Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Neil and Natalie in the church Christmas Pagaent - comments were made about what Joseph was getting up to with an angel!

Christmas 2004

Well, 3 days to go until Christmas - it's bound to be the most unusual one to date! We put our tree up at least a couple of weeks ago because we thought that would help get us in the mood! I even made mince pies which I've not got round to making in previous years. The strangest thing is that it doesn't get dark until 10pm so the Christmas lights & decorations don't really have their full impact. Still, one of the local estate agents organises a competition and even publishes a list of the entrants & a street map so people can visit each house & cast their votes! We've done much less shopping this year but it's nowhere near as hectic as the UK, especially Meadowhell (sorry, Meadowhall), which I wouldn't even attempt to visit in December. Apparantly they closed one of the shopping mall car parks last Saturday because it was so full but that's because there seems an unrealistically small number of car parking spaces - even if the population of New Zealand is not expected to reach 5 million until the year 2041!
They have lots of pre-Christmas sales too & stores staying open until midnight. One store, Briscoes ( a bit like Littlewoods), has these amazing sales of up to 30% off certain items (e.g. bed linen) for just one day, which you think is a huge bargain but a couple of days later they'll have a '50% off everything' sale! Today is the 'last' sale before Christmas but I'm sure they'll manage to squeeze another one in!

Anyway, what else have we been doing? The youth decided they wanted a fancy dress Christmas party - everyone had to come as something beginning with the letter 'c'. Some made more of an effort than others but the best had to be Kirsten as a chicken - including yellow fish net tights (that she just happened to have in her drawer because her house colour is yellow?!) and fairy wings covered in feathers! We had a barbecue and played games, including a scavenger hunt which involved collecting some manure! Lots of the kids live on 'Lifestyle blocks' which vary in size from 5 - 30 acres and they keep various animals so the pigs, alpacas and sheep at Jess & Emily's house made the manure not quite as random. What was funny was watching Neil chase sheep around the paddock trying to collect some of their wool!
Neil has also enjoyed near-superstar status as 'Joseph' in the church Christmas pageant. Christine, our vicar's wife, enjoys the dramatic and wrote a nativity set inside church and outside in church grounds. Acting is not Neil's favourite pastime but he did get to hold a real baby Jesus which made up for it. Natalie was an angel and had the challenging task of keeping 20 smaller angels occupied until the heavenly host appeared - watching 'Finding Nemo' worked a treat! Several newspapers were interested in the story so photos have appeared in several publications.

We've had numerous invitations to share the Christmas festivities with new friends which is lovely. The jury is still out as to whether it will be barbecue & beach weather or not. The last couple of weeks have been incredibly wet & cold; some snow fields, even on the North Island, were still open last week! People keep apologising to us saying they've never had a December like this but assuring us that January and February will be better - watch this space... Still, at least that aspect of New Zealand life is similar to England.

Anyway, we hope you have a Christmas full of peace and that your New Year overflows with blessing.
Lots and lots of love...

The stunning cinema in Rangiora - it used to be the town hall!

Mountains and sea at Kaikoura

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Another month has passed, and we are still here....

It has been a while since our last post (speaking of post, sorry if you recieved a christmas card at the beginning of November but we were told by NZ post that we had to send them by the end of October!) so we have a bit of catching up to do.
We visited the Christchurch Agricultural and Pastoral Show - similar to the Great Yorkshire Show. Each region of NZ has an anniversary day which is like another bank holiday and in Canterbury it is known as 'Show Weekend'. There were lots of stalls and displays; tractors, animals and rides. Natalie was impressed by the size of some of the animals, particularly the bull that only just fit into its stall. The prize winning rams looked like mutants and were the size of small cows. Another amusing sight were people smelling and stroking the sheared wool in order to determine the best one - they get rosettes and everything!
For lunch, we walked around the food tent, it had a variety of foods on offer from venison baguettes to mushroom sandwiches or whitebait pattties. In the afternoon, we watched a performance by five woodcutters demonstrating the many skills needed to cut and chop a tree. The show made use of old and new techniques, from handsaw, axes and chainsaws. The most impressive bit was a small chair - only 1 foot high - that was created from a log using only a chainsaw.

We though it was about time we checked out our local cinema here in Rangiora. There are multiplexes in Christchurch but the double screen cinema in the old Rangiora town hall is something rather special! Photograph to follow. The films showing that day are displayed on a chalkboard outside and when we went to see 'Wimbledon', we were the only people in there. The cinema has 80 red plastic foam covered seats which looks more like a big room in a house than the local cinema. We are not sure what would have happened if we had not gone, would the film have still been shown?

The biggest event of the last month is that Paddy Mallon came to stay! Paddy was our Baptist minister in Sheffield and he came to visit us as missionaries from 'the Order of Mission'. It was great to spend so much time with him and for us to be able to share some of NZ life with a friend. Paddy was here for a week. At the beginning of the week we visited Arthur's Pass and looked out over the valley where they are filming ' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. We also visited Christchurch and looked at some of the history and settling of this country. We were all amazed that when the first settlers arrived there was no mammals on the islands, only birds!
Over the weekend, Paddy did some teaching on Lifeshapes and preached at the Sunday services. For his last few days, we travelled north and visited Kaikoura and Hamner Springs.
The weather was changed from glorious sunshine to freezing, hailing wet weather on the day Paddy arrived, it did improve towards the end of the trip but it meant that an opportunity to go whale-watching off Kaikoura was cancelled.
In Hamner, we went mountain-biking for a couple of hours, although Natalie decided to try bungee-jumping with out a rope. I heard the fall and returned to find Natalie at the bottom of a 25 foot drop - the front tyre slipped of the narrow track and Natalie fell over the handlebars. Nothing broken, just a few scratches and bruises! She did get back on and carry on, which was very impressive! (Neil is writing this). The best remedy for this experience is a long bath, so we spent the evening soaking in the thermal pools!