T minus 3 
Bronwyn is finished. All her learning stories typed up and printed. Nearly lost one this afternoon - the file was on the USB drive and got corrupted. She wasn't happy. But fortunately it was in the old Word format, which meant I could open the thing in Notepad and found all the text at the top. She's spotted a mistake in another document, so once that's fixed she can get the lot couriered to Wellington.

The second carol concert at a different elderly home went reasonably well. Lost the guitars at one point because they had a different set of verses. Lost the trombone twice due to a sneeze. But otherwise, it all went smoothly. We can put the carol sheets away for next year.

Did some more work tidying the garden, and then off to the brass band Christmas dinner. The next Christmas dinner will be a more traditional English one. I've had enough barbecues and rice salad. I haven't seen any turkey yet.

Spent a while tidying the house. Our cleaning lady arrives early tomorrow. It would be good if she could actually reach the places she needs to clean.

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T minus 4 
OK, so it's already T minus 3, but I didn't get a chance yesterday!

Fortunately, it was an ideal day for washing. Got four loads done, throwing in some clothes to take on holiday. Spent an hour weeding the veggie garden, and then dug up more of the potatoes. This year we've done really well for vegetables for once, but we won't get the chance to eat them! So I've got 6kg of potatoes to put in the food parcels at church. There's at least another 8kg still underground, possibly ten, and plenty of carrots coming online later.

Spent another hour wrapping presents. Went to the family barbecue at 4pm. Of course, the barbecue wasn't due to start until much later, so I scoffed a few olives and set off for my next gig at 5pm. The band played carols in a primary school for a community Christmas, and most of the audience appeared to be parents of the performers! My trombone fell apart right at the end - the water key fell off. So I finished the last line with a clothes peg over the hole.

Back to the barbecue at 9pm. Masses of food left over. Bronwyn had saved two bowls full for me. Someone added three big slices of ham to the pile. Don't know if it's good to eat so much last thing at night! Had a small breakfast this morning...

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T minus 5 
Haven't started packing yet. Well OK, I've been putting a few things in the suitcase in case I forget. But nothing significant yet. Need to do a final washing load, tidy and vacuum the house and sort out the garden. For once, we've got lots of lettuce and sweetcorn growing well. And a bumper crop of potatoes. But we haven't got time to eat them!

Bronwyn has another 7 learning stories to write up, and then she's ready to post off all her documentation for teacher registration. She isn't working Monday and Tuesday, which is just as well because it's going to take a while!

Rach finished school on Wednesday lunchtime, and has been doing very little since. Sarah will be at school next week, since she officially finishes next Friday. But she's got permission to go early. Both want to take the enormous cuddly toys to England with them, but there won't be room for anything else...

Last week, a sign appeared near our driveway. It said MGCC CHECK, with a big N in the middle. There was an equally peculiar sign on the other side.

Early Sunday morning, there was a bloodcurdling yell from the direction of the road. Bronwyn leaps out of bed and runs out. Can't see anybody, except a group of cyclists.

Sunday night, I spot a car parked in the road, and a person taking the signs down again.

Guess it was just a race checkpoint. Wish they'd be a bit quieter when they went past it!

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T minus 8 
First of many Christmas dinners yesterday. This one was for the youth trust. Tomorrow is the men's group. Sunday is the brass band. There's another next Friday but I won't be around of course!

Had to drive into town yesterday because Rachael forgot to bring her Duke of Edinburgh's award book for the guitar teacher to sign off. Sarah's bus didn't show up due to the bridge round the corner being repaired. The bridge structure was fine, but there was a big hole in the road bed. They blocked traffic one way in order to fix it. Today, Rachael's bus didn't show up (well, not until 9:30, at least!) She was still there after I'd bought petrol and been in the supermarket. I passed Bronwyn on the way back, and managed to flag her down, so she took Rachael in instead.

Bronwyn worked late yesterday and today, trying to sort out the documentation for her teacher registration. Plus more work at home afterwards. Yesterday, it was Rachael that told Mum to go to bed. First time ever...

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T minus 10 
Think we might have a rat problem. There's signs of activity under the chicken coops again. Found a dead one on the kitchen floor. Bronwyn went for the tub of rat bait. It had a hole nibbled in the side, and only two bits left. Might need some more...

Our first carol gig at the elderly home went well, apart from Jingle Bell Rock, which some people had in C and others in G. Hopefully we can sort it for next week. We had the girl guides turn up, plus a number from church. Had quite a few good comments afterwards - sounds like they really enjoyed it!

Half finished the new nesting box. I worked until the chickens started coming back to roost. Not long after, Allan and Ross came round with a lawn mower. It's Claire's mower, and they haven't been able to find a place to store it while they've been sorting out their new house, so they're storing it at our house for a bit, and letting us use it. This is quite good, because our back lawn was beginning to turn into an impenetrable forest. Allan has been itching to mow it. Pity they can't get the baler in as well.

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