Friday, March 30, 2007

Time flies when you're having fun...

We've been here a month now and have already had a weekend away with friends. About thirty of us took over a 5 star bunk house in the Brecon Beacons in south Wales - a very beautiful place and it greatly helped in my withdrawal from the Christchurch Port Hills.

It wasn't exactly restful as there were lots of children around but it was great fun. One morning we went for a walk up a very steep hill. It was very exhiliarating but rather chilly (it snowed over the weekend!) and Matthew desperately wanted to be back in bed; even though he was on his dad's shoulders, one of his favourite places, he still had a "I am not amused look!".

So Neil took him back - good job too as there's no way we could have carried him as we scrambled up the cliff faces!
Last weekend we went to a mop fair in Chipping Sodbury (great names). No idea why it's called a mop fair; it's just lots of fairground stalls and rides, some of which looked very thrilling but as their was no one to look after Matthew and we didn't fancy going on alone, we declined on this occasion. Though Neil did enjoy the bumper cars with Sam and I took Matthew on a little train (Youttube vid to come when Neil's back from Denmark and tell me how to load it!).

Spring has truly arrived (except for today when it's been freezing and wet!) and we've had lots of fun in the garden, it was even warm enough for the kids to eat tea outside. This photo is of Ella, Matthew, Adam and Sam - Ella is Sam's school friend and loves carrying Matthew around; we don't think Matthew likes it quite as much!

Monday, March 26, 2007


We flew from Melbourne to Dubai (dreadful airport if you have a baby) and then onto Manchester and Matthew did really well; we got quite a lot of sleep on the first flight but the second was more tricky as there were 4 babies in a row and they set each other off. I really don't mind the long haul flights but it was nice to know we wouldn't be repeating it in a month's time.
Matthew enjoyed the free reign to crawl in Melbourne and made his way through the tunnel created by the rows of chairs - so many of our pictures of him are of his behind because he's so fast he's gone past before you can take it!

Now was the time for the most exciting/nerve wracking part of our journey and the culmination of a month's scheming (but not lying, which is good!); to completely surprise Neil's mum and dad with our arrival!!! The Shepherd parents are very good at surprises and secrets and we thought there would not be a better opportunity than this to show them how well they have taught their children the necessary skills! And this was the main reason that we've not blogged as we didn't want to give anything away - I even stopped speaking to my in-laws on the phone in case I put my foot in it (my track record of keeping surprises is not good! I think it's good because it means I can't lie!). I really hoped we could pull it off but not at the expense of their health, hence being rather nervous. Due to Alastair and Helen being away (a brilliant and legitimate excuse for the grandparents to babysit) we were met at Manchester by a kind neighbour who was only too happy to take us to Liverpool and have a role in the plot!
When we arrived Tom went to the door and asked Sylvia to come out and look at her car - and there we were! She was totally shocked and surprised but in a nice way (I think!).
Ken had not been able to get to Liverpool until later in the evening so we had the opportunity to do the whole thing again. We were feeling incredibally tired and almost had to go to bed but the reminder of the lunar eclipse made us rush outside and the cold night air woke us up enough to keep us awake until Ken's arrival.

So we had a few days in Liverpool catching up with the Shepherd side of the family (as well as a brief visit to Sheffield to see Susie and meet the very cute Oliver!)and then we headed to Bristol. We're staying with Andy, Debs, Sam and Adam Woods in a very cute village called Pucklechurch where King Edmund lived (and was murdered!) in AD946! The house is just over the road from a very small 'village green' and there are enough old, stone buildings even to satisfy me!

Two days after our arrival we came down with a tummy bug which we managed to pass around to others quite effectively too - it takes friendship and community to a new level! And within four days Neil had been offered a full time maths job in Bristol to start after Easter - completely the opposite scenario to NZ!
We're enjoying getting to know the area and Matthew absolutely loves having big boys to play with/chase/laugh at! It's great to be catching up with the Calladine family and making new friends too.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


We didn't think it right to have not visited Australia before we returned home, and we really wanted to catch up with Matt and Jo Parkins so we descended upon them, in Geelong (about an hour from Melbourne), for a week. It was really lovely to catch up and a delight to meet the gorgeous Scarlett Cate.

We had a really restful week (apart from an altercation with a white-tailed spider which put me on heightened alert for the rest of our holiday!) and I fulfilled my desire to see koalas & kangaroos and to sample the vibe of Melbourne - not too hard to please really!
We saw the Australian animals at a small sanctuary and happened to be there just at the right time so we got to stroke a koala!

We also tried to see them in the wild at a local reserve but there was some confusion about entry times etc so we only managed to experience the Aussie bush with it's flies and parrots and a passing wallaby.

We visited a working museum in Ballarat, the largest inland city in Australia. It was the region of a huge gold rush in the 1850s so you can go down a mine, visit shops and schools as they would have been, go bowling (nine pin?) and pan for gold which I was the most successful at and the amount I recovered will lead to millionaire status I'm sure!

We went to Melbourne for a day; walked through parks, had lunch at an amazing food court along the South bank, found a cute little alley/lane with coffee shops and generally enjoyed being in a big city.

In the evening we went to Tim and Catherine's (new friends we met earlier in the week who are in TOM - Catherine and I gelled over shopping and chocolate and Neil and Tim played golf so that was that!) for a lovely meal and then, apart from a brief visit to the beach on the Friday morning, that was our holiday over.

In Transit

Having left Rangiora we moved into Christchurch to stay with the lovely Emma and Dan Andrews. We had lunch with E & D and Andrew & Christine and then there was one more goodbye to make; we called in to see our friend, Carolyn, who had been in the nearby hospice for a few weeks. It was very hard to say goodbye not knowing if we would see her again this side of heaven. Carolyn did lose her brave battle with cancer a few days after we left New Zealand and I want to give tribute to an inspiring lady who it was a priviledge to have known.

The last four days in New Zealand we spent as tourists. My parents came to visit as part of a big 5-week holiday and it really was bad timing that we had to leave when we did. Still, we had managed to extend our visa until the end of the first half of their trip so we got to hang out and drive them round some of our favourite places including the botanical gardens, our favourite cafe, The Blue Rooster, in Rangiora and the stunning Akaroa (where Matthew ate his first chip!).

The weather was really good which was a treat considering the previous week had been very grey and all my attempts to drive out to see the mountains had been thwarted! Lis bought Matthew a sun hat as he'd thrown his previous one out of the buggy when we weren't looking! The new one only stayed on when he was preoccupied with more fun things like swinging. The good weather meant we could also have time on the beach and Matthew really enjoyed chasing the seagulls seen as now he can crawl really rather fast!

We had a couple of chilled evenings in with Emma and Dan, enjoying bbqs and wine in their back garden (and being enjoyed by the mosquitoes!) and then it was time to leave. Very bizarre to think that we wouldn't be sharing everyday life with them and I still haven't got my head round that - missing you heaps guys 'cos, although Skype is great, it's not the same. Thought we'd have pictures of Matthew with his favourite surrogate Aunt and Uncle but can't find any of Emma, will post when they arrive off the ocean!

Emma took us to the airport and it was a great relief when our worldy goods (minus the 11 boxes) in 3 suitcases was not over the weight limit and the airline took Matthew's buggy and car seat no questions asked. So off we set, not to travel half way the round the world just yet, but to Australia for a little holiday!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Moving On

So most of January was spent hanging out with youth, organising and running family services and having a big clear out of our offices so we could leave Rangiora with resources in some sense of order. We said goodbye to our very good and faithful friends, the Trotter family, who moved to Wellington but for most of our other friends things were less final as we thought we'd only be down the road! This photo is of our wonderful small group - the Fisher family and Joe! - who we will miss heaps.

The church held a relaxed leaving do for us which involved various desserts (always good) and many people had lovely things to say about our time with them. Dessert featured highly in our goodbyes because we also went with our youth small group to 'Strawberry Fayre' for their infamous chocolate (had to be) dessert - a visit we had been planning for a long time. Sam brought along his sombrero and, as cool a role model as he is, I think it will be a while before Matthew can fill his shoes/hat!

Having found out that we were going to be moving back to the UK, packing took on a whole new dimension. We needed to work out what items we wanted to ship back (11 boxes instead of the 9 we came with which I think is pretty good considering we've had a baby!), return borrowed items to their owners and then sell everything else! So we had a garage sale! They are very popular in NZ and a little like a car boot sale though run from your own garage so the scope of things to sell is much larger. I'd been to a couple when we first arrived and couldn't believe some of the junk that people tried to sell - items that I wouldn't even give away! But my friend, Anna, often finds bargains so i think you've just got to know how to look.
I was slightly nervous as I'd heard that people turn up really early, regardless of the advertised start time and that some can be quite mean with bargaining - something I'm not very good at. But our friends Jacqui and Paul sold some of their stuff too and we had a laugh. Our garage was full of tables of clothes, CDs, books, tupperware, crockery, baby things, beds, chest freezer, chairs etc but it soon went and we were packed up by 1pm with only a couple of boxes of things left to take to a charity shop and having made a tidy profit! The Hurleys also sold some of our newer and more expensive items on Trade-Me for us which was such a blessing as we had no idea what we were doing and they are excellent consultants!

So all that was done in under 3 weeks! On the 17th February we left a very empty house, called in on friends to say some hard, final goodbyes (reality beginning to sink in at this point) and waved farewell to Rangiora.

Bringing you up to speed

Well, nearly everything has changed in the life of the Shepherds over the last couple of months so I've got some catching up to do!
If you want it in a nutshell, we've left New Zealand and are now living back in the UK, in Bristol! You can now skip the next couple of paragraphs and jump to the pictures!

If you'd like a few more details, here goes. In November last year we decided that it was time to leave our jobs in Rangiora as God was calling us to move on to explore new expressions of church. It was hard decision to make as we had made some amazing friends and there was much we were looking forward to seeing happen. Initially we thought we'd move into Christchurch, that Neil would work as a maths teacher and we'd work some things out with a church there. However, by mid-January we were beginning to realise that maths teachers were not as scarce in Canterbury as we'd been led to believe and that, with our job ending at the end of that month, our visas would have expired and we'd have to leave the country very soon! We looked at a few options but our 'fleece' was that if Neil didn't get a job in the next 10 days we'd take that as it being time to return to the UK. We'd previously considered moving to Bristol to work out life and emerging church with some good friends there so that was the obvious place to head for.
So, with no job, we booked flights, packed boxes, sold nearly everything else and three weeks later left New Zealand. After a week in Geelong (not Melbourne!), Australia, we arrived in Manchester and we're now getting settled into life in Bristol - still excited about exploring new expressions of church with some awesome people it's just the context, city and country have changed!

So that brings you up to date! More of the in between stories and photos to follow!