Get Thee Behind Me, Geraldine

And lo, the sun did shine through the clouds and point a finger of light to show the weary travellers the way. But it was a false light, for it led them only to Geraldine, and no matter what path they chose, all roads led to Geraldine. And so to Geraldine they went…

Lytteltonwitch and I went on an adventure yesterday, with the plan of a bit of bookcrossing, a bit of sight-seeing, and a bit of geocaching. Lytteltonwitch had, for a change, worked out a rough itinerary, but after doing all that clever planning, hadn’t actually remembered to put the map back in the car, so there we were in South Canterbury, trying to avoid getting onto the main highways (and the heavy Easter weekend traffic), and somehow whichever tiny side-road we took, it would end up heading to Geraldine. And as half of Canterbury had been up in Wanaka for the War Birds, and were all heading home via Geraldine, that was the last place we wanted to be. By the third time we turned off only to find another sign pointing to Geraldine, we were starting to think it was following us. And then when the clouds parted and a beam of light illuminated the houses on the hill in the distance, we were starting to wonder if someone was trying to tell us something!

The rest of the trip was equally full of adventures and weird moments. Like the car that seemed to be following us – we kept seeing it, even though we did a lot of backtracking after false turns. We couldn’t figure out if they were just as lost as us, or if they were geocaching too, and were waiting for us to get out of the way so they could search for caches.

One of the main places we wanted to visit was Raincliff, where there are some pre-European Maori rock drawings. Unfortunately they were vandalised by graffitists recently – they’ve managed to repair the damage, but they’ve had to put a big fence around the drawings to stop anyone else damaging it. Makes it a bit difficult to see them properly, but I managed to stick my camera through the fence and get an ok picture:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but the central figure in black has been drawn around a ridge of stone that is the perfect shape for its body, with legs and arms added in charcoal. Really cool.

Another must-visit destination was Hanging Rock – not only was there an ingeniously hidden geocache there, but lytteltonwitch had a copy of Picnic at Hanging Rock that was just begging to be released somewhere appropriate.

Our whole trip could, as usual, be tracked via our release notes, actually:

Triple Factor by Owen Sela at a petrol station;
Hot Water Man by Deborah Moggach under the fish in Raikaia;
The Bell Branch by Lucy Walker on the Temuka shoe tree;
Adam Bede by George Eliot at the Richard Pearce memorial outside Temuka;
Make a Cow Laugh by John Holgate on the bridge at Hanging Rock;
Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence at the rock drawings in Raincliff;
Mr Stone and the Knights Companion by VS Naipul at a church just outside Raincliff;
Children’s Children by Maisie Moscow on a memorial to early settlers at Pioneer Park;
The Modern World by Malcolm Bradbury and Shakespeare’s Bawdy by Eric Partridge in The Old Library at Fairlie, where we stopped for lunch;
The Venetian Affair by Helen MacInnes on the war memorial at Albury;
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel on a time capsule marker at Cave;
Cats in the Belfry by Patricia Knoll in a church at Cave;
Cannes by Iain Johnstone at a memorial to irrigation just outside Cave;
The Train Robbers by Piers Paul Read at the railway station in Pleasant Point (where the Thomas the Tank Engine train (sorry, I mean “Denny” the Tank Engine – no copyright violation here, officer) was doing joy rides);
For the Love of a Stranger by Erin Pizzey inside a moa (yes, I did say “inside” – have a look at the release photo :-)) at Alford Forest;
Black Out by John Lawton at the entrance to Mt Hutt;
and finally Lion in the Evening by Alan Scholefield in the KFC at Hornby when we stopped to pick up dinner on the way home.

The rest of the long weekend was equally busy, trying to get all the last minute stuff done before I leave (two weeks tomorrow!). I finally managed to get the bookstrings finished tonight (gluing the knots was what was holding me up, because I only had limited space to lie the glued strings out to dry, so I could only do 30-odd at a time), with gift-tags attached, and divided up according to how many we’ve promised for the various conventions in London, Madrid, Chania, Hamburg, and Genoa.

I also got some last minute shopping done, taking advantage of Kathmandu’s sale to pick up a couple of pairs of cargo pants (lighter to carry than my usual jeans), and silly little things like a new strap for my watch (which was falling apart). I’m slowly ticking things off my to do list.

What I didn’t manage to do was set up my phone for roaming. Australia and the UK are fine, because roaming is automatic there, but I have to get it set up beforehand for the other countries – and to do that they needed proper photo ID (and wouldn’t accept my credit card as ID, even though it has my photo on it). So I’ll have to go back next weekend. The Vodafone guy also gave me the bad news that my phone won’t work in America anyway – apparently they use different frequencies there or something, which my old cheap phone won’t cope with (typical America, has to be different from the rest of the world!). He tried to convince me to buy a $240 phone that would cope with America, but I think I’ll just wait until I get there and buy the cheapest phone I can find – there’s got to be one cheaper than that!

Fleebo and crasy were back in Christchurch on Sunday, so we had a brunch meetup at Trattorie. Another very well attended meetup, with, as well as the usual suspects, the gwilks, angela7715, and a reporter from the press, opshopper, who was taking notes for a potential article on bookcrossing. I made sure she got all the details about next year’s convention, so hopefully she’ll give us some good publicity. Lytteltonwitch and I wore our new t-shirts to show them off to everyone – the 2009 logo looks fantastic on them!

Currently reading: Love Like Hate Adore by Deirdre Purcell
Currently listening to: About a Boy by Nick Hornby

15 sleeps to go!!!!!

Meetups galore

Ok, I’ve just realised how long I’ve left it between entries. About time for an update.

We’ve had two meetups since I last posted – in fact, we’re in the middle of a bit of a meetup marathon (not quite as much of a meetup marathon as I’ll be having in April, though – this is more like a training session ;-)), because as well as our normal meetups, we’ve got a couple of extra meetups this month in honour of Fleebo and crasy. So last Tuesday was our regular second-Tuesday-of-the-month meetup, and then Sunday night we had a bonus meetup to welcome the travelling BCers. This Sunday we’re having breakfast, and then next weekend is our regular meetup weekend, so we’re having lunch… and then we’re almost back to second Tuesday again.

Tuesday’s meetup wasn’t all that well attended. Just me, lytteltonwitch, rarsberry, awhina, and meerkitten (who had fleas, apparently). Not many books, either – pretty much everything I’ve been reading lately has been going into my suitcase. I did bring Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire for lytteltonwitch, and picked up Book Book by Fiona Farrell from rars.

Sunday’s meetup was much better attended. As well as Fleebo and crasy, there was the entire awhina clan, me, lytteltonwitch, angela7715, and a new bookcrosser (whose name I didn’t catch, being at the wrong end of the table) and her friend. It was very crowded round the table until the awhinas went home. A really fun meetup though, and great to see Fleebo again. And loads of books floating around the table (which, for a change, I managed to resist the temptation of). The books attracted the attention of a table full of children’s librarians sitting nearby, and a few of them came over and talked to us as we were leaving. We gave them the rest of the books from the table, and one mentioned she’d found a few bookcrossing books before, but it wasn’t until I got home and saw the catch for the book I gave her that I realised it was NiceOrc.

After the meetup, I detoured over to the Court Theatre to finally leave Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh on the statue of the jester. It was worth the detour, too, because it got caught almost straight away!

A few other recent catches:

The other thing lytteltonwitch and I did on Sunday was go and visit TheLetterB, and Christchurch’s newest bookcrosser (will his screenname be TheLetterC, I wonder). Both were looking well, and TheLetterB loved my patchwork elephant, and the book discoverylover left with me to give her. TheLetterC wasn’t as impressed – he was more interested in eating his mittens 🙂 Because TheLetterB wasn’t able to go to the meetup (which we were on our way to when we visited), we gave her first pick of the books we were each taking along, and she gave me one (Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William R. Maples and Michael Browning) to take along so she could be there virtually.

Currently reading: Not a Hazardous Sport by Nigel Barley
Currently listening to: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (or at least, I’m trying to – unfortunately the reader has a very quiet, soothing voice, which is at exactly the same pitch as the sound of passing traffic while I’m walking, so I’m struggling to hear it even with the volume turned right up on my mp3 player).

22 sleeps to go!

9th of March

It’s the 9th of March today. So what? Well, that means that it’s exactly one month until I leave for my big trip!!! One month from now, we’ll be on the plane, just about to land in Sydney. I can’t wait!

Other than the momentous date, it’s been a pretty quiet weekend. I had the usual long list of things I wanted to get done, and as usual have only done a fraction of them. But I did get manage to get a report finished that I’ve been writing for the union, which was a big thing to get off my to-do list, and I went for a very long walk yesterday (I think I was out for about 3 hours – I know my feet were starting to complain by the time I got home!), delivering flyers for MrPloppy.

I ended up at Bishopdale, so I released a few books around the mall: Sicilian Defence by John Nicholas Iannuzzi, West of Sunset by Dirk Bogarde, The Diplomat’s Wife by Louise Pennington, The Scarlet Seed by Edith Pargeter, Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, and Wet Work by Christopher Buckley. Plus I released a couple of others on the walk itself: Sort of a Cricket Person by EW Swanton and Duncton Rising by William Horwood. My to-be-released box is starting to get a bit empty – I really must have a major registering effort again one day soon and refill it.

All this releasing is paying off in catches, though:

  • A second catch from Nepal Reserve (I think that gives me a 100% catch rate for that location – I must go and release a few more books there!)
  • A quick catch from one of the books I released on my way to work a couple of days ago
  • Another quick catch from the university
  • And a catch from a book I didn’t release – well, at least that I didn’t release into the wild. I gave it to someone to read at the meetup last month, and they must have released it. Trouble is, they didn’t make a journal entry or release notes, and I can’t remember who it was I gave it to (might have been one of the newbies, actually). Pity, because it would be cool for whoever released it to know it had been caught.

Every time I catch the bus, I feel a rant coming on

The bus driver got lost again this morning. Well, not lost exactly, just went the wrong way, and ended up spending ten minutes trying to do a three-point turn (in a bus!) on a busy street, all the while holding up the line of impatient traffic behind him.

This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon occurrence. Partly, this is because of the particular oddities of our bus route. As it winds through the suburbs, it passes through a series of T-intersections, and turns left at one, right at another, so you can understand why sometimes the drivers get mixed up about which intersection they’re at. But mostly it’s caused by the bus company’s completely irrational decision to keep swapping the drivers around, so none of them get the chance to get to know a route properly.

In the good old days, when our route was serviced by Leopard, we had the same driver every morning. He worked Monday-Friday, always on the same bus, on the same route, on the same shift. Because he drove it every day, he knew the route really well, and got to know the regular passengers. So he’d do things like notice if one of the regulars wasn’t at their stop and look back along the street to make sure they weren’t running for the bus. Or if you were carrying a heavy parcel he’d drop you outside your house instead of a few hundred metres further along at the proper bus stop. Or if you’d left your metrocard at home, he’d let you on the bus anyway, and just charge you double the next morning. And because he knew the route well, he knew where to make up lost time if he was delayed by anything, so the bus almost always arrived on time. And of course, he never got lost.

We didn’t realise how spoilt we were until Red Bus took over the route, and things changed. Suddenly, instead of one regular driver, we had four or five, who would be rotated onto different shifts every week or so. They eventually all got to know the route, but every time there was a change around there’d be a couple of days of confusion while they settled back into the route. Taking the bus wasn’t quite as pleasant an experience as it had been before. You’d have to be at the stop 5 minutes early (and often be standing there waiting for 10-15 minutes), because you never knew exactly what time the bus would arrive. And all the little courtesies were gone, because the drivers weren’t as aware of the special needs of individual passengers.

But now we’re starting to look back on having four or five drivers as the good old days. Sometime last year, Red Bus changed their shift system so that now we never have the same driver on two days in a row (and it’s not just because I take the bus so infrequently that makes it seem the drivers change constantly – a woman I often chat with at the bus stop, who takes the bus every day, said the same thing). In fact, they seem to have a policy of not having any driver drive the same route twice. Every morning there’s a different driver, and none of them know the route well. So they’re always getting lost, or having to brake suddenly because they almost missed a bus stop, or not noticing passengers running for the bus (which is very common, because none of them manage to stick to the timetable so you don’t know what time the bus will arrive), and the stress of always driving a new route means they’re always grumpy and rude to passengers, and drive more aggressively, so the ride isn’t as smooth.

All that would be bad enough, but there seems to be no logic to the change. Talking to one of the drivers, none of them can work out why they’re being shifted around all the time either. There surely can’t be any benefit to the bus company in running such an incredibly complicated shift system (they must be having to employ extra office staff just to keep track of it), and there’s definitely no benefit to either drivers or passengers. Completely inexplicable.

Ok, rant over for today.

(This is one of the many reasons I much prefer to walk to work – because if I take the bus, I spend the rest of the morning ranting about how awful the bus service is now. If only I hadn’t overslept this morning, I wouldn’t have been running late, so I wouldn’t have had to catch the bus…)

Currently reading: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
Currently listening to: Dirt Music by Tim Winton

34 sleeps to go!

Stress… or possibly just a bad sausage

Warning: the following will definitely fall into the “too much information” category for some of you. Feel free to skip down to the cute cat picture.

Quite a few years ago, I spent six months in Africa. A fantastic experience, but one of the downsides was contracting bacillic dysentery. As well as almost killing me, it had a lasting effect on my digestive system. Most of the time I’m perfectly fine, but as soon as life gets too stressful, my body tells me most violently that it’s time to calm things down a bit. So given how much stress I’ve been under with all this stupidity at work, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that I spent so much of last night and today sitting on the toilet 🙁

Or maybe it was that curry from the stall at the Relay for Life… or the barbecue at the bank tent… or just too much junk food over the weekend in general.

Oh well, a day of fasting and lots of peppermint tea seems to have settled things down a bit now. But it hasn’t been pleasant.

Ok, enough of that – time for a cute cat picture:

Saffy seems to have formed a bit of an attachment to the padded top to the filing cabinet 🙂

On Saturday I went to QEII with lytteltonwitch, for the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She was in a team representing the bank, as well as walking in the Survivor’s Lap, so I said I’d come along and walk with her. Of course, that was earlier in the week when the weather was better – by Saturday, the rain had set in. But we weren’t going to let a little bit of drizzle put us off, so we set off for QEII.

Lytteltonwitch’s bank had a big tent set up, so we at least had somewhere dry to wait while things got going. I’d brought my camera and a pile of books to release, and had planned to wander around taking photos of the stalls and costumes (some of which were really cool), and release books all over the place. Both plans were foiled, though, first by my camera’s battery running out after just a couple of pictures, and then by the rain getting so heavy that all the people with stalls and tents pulled the tables they’d had out in front back inside, so all the good release spots were gone. I ended up only releasing two books: The Enemy Within by L Ron Hubbard and Haven by John Maxim.

One of the few photos I got before the batteries gave out: Lytteltonwitch and some of her team-mates.

The Survivor’s Lap was first, which I think should have been called the Victory Lap, because it really felt like one watching it. All the survivors were wearing red sashes, and seeing them walking around the track in a big group was so moving. Everyone on the sidelines was applauding, and there were a few tears as well. I felt pretty close to tears myself, partly at just the sheer number of people wearing sashes, and at the expressions on the faces of everyone around me – such a mixture of pride and triumph for the survivors, and grief at the memory of those who hadn’t survived.

After the Survivor’s Lap, I joined lytteltonwitch on the track, and we spent the next hour and a half walking around the increasingly muddy and slippery track (maybe holding the event on the grass track wasn’t such a bright idea on the organisers’ part) and getting increasingly wet. We had fun, though – there was plenty going on both on and off the track, and everyone was cheerful despite the rain.

After our “shift” on the track, we went back to the bank’s tent so we could dry out a bit (and I could wring some of the water out of my t-shirt!) then browsed the stalls for some lunch. Then one of the bank team set up a barbecue in the tent, so we had a second lunch 🙂

Lot of fun, anyway, and we’re plotting for a Bookcrossing team (and free book stall!) for next year, or whenever the relay next comes to Christchurch (lytteltonwitch thinks it moves around to different towns in Canterbury each year).

Yesterday’s main event was a major shopping expedition, to get new gym shoes, and a few more bits and pieces I need for the world tour. And as all the books I’d intended to release at QEII were still in my bag (and not *too* damp :-)), I released them around the mall instead: Hyena Dawn by Christopher Sherlock; To the Coral Strand by John Masters; Within the Bounds by Marc Lodge; Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; Death in Zanzibar by MM Kaye (in a tropical pot plant); Suck My Toes by Fiona McGregor (in the shoe shop); Katie Mulholland by Catherine Cookson; and One by Richard Bach.

A few catches from the last few days: Cosmos by Carl Sagan, caught after three months; Dragonlance Legend: Test of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, popping up on trains all over the North Island; The King’s Adventurer by Jean Plaidy, also caught after three months (three months seems to be a really common time for books to be in the wild, actually); and War Story by Derek Robinson, travelling from war memorial to war memorial.

And a few more recent releases: Moonraker by F Tennyson Jesse; The Moscow Club by Joseph Finder (in the Russian Department at the University, of course); Judge Dredd by Neal Barrett Jr.; The Hampton Heritage by Julie Ellis; Fancy Woman by Valerie Maskell; The Eighth Commandment by Lawrence Sanders; and Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer. My release rate has definitely been going back up lately!

Currently reading: Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence
Currently listening to: Dirt Music by Tim Winton