Thursday, December 29, 2005

Absolutely loving it!!!

Neil in the biscuit - doesn't the setting look idyllic?

Christmas Day jaunt in Hagley Park

From left; Jen, Fran, Emma (looking most attractive!), Dan, Natalie, Matt & Jo having devoured a lot of food!

The llamas and wise men.

The Loburn nativity including the traditional golden labrador!

Upside Down Christmas

A belated Merry Christmas! For us it's been quite hectic but very good fun and in some ways more 'upside down' than last year.
As well as the decorations & shopping that always start well before December, working for a church means that the planning & celebration of Christmas also seems to come early. So much so that, for us, it was all finished by the end of Christmas Eve! The first nativity was organised by one of the smaller churches and set in a very rural location complete with Mary riding a real donkey and llamas substituting for camels to bring the wise men and their gifts to Jesus!
The pageant this year told about the birth of Jesus from the perspective of the angels in heaven preparing to bring the announcement to earth; a kind of Sister Act idea with a group of angels who can't sing at the start but become a heavenly choir by the end. We needed alot more practise to be a heavenly choir - that's about all I can say!

Though Christmas here is very different ('Upside Down Christmas' is a modern-day carol written about the beach & sun of Christmas in the southern hemisphere; it's a little bizarre but at least there has been a realisation that singing 'In the bleak midwinter' is totally inappropriate!) it was also quite strange in the Shepherd family back in the UK as the focus was the arrival of our first niece - Emma Lucy - on December 23rd. Welcome to the world, Emma! Very exciting but odd being so far away for such a significant event.

Christmas day started as semi-traditional for the eight of us gathered in Emma & Dan's flat; the rain poured down (but it wasn't cold) as we wrestled with a huge turkey and all the trimmings (though minus the sprouts, much to our dismay!), listened to carols from Kings (a replay downloaded from the Internet) and even watched the Queen's speech (@ 7 not 3pm)! The sun did come out in the afternoon, though, and we wandered to Hagley Park where the lads played off their dinner with football and the girls just wandered. It was a lovely day spent with friends and left us contemplating our 'traditions' of Christmas from years gone by and how (or should?) they change in such a different context. Answers on a postcard...

Boxing Day was much more Kiwi! Having finished Christmas I was definitely ready for summer to start with a vengeance - and it did. We went out for the day with our friends, the Trotter family, who have a boat (lots of Kiwis have boats - it's not the same as the UK). They took us to a couple of lakes in the mountains (one was way too windy to lauch a boat but a good spot for a picnic) where the the kids and Neil had great fun as they took turns in the biscuit/donut; sitting in an inflatable ring with a solid bottom which is pulled behind the boat. Ed's driving was quite sedate for Josh (8) and Ben (6) but he had some fun with Neil who bounced all over the place and did eventually end up thrown out and in the water. Jen was a little concerned but I knew he'd have loved it and it was a while before the grin left his face!

The rest of the week has been pretty chilled, though with steady preparation for Summer Wine - the camp we're at next week where we're leading the work with the 11-13 year olds.
I think the sun is here to stay for the time being. We were pining the English chill but now Christmas is over I'm ready for my summer holiday!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another picture of Baby Shepherd!

Baby Shepherd!

Looking towards the lighthouse and out to the inlet where you can spot or swim with dolphins.

The sea front just down from our b&b

Stunning Akaroa

Competitive father & son on the Gondola luge - I'm sure Neil would like it pointing out that he's winning!

Us on our 6th wedding anniversary in front of Lady Knox geyser.

Neil, Sylvia & Ken at top of Queenstown gondola.

Neil on Moeraki Boulders on east coast of South island


Finally got some pictures of the last few months so I'll post them altogether & you can work it out!
Clearly the most exciting picture is the first of Baby Shepherd @ 18 weeks and all functionng well with everything in the correct place - praise the Lord! Also we have both felt it moving around this week - another step towards this feeling 'real'.
My sister, Katy, and her friend stayed for 5 days last week which was lovely. They were pretty travelled out so it's a good job the weather was lousy otherwise I'd have dragged them off to mountains (where they filmed Lion, With & Wardrobe - which we saw this week & thought was great & really bought the book alive though not sure Aslan can ever truly be captured as intended...) or beaches. But really they just needed to chill - they've seen NZ for 5 weeks anyway!
Christmas tree now up and we're coaching ourselves into the festive spirit with candles, cheesy Christmas music & watching Love Actually! It's not that we don't want to be Christmassy it's just a little harder when it's warm & muggy (though still have the grey skies & cloud so that's familiar!) & not dark until 10pm. Plans afoot now for Christmas dinner trying avoid a bbq 'til Boxing Day if we possibly can.
Today it's Matt's birthday so we're out to play tonight - but only after Emma & I have practised being angels for the pageant (I know, why would we need to practise...). You may remember Neil's starring role as Joseph last year? Well this year he has firmly declined - I'm sure it's that he doesn't want to steal the limelight again!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Fish 'n' chips!

Last weekend we went away to Akaroa for a night & really can't believe we haven't made it there before. We had heard that the drive was very 'wiggly' (perhaps not how it was described!) and it took ages to get there but it only took just under two hours and the drive was one of the best bits! There's no point in my describing the vistas - I'll have to get photos on the blog (I'd just like to say there's a lack of pictures because we don't have a USB port on the pc @ home so can't take them straight from the camera & the software on the computer @ work doesn't yet allow me to put pics on blog, proabaly v. easy to rectify, just haven't done it yet!) - but the water is just an awesome colour & the little harbours delightful. We had a great meal out & then stayed in a b&b with very friendly hosts who, it turned out had lived in Rangiora & worked as dairy farmers with people from church 25 years previously so they wanted an update on developments in and around the place - this place really is a small world.
We then did a walk up a very steep hill which took rather more out of me than expected (I was careful though!) so had to refuel with possibly the best fish and chips I've ever had! Neil used to go to Whitby from Hartlepool for fish'n' chips as a kid nad has decided that this could now take it's place (not that fish anywhere in NZ is poor - as Emma says, it really tastes like fish!).

The sad news of the week is that my step-Nanna died back in Swansea. It's very strange being so far away when things like this happen in your family, though I'm grateful because God has made us really aware of His care when we can't be there (like prompting people to pray even though they don't know of anything going on). It's harder for my step-sister, Katy, who is travelling at the moment here in NZ but she's coming to stay at the end of this week so we can catch up then & share stories & memories together.

Still no sign of the long, hot summer promised - well, not here in Canterbury, the 'land of the endless blue skies' anyway! The rest of the country looks like it's getting a better deal so we'll wait patiently...