Mission Complete

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.

Lytteltonwitch (and Ballycumber) came to pick me up at 8.30 am, and we headed for the Square to start releasing books, leaving them on the benches scattered around the Square:

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
Building Christchurch
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:

Ancestors by Robyn Davidson
To the Ends of the Earth by Thomas Locke
Don’t Look Back by Jahnna N Malcolm
A City Out of Sight by Ivan Southall

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:

A pair of daffodils

Classical sparks (the annual concert and fireworks display in the park) and a brewery (pity she got the wrong brewery – Speights is brewed in Dunedin, it’s CD that’s brewed here)

The Chalice adjusting the costume of a junk shop

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 think he was supposed to be the estuary.

I assume this was a costume, and not just a woman who likes to walk round carrying a cathedral on her head…

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

At the movies

Despite the fact that my cold has come back a bit, so I really should have had an early night last night, I went with the Chick Flicks group to see The Lake House. For the first third of the film it didn’t really capture my imagination, but I ended up quite enjoying it – it wasn’t exactly deeply thought-provoking or anything (although the time paradoxes did manage to utterly confuse one of our members, especially when I pointed out that [Spoiler space, highlight to read: if Alex hadn’t died, then his brother probably wouldn’t have hung his drawing on the wall, so Kate wouldn’t have seen it, so she wouldn’t have asked about him and made the connection between the date he died and the man she saw get run over, so she wouldn’t have rushed to the lake house to warn him, and if she hadn’t warned him, he would have run across the road and been killed. So by preventing his death, is she then causing his death? ]. I do love warping people’s brains with that sort of logic 😉 ), but had enough to it that it wasn’t just mindless mush. Basically, a pleasant film.

I met lytteltonwitch beforehand for a very rushed dinner (the film started at 6, and bad traffic meant that neither of us got to Riccarton particularly quickly), so we were able to work out a plan of attack for Saturday. The festivities start at 11 am, so we’re going to try and get to the Square by 9 and release loads of books, then retire to a cafe for breakfast and come back once the celebrations have started to see how many of our books have been picked up. I just hope the street cleaners have already been round the Square before 9, otherwise our books might end up thrown away with all the Friday night rubbish. I think we should be ok, though – I’d imagine with such a big event on, they’ll make sure everything’s cleaned up nice and early in the morning.

While we were waiting to get tickets, I released what seemed like the perfect title in the foyer of the theatre, The Movie by Louise Bagshawe, but when we came out of the movie it was still lying there. It had been moved slightly, so obviously someone at least looked at it, but wasn’t interested enough to take it.

MrPloppy had another dental appointment yesterday, so I gave him another copy of Jaws to release at the surgery. I think he’s doubting my sympathy for his plight, but I really am sympathetic – it’s just that I can’t pass up such great opportunities for themed releases! :-p

Preparing for the 150th

A mass release takes a lot of preparation to be successful, so I spent a large chunk of the weekend getting ready for next weekend’s 150th birthday celebrations, registering and labelling books the books I got at last weekend’s booksale. (And that’s how you fit far too many weekends into one sentence). I even created my own labels for the books, with a bit of a Christchurch theme (just a stylised picture of the Cathedral pinched from the Council’s website and recoloured, and some red and black text) and the note at the bottom “Released by FutureCat in honour of Christchurch’s 150th Birthday”.

I managed to find 32 books that, to me anyway, fit the theme, in various categories:

Books actually about Christchurch:
Building Christchurch (an incredibly dry technical report that nobody would ever want, but it fits the theme perfectly, so who cares)
Hay Days by Sir Hamish Hay (autobiography of a former mayor of Christchurch)

Books by Christchurch authors:
Oracles and Miracles by Stevan Eldred-Grigg
Then Again by Sue McCauley

And then there’s all the books that have nothing at all to do with Christchurch, but whose titles seemed appropriate:

Because it’s the 150th birthday of Christchurch becoming a city, books with the word “city” or “town” or similar in their title:
The Strong City by Taylor Caldwell
Soft City by Jonathan Raban
Dollarville by Pete Davies
The Desert in the City by Carlo Carretto
Love in Another Town by Barbara Taylor Bradford
More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
A City Out of Sight by Ivan Southall

Christchurch was declared a city when a bishop was appointed, so books with church-related titles:
Hallelujah Now by T Davies
The Religion by Nicholas Conde
The Warden by Anthony Trollope (and another copy, both of which feature a painting of a church on their covers that looks remarkably like Christchurch’s cathedral)

Books with titles reminiscent of the early settlers who travelled so far to come to Christchurch:
The First to Land by Douglas Reeman
How Far Can You Go? by David Lodge
Another Time, Another Place by Jessie Kesson
To the Ends of the Earth by Thomas Locke
In a Far Country by Adam Kennedy
Rule Britannia by Daphne Du Maurier
Virgin Territory by Marilyn Todd
The Farther Shore by Jack Couffer

Books with words like “anniversary” in the title:
The Killing Anniversary by Ian St James
Jubilee by Nepi Solomon
Centennial by James A Michener

Books with titles that are reminiscent of history, looking back at the past, etc:
Remember by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Ancestors by Robyn Davidson
Don’t Look Back by Jahnna N Malcolm
Joan Makes History by Kate Grenville

And finally, because we’ll be releasing most of the books around Cathedral Square:
Cathedral by Nelson DeMille
Soho Square by Claire Rayner (stretching things a bit, but it was the only book I could find with “Square” in the title – lytteltonwitch nabbed Window on the Square before I could get to it)

Currently reading: Press Send by John McLaren

Pirates and more pirates

Yep, MrPloppy and I finally made it to see the second episode of Pirates of the Caribbean this afternoon. After all the “well, it’s ok, but…” reviews I read, I wasn’t expecting great things, but I really enjoyed it. Totally silly, and loads of fun.

And a great opportunity for a few themed releases in the foyer of the cinema: The Pirate by Harold Robbins, The Pirate of Hitchfield by Edward Easton, and Twenty Treasure Chests.

Random thought of the week

Why does human hair just keep growing? I can’t think of any other animal that has hair that seems to have no maximum length (except maybe horses’ tails? Do they keep growing, or do they stop when they get to a certain length?). What’s the evolutionary advantage to having hair long enough to sit on, anyway? I mean, it must take a lot of energy to grow it, and before the invention of combs, conditioner, and hairdressers, it must have been a huge disadvantage to have all that hair hanging around, getting in your eyes, getting caught in branches, slapping you in the face whenever the wind blew… in fact, maybe that’s the real reason why humans started using tools: imagine a group of proto-humans out on the tundra hunting mammoths, the wind starts blowing… “Argghh, my hair’s blown in my face again and I can’t see which way the mammoth’s running. Quick, hand me a sharp-edged stone and I’ll cut some of it off.”

Ok, I’ll shut up now.

In more sensible news, a couple of nice second-hand catches. This one‘s a genuine second-generation wild catch, having been released in the wild by me, caught, released again, and now caught for a second time. It’s great when that happens! The other has been through several controlled releases since leaving my hands, but was finally released into the wild by linguistkris last month, and has been caught already.

Currently reading: Press Send by John McLaren

I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon…

…but as everyone else seems to be stealing this questionaire from each other, I thought I’d have a go too:

Things you may not have known about me:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Making sandwiches for the Otago cricket team (ok, it was only for one weekend, but it gave me great bragging rights at school for a few weeks!)
2. Medical secretary in an AIDS hospital in London (it was only a couple of weeks’ temping, but it was a fascinating place to work)
3. Maths teacher (though some of you probably already knew/guessed that)
4. Teaching rifle-shooting, rock-climbing and desk-top publishing (though not necessarily all at the same time) to 6 year olds

B) Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. All the Star Wars movies (yes, even The Phantom Menace!)
2. All the Lord of the Rings movies (Actually, revise that to say all the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies – I don’t mean that scarey animated one!)
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
4. Fight Club (actually, do I have to stop at 4? I’ve thought of loads more now!)

