It had been four years since we'd been back to New Zealand so December 2013 was designated the time to go. Christmas holidays aren't ideal - in the UK the schools are only shut for 2 weeks (vs 6 or so in New Zealand) and we didn't want to spend £5,800 on flights for a two week stint. In the end we went for 3 weeks and got fined for taking the girls out of school for the extra time. The fine was £120 per child but in my view, that last week of school is spent cleaning up the classroom and watching DVDs, so the benefit from seeing friends and family and experiencing a new culture is worth the grief.
It's also a lot cheaper to pay the fine than amend the flights. In hindsight I wish we'd played the health card (as one of the grandparents had suffered a heart attack earlier this year) as a friend did this with her kids who were out for an entire month an didn't get fined (our kids go to different schools, but are run by the same council which is the body that issues the fines).
I'd grown up in Christchurch which was unrecognisable after the massive earthquake of 2011. It was quite disorientating being in the centre of town and not seeing the skyline I was used to. Almost three years on and the place still looked empty and desolate. There were empty lots & carparks where huge buildings used to be, and scaffolding and boarded up windows everywhere. I can't say I was ever affectionate for this town but I felt emotional walking around it.
Christmas day was spent picnicking next to this river and the girls and their cousins braved the cold water to swim in here. Quite a contrast from our UK Christmases.
Here we are with Rob's parents and his brother's family. Gwen wasn't very happy about having to sit on Opa's knee so this photo will haunt her forever.
At least she enjoyed sitting on her Poppa's knee (below). And hanging with a variety of small animals on his farm, which is called Mini Haven as most of the animals are miniature or teeny.
Meanwhile back in London, our house sitters emailed to say that alas, the temporary fix on the glass roof hadn't worked as there were some new leaks in the house. Joy.