Really the end this time

Servalan left early on Thursday morning to catch her train back to Sydney, but my flight wasn’t until late afternoon, so I had a day to fill on my own. I’d done pretty much all the touristy stuff Brisbane had to offer (the ones I could afford, anyway), so after wandering around town one last time (and releasing The Song of the Forest by Colin Mackay), I filled in the rest of my day by going to the movies (War of the Worlds, which I was pretty underwhelmed by).

Then it was back to the Palace to pick up my bags, and release my last few books on their book exchange shelf, and off to the airport, headed for home (with a much lighter bag than I arrived with!)
Summer Lightning and Other Stories by Olive Senior
American Dad by Tama Janowitz
Basilica by William D. Montalbano
Night Sounds by Warner Lee

Cultcha and stuff

After the disappointment of the highly commercialised Australia Zoo, servalan and I decided to spend Tuesday and Wednesday on more cultural pursuits, visiting Brisbanes museums, art galleries and gardens… and releasing a few more books 😉

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A few works of art that caught my eye

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and some flowers that caught my eye even more.

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See, my paranoia about Australia being full of nasty spiders is completely justified!

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Mangroves growing beside the river. I’ve always had a weird affection for mangroves, ever since watching David Attenborough raving about them in Life on Earth.

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Sugar cane growing in the botanic gardens. Pity I’d already released that Nancy Cato book.

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Whoever built this building obviously had very good taste 🙂

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An attempt at photographing the river by night. I really must get a tripod for my camera one day!

Releases on Tuesday and Wednesday:
Beyond the Labyrinth by Gillian Rubinstein
The Secret Diary of a Telephonist by Heather Marshall (another themed release: I left it sitting on top of a telephone)
The Violins of Saint-Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Dr. Hunk by Glenda Sanders (themed release in a blood donor clinic)
Personal Velocity by Rebecca Miller
A Mind to Murder by P.D. James
Red Herrings by Tim Heald
Special Agent Nanny by Linda O Johnston
First Grey, Then White, Then Blue by Margriet De Moor
Winterflight by Joseph Bayly
Sudden Unprovided Death by Stan Hey
No Disguise for Love by Barbara Cartland
The Dance of Death and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood
Elephants Don’t Sit on Cars by David Henry Wilson
Waiting for the Rain by Sheila Gordon
Walter: My Secret Life edited by Eberhard & Phyllis Kronhausen
The Gravedigger File by Os Guinness
Lolly Willows by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Welcome to Paradise by Laurence Shames
From This Day Forward by Connie Monk
Dark Inheritance by Elaine Feinstein
Burning Bright by Helen Dunmore
Mrs. Hartley and the Growth Centre by Philippa Gregory
Inheritance by Owen Brookes
On Not Being Able to Paint by Joanna Field (themed release in an art gallery)
The Finishing School by Gail Godwin
As Crime Goes by by Diane K. Shah
The Native Air by Sarah Woodhouse
This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger

Wednesday was my birthday, so I went out for dinner with servalan and some of the Brisbane bookcrossers (MadamMuck and MrMuck, Neesy and Flinx73, bandm, cackleberry and jawin, and Amjoco). We had a fantastic night, everyone insisted on paying for my dinner, and neesy even brought along a birthday cake she’d made for me. Oh, and a few books might have changed hands 🙂 (Concrete by Raewyn Alexander, Closed Stranger by Kate De Goldi, Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty). A great birthday, and a great end to my last full day in Australia.
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Steve Irwin and other scarey animals

I’d come to Brisbane, I’d done a bit of research into things to do in Brisbane. The answer seemed to be “not a lot”, but one place everyone told me I had to visit was Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. I don’t like zoos in general, and from what I’d seen of Steve Irwin on TV, I could imagine the kind of over-the-top tourist trap his theme park come zoo might be, but I did want to actually get to see some native Australian animals before I left, and with the short time (and even shorter funds) available to me the zoo unfortunately seemed the best way to do that.

I mentioned my plan to servalan, lytteltonwitch, and steelman, and they decided to come along too. So we loaded up with books to release and headed to the railway station to catch a train up to the Sunshine Coast, where the zoo is. Unfortunately, the area wasn’t living up to its name, and by the time we reached the station where we were to transfer to a courtesy bus to take us the last few km to the zoo, it was pouring with rain. Real tropical rain. But we refused to let that ruin our day, bought cheap plastic rain ponchos from the zoo’s giftshop, and set off to explore the zoo.

On one level, I suppose it was a good zoo. The animal enclosures were generally large and provided plenty of activity and stimulation for the animals, and the concentration was mostly on native species. But there was a huge emphasis on the public being able to touch the animals – there were areas where you could pat a koala or a kangaroo, you could line up to feed animals by hand, and there were keepers walking around all the time carrying animals in their arms so that people could touch them. And that made me feel really uncomfortable – the exploitative “animals as entertainment” side of ordinary zoos is bad enough, but at least I can justify that to myself (sort of) by thinking of the valuable research and conservation work good zoos do, which is only paid for by the entry fees of people coming to be entertained. But Australia Zoo seemed to take that to a whole new level, and although there were keepers always on hand to explain how to approach the animals so as not to make them nervous, and although the animals seemed to have become acclimatised to people, every time I saw a child trying to hug a kangaroo, or pulling at a koala’s fur, or an adult patting one roughly like you would a dog, I felt awful.

And then there was the show. There is a large stadium-like structure in the zoo, and several times a day the keepers put on a show there, displaying some of their animals (aparently if Steve Irwin often appears in the show himself, but he was out of town that day, so we were spared his presence – unfortunately, his replacement was doing his best to emulate his employer’s style…) The show was what really ruined the day for me – snakes, crocodiles, and tigers were brought out and made to entertain the crowd. There was a token gesture towards education (hey kids, does anyone know what you should do if a snake bites you?), but mostly the show seemed to be aimed at showing us how brave the keepers were to be able to handle such dangerous animals. It was as bad as a wild animal act in a circus, and I was feeling sick by the end.
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Oh well, at least I got to see kangaroos and koalas and kookaburras and cassowarys and emus and crocodiles and snakes and lizards and parrots (and a few non-natives, like a Galapagos tortise that supposedly was once owned by Darwin (that’s her under the red light)).
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It was too wet to release many books at the zoo (I only released All Through the Night by Mary Higgins Clark), but when we got back to Brisbane we released a few more:
The Partisan by Clare Nonhebel
War Moon by Tom Cooper
Emma’s Family by Elizabeth Daish

Convention Day 3

The last day of the convention began at King George Square again. There was a market in the square where, while waiting to meet up with the other bookcrossers, I released They’re a Weird Mob by John O’Grady and found a face-painter to give me another ballycumber on my hand (it would have been more impressive on my cheek, but I remembered from previous face-painting experiences how much I hate the feel of drying paint on my face so opted for a hand instead):
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Once we’d all gathered, we took some group photos (I’m not even going to attempt to name everyone!), and then headed off down Albert Street, where there is a literary trail of plaques along each side of the street, each commemorating an author with a connection to Brisbane or Queensland. We followed the trail along down one side of the street and back up again, releasing books on each plaque as we went. To my disappointment, I didn’t have any books by any of the authors on the trail, but I did have a few books by other Australian authors, so I released those on some of the plaques:

Val Vallis
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Lily Makes a Living by Lolo Houbein
Sam Watson
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Gwen Harwood
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Tony Maniaty
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Thea Astley
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Ross Clark
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Michael Noonan
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David Malouf
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Kevin Hart
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The Search for Harry Allway by Alex Buzo
(My 1000th release!)
Jill Shearer
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Venero Armanno
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Parachute Silk by Gina Mercer
Nigel Krauth
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Brian Penton
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Criena Rohan
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Jack Lindsay
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Playing in the Sand by Christopher Hudson
Steven Herrick
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Thomas Shapcott
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David Rowbotham
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Francis Adams
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Andrew McGahan
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Paul Grano
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Janet Turner-Hospital
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Clement Byrne Christensen
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Brown Sugar by Nancy Cato
Gerard Lee
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Jessica Anderson
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Hugh Lunn
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Rodney Hall
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The Keeper of the Nest by Moira Watson
Philip Neilsen
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Oodgeroo Noonuccal
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The Scent of Eucalyptus by Barbara Hanrahan
Gary Crew
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Vance Palmer
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Steele Rudd
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Once again, our books were attracting attention, and were being picked up almost as fast as we put them down.
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Just as in Sydney, there were other signs that Bookcrossers had invaded the city:
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The convention was fast drawing to a close, and there was only one more event remaining – lunch at a yum cha restaurant, where we were plied with food, more books were exchanged, and we bid a sad farewell to most of the convention attendees. And I realised that for the first time at a Bookcrossing convention, I hadn’t had a chance to talk to every attendee – there were just too many people there. It’s amazing how fast Bookcrossing has grown in just the few years it’s been around.

The end, but not the end

The convention might have been over, but my holiday certainly wasn’t – I still had another four days in Brisbane.

After the lunch, servalan, lytteltonwitch and I headed out to visit some more of Brisbane’s markets, release a few more books (yes, we still had some left!) and to explore the Botanic Gardens some more.

The Lake at the End of the World by Caroline MacDonald
Making Money Made Simple by Noel Whittaker
Three Plays for Puritans by George Bernard Shaw

When we got back to the Palace, the foyer was full of Bookcrossers checking out, and by evening there were only a few of us left, so we all went out for dinner together that night.

Convention Day 2

Ok, despite what it says on the date above, today is actually 2 January 2006, and as usual, I have left finishing telling the story of my trip to Australia far too late, so I’ve forgotten most of it (although I’ve still got my list of books I released, which helps a bit). But I’ll attempt to piece together a few memories, and at least upload my photos…

Saturday started off with a walking tour through Brisbane. We’d arranged to meet in King George Square, but when we got there we discovered it was also the meeting place for the Pride march taking place that day. So most of us ended up with Pride stickers and balloons, and many of the Pride marchers ended up with books and Bookcrossing stickers in return.

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The wonderfully colourful Pride march assembling

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Proud Bookcrossers 😉

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Skyring up to his usual tricks, releasing a book into the fountain.

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Steelman and newk (complete with Pride sticker on his forehead)

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One of the Pride balloons adopted for Bookcrossing purposes

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First stop was the Queen Street Mall, where Skyring led an impromptu class in “how to release books into fountains”. I didn’t release any books into the water, but released a few nearby in the mall:
Spanish Disco by Erica Orloff
Seeing the Earth from Space by Irving Adler
Metamorphosis by David Saperstein
Merlyn’s Magic by Carole Mortimer

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We walked past the casino, and the wide steps and fence in front of it seemed like an ideal place to release books, so most of us did (mine were: Casino by Peter Baker and The Dying of the Light by Michael Dibdin). We then moved off across one of the bridges across the river, leaving behind a few stragglers who were still releasing their books. When they caught up with us, they had a sad tale to tale – a security guy had come out of the casino, told them off for “littering” and was about to throw all the books in the rubbish. But luckily our intrepid stragglers were able to collect up all the books again before that happened, and released them elsewhere later in the day.

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Across the river at South Bank we caught up with the Pride march again.

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Meanwhile, the books we were releasing all over the place were attracting attention.
Around South Bank I released:
The Winter Players by Tanith Lee
The Blue Bedroom and Other Stories by Rosamunde Pilcher
All on a Summer’s Day by Judy Gardiner
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
Orielton: The Human and Natural History of a Welsh Manor by Ronald M. Lockley

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As is rapidly becoming traditional at antipodean conventions, a flash mob had been arranged. This time we lined up along the lawn in front of the food courts, and each released a book onto the grass. Almost as soon as we’d put the books down, people were gathering to look at them, and some of them went very quickly. We retreated to the food court for lunch and to watch the rest of the books disappear.
No Place to Hide by Ted Allbeury

We had a the afternoon free, so a few of us headed off to explore the markets and release some more books. I gave two away to stall-holders: Hearse of a Different Colour by Tim Cockey to a man selling decorative clocks and placemats (there was a cat set which I was very tempted by, but financial practicalities intervened), and A Summer Affair by Ivan Klima to a woman who had a nail-painting booth after I asked her to paint a ballycumber (the running book mascot) on my thumbnail.

On way back to Palace, I released a couple more:
The Boys in Blue by Rebecca York, Ann Voss Peterson, and Patricia Rosemoor (a themed release I was rather proud of: I left the book outside a police kiosk!)
Reasonable Doubts by Joan Lingard

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That evening, there was a Quiz Night. My team were more interested in the food and drink than the answers to the quiz, but we didn’t embarrass ourselves too badly, and a great time was had by all. And of course, many books changed hands:
The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe
Are You Experienced? by William Sutcliffe
Nuke Hill by Steven Spetz
Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (which I’d found in the bookcase of the Palace when I arrived, so nabbed it and registered it)
There’s Got To Be A Catch! by Michael Ryan

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When we got back to the Palace, we retreated to the roof garden for more drink and talk, and the Adelaide contingent started planning their bid to host the next BCAUS convention (they won the bid, by the way, and are hosting the convention in October 2006 – and if I can just scrape the money together, I’ll be there!)

My attempts at photographing the city lights below us:
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Friday night: Registration

More and more Bookcrossers arrived over the next hour or so, and at 5.30 pm wombles turned up to escort us on the train to Fortitude Valley, where the convention registration evening was being held.
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The registration evening was the usual mix of great people, good food, and great books of any TGFKAM, but multiplied by about ten. There were at least 70 Bookcrossers present, a *huge* table full of books, another covered in wrapped books for a mystery book swap (I contributed The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman), and everywhere I looked there were faces I recognised from Sydney or Christchurch, or nametags with familiar names from the forums that I was finally meeting for the first time. Our goody bags were overflowing with brochures (on Brisbane and on fruits and vegetables (something to do with the fact that we were using the GrowCon boardroom for our function – one of the Brisbane Bookcrossers works there – which led to newk questioning whether he’d unwittingly come to the Fruit & Vege Convention instead of the Bookcrossing Convention); bookmarks; postcards; snacks (including goodies from Toronto and Dunedin); a bottle of water; a notepad and pen; a balloon (for reasons never explained); a badge; a name-tag (cleverly, a hang-round-your-neck lanyard type, rather than a pin-on one); a “convention survival kit” (consisting of:

A safety pin, to hold yourself together when the excitement gets too much.
A hug voucher, because everyone needs one!
A bandaid, for those blisters from walking all over Brisbane.
A mintie, because at moments like these you need…
Sample sun lotion, because you’re in sunny QLD.
And… a tea bag, in case you get into hot water!

and all contained in a Bookcrossing release bag); and, of course, a book (I got True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey).

The convention was declared open by caldron, and the mystery books were distributed (I got Flashback by Michael Palmer), and books for the sweepstakes were collected up (my contribution was Where Did It All Go Right? by Andrew Collins – later I remembered that I was supposed to have contributed a NZ book, but nobody seemed to mind). Journals and travelling creatures of all shapes and sizes were being circulated to be signed and/or photographed with, plus at least two “cheat books” (the fact that I’d left the NZ cheat book behind in Christchurch was a minor matter – servalan and I just faked one up from a sheet of cardboard, reasoning that if it’s a cheat book, then we could cheat as much as we liked!), and newk even had a few t-shirts with their own BCIDs (leading some of the purists to complain that it was supposed to be BOOKcrossing, not Toyandtshirtcrossing).
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Newk turned out to have a vast supply of t-shirts with him, and every so often would disappear off into a side room to change into another one. He even gave me one to wear, promoting Dunedin in 2006.
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Books I released to the book table or passed on to other bookcrossers:
Alessandra: Alex in Rome by Tessa Duder
Right Where It Hurts by David Hill
A Joker Like Me by Robin Booth
Then Upon the Evil Season by Noel Virtue
Like You, Really by Kate Flannery
Celebrity Cats by Larry Wright
Sheiks of Summer by Susan Mallery et al
The Matchbox House by Marilyn Duckworth
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Yule Be Mine by Charlene Teglia
It’s Not You, It’s Me by Alison Rushby
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Journals, toys, and t-shirts that passed through my hands over the evening:
RubyJules’ Bookcrossing Journal
The Australian “Cheat Book”: Little Johnny and the Naughty Boat People by Christopher Milne
Bilbo Kiwiberry
Newk’s “Wish you were here” t-shirt
Uncle Bulgaria
Wombles’s Journal
Wombles’s Favourite Books Journal
The original New Zealand Cheat Book… sort of

Friday Morning: Surfer’s Paradise with Skyring

Next morning, the story of our Brazilian Hunk (who had come back in from his night out at about 5 am, just as I was waking up (this again was to become the pattern over the next few days – servalan and I decided it must be some sort of time-share scheme on the room… either that or he was a vampire) quickly spread around the other Bookcrossers in the Palace (and from there, to the Bookcrossing forums), and, helped along greatly by Skyring’s stories about hearing cries of passion in the night, gave birth to a new name for the hostel: “The Passion Palace”. Jokes about Brazillians became staple fodder for the rest of the convention – for someone we’d exchanged about two words with, he was providing a lot of entertainment! 🙂

Anyway, after finding some breakfast, servalan and I decided to go our separate ways for the day: she to seek out cheap books, and me to try and see a bit more of the area around Brisbane. At the Palace, I was checking out a rail map of the area, trying to find an interesting-sounding destination, when Skyring and steelman walked in. Steelman was in search of lytteltonwitch, who he thought had been heading for the Palace to meet us, but there was no sign of her. We discussed our plans for the day while waiting to see if she’d turn up, and steelman said he and lytteltonwitch were intending to take a train to Ipswitch, to see a rail museum. That didn’t sound like a huge amount of fun to me, so I said I’d probably take a train to the coast and see the sea, but didn’t know which coastal town would be most interesting. At that point Skyring chipped in to say that I really needed to see the Gold Coast if I wanted to see the sea. With my usual expertise in geography, I’d imagined that it was a really long way off, but it’s actually really close to Brisbane – only about an hour by car. And Skyring had just the plan to get there – we hire a car, and go to Surfer’s Paradise for lunch. He checked prices on the internet, found a hire place just down the road with a cheap small car available, and farewelling steelman, we set off to pick it up. On the way we stopped at King George Square, where I released Dressing Up for the Carnival by Carol Shields on a statue. As I was taking a photo for the release notes, someone grabbed me round the waist – it was lytteltonwitch, who said she’d got sick of steelman and decided to dump him for the day, so was trying to avoid him until he left for Ipswitch on his own. So of course we invited her to Surfer’s with us – not much chance of him tracking her down there!

We picked up the car, which turned out to be a manual… at which point Skyring mentioned that he hadn’t driven one for about 20 years, and might be “a bit rusty”. I don’t have a licence, and lytteltonwitch had never driven in Australia before, so we voted him still the most competent to drive, and off we kangaroo-hopped in the direction of the Gold Coast (actually, it wasn’t the kangaroo-hopping gear changes that were the real problem, it was his casual mention that he normally drives his automatic with two feet – so his automatic reaction when wanting to brake was to stand on the clutch…). Somehow, we made it safely, and went for a lovely walk along the beach (again, all the locals were bundled up in their winter woolies, while lytteltonwitch and I were happily paddling in the sea – it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim, but it wasn’t far off!). I, of course, had to do the yuppie thing and phone MrPloppy just so I could say “Guess where I am?” and gloat a bit about the white sands, blue skies, etc. The beach was pretty spectacular – I can see why everyone wants to go there for their winter holidays. But at the same time, I can’t imagine doing so myself – I think I’d be bored stupid within about a day. A morning walking on the beach was just enough for me. Luckily for the Queensland economy, not everyone thinks like me – the high-rise hotels and apartments stretch along the beach as far as the eye can see (literally – Skyring pointed out some towers way out on the horizon, and told us that was the border with New South Wales), and there were cranes everywhere building even more.
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Once we were sick of the beach, we found a pub overlooking the sea (not difficult – everything in Surfer’s seems to overlook the sea) and had some lunch, watching people walking past on the beach below (guessing who was a local and who a tourist by which season they were dressed for), boats and kayaks passing out at sea (no whales, though), and even spotting a couple of the famous beauty-queen “meter maids”, which I’d always thought was a joke in the same category as drop bears, but no, they do exist!
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I released Ghost of a Chance by Jayne Ann Krentz in the pub.

After lunch, we headed back to Brisbane, stopping off on the way at a few op shops (and two real second hand bookshops) in search of more books for release (like I really needed more books!). We got back to Brisbane at about 4 pm, and dropped off the car. As we got back to the door of the Palace, coming from the other direction we saw servalan and a crowd of other Bookcrossers who’d arrived over the course of the day: thebiblioholic; catsalive; charbono; k-j-h; Jenny-G; fushmush; and TramGirl. We spent a while chatting and using the internet in the Palace’s lounge, and then it was time to get ready for the start of the Second BC-AUS Convention.

I forgot to mention the goodies!

I knew there was something missing from my description of the day – the Dunedin goodies. boreal and rarsberry had sent me up a box of goodies to take over to Brisbane with me, as a promotion for the NZBC convention to be held in Dunedin next February. The goodies consisted of mini Crunchie bars (as produced in the Dunedin Cadbury’s factory) and a card with the convention details on it, wrapped up in the Otago colours of blue and gold. They’d sent 60 of them, so it was quite a large box (and meant I couldn’t take my nice yellow bookcrossing tote bag (which I’d spent ages sewing the 2005 convention patch on!), but had to take a larger bag to fit the box plus all those books.

Anyway, I was very aware of the fact that a bag full of books might look a bit funny on a x-ray, so I’d taken care to tell the person at check-in about the books, and wasn’t surprised that I was stopped when my bag went through the customs/security x-ray at Brisbane. “What’s in this bag?” the scarey-looking customs guy asked.
“Mostly books.”
He gave me a funny look. “What’s in all the little packets?”
I managed (just) to restrain myself from laughing – I’d completely forgotten about the box of goodies from Dunedin, and had been so busy worrying about the books that I hadn’t even considered what 60 small foil-wrapped chocolate bars might look like! I must have looked innocent, because he accepted my explanation and didn’t bother to actually search my bag.

The next drama was actually getting the goodies to Neesy. That shouldn’t have been a difficult operation, because I had her mobile number, and she knew they were coming, so we just had to meet up for the handover. The only problem was, when I texted her to let her know I was in Brisbane, she replied that she had come down with flu, and was probably going to leave work early and go home to sleep, so she’d have to get someone else to meet me. Anyway, after much texting back and forth over the course of the day, and many changes of plans, she finally decided that she was going to stay in town for dinner anyway, and we arranged to meet at the restaurant. servalan and Skyring came along too, and we had a nice dinner, handed over the goodies (plus some prizes that Skyring was donating), and got to meet Neesy’s partner Flinx73.

Thursday: Day One in Brisbane

As I might have mentioned ;-), it was a very early start on Thursday to get to the airport for a 4 am check-in. As predicted, TopKat wasn’t able to come, so I was off on an adventure on my own. My bag was only 19.3 kg – I could have fitted another couple of books in there! The flight was pretty uneventful – highlight was seeing the full moon lighting up the tops of the clouds as we flew over the Tasman. I’m not great at sleeping on planes, so only managed a few short dozes along the way. Luckily the plane wasn’t too full, so I managed to get a row all to myself – a lot more comfortable than being squished up between other people – so it wasn’t as tiring as it might have been.

