We have left the shores of Australia and have made our way to New Zealand! Kia Ora!

On our last day in Queensland the boys decided to fill their time sensibly. How, I hear you ask? A trip to the Great Barrier Reef? Crocodile Tour? A BBQ? No, they opted for the more traditional past time of seeing what objects they could throw into the ceiling fan for best effect, and then rated it in terms of potential injury, distance travelled… you get the idea.

They were apoplectic with laughter as they hurled sponges, pants, a bouncy ball, etc into the whizzing blades and then watched as it fired off and hit the wall, the furniture, or, for the most points and biggest laughs, each other or me. I give up.

A few years ago, The Major decided to invest in a set of luggage, we were beyond embarrassed at pitching up at places holding tatty bags for life crammed with our possessions! He invested in a set of cases that proudly display the union flag on one side.  This is fine if you are on a hen weekend in Majorca, but going through Australian airports when you’ve lost the cricket? Not such a good idea.

These cases cost fifty quid… for 8! So, as you can guess, they are not fab quality. On their first outing some of my wheels fell off (no comments please!) and now its part of our travelling ritual to see who can get through each trip without losing all their wheels! I am down to one, The Major has two and the boys are fairly intact (suitcase wise, mentally and physically I can’t vouch).  We ‘accidentally’ went to the wrong terminal when we left Australia (we don’t apportion blame in our house but if we did it was HIS fault). We then had to drag our bags in the blistering midday sun on a 20 minute jaunt – how I laughed, navigating croc filled swamps whilst dragging all I own in the world in my crappy suitcase! We lost of 3 wheels between us, a sad day indeed.

All good humour was restored when we boarded our Air New Zealand flight and watched the safety video in the style of the Hobbit, with an appearance from Peter Jackson - it was brilliant! And the first one I’ve ever seen that held everyone’s attention.

I have been working in Auckland and meeting with my publishers, Harper Collins, who are really great.  They have some good ideas for next year and my books here in New Zealand – watch this space.

We headed out of Auckland in our hire car and I had one of the best days. One of those days where you know you are making good memories, and laughing a lot. The funniest moment was after navigating the city and driving for an hour, I remembered that I had left a large proportion of our clothes in the tumble dryer of our hotel – MY fault! So we did a U-turn and went all the way back again… ha!

We were soon on our way again, and I felt quite tearful, reminding myself of how much I’d missed the boys when I was in Bermuda. To chat in the car, argue over music, laugh at a cow that was perched on top of a little mound as if to say,  ‘I am Queen of the hill!’ and stop at a mountain top café for good coffee and bacon sarnies, was absolute bliss. The road wound away and the views became more spectacular, very much like North Wales or the Highlands.

We are now in Northlands, staying on the Tutukaka coast, which is home of the Maori Ngatiwai Tribe, and the whole area is simply stunning. Incredible beaches, like Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay, fringed with dense forest that looks quite European until you see the smattering of palm trees and tropical fronds peppering the growth, reminding you that this is a sub-tropical environment. It’s beautiful and Kiwis are awesome. Warm, friendly and like a good natter – I feel very at home.

The boys are always very excited when they travel in a lift. I know, I know, they don’t get out much.  One of their more irritating games is to see who can press the most buttons so we stop on EVERY floor – it drive me nuts. Yesterday they pushed me out of the lift (this is quite a common occurrence) on floor 3. I raced to the ground floor, only to find a very large Samoan man waiting for the lift, he was huge! We chatted, I smiled, he smiled, but I smiled more as I knew what was about to happen. Sure enough, the lift doors opened and my boys expecting to find me shouting and finger waving, half mooned and pulled faces. Only it wasn’t me that got the brunt of their antics, but my statuesque Samoan friend. They looked up and were literally rooted to the spot.  Serves them right!

The boys are diving today at the sacred Poor Knights Islands. I am having a day alone, writing my latest novel Heaven and Back and am totally loving it.

It’s a good job that Tutukaka has so much to hold everyone’s interest, as sadly, there are no ceiling fans here.

We are exploring for a few days, so much to see and then we hit the Bay of Islands, where we shall spend Christmas. We have a house on the water and will fish off a deck and cook what we catch. Hope it’s not a boot and a shopping trolley, might need more coal! I miss my family. I miss my friends.

I want wish you a very Merry Christmas. May you have rest and joy. I also wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for all of your support and good wishes. A Little Love has already got some incredible reviews for which I am very, very grateful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sending you love and luck from New Zealand.

Happy Christmas.

Mandy xx