Christmas 
I wanted a second helping of Christmas pudding, but had nowhere to put it! We're just back from Bronwyn's mum and dad's for Christmas dinner. Bronwyn's mum is English, and still prefers the traditional roast turkey. At this time of year, most people go for a barbecue.

Went fishing on Thursday night with several people from work. It was supposed to continue until "dusk", but our Dave's definition of dusk is not the same as mine. He was convinced we'd found a good spot, so he kept going back and forth over it until we could hardly see anything. I got home at 1:15am, with a fair amount of snapper fillets. Still tired today!

I turned the server into a table. It needs some varnish, and I want to take the covers off the hard drives, but otherwise it's finished. Looks impressive. They want me to put blinking LEDs on the circuit board. Nick suggested I turn the processor heatsink into a coffee warmer. Giles wants the hard drives to spin slowly. Not sure how much is going to be feasible. They want me to turn an Uninterruptible Power Supply into a toaster now.

Bronwyn bought a fair sized paddling pool for the girls, and filled it up. It takes about 1500 litres of water, and the tank is suddenly looking a lot lower. I know this because I've put in a sophisticated measuring device on the tank. It's a length of clear plastic tube full of water. Now I can see the water level without needing to drag out the ladder. Meanwhile, both girls got sunburnt, and have had to stay indoors for several days.

Bronwyn built a Santa's Grotto out on the porch. Unfortunately the wind blew a lot of it down again. I went out yesterday and pinned it all up again, only this time with a hammer. Still up, so far. It looks really good in the dark. Pity there's not a lot of dark this time of year! Bronwyn's mum has commissioned me to make a snowman again. I think I still have the chicken wire from the last one...

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Rain 
It's been raining almost continually for about 36 hours. Just as the government declared several areas as drought stricken. Just as several of my friends phoned up for the water truck to refill their tank. Everything's now soggy. The tent threatened to collapse, and someone left the windows open, so we have several sleeping bags and sheets drying out inside. I wouldn't dare switch on the Christmas lights that Bronwyn strung outside right now.

Funny thing. We've never run out of water. We've not even got below one third full. I'm beginning to think there's something wrong with us. Maybe we don't wash our clothes often enough. Maybe we don't have enough baths. Maybe we have a big roof for collecting rain, but then both neighbours have huge houses, multiple tanks and still run out. No, I think we're just economical. At least nobody's complained about the smell yet.

The new band hall has apparently been placed on the foundations. Well, part of it. The roof will follow. I suspect the floor is going to be wet right now.

We've done all our parades and concerts; just a few carolling spots outside the supermarket. Which is just as well, because my trombone is falling to bits. It actually belongs to the band, so I've dug out my old trombone and I'll send the band's one in for repairs over Christmas. Somewhere in Te Atatu, along the course of the parade, is a tiny screw. If you see it, please let me know.

At work, we've been madly buying new servers. They're heavy things, with lots of sheet steel and heavy cables. I hope the floor can take it, because we've got quite a stack now. I've taken home an old broken one with the intention of turning it into a table, with a glass top so you can see all the components inside. Should look impressive, if I can do it properly.

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Drugs 
I spent another week feeling tired, uncomfortable and slightly feverish. I feel better today, but I'm still drugged up on prednisone and flucloxacillin. I don't think I'll try anything too strenuous just yet.

Bronwyn took us to her old friend for a birthday party - he's 40! It was way down in Pukekohe at the far south of the Auckland region. ON the way back Bronwyn started hunting for her handbag. Rachael admitted leaving it in the house! So we've arranged a pickup - Bronwyn's friend's boss will take it home to north Auckland tomorrow night, and we can pick it up from there.

Except that I'm out tomorrow evening, and technically Bronwyn can't drive without her licence on her. So we'll have to sort out a compromise somewhere!

The farm had the shearer in today. He managed all but 40 sheep, so he'll have to come back at some point. I asked Bronwyn's dad how many he had. "Too many!" he said! He's planning to sell a few lambs and some of the older sheep. We're in danger of running out of grass because it hasn't rained for a while. There's quite a strong La Nina on the pacific. It's brought severe flooding in Australia for some reason. We've got the middle of a huge anti cyclone; they've got the edge. But the climate can shift so things might be different in a couple of months.

Spent the afternoon at Alberton House today. It's the house of Bronwyn's great great grandfather, a grand old mansion with numerous rooms and some impressive trees outside. It only ever had one generation of children - his four surviving daughter never married (nobody was good enough) so they lived there until they died. Hence it was preserved largely as it stood. We had a family gathering, and they showed a video they had been making of the house, and then got us to take part in another scene. Rachael got filmed climbing a tree, and Sarah developed the technique of sliding down a grassy slope head first. They both love the old place.

Meanwhile, the old band room has gone, and the new one will arrive in about 10 days. I went to have a look. They've levelled and tilled the ground so neatly you could plant flowers in it.

Now I'm feeling better I guess I need to start doing Christmas cards, tidying the house, finishing off Sigrid's room and generally catching up. Hmm. Feeling tired already...

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Don't feel well 
I've been ill for the past week, and rather out of it. Possibly the change of weather - it's quite warm and humid now. Not a lot of rain at all.

Rachael has had two friends to stay overnight in the tent. I've no idea how much sleep they got, but Bronwyn had to shout at them at about 1:30am. I hope Rachael can sleep tonight, because she probably needs it! Meanwhile Ashwin the goat has been enjoying the hay paddock after getting through the fence again. We'll shift him later in the week. We've also got a couple of sheep that know no boundaries.

Three Christmas parades so far. Not sure how I've managed it. But it was fun. We were approached by a Chinese man who wanted us to play Silent Night, so we did. Then he wanted How Great Thou Art, but unfortunately that's not in the carol books...

Sarah came first in one of the races at school, so she got the Big Red Plate for dinner. She's better at athletics than Rachael (although Rach loves to beat her up the drive) although she's still struggling to learn basic words, so we've been trying to teach her as much as we can.

Ah well. It's quiet. Best to enjoy the peace after the chaos of four girls attempting to get themselves, the garden and the house thoroughly wet, plus the treasure hunt and the screams on finding a spider in the tent. Peace at last.

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A great weekend 
It was the church camp this weekend, and also Bronwyn's parents' 40th anniversary. (November and December have a habit of getting double booked! Both went off really well.

The camp was on the topic of Community, and we had some excellent talks from our speaker Merrilyn, who, amongst many other things, had us sticking stars and smilies on anyone we wanted to encourage. We had a number of activities, one of which involved raw eggs, and we also did a Secret Santa, where we all had to pick out someone's name from a bucket and do something nice for them without them realising who it was. A fantastic time of great fellowship, but we're all shattered!

The anniversary on Saturday afternoon was next door at Claire's mansion. Plenty of food, old photos, speeches and a number of mementos including a book that Bronwyn compiled from all of their old friends in England and New Zealand. Bronwyn also brought out her Bubble Machine, which kept the girls (and Claire's little boy Cooper) occupied.

It's been warm and dry all week, apart from a couple of showers. Looks like the big anti-cyclone is going to shift next week. Must move the tent. The grass hasn't seen daylight for three weeks...

It's all go with the brass band hall. Our last rehearsal is next week, then it's moving the week after. We'll be in a temporary hall nearby for a bit.

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