Where to sleep in Christchurch

With 2009 not so much creeping up on us as thundering towards us like stampeding behemoth*, we decided it was about time to get some real information out to people, which meant getting on with a bit of research. So yesterday lytteltonwitch, rarsberry and I met for breakfast (after a bit of a false start when lytteltonwitch and I were both running late, and poor rars thought she must be at the wrong place) then spent a very constructive morning touring the backpackers’ hostels within walking distance of the convention venue.

We’ve decided to recommend Base as our preferred hostel. It’s in the Square, so only 10 minutes walk from the venue, and close to restaurants and touristy things, was incredibly clean (even though we were touring it before the cleaners had been round), and had very helpful staff. Oh, and the important stuff from a bookcrosser’s point of view: they’ve got a book exchange shelf, and the internet was cheap ($5 for the first hour, $4 each additional hour). And they’ve got wireless access for those with laptops. They’ve got a bar, and were honest about the noise, saying it can get a bit loud on Friday and Saturday nights, but they said they try to book people who ask for quiet rooms into the upper floors as far from the bar as possible, and they do have a noise policy after the bar closes that seems to actually be enforced.

One thing that impressed us is their “penthouse”, a suite of dorms designed for groups. The three dorms in the penthouse sleep 21 in total, and have their own private kitchen, lounge area and bathroom. So we reckon if we can get together 21 people who want to do the backpacking thing, it would be perfect for “bookcrossing central” (I’m actually tempted to stay there for the weekend myself!)

The other thing that was really cool was their Sanctuary, a floor reserved for women only. The rooms are a bit more expensive than the standard dorms, but they’re a bit nicer, safer for women travelling alone, and you get little gifts like a glass of bubbly on arrival and shampoo and conditioner samples.

For those who want to stay somewhere closer to the venue, we’re recommending two places near the Arts Centre. YHA Rolleston House is the closest to the venue, but is a pretty small hostel (there’s only 2 private rooms, plus a few dorms), and in an older building, so the facilities aren’t as good as Base (they don’t have a bookshelf, for a start!). We didn’t get to look round the rooms (because there was only one person on reception, so he couldn’t leave it to show us round), but YHA’s have a pretty good standard, so we feel reasonably confident about recommending them. The other place is the YMCA, which had really nice single and twin rooms (some with fabulous views over the botanic gardens!), but no kitchen (there’s a cafe), and only coin-operated kiosks for internet.

Oh, and most importantly, we checked carefully, and all three places have doors on their toilets, and actually let you flush them!

We were going to go on and look at motels and hotels, but decided that there are some good independent websites with reviews of both, so we’ll just provide maps and links to the ones closest to the venue, and let people make their own choice.

So now all I’ve got to do is turn all this into a webpage and get it up on the convention site, ready for the next edition of our newsletter.

*Can behemoths stampede? Or are they the ones that live in the water? Can you stampede in water? No, I remember now, leviathans are the ones that live in water, so behemoths must live on land. So they probably can stampede… unless they’re some sort of slug creature, of course…. [Futurecat goes off into a reverie populated by stampeding slugs]

After we’d finished looking at backpackers, we rounded out the afternoon by wandering around second-hand bookshops working out which to include in Friday’s bookshop tour. We’ve got to include St Christophers, of course, with its famous 20c table (that’s actually now a 33c table), and we’re negotiating sponsorship with a proper bookshop selling new books, so if they’re suitably generous we’ll include them in the tour, but we needed to find some in between second-hand shops. In the end we picked on Liberty, Smiths, and Pacific, which each have their own spin on quality second-hand, and which are conveniently close to each other.

So that’s one more task ticked off our list. This convention is starting to actually feel achievable.

And now for something pretty.

Despite still having a trunk full of unfinished embroidery projects, a sudden surge of impending babies among friends and family has given me an excuse to start something new:

(That should keep you guessing for a while :-))

Currently reading: Impassioned Clay by Stevie Davies
Currently listening to: The Valley by Di Morrissey

Witches and devils and… a gorilla with a pizza?

I finally finished my Anthropology research paper and handed it in, so I’m free! No more study for this year!!! Which means I can finally concentrate on all the other things I should be getting done – like catching up on writing my blog, maybe…

Yeah, right.

Lytteltonwitch had her bookcrossing halloween party last night. Because she’d left it so late to invite anyone (because she wasn’t sure if she’d be up to it yet after her operation), it was rather sparsely attended – just me and MrPloppy, and rarsberry – but we had a good night anyway.

When MrPloppy and I arrived lytteltonwitch was busy decorating her house with even more snakes and spiders and witchy things than it normally boasts (which is saying something!), so MrPloppy helped her to hang the high up things, while I created spooky rat-like things from marshmallows and liquorish (they started off as spiders, but it was too hard to keep that many legs attached, so they turned into rats). Eventually rars turned up, having got a bit lost, and after chat and nibbles (and one set of trick or treaters, who got given books (of course) and ghostly lollypops), we donned our costumes and (leaving MrPloppy behind to guard the nibbles) hit the streets ourselves.

A few photos of our preparations to go out (excuse the blurriness – MrPloppy was taking the photos, and isn’t used to my camera):

Lytteltonwitch appears to be casting some sort of spell. Actually, I think she was bewitching the hood on my cloak, because this is the only time all night it stayed on my head properly – the rest of the time it was either falling down over my eyes, or blowing off.

A devilish rarsberry.

Packing my basket of books. I’d wanted to get a proper cane basket of the witch with basket of apples type, but they’re really hard to find (when did that happen? I remember having to have one for cooking class at school, and we just went to a shop and bought one), so I ended up with a not very witchy plastic substitute.

The non-spooky plastic basket problem solved: just add snakes!

When I asked MrPloppy why he took this picture, he said “I was taking pictures of scary things, and I thought her video collection was pretty frightening”. Sorry lytteltonwitch, MrPloppy has spoken – not only is your music frightening, so are your videos.

Loaded down with baskets and bags of halloween-themed books (so many that lytteltonwitch was in danger of tearing her stitches until rarsberry came to the rescue and carried her bag), we set out in search of trick or treaters to give books to (as well as releasing a few in random locations along the way). Our walk took us a bit further than we’d planned – we’d originally planned to just walk up to town and back, but in the end went on a huge loop via the hospital and arts centre, and back through Sydenham, that according to my rough plotting of it on Google Maps, was about 7 km long. No wonder we were all starting to feel a bit tired by the end!

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We decided that anyone we saw in costume would get a book, as well as any kids we saw, or anyone who smiled at our costumes. Lytteltonwitch brought along more of the ghost lollypops for the kids too. With only one exception, everyone we offered a book to was thrilled to get it, so even though we probably won’t get many journal entries from the exercise, we made a lot of people happy, which was the point, really. My favourites were the kids who made their dad stop the car (he’d just dropped someone off at the hospital and was starting to pull out of the car park) and hung out the car windows to get their books, the two boys who weren’t in costume but did a great monster impression when they saw us, and the teenagers outside McDonalds who rejected the teen books I handed them in favour of kids’ books which they thought were much cooler :-)

My list of released books:

Given to people:
More Ghost Stories edited by AL Furman
Skeleton Cave by Cora Cheney
It’s Too Frightening for Me by Shirley Hughes
Haunted Island by Joan Lowery Nixon
Devil’s Jump by Peter Doyle
The Girlfriend by RL Stine
Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man by Wendelin van Draanen
Spellcaster by Katey Brown
Grizzley Tales for Gruesome Kids by Jamie Rix
The Devil’s Redhead by David Corbett

And released into the wild:
Prime Evil by Judith Kelman
Camp Fear by Carol Ellis
The Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens edited by Peter Haining
Night Terrors by Charles L Grant
Urn Burial by Robert Westall
Bane by Joe Donnelly
Escape of the He-Beast by RL Stine
The Snow Ghosts by Beryl Netherclift
Kitchen Wizard by Deborah Jarvis
The Hulk by James Schamus
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold

The night was topped off perfectly when we got back to lytteltonwitch’s place and ordered a pizza, only to have it delivered by a gorilla! There were still a few spooky books left over, so of course we had to give him one – Little Pet Shop of Horrors by Betsy Haynes seemed appropriate :-)

While I’m posting pictures, here’s one I uploaded but don’t think I actually got round to posting:

We’re decorating a pile of notebooks for the convention goody bags, and a few weeks ago I made a start on my share. Since then I’ve been too busy to do any more, but hopefully now that I’ve got my study out of the way I’ll have a bit more time (except I’m going up to Auckland at Show Weekend, and Wellington the weekend after… my free weekends are disappearing fast!) so I’ll be able to get on with the rest of them. I’m pretty pleased with how the few I’ve done have turned out, anyway – it’s fun playing around with different ideas and techniques on them.

Since I haven’t posted for a while, it’s probably time for a catch report, too.

My recent catches have been a study in contrasts, really – two books finally reporting home after years in the wilderness, and the rest caught almost immediately.

In other news, we won lotto! Before you get too excited, it was only 4th division, so netted us a grand total of $96, but that’s the first time I’ve ever won anything on lotto, so it was still exciting. Of course, it’s also the first time in many many years that we’ve bought a ticket, so that could have something to do with it… I don’t think we’ll be making a regular habit of buying tickets though – we’re both too much of mathematicians to be able to ignore the incredibly low probability of ever winning more than you spend on the tickets.

We invested our enormous winnings wisely on a couple of DVDs.

Currently reading: Impassioned Clay by Stevie Davies
Currently listening to: Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

ETA: Forgot to mention, I decided to go with the fridge magnets in the end. I sent them off today, so I hope the recipient has a fridge that isn’t wooden or round…