Okay, there's a reason that the blog was a bit sparse leading into December and so far this year. We were planning, and executing, a major family holiday to the UK, and didn't want to splash it around digital media that we were away. I had no mental space for anything but finishing up work before Christmas and finalising arrangements for us being away: packing, booking stuff, sorting out keys for house-sitters etc, so the blog suffered a little!
We left Rotorua on Christmas Eve, driving up to Auckland, where we stayed with hubby's parents in the place they were house-sitting. We had a family Christmas with his family and my sister-in-law's family, which was very chilled out - barbeque and salad for Christmas is pretty much perfect here. Hubby, daughter and I went to Holy Trinity Cathedral for the Christmas Day sung eucharist, which was very special as it was the 200th anniversary, to the day, of the arrival of Christianity to New Zealand, when Samuel Marsden accepted an invitation from the Bay of Islands chiefs to preach to them in Oihi Bay. And for the cynics amongst us, Marsden spoke fairly good Maori and was good friends with a couple of chiefs who already spoke good English, so yes the message would have got across! It was special being in our northenmost cathedral for that day - had we not been going to the UK we would have gone up to Oihi Bay to be part of the celebrations. It was also very special to spend Christmas at Holy Trinity, as one of my old friends is the Dean there and it was lovely to see her and to launch our pilgrimage there.
We flew out on Boxing Day in blazing summer sunshine, travelling via Sydney, Abu Dhabi, and finally into Manchester. The journey was long, with very minimal breaks between flights, and I had to keep track of three passports, 9 boarding passes (3 each), four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a pukeko in a ponga tree.... We figured it out that we spent 27 hours in the air and about 36 hours in transit gate to gate, and somehow we landed on the day after we left. Don't anyone try to explain that to me - as far as I am concerned it's all witchcraft!
However, the "day after we left" was somewhat different to the day we left. It was about 27degC when we left Auckland; Manchester was about -1degC with around 12-15cm of snow on the ground. Yes, snow. And 2-3cm of compacted ice on the roads, most of which hadn't been swept because the snow had only just stopped falling. Once we had collected our rental car (a Peugeot 208 - very nice to drive!), we discovered that the feral GPS wanted to take us to Sheffield over the Peak District, and the road was closed. So we had to find an alternative and the GPS wouldn't co-operate - we navigated nearly blind in the snow and took the long route from Manchester, up towards Leeds on the M67, and then down the M1 (once we found it) - the M1 was a little startling as the usual 3 lanes were reduced to around two-ish (because they'd only swept and salted some of it).
It was a slow trip to Sheffield, and when we got there, Feral GPS took us up a steepish lane that had not been swept and had about 5cm of compacted ice on it - by the time we discovered how steep it was, we couldn't turn around. The traction control on the Peugeot was working overtime, and we needed a push up some of it... And then we had to dig out hubby's grandma's driveway of about 20-25cm of fresh snow so we could park the car.
So a bit of an eventful start to the trip. Gosh it was cold!! And it was dark when we landed at just after 7am - the sun didn't rise until 8ish, and it was dark by 4pm. It felt weird that the sun at 9am in New Zealand is higher in the sky than at any time during any of the English days!
More to come on the trip later....