While I’m uploading photos…

I haven’t done a lot of embroidery lately (after the marathon effort getting the wedding sampler done), but I did make up this Christmas decoration from a kit a week or so ago:

Hard to tell from the photo, but it’s almost all done with beads, and just a few small areas of plain cross-stitch.

Dunedin

I’ve had a busy few days (and am now paying for it with a nasty head-cold). On Thursday lytteltonwitch and I went to see Dramasoc‘s production of The Tempest, starring ORNOT as Prospero (he was very good, as usual (though I think he had a cold), and for a change most of the rest of the cast were good enough not to look bad compared to him, so it was a very enjoyable production – the best I’ve seen from Dramasoc in a long time). We went out for dinner beforehand (at La Porchetta again – it’s cheap, quick, and not far from the University), and I actually remembered to bring along The Cat Who Brought Down the House, which I’d promised to lytteltonwitch. Back home afterwards, and did some frantic packing, because the next night lytteltonwitch and awhina would be picking me up straight after work for our Dunedin expedition.

As it turned out, traffic was so bad (rugby game on, apparently) that it was after 6 on Friday evening when they eventually got to my place, but we quickly piled my bags (one small bag of clothes, one very large bag of books, of course!) into the car and we set off on the road south. A quick stop at Ashburton for some food (well, McDonalds – I suppose that’s technically food), and to release a book (Far From Heaven by Greg Matthews), then back on the road again, making pretty quick time until we got to Palmerston, where we were slowed down by thick fog that lasted until the top of the Kilmog, so that it was well past 11 when we finally reached boreal‘s house. We dropped off lyttletonwitch and awhina’s bags (and awhina, who decided to head straight to bed), and headed into town with boreal and Mr boreal for the real purpose of the visit: the Regent 24-Hour Booksale. We stopped first at the Next Stop Backpackers’, where TopKat was waiting for me – I picked up a key, dropped off my bags, and then it was across the street (ok, across a couple of streets, but it wasn’t very far, anyway) to the Regent and the sale.

For those who haven’t heard of this fabulous annual event, it’s a booksale run by the Regent Theatre (a lovely old theatre in the heart of Dunedin), with proceeds going towards the upkeep of the theatre. All the books are donated, and most are sold for 50c each (there’s a few tables of “special” books which are a bit more expensive), and apparently many of the books sold each year are donated back to the sale the following year – most people seem to treat the 50c as a year’s rental on the book rather than a purchase price. The sale starts at noon on the Friday, and runs for 24 hours right through the night, finishing at noon on Saturday. It’s a huge event, with live music all night, and an amazing atmosphere. We got there just before midnight, and it was incredibly crowded, with more people still streaming in the doors. Great fun! I only found myself about a dozen books I wanted on that first visit, but knew we’d be back the next morning for another look, so wasn’t too disheartened (and no worries about all the best books being gone, because they keep topping up the tables all night – every time the books start to thin out somewhere, one of the volunteers comes out of the storeroom with another carton of books to replenish the stock (and is immediately surrounded by a crowd of eager bookbuyers, rummaging through the books in the carton before they even make it onto the tables!)). And of course, the place was full of Bookcrossers – we bumped into rarsberry and VivaRichie, and boreal spotted kiwijan in the crowd and introduced us. Eventually, sometime after 1 am we were starting to flag, so we arranged to meet the next day and Lytteltonwitch headed back to boreal’s place with her and her husband, and I went back to the backpackers’.

Saturday morning, and TopKat and I headed off for some breakfast (I released Larksleve by Patricia Wendorf and Rogue Warrior: Green Team by Richard Marcinko in the cafe where we ate), and then hit the booksale. This time I searched for books in earnest, and came away with a very large bag-full (for $20!!!). Most are intended for Bookcrossing, but there were a few more that are destined for my TBR pile. Once we’d had our fill of the sale, we headed back to the backpackers and dropped off our purchases. We’d arranged to meet the others at noon, so I suggested a walk (read “release expedition” 😉 ), and we strolled around the Octagon area, releasing a few books as we went (These Lovers Fled Away by Howard Spring, Fat Man on a Bicycle by Tom Vernon, This is Harry Flynn by John Jost, and Bad Monday by Annette Roome), and visited a few shops to look for craft materials for TopKat. When we got back to the Octagon, lytteltonwitch was waiting for us, and told us awhina was not far off (she’d gone to buy some wool in a nearby shop). We compared booksale purchases (as in number of books bought, not actual titles), and watched the last-minute shoppers trying to get into the Regent before they closed the doors. As we waited, a car pulled up covered in MoreFM logos (a local radio station). We were joking that we should give them a book and get some free publicity for Bookcrossing, so I pulled out a book from my bag and handed it to lytteltonwitch (I wasn’t brave enough to go over myself!). She went and talked to the radio guy (who turned out to be the promotions manager), and he accepted the book (Network by Liz Allen – it just happened to be the last unreleased book I had with me, but a reasonably appropriate choice as it turns out, because it’s about a TV station!), so we’re hoping Bookcrossing gets a mention on the station sometime.