C) Four places you have lived:
1. In a truck
2. Various places in the UK, including London and a small village outside Wolverhampton
3. Darmstadt, Germany
4. At one time or another, every province of the South Island

D) Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Dr Who
2. Coronation Street (I know, I know, but everyone has to have a guilty pleasure)
3. Scrubs (yay, a new series has finally started!)
4. Um, does it have to be something that’s on TV at the moment? I can think of loads of things we’ve got on DVD and watch over and over (mostly British series that aren’t shown over here), but not much that I go out of my way to watch on TV right now.

E) Four places you have been on vacation:
(Ok, this one is going to be really tough to narrow down to 4 – at last count I’d been to about 30 different countries in the course of my travels… I’ll have to just pick 4 at random or something)
1. Zanzibar
2. Iran
3. Norway
4. Burkina Faso (bonus points if you even know where that is without consulting an atlas – I didn’t until I went there!)

F) Websites you visit daily: (or semi-weekly)
1. Here, of course
2. Bookcrossing
3. Various forums (though not as often now as I used to)
4. Various webcomics

G) Four of my favorite foods:
1. Chocolate
2. More chocolate
3. Lots of chocolate
4. Um, did I mention chocolate?

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Anywhere sunny (it’s cold and windy and raining here, with snow threatened for later – anyone suffering a heatwave wanna swap?)
2. Any country where I’ve never been before (maybe with the exception of the Lebanon right now)
3. At home, sitting in front of the fire with a good book
4. In space

I) Five friends I think will respond:
Assuming 5 people even read this, they’ve probably already come across it elsewhere, and anyway I don’t want anyone to feel obligated, so,
1. I don’t know
2. No idea
3. Could be anyone
4. Somebody, possibly
5. Nope, still no idea

Running Relays

I’m sure somewhere in this diary I’ve mentioned bookrings (where a book travels from person to person along a predetermined path, finally returning to where it started) and bookrays (like a bookring, but doesn’t return home at the end), but I don’t think I’ve ever explained bookrelays. The concept of bookrelays, like many things in Bookcrossing, originated in the forums, and was based loosely on the concept of the book/film Pay It Forward, that when someone does something nice for you you should repay the favour by doing something nice for someone else. The original idea was that someone would offer a book on the forums, and if you wanted that book you could ask them to send it to you, on condition that you then offered up a book, and so on. Someone coined the name “bookrelay” to describe the practice, and eventually there were so many relays running on the forums that CasualReader offered to set up the Bookrelay site to coordinate them.

I took part in a few relays when they first started, but (as with bookrings and rays) the postage costs started to get a bit much so I pretty much stopped visiting the site. But the other day Cyberkedi PMed me to say that she’d offered The Cat Who Went Underground by Lilian Jackson Braun on a bookrelay, and as she’d noticed I was looking for books in the Cat Who series she thought I might like to claim it. The relay she’d offered it in had a theme of cats, so I had a search around my releasable books for something I could offer that a) was about cats; b) wasn’t too heavy to post; and c) was a good enough book that someone else would claim it in turn (it’s not considered the done thing in a bookrelay to offer a book so bad that nobody wants it, thereby “killing” the relay). Eventually I came across the copy of The Unadulterated Cat that awhina had given me, which nicely fitted all three categories, meaning I could claim The Cat Who Went Underground and offer that up in return (and it was very quickly claimed by dittybopper, so my assessment of (c) was dead on).

Anyway, I posted The Unadulterated Cat off to dittybopper at the weekend, and yesterday The Cat Who Went Underground arrived from Cyberkedi, so now I’m desperately trying to resist the temptation to look at the Bookrelay site to see if there’s anything else interesting being offerred…

It’s nice when a themed release plan comes together. MrPloppy has a series of dentist appointments over the next few weeks (poor thing!), and I’ve managed to aquire several copies of Jaws which are just crying out to be released at a dentist’s. So ever one to take advantage of another’s misfortune, when he went for his first appointment yesterday I gave him a copy to release while he was there. Little does he know that I’ve got one copy lined up for each appointment…

Currently reading: Hunter of Worlds by CJ Cherryh (which unfortunately is proving to be almost as bad as daveytay warned me it was)

The little meetup that grew

Yesterday’s little pre-booksale meetup actually ended up turning into a whole series of meetups. MrPloppy and I had arranged to meet lytteltonwitch and alkaline-kiwi (a visiting bookcrosser from Greymouth) at Starbucks for lunch (not our usual choice of dining establishment, but it’s in the Square, so easy to find for someone from out of town) before going on to the Theatre Royal booksale. We’d posted details of the meetup on the BCNZ Yahoo group, just in case anyone else wanted to join us to meet alkaline-kiwi, so we weren’t surprised to see non-fiction arrive.

