lot more competition.

Our lounge is looking the tidiest it's been ... ever. The spare room is piled up with junk. The small shed is almost empty and the wood shed is full of everything, plus a little wood. The small shed has now got a front wall and a door (it's never had a front wall because it used to house the tractor). Apparently the storyline involves a girl who sleeps in the shed. The film crew arrived on Thursday to prepare everything, and they'll be coming all day Tuesday to do the filming. They've booked us in at a hotel in town for Tuesday night. The Penthouse Suite. Meanwhile, the lounge has had some 1950s furniture and a rug. They were going to do filming today, but the weather was looking dodgy, so they shifted to Tuesday. Tuesday is also looking dodgy. Hopefully all the rain will be on Monday, but that will cause issues for all the heavy vehicles!

Janet and Ross are in the South Island, coming back later today. Shortly before they left, they bought a puppy. She's a border collie - huntaway cross, so I assume she'll be a sheep dog. I took her to meet the cows, who nearly flattened her. Angus and Leia also advanced on her menacingly, and sent her under the house. We've had to lock her up when we leave, because twice she's followed us down to the road and nearly got run over.

Rachael is going through exams. She's rather stressed. We've all been through a lot recently for a number of reasons which I won't detail here. But I'm glad to have a family that pulls together, even if we do get irritable at times. I've had opportunity to work through priorities and focus on the Things That Are Important. I'm looking forward to seeing people over Christmas and January; we'll be in Coventry in the first two weekends of January where we'll try and meet as many as possible.

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Ag day 
Sarah came home with two trophies (plus a third which she's sharing with another girl). She won the lamb competition! This is despite Leia refusing to put more than three feet on the plank and refusing to walk up it. Another boy took his lamb up without a lead. Then he did a funny whistle, and the lamb counted to seven, recited the first chapter of Genesis in Spanish, and ran to dog contest area and rounded up all the dogs. No it didn't. I just made that bit up. But Sarah won on points. Angus was also there. His leg is still in a splint, but he can run on it quite easily. He was hopeless in the obedience test, but then Cooper hasn't been around to do much training.

Sarah wants to go to the district group competition as well. Cooper managed to qualify, so he wants to go too!

The chicks. Forgot about them! I recall they got first prize for best plumage.

Bronwyn has finally submitted her teacher registration! This has been going on a while. She's spent ages putting together all her paperwork, and she's had a lot of support from her boss. Hopefully, it'll all pay off and she'll be fully registered. Been about two decades since she started her training!

Bronwyn has also been busy planning logistics for our trip to England. We had planned to take the Eurostar to Paris, but it had been cancelled due to engineering works. So she's managed to move that bit back a day. Meanwhile, she's been organising passports and reviewing suitcases. I just hope it all goes to plan!

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The funny farm 
Angus had indeed broken his leg. Ross felt it (with me holding still his other three limbs) and it was definitely moving where it shouldn't. It wasn't like that at first, so it's likely Angus broke it properly later. So Ross made a splint with some bark (makes a nice curved surface) and bandaged it up. He's now putting weight on it again, so it looks like it's healing up. We'll keep it on for a fortnight.

Of course, now that it doesn't hurt so much, he's up to his old tricks. It's quite impressive watching him leap around the garden with three legs. At sunset, lambs and calves go through the nutcase zone. They gang up together, then rush madly to a random spot on the paddock. Then they pick a different random spot and rush there instead. It can be unnerving when you're trying to chop firewood and there's a couple of lambs running round the garden at around 50km per hour. Fortunately it only lasts around ten or fifteen minutes, then they settle down again. I guess it serves to intimidate the lions before the evening hunt. Not that we have any here.

Talking of lions, last night the youth group put on an African family fun night. Rachael was a zebra and Sarah was a leopard. Bronwyn decided to dress up as a safari tourist complete with binoculars, camera and a safari jeep made out of cardboard. I decided I'd dress up as a masai. I had a bedsheet wrapped round my legs, a table cloth for a cloak, a couple of extra bits of cloth for a loincloth and apron, and an old spear that had been passed down through the family, originally from the Solomon Islands. I then made a couple of bead necklaces and a couple of big gold earrings. I gathered a bag of bones from around the farm and selected a few to make a bone necklace. OK, so that's not strictly masai, but then neither was the spear. It all went down a hoot. Very few others had dressed up, so we ended up getting the prize for best dressed adults.

Bronwyn picked up some chips on the way in. She parked in a dark spot because I was nervous about being seen with a loin cloth and huge gold earrings...

We seem to have lost the pins from the hay rake. Ross thought that some children had been playing with them in the hay barn. They're big iron bolt things, so Bronwyn hired a metal detector and went round looking for them. We learnt a few things about metal detectors. Firstly, the hay barn is made of corrugated iron. This meant that you couldn't find a thing within two feet of the wall. The metal detectors also detect electric fences, so we had a constant blip every second if we were within ten metres of a fence. Bronwyn didn't find anything. However Ross did - back in the tractor shed. So maybe the pins weren't in the rake in the first place!

I also had a go with the detector. A friend had lost a metal pendant down by the stream. I didn't find it, but I located four metal fence standards, another two that I didn't bother digging up, a length of rebar, a bolt thingummy that might have fallen off the tractor, and a nail buried in the soil. When I got back to the shop they asked me if I'd found any gold. No, but plenty of scrap iron!

The regional contest with the brass band went well today. Don't know the score, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. There weren't too many in the audience. There weren't too many in the band either until just before we were due to walk on stage. Motorway was quiet. Everybody was watching the rugby!

Ag day on Friday. Bronwyn has been working hard trying to get Sarah to work hard and finish her lamb and chicken diaries in order to hand them in for marking. She's also been trying to train Leia, but Leia isn't quite as docile as Tom was last year, and not so motivated by sheep food, so it's not been easy. The lambs have to walk up a plank, and last year it was about 80 cm off the ground. Mind you, we've found sheep poo on the trampoline, so they're not afraid of heights!

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Never a dull moment 
Angus is limping. Looks like he's sprained one front ankle. Bronwyn felt the leg carefully, and couldn't detect anything out of place, and the vet agrees with her diagnosis. So he's been rather subdued for a few days. For once. He probably did it trying to leap onto the picnic table. Or the fence. Or the lawnmower again. But now he's unable to leap the boards, climb the chain link fence, clamber through the strawberry net and crash through the hedge. All is peaceful, for now.

One poorly chicken too. Now normally, chickens poo everywhere. On the back yard, the deck, the doorstep, the kitchen, the lounge, you name it. But one chicken seemed to be doing it to extreme, and her feathers didn't look tidy either. So Bronwyn went to the vet and came back with some worming drops to put in their water. Seems to have worked. Back to normal poo now.

Sarah has just a week or two to train her lamb for Ag day. She's also got to get her chicken and lamb diaries up to date. But Leia seems quite amenable, like Tom was last year. Not sure how Cooper will do with Angus. He's spent most of the holidays on a skiing trip, and has hardly seen his lamb, let alone trained him. But their personalities match quite well. Hopefully Cooper will return in one piece just in time for Angus to learn to walk again!

Bronwyn has been at work four days most weeks. She's also been leading the team at both elderly homes. She organised three local churches to do music on a Sunday afternoon. She's spent hours printing music and putting it in folders. We've had a few people off sick or away, so she's been doing more than her share on the roster. I joined in last week on trombone. Great fun, especially with some of the Golden Oldies we played!

I'll be seeing a lot of that trombone. Church this morning, concert this afternoon and regional contest next week. Then we'll probably get out the Christmas music.

Getting warmer now. Trees are turning green. Well, the European ones, anyway. The Bottle Brush is turning bright red.

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