Arrived in Brisbane at 8 am (local time), and after a few false starts finally managed to find my way to the railway station (how was I supposed to guess that you have to go *upstairs* to find the railway lines?!?), and caught the airtrain into the city. Luckily, the Palace Backpackers, where I was staying, was just across the road from the station, because there was no way I could have carried my bag of books any further – as it was it almost broke my back! servalan was waiting in reception – she’d come up from Sydney on the overnight train, and had arrived just a few minutes before me. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our bags in the luggage room and headed out to find some breakfast (my third for the day, having had something to eat at Christchurch airport and on the plane, but considering I’d already been up for about 8 hours, it was feeling more like dinnertime). After some exploring, we found an outdoor cafe in the Queen Street Mall, and I released Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson on a bench nearby, so that we could watch it while we ate. Instant success! Almost straight away a woman sat down on the bench, picked up the book, and started reading. She seemed to be enjoying the book, because she read for about half an hour before getting up and leaving, taking the book with her.
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Back to the Palace, where we managed to completely confuse the people on the front desk about how many of us needed to check in (I had emailed them cancelling TopKat’s reservation, but we got the impression that their reservation system is not entirely reliable), and finally got allocated a room on the fourth floor. Then came our introduction to the lift. The backpackers is in a lovely old late 19th-century building in the style everyone associates with Australia, and used to be a home run by the Salvation Army. The lift seems to be of the same vintage as the building, and is one of those ones in a visible cage, where you have to manually open the (very heavy) doors to get in and out. We came to know its idiosyncracies over the next few days: it would start with a lurch of speed, then suddenly slow to a crawl halfway to the first floor; it always stopped at the first floor, no matter which buttons you pressed; and if you didn’t open the door straight away at the floor you wanted, it would head back down to the ground floor again.
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We unpacked (which for me mainly meant unloading piles of books – only about 2kg of the 19.3 was clothes (my theory was that if I needed more clothes I could buy them over there)) and then headed out to properly explore the city.
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We crossed the river on one of the many little ferries that zip back and forth across it all day (releasing Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man by Tim Allen and More Travels in a Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker on board), to visit the South Bank, home of the Cultural Centre (theatres, art gallery and museum), riverside walks, and an artificial beach (part of which was closed for cleaning!)
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We released a couple of books on the South Bank:
The Fisher King by Leonore Fleischer
Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh
then decided to catch another ferry, this time one of the catamarans that travel up and down the river from one side of the city to the other. It was lovely and warm by my standards (though the locals were all bundled up in coats and scarves, shivering at the just-below-20-degree winter weather), so we sat out on deck for most of the trip, until evening fell and the wind started to get a bit cold. It was a great way to get an overview of the city.
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On the way back to the Palace, we came across a huge Morton Bay fig tree on a busy intersection. Its complex root system offered hundreds of little nooks and crannies just perfect for hiding a book in, so I released Song of Norway by Monica Howard in one of them.

Back at the Palace, we discovered signs of Bookcrossers: we’d missed lyttletonwitch, but she’d left a book outside our door, Skyring was downstairs using the internet facilities, and there were suddenly Bookcrossing labels sprouting on many of the books in the book exchange shelf (I dropped off The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean). An early night beckoned, but we quickly hit a snag when we discovered that we couldn’t close the window in our room – they’d been painting, and had obviously managed to paint it open, so that neither our nor Skyring’s efforts could get it closed. It was just cool enough now that night had fallen that we didn’t really want to leave it open all night, so we went down to the front desk to ask them to fix it. They failed too, so decided to move us into another room. Skyring kindly helped us repack all our books and carry them across the hall to our new room, another 3-bed, where we observed signs of habitation. As I unpacked my 90-odd books again, we joked that our new roommate would get a shock when she came in and found books piled everywhere. However, as we got undressed for bed, the door opened, and we discovered that our new roomie was in fact a he. He turned out to be a Brazilian (with a confusingly German accent) named Heimie (or possibly Heinie – we never did establish his name properly). He combed his hair, sprayed himself liberally with deodorant, and headed out for a night on the town (which later turned out to be a regular nightly ritual), while we lay giggling, thinking of what our fellow Bookcrossers would say when they heard we were sharing our room with a “Brazilian Hunk”.