We *were* surprised, however, when otakuu walked in! We’d had no idea she was in Christchurch, but she’d seen the notice on Yahoo and decided that as she was passing through she’d drop by and say hi. Unfortunately she couldn’t stay long because she had her family in tow, but after a quick consultation we decided to meet up again today for an early lunch before alkaline-kiwi has to leave for home, and when otakuu will have a bit more time.

After lunch and a bit of book swapping (I gave Volcanic Airs by Elizabeth Pewsey to lytteltonwitch for a themed release, and picked up A Tangled Web by LM Montgomery) and releasing a few books around Starbucks (Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine by Jostein Gaarder), we said goodbye to non-fiction, who was off for a haircut, and set off for the booksale (pausing along the way to release a few more books (Harnessing Peacocks by Mary Wesley, Bianca by Robert Elegant, The Infiltrator by Eileen MacDonald, and The Eight by Kathryn Neville) and to drop into the post office so I could finally post The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett to dittybopper).

The Theatre Royal booksale is nowhere near as good as Dunedin’s Regent sale, having nowhere near as many books and none of the great atmosphere. But we (well, lyttletonwitch and I, anyway) were on a mission: to search out books for themed releases for the celebration in a couple of weeks of the 150th anniversary of Christchurch becoming a city. Apparently Christchurch was the first town in NZ to be declared a city, when a bishop was appointed in 1856, so there’s a big celebration planned in the Square to mark the anniversary. So we were on the hunt for books about Christchurch, books by Christchurch authors, anything with “city”, “cathedral”, “square”, “anniversary” etc in the title, or anything about colonial times in general. We did pretty well – I think I found about 30 suitable books, and lytteltonwitch a similar number, so we should be able to cover the Square with books on the morning of the celebrations.

After a couple of hours among the dusty books in the sale, we decided to find a somewhere for a coffee. But it was half past three, in that dead hour on a Saturday when the cafes that are open for lunch are all closing, and the bars aren’t open yet for the evening. We were laden down with books so didn’t want to walk too far to find somewhere, so after searching the most likely areas around the theatre we decided to head for Riccarton instead, where the cafes stay open longer. We all piled into lytteltonwitch’s car (which has been renamed “The Bookcrossing Taxi” after all the ferrying around of bookcrossers it’s been doing lately), and as MrPloppy was starting to flag and just wanted to get home, I suggested that we could drop him home and then see if Trattorie (which is just around the corner from our place) was open, so we could show alkaline-kiwi the OCZ.

Unfortunately, when we got to Trattorie, it was just closing, but we just had time to check out the shelves. I haven’t been in there for a while, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they’re still being well maintained (I think mainly thanks to KiwiKat) and were well stocked with books. I grabbed a few interesting-looking ones from the shelf (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez), so I must remember to go back sometime soon and contribute a few books in return.

As we were leaving Trattorie, I got a text message from TheLetterB, saying that she was just on her way to the booksale, and asking if we were still there. I replied that we had already left and were on the hunt for coffee, so she said she’d join us, and we arranged to meet in Riccarton. Our timing wasn’t brilliant, so we’d all finished our drinks by the time she arrived, but we did manage to catch up with her at last and sat for a while chatting.

Finally, after what felt like a full day of meetups, we dropped alkaline-kiwi back in town and lytteltonwitch came back to our place for dinner and to compare booksale purchases. A very long day, and another meetup to go to this morning! Oh well, I’m sure I can squeeze in my Spanish homework sometime tonight…

Currently reading: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver