Saturday Morning: Walking Tour and Release Frenzy

Saturday morning was my big responsibility, so I dragged everyone out of bed and onto the bus into town bright and early (ok, at about 9.30) so that we’d be the first to arrive at the assembly point. Of course we weren’t – we spotted the yellow bags of those even more enthusiastic than us in the distance as we walked towards the Square (the bright yellow bookcrossing totebags are ideal for spotting other bookcrossers in a crowd!), and discovered the base of the Chalice already dotted with books (The Trouble with Donocan Croft by Bernard Ashley).
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By 10.15 all the bookcrossers had gathered, so I led the group off on the walk. I wanted to make it interesting for the locals as well as the tourists, so I tried to include a few things the locals might never have noticed (like the Birdman plaque in the Square, or the old Provincial Chambers). At each stop (and even between stops), books were being released right and left, so that anyone who wanted to track our movements wouldn’t have had much difficulty – just follow the trail of books!

From the Square, we walked over to New Regent Street, which is ideal for releasing books, being filled with cafes and people relaxing. I released Cannily Cannily by Simon French and Nordy Bank by Sheena Porter (which got caught!), and as the tram passed by, dropped The Case of the Daring Decoy by Erle Stanley Gardner on the back bumper. Every time that tram passed us for the rest of the day, we’d look out for the book, