To get you in the mood - this car suddenly appeared driving around the hospital - there was no accompanying collection, only the blaring out of the Christmas song 'Feliz Navidad' which I can't stop singing now, with the female driver in a santa outfit just waving at anyone and everyone....
Christmas is strange in NZ as it is combined with the long school break and the main summer holiday. Most people 'decamp' from their town or city and go away, whether it be to a bach by a lake, or the beach, or a campsite. Once there they just chill out, or enjoy themselves swimming, fishing, tramping, or partaking in one of the many adventure activities NZ is famed for. We will be going to the Cabbage Tree Restaurant for a buffet lunch followed - we hope - by a visit to Oreti Beach with a bottle of NZ sparkling and some NZ smoked salmon to enjoy later, at the end of the afternoon. It would be nice to stay till sunset but, as that will be around 10.30, I don't think we will bother. In the paper everyday is a photo of a child in a santa hat with the number of 'sleeps' before Christmas. You also hear this on the TV and radio and in many adverts. How exciting, only 3 sleeps to go now!
The New Zealanders still celebrate in a very traditional British/European way - with Santa, the pine Christmas Tree (even though they have their own tree which flowers at Christmas).
Invercargill has its Christmas decorations up in it's two main streets (Dee & Tay) and a couple of weeks ago had it's Santa Parade.
I was determined to wear my shorts. We decided to walk to the centre. When we left the temperature was 24 but a mere 2 hours later on the way back the temperature was only 13!
The Parade raised money for Riding for the Disabled charity and, although not up to NY Macey's standard, was great fun.
As always, Toothy Tim turned up with a big smile on his face.
We have also had a Christmas Tree Festival at the Southland Stadium with over 30 trees
entered by various organisations such as Southern Steels Netball Team, the local council, radio stations etc.
Here are a couple of our favourites. There is no entry charge but you vote for your favourite with a 'gold coin donation' which goes to the charity. Next in our build up to Christmas was the Invercargill Christmas Variety Show, also held at the Stadium and a sell out. With a mix of amateurs, professionals and children performing it was certainly entertaining. Some of the performers had little hope of making it big time, while others had tremendous voices. Guess who was there? Yes, Toothy Tim again, who gave a brief speech with a very funny anecdote to promote his message of 'let's make next year the year of being nice to each other' which is not a bad message. Once again he smiled and sprayed his way through the speech and reminded me even more of Sir Les. The build up is not yet over - tonight we have Carols by Candlelight in Queens Park - this starts at 7.30 so I don't think the candles will have much chance, as it won't be dark enough for them to twinkle until 10.15 at the earliest. Then tomorrow is the Twilight Christmas Farmer's Market - at 4.30, not quite twilight but it is Christmas! There is even a competition for the best lit house in the area - just like Lower Morden Lane, but more scattered.
Shopping is not the awful experience it is in the UK - we did ours this morning (Monday) with no trouble parking, no fighting to get to the counters and no queueing at the tills. Admittedly we only had a couple of gifts to buy, plus each other's few token presents, but even so.......
Well, time to say goodbye and get off to the Candlelight Carols and let you get on with your Christmas preparations.
Here is a little motto we found in the Glow-worm caves in Te Anau. Hope it helps brighten up your recession-laden days. Also a couple of videos which will hopefully bring a smile to your face. Orlando is a rescued Little Blue Penguin who has a neurological problem (as you will see) and has physio 3 times a day and is improving, believe it or not!! So Happy Christmas everyone - enjoy yourselves and we will be thinking of you.