Once awhina reappeared we headed back to lytteltonwitch’s car (where I’d left most of the big bag of books I’d brought down with me), and drove out to Northeast Valley, where we were meeting the Dunedin Bookcrossers for lunch. It was quite a good turnout – as well as the four of us and boreal, there was rarsberry, kiwijan, and octopusgrrl, plus two new members, MicheK and Thorsman. It was great to meet all these people who we already felt we knew so well from the forums and yahoo groups, and of course a lot of books were being passed around. It was TopKat’s first meeting, and she seemed impressed both by how many books were piled on the table, and by how quickly they disappeared off it again as people saw things they wanted and secreted them away (at Christchurch and Dunedin meetings at least, the ettiquette has been firmly established that if it’s on the table, it’s fair game – so if you want to lay claim to a book, you quickly put it in your bag or under your chair before someone else grabs it!). I contributed:
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
It Takes Two by Devra Newberger Speregen
Nightwork by Joseph Hansen
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Cliff Notes for The Scarlet Letter
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Outermost House by Henry Beston
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Brady by Jean Fritz
The Secret by RL Stine
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
100 People Who Changed America by Russell Freedman
Six Plays by Lillian Hellman
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Biggles Goes to School by Capt. WE Johns
Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
Duncton Wood by William Horwood
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Cats are Smarter Than Men, Too by Beverley Guhl
Savage Girl by Alex Shakar
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Life and Times at the Rovers Return by Daran Little
If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck
We Only Kill Each Other by Dean Jennings
Shortland Street: Carmen’s Story by Janice Marriott
The Wind and the Monkey by Robert G Barrett
and (with remarkable restraint – my TBR pile is becoming unmanagable) only picked up one: In Custody by Anita Desai.

I can’t be bothered captioning the photos individually, but clockwise round the table are: Thorsman (the only male, so easy to identify), MicheK, awhina, rarsberry, boreal (managed to avoid the camera, so only her elbow appears in a photo), TopKat, me (also managed to avoid the camera), octopusgrrl, kiwijan, and lytteltonwitch.

After lunch we went back to boreal’s house for a cup of tea, and met her cat Sampson (and were introduced to the lovely children’s book his name comes from – The Church Mice on the Moon by Graham Oakley), then TopKat, lytteltonwitch, and I wandered down to the Botanic Gardens, where lytteltonwitch wanted to search for a Geocache. We never did find the cache (although we climed a *lot* of hills looking for it!), but I released a few more books while we were searching: Dream Date by Sinclair Smith, Passing Glory by Reay Tannahill, Baby and All by Candace Camp, Victoria Pade, and Myrna Mackenzie, and K is for Killer by Sue Grafton. Then it was back to boreal’s (who lives at the top of a *very* steep hill, which we seemed to have walked up far too many times that day already – I was beginning to remember why I like living in Christchurch!), where we picked up awhina and headed into town for dinner (boreal and Mr boreal had invited us to stay and eat with them, but we thought we’d imposed enough already). We had a mini-banquet at a Chinese restaurant near our backpackers’, then spent the rest of the evening in the lounge at the backpackers’ sticking pre-numbered labels (which boreal had printed for me – told you we were imposing on her a lot this weekend!) into as many of the books in their bookshelf as we could.

Just for completeness, here’s the list of books we labelled:
A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin
Coup D’Etat by John Harvey
Triad by Richard Rohmer
FBI Undercover by Larry Wansley and Carlton Stowers
Secret Lives by Diane Chamberlain
The Traitor by Lavr Divomlikoff
Where You Belong by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Songs for Alex by Tessa Duder
Mitla Pass by Leon Uris
Global Warming: The Greenpeace Report ed. by Jeremy Leggett
Great Cases of Scotland Yard Volume 2 (a Readers’ Digest collection)
Wish List by Fern Michaels
The Sweetheart Deal by Robert Rosenblum
American Hero by Larry Beinhart
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Chodrelos de Laclos
The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt
The Impersonators by Jessica Anderson
Every Brilliant Eye by Loren D Estleman
The Triumph of Katie Byrne by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Star by Danielle Steel
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Destroyer: The Colour of Fear by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir
Monsoon by Wilbur Smith
Roses After Rain by Deirdre Purcell

By the time we’d labelled all those (and recorded the ISBNs, titles, authors, etc, so I could enter the details when I got home (the price you pay for using pre-numbered labels – technically you can just use the labels, and leave it to whoever finds the book to enter the title etc, but general consensus on the site is that tends to put finders off, because it’s too much work)) it was getting late, so lytteltonwitch and awhina headed back to boreal’s, and TopKat and I had some “quality time” sitting by the fire and chatting.

Next morning, and all too soon, it was time to head home. TopKat and I just had time to dash out for breakfast before Lytteltonwitch and awhina turned up to pick me up. We’d planned on a slow trip home, but it was even slower than expected (as these things always are). First of all we went back to boreal’s on the way out of town, supposedly just a quick stop to say goodbye, but of course stayed for a cup of tea. And then we decided to take a detour via Seacliff and Karitane for lyttletonwitch to look for another geocache, but the fog was so thick we missed the right turn-off, and ended up missing Seacliff altogether (so it was a long (and slow because of the fog) detour for no reason), but eventually we got back on the main highway. Next stop was Waikouaiti, where boreal’s sister has a shop with an OCZ (I exchanged Closed Circle by Robert Goddard for Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers). Of course, we couldn’t just visit the OCZ without saying hi, and having a look around the shop (she designs and sells the most amazing clothes – totally outside my price range, unfortunately!) Then it was on to Palmerston, for lunch (and to release a book: The Black Fedora by Guy N Smith). Another stop in Waimate, to visit otakuu (who’d heard we were going to Dunedin for the weekend, so emailed rarsberry and asked her to tell us to drop in on our way home). She lives way out in the country, so finding her place was a bit of an expedition (I released In Her Own Terms by Judith Grossman when we stopped to phone her for more directions), but we eventually got there, and had yet another cup of tea. Living in the country, she hardly ever gets to meet other Bookcrossers, so we spent quite a while there admiring her library (and of course being offered our pick of her AVAIL books), plus of course we had to get her to make a journal entry on the cheat book (which is back in my hands, in preparation for its trip to Brisbane), so it was getting late in the afternoon by the time we left. None of us felt like having to cook ourselves dinner when we got home, so another stop was planned for dinner in Ashburton (at McDonalds again – it was easier than trying to find anywhere else), where I released the last of the books I’d brought with me: Sliver by Ira Levin. Finally got to Christchurch just before 8 – and then I just had to make journal entries and release notes for all the many books that had passed through my hands over the course of the weekend… (I actually ended up doing most of them last night – I was too tired when I got home).

So, that was our wee adventure. Exhausting, but great fun, and we’re definitely planning on doing it again next year!!!

Rainy day Wednesday

I discovered that it was raining at about 5 o’clock this morning, when Ming decided to crawl under the covers with me. Unfortunately, he decided this just after he’d been outside in the rain, so I was rudely awoken by a sopping wet and very cold cat pressing against my legs – not a pleasant experience! (I’m sure Ming manages to get wetter than any other cat I’ve encountered – he doesn’t seem to actually avoid being out in the rain like most cats do, and regularly comes inside with his fur standing up in spikes because he’s soaked to the skin. Of course, then I’m soppy enough to get a towel and dry him off, which he loves, so maybe he just does it on purpose to get attention…)

Remember in my last entry, I mentioned having sat in the park watching a book I’d released, and seeing someone pick it up? Well they journalled it! Only an anonymous journal entry, but cool anyway. I got another cool catch recently too – The Scarletti Inheritance, yet another of the books I released in Akaroa at the convention.

I was very brave at the weekend – I went to Trattorie for lunch on Saturday (no, that wasn’t the brave bit), and was sitting near the OCZ bookshelf. Just as I was getting ready to leave, a family came in and sat at the next table. The woman looked at the bookshelf, and said to her husband “That’s that thing they had on the news the other night, [some name I can’t remember, sounded like a friend] was telling me about it”. They discussed the idea of Bookcrossing for a while, and sounded interested, so as I got up to leave I gathered all my courage and said “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing you were talking about Bookcrossing”, and introduced myself as one of the local Bookcrossers, told them about our monthly breakfast at Trattorie, and answered a few questions they had. I’m terrible at talking to strangers like that, so I was quite proud of myself! Hope they actually come along to one of the breakfasts now, after all that effort!

Currently reading: Stancliffe’s Hotel by Charlotte Brontë (I really must get round to finishing the last few pages!), The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, and Where Did I Go Right? by Andrew Collins

What do you call a meetup that isn’t?

I went to Trattorie for lunch on Saturday, to drop off the books that freesia had left with me:


It was a really lovely day, so on the way back I stopped off in the park and released Bruno’s Dream by Iris Murdoch on a bench by the duck pond (which was completely covered in ducks, being the first day of the duck shooting season – it always amazes me how quickly they figure out that city ponds are safe havens for the duration), and then went and sat on another bench on the other side of the pond where I could watch it discretely while reading my own book. Very quickly, a woman sat down at the bench, noticed the book (which I’d put in a “Free Book” bag from the supply store), carefully read everything written on the outside of the bag, put it back down, picked it up again, looked at the “Free Book” bit again, and eventually opened the bag and took out the book. Then she read the bookmark I’d put inside, looked at the stuff on the bag again… and finally opened the book and started reading it! She sat there for about half an hour, and looked like she’d read a couple of chapters, so when she got up to leave, I was sure she’d take the book with her. But no, she put it back in the bag and left it on the bench :-( I ended up sitting there for a couple of hours (no great sacrifice – it was such a lovely day, and I was enjoying the sunshine and my book), watching loads of people walk past and either glance at the book and look away, or not even notice it. A couple of people actually stopped for a second look, but didn’t pick it up, and by this time a few clouds were starting to appear, so I decided it was time to go home. But then I noticed a couple of women with a dog, who seemed to be doing a circuit of the pond, and I decided I’d wait and see if they noticed the book, and *then* leave. And you know what? They not only noticed the book, they picked it up and took it away with them! No journal entry yet, but who cares, it was worth it just to see the book get caught.

My idea of releasing a few books last week after the mention of Bookcrossing on John Campbell’s programme paid off – I got two catches! The Night the Rain Came In by Jenifer Wayne and Nude in Nevada by Thomas B Dewey. Both new members, too.

On Tuesday night we had our regular second Tuesday of the month not-a-meetup (Skyring suggested on BCAUS that they should be called TGPKAMUs (The Gathering Previously Known as MeetUp)). Quite a good turn-out – me, natecull, lytteltonwitch, non-fiction, Cathietay and daveytay, awhina, and a newbie who actually found us through meetup.com and (as far as I could tell) had never got around to joining Bookcrossing, but decided to come along to a meeting after getting all the emails I’d sent when I was the meetup organiser! He seemed to enjoy himself, and went away with a book, so hopefully he’ll join properly now.

Despite all my good intentions, I ended up catching more books than I released (although it’s not entirely my fault, because three were in a series, so there was no point in only taking one of them; and one was one that lytteltonwitch had brought along specifically for me (Glorious Needlepoint by Kaffe Fassett, which she hasn’t registered – I need to check with her whether she wants me to register it or if she’d rather do it (not that she really needs the stats or anything!))). I gave The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin to awhina to take home to meerkitten, and Cathietay took Mr Brightly’s Evening Off by Kathleen Rowntree, and I caught Lefties: The Origins and Consequences of Being Left-Handed by Jack Fincher, Where Did I Go Right?: Growing Up Normal in the 70s by Andrew Collins, and the first three books in Orson Scott Card’s Homecoming series: The Memory of Earth, The Call of Earth, and The Ships of Earth.

After the meeting, a few of us went to visit the new Borders that’s opened in Riccarton. Wow! Nowhere near as big as their London shop, of course, but still a much bigger (not counting Smith’s, of course!) and more comprehensive bookshop than the usual Christchurch fare (once we had the wonderful Scorpios, which used to be considered one of the best bookshops in New Zealand. We’ve still got Scorpios, but it’s nowhere near as good as it used to be – I think they went downhill when they moved to their new location). I don’t care if they’re a big American multinational – it’s just so nice to see a bookshop that’s actually devoted to books, and not filled with gifts and stationery and all the other rubbish that Whitcoulls carries (ok, so Borders does have magazine, music, and DVD sections, but it’s still clear that their main business is books). I was seriously tempted by quite a few offerings, but managed to restrain myself to just browsing… for now, anyway 😉

Currently reading: Stancliffe’s Hotel by Charlotte Brontë (yes, still reading it – for such a tiny book, it’s taking an awfully long time to finish!) and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins

John Campbell features Bookcrossing

Bookcrossing was featured on John Campbell’s programme on TV3 last night – an Auckland bookcrosser (I think it was Innes – they didn’t give her screenname) has been releasing books in memory of Bronwyn Tate, a NZ author who died recently, and they had a segment on her wandering around Auckland releasing books. It should be a good publicity boost, so I made a point this morning of releasing a few books on my way into work – hopefully people who saw Campbell’s show last night will see the books and remember the item, and be more likely to go to the site and journal them. We’ll see…

The books I released were:
Samuel Pepys: The Years of Peril by Arthur Bryant
Storymakers 3 edited by Anthony Adams and Esmor Jones
The Night the Rain Came In by Jennifer Wayne
Nude in Nevada by Thomas B Dewey

Currently reading: Stancliffe’s Hotel by Charlotte Brontë

Theatricalities

I seem recently to have lost my ability to actually keep my diary up to date – I always seem to be writing about things that happened several days ago. So to continue that trend:

On Saturday lytteltonwitch and I went out to Kirwee to see Mothercat perform in the Selwyn Short Play Festival. She was really good, and ended up winning the prize for Best Actor – congratulations Mothercat! The plays were the usual mixed bag that these sort of amateur festivals bring out – some were really good, and some were completely abysmal. I was in complete agreement with all the prizes the judge awarded, which is unusual to me, but the good plays and actors stood out so much that it was obvious which would have to win.
Supper was included in the ticket, but instead of the usual trestle tables of food and a free-for-all, we had to queue (for what seemed like hours – there were 140 people in the audience, and we were near the end of the queue, so we were getting pretty hungry (and sore feet!) by the time we finally reached the front) and they gave us each one sandwich, one savory, one slice of pizza, one cake, and a cup of soup. I suppose they thought that way they could make sure nobody would take more than their share and not leave enough for others, but it was a very slow and inefficient way of doing things, and I heard a bit of grumbling at our end of the queue that it wasn’t moving faster. Oh well, it’s the first time they’ve done supper at the festival, apparently, so I suppose they’ll improve the system a bit next year (even having two queues instead of one would have helped!) now they know it doesn’t really work.
I released a few books around the community hall before the plays started: A Reader’s Digest condensed book; Shakespeare’s King Henry V; and What Katy Did Next by Susan M Coolidge.

Last night I went to see the movie of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I was a bit apprehensive seeing it, because of Hollywood’s propensity to not “get” British humour, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a lot of cringe-making moments, of course, and I spent the first 15 minutes or so thinking “I’m going to hate this”, but eventually I started to enjoy it (ironically, I enjoyed it most when it started to depart from the “original” story (as much as you can call any version of Hitchhiker’s the original story) – I think because it felt sometimes like they were trying to recreate scenes from the TV series and failing). It was never as laugh out loud funny as the books or radio series or TV series or game or… but there were some nice moments that were worth a grin (and some lovely in jokes that only a fan would pick up on). It did feel a bit like it was written by a committee though, with different scenes being written by different people – it felt oddly disjointed, like it couldn’t make up its mind whether it was going to be a Hollywood blockbuster (with obligatory gunfights and love scenes), a direct copy of one or other of the various versions of the story, or a tribute that captured the feel of Hitchhiker’s without necessarily being strictly true to any of them. I’m still not sure whether I actually liked it or not, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it could have been…

Had a few nice catches over the last week or so: Safari Adventure has been continuing its adventures, having been caught in Auckland, and is now on its way back across the Tasman (for the third time!) to Canberra. Another convention release, Richard Scarry’s On Vacation was caught and taken to America, and Paddy’s Puzzle, which Skyring released in San Fransisco, was caught by another Australian on holiday there!

I also caught a few books myself – not wild catches, but ones that arrived in the mail: littlemave sent me Stancliffe’s Hotel by Charlotte Brontë, which I’d had on my wishlist since I’d seen discussions about it on the BC-AUS Yahoo group; cratclif sent me The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman as a RABK; and Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella arrived from Jassy-m (I’ve ended up with this one through a series of confusions – originally I’d signed up for the bookring for it, but then the bookring seemed to have stalled (Jassy-m received it in November last year, and then nothing more was heard from her for months), so aussie-rose offered to revive it with a second copy, which she sent to me via Mundoo at the NZBC convention (are you confused yet?). However, in the meantime Jassy-m reappeared, and PMed me to tell me I was next in the bookring and she was sending me the book. I PMed back to let her know I already had a copy and she should skip me and send it to the next participant (Skyring) instead, but obviously the PM never reached her, because she sent the book to me anyway. So I’ll be sending it straight back over the Tasman again to Skyring…)

Currently reading: The Savage Girl by Alex Shakar

The unblurred versions

I wasn’t totally happy with the lettering – I didn’t have time to properly graph out my own lettering, so I just copied an alphabet from a book – it didn’t look too bad on paper, but didn’t look great once I’d sewn it. Unfortunately, by the time I realised that, it was too late to unpick it and start again :-(

Oh well, hopefully it will look a bit better once the fabric’s been stretched back into shape.

The Wedding Present

In case you were wondering, yes, I did manage to get my blackwork wedding sampler finished in time for MrPloppy to take it over to the UK with him. It was a bit of a last minute rush, but I finished the main part of the pattern on Monday night, and just had time to add the names and date on Tuesday night.

The final section complete (I’ve blurred out the names and date for privacy):

The complete embroidery:

It still needs to be framed, of course, but MrPloppy will have time to get that done in the UK before the wedding.

I’ve decided my next project is going to be something colourful – I’m so sick of dark brown!!!!

The Adventures of MrPloppy

Poor MrPloppy! He flew to London on Wednesday evening… well, that was the idea, anyway – it didn’t quite work out like that. His itinerary was pretty simple: fly to Auckland, spend two hours there, then fly to Los Angeles, another two hour wait, then fly to London, arriving at Heathrow on Thursday morning, where his parents would meet him and then drive back to Wales. He’d never flown long-distance on his own before, so was pretty nervous, but I had spent all week reassuring him, and going over all what would happen, what he’d need to do in terms of customs, passport control, etc, so that he knew exactly what to expect, until on Wednesday he was looking, if not actually relaxed, at least not quite so utterly terrified. I finished work early so I could go out to the airport with him, and asked the check-in person to go through the whole procedure with him as well, just to reassure him yet again that everything would go just as I’d told him. He got on the plane to Auckland, and I headed home, expecting that the next time I’d hear from him would be on Friday morning (Thursday evening UK time), when he was going to ring me from his parents’ house to let me know he’d arrived safely.

3 am Thursday morning, and I’m awoken by the phone ringing. I drag myself to the phone, and it’s MrPloppy: “There’s been a bit of a problem.”
“Where are you?”
“Still in Auckland.”
My mind was racing at this point – had he missed the plane? Been in an accident? Luckily, it was nothing so dreadful. He’d had no problems at Auckland – he found the International terminal easily, paid his departure tax, went through passport control, found the right gate, got on the plane – everything was exactly as I’d told him to expect. The plane took off, they flew for a while, and then the pilot made an announcement: a warning light had come on, and he was going to have to turn back to Auckland, but first they’d be circling over the sea for a while, while he dumped some fuel so they could land safely. It was after 1 am when they landed back in Auckland, and then it was a long time before the airline actually started passing on any information to the passengers – finally they announced that the repairs would take several hours, so they were going to put the passengers into a hotel for the rest of the night, and they’d take off again at 11 am. For some reason, they didn’t put them into one of the hotels near the airport (I suppose they were all full or something), but bussed them all the way into the city, so it was nearly 3 by the time they finally reached the hotel and got their rooms (which was when MrPloppy rang me). He’d been told they’d be picked up in the morning at 9 am and taken back to the airport, and that they’d arrive in London about 10 hours late, so he wanted me to ring his parents to let them know about the change (rather than him phoning a mobile phone in the UK at hotel room phone rates – it cost enough just for him to ring me!). I rang them straight away, hoping to catch them before they reached London (because I knew they were planning on staying overnight in a hotel near Heathrow, and thought they might be able to find somewhere cheaper further afield, now that they wouldn’t have to pick him up until Thursday night). Unfortunately, they’d just checked in to the hotel :-(

I staggered back to bed, very aware that I had to get up in the morning for work. Somehow I managed to get up when the alarm went off, made it to work, and wasn’t there long when MrPloppy rang again. “Are you at the airport?” I asked.
“No, still at the hotel. We’re not leaving until 3 pm now.”
The repairs were taking longer than they’d expected, so the new plan was that the passengers would stay at the hotel until 11, and then be bussed to the airport, and fly to LA, arriving there 7 am (LA time). Unfortunately, for reasons never properly explained (or if they were, MrPloppy couldn’t understand them), that meant they wouldn’t be able to fly Air New Zealand from LA to London – instead, they’d be flying American Airlines. And that flight didn’t leave until 6 pm, so they’d have an 11 hour wait in LA! The airline hadn’t decided yet whether they’d give the passengers a hotel room while they waited, or if they’d just be stuck in the airport, but it did mean they’d all have to apply for entry visa waivers (because previously they’d just have had a short wait in a transit lounge, so wouldn’t have needed to officially enter the USA, so nobody had visas). I reassured MrPloppy yet again that everything would work out ok (my reassurances were starting to sound hollow even to me at this point!), told him to make sure the airline at least gave him meal vouchers for his stay in LA (because he didn’t have any American money if he wanted to buy something to eat), and said if he did end up staying in the airport and needed to sleep he should stretch out across several seats and use his bag as a pillow so noone could steal it (he was in such a panic by now, as well as suffering from lack of sleep (he hadn’t managed to sleep much in the hotel, of course), that he couldn’t think of those sorts of things for himself).

2.30 pm, and the phone rang again. I braced myself to hear some more bad news, but it was just MrPloppy letting me know that he was at the airport and was about to board the plane – it didn’t look like there’d be any more delays, so he’d ring me when he got there. He gave me all the flight details for the American Airline flight so that I could ring his parents again and tell them the new arrival time (now 11 am on Friday!). At least this time he’d managed to get a phone card out of the airline so he could ring me – the two short phone calls from the hotel had cost him $40!!! (Isn’t a Visa card a wonderful thing?)

I didn’t sleep well that night (I think I was waiting for the next phone call!), and on Friday night I half expected to get a call from his parents at midnight, saying that he hadn’t turned up or something. But finally on Saturday morning I got the long-awaited phone call from MrPloppy, telling me he was safe and sound in Wales. “So everything went ok then?” I asked.
“Not exactly.” The plane had taken off from Auckland, and the same fault had happened again! So once again they had to dump the fuel (no wonder air travel is so expensive!) and return to Auckland. This time they were taken to the Business class lounge and given a buffet dinner while a different plane was prepared to take them instead. They eventually arrived in LA at 5 pm (LA time), so only had a two-hour wait after all – just enough time to get to the terminal where American Airlines leaves from (which of course was at the opposite end of the airport to Air NZ’s terminal!). The flight to London was mercifully uneventful (and had the bonus of personal video screens in the seat backs, which Air NZ planes don’t have yet), his parents were waiting at arrivals, and the only hitch remaining was that seeing as it was now Friday instead of Thursday, when he was supposed to arrive, they were stuck in all the May Bank Holiday traffic on the road to Wales, so it was a very slow journey.

Anyway, after all the traumas, he made it (and so did his luggage – pretty amazing, considering all the chopping and changing that went on!!!). He’s vowed and declared never ever ever to fly anywhere on his own again though! (Well, except for flying back home, of course!) And he wasn’t impressed by my suggestion that he look on it as all part of the adventure of travel…