Yesterday was Christchurch’s 150th birthday, celebrating the anniversary of the day when it was declared to be a city (it was only a tiny village at the time, but Queen Victoria wanted to appoint someone bishop, and to have a bishop you need a cathedral, and cathedrals can only be built in cities. So she declared Christchurch a city, making it NZ’s first city.) And as planned, we had a mass release of books around the Square and other landmarks.
The Strong City by Taylor Caldwell
Soft City by Jonathan Raban
Dollarville by Pete Davies
Oracles and Miracles by Stevan Eldred-Grigg
The Desert in the City by Carlo Carretto
The Killing Anniversary by Ian St James
Remember by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Love in Another Town by Barbara Taylor Bradford
More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Joan Makes History by Kate Grenville
Soho Square by Claire Rayner
Centennial by James A Michener
The Religion by Nicholas Conde
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
Then Again by Sue McCauley
The Farther Shore by Jack Couffer
around the statue of Godley, who was one of the founders of Christchurch:
on the plaques commemorating the first ships to land in Canterbury (unfortunately the weekend market had been pushed into that corner of the Square to make room for the official celebrations, so we could only get at a few of the plaques):
The First to Land by Douglas Reeman
How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge
Another Time, Another Place by Jessie Kesson
In a Far Country by Adam Kennedy
Jubilee by Nepi Solomon
Virgin Territory by Marilyn Todd
plus one in a phone booth (Hallelujah Now by T Davies), Cathedral by Nelson DeMille in the entrance of the Cathedral, and Hay Days by Sir Hamish Hay which I left at the information booth they had set up for the day.
Lytteltonwitch released about another 20 books in the Square, and had also released a few around other landmarks on her way to pick me up, and we discovered (by spotting The Shining City by Stevan Eldred-Grigg on Godley’s statue, where neither of us had released it) that TheLetterB had been releasing a few books around the place as well, so between us there were quite a few books let loose. And they were being picked up almost as fast as we were putting them down – by the time we’d been right round the Square and back to where we started, half the books we’d left on the first bench had gone.
I released almost all the books I’d brought with me in the Square, reserving only Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier for Queen Victoria’s statue in Victoria Square. We went and released that, plus a few other books lytteltonwitch had earmarked for the Arts Centre and beside the river, and then went for a late breakfast at the new Robert Harris cafe in the YMCA (unfortunately, I have to report that it was not a good choice of cafe – I ordered pancakes, and they were so tough I could hardly cut them with a knife, let alone chew them – I think they were pre-made and then reheated. Lytteltonwitch said her eggs weren’t much better. So avoid that cafe if you’re ever looking for breakfast near the Arts Centre.)
The official celebrations in the Square were due to start around 11, so after breakfast we headed back there. On the way, I got a text message from TheLetterB, who’d been planning to meet us for breakfast but had been delayed, so we arranged to meet her in the Square instead. I’d brought along a couple of books for the breakfast meetup (Press Send by John McLaren and Theory of War by Joan Brady), in case anyone else showed up, so I passed them on to her.
In the Square, the crowds were growing, the 150m-long birthday cake (which was the centrepiece of the celebrations, and which we’d watched being iced and decorated over the course of the morning) was almost complete,
and the officials were begining to arrive. Lytteltonwitch had brought a book about a wizard that she wanted to present to The Wizard, so when she saw him talking to the bishop and some other church official, she ran up with the book and Bally and got him to pose for a photo. TheLetterB and I, meanwhile, hid among the crowd and pretended we didn’t know her (while busily taking photos ourselves, of course!).
(No, that’s not a wookie in the second photo – just a woman who for some inexplicable reason was wearing a coat that almost perfectly matched her hair colour)
The official speeches began, but were mercifully short, and were interrupted anyway when a thick cloud of smoke blew across the Square, which seemed to be coming from Warner’s Hotel.
All the journalists and photographers who had been covering the speeches turned and ran for the hotel, obviously hoping for a more exciting story, but whatever was causing the smoke, it quickly died down, and the air was clear again a few minutes later when the fire engines arrived. Things got a bit noisy then, what with the sirens, and the cathedral’s bells pealing (a bit of poor planning on someone’s part, to have celebratory peals of the bells at the same time as the mayor was trying to speak…) – and in the middle of all that, awhina rang wanting to know where we were so she could meet up with us…
Eventually we all managed to meet (awhina had her friend from Invercargill, plus his daughter and the kitten in tow), and went for lunch (after the kids had queued for some free cake). So we did kind of get our meetup in the end.
Back in the Square, there were people in fancy-dress wandering around. Apparently there were prizes offered for the best Christchurch-themed costumes. It made for some odd moments wandering through the crowd, anyway:
This person seems to be dressed as a tree (I assume it’s supposed to be a reference to Christchurch as “The Garden City”) – their costume consisted of a brown sweatsuit with a couple of very large branches of a real tree sticking out of it.
I’ve had a few catches for the day so far – three from GOLFWIDOW, whose son kept picking up bookcrossing books for her, and one from a totally new member, chuzz. From what I could tell, just about all the books I released got picked up, so hopefully a few more will be journalled as time goes by.
Currently reading: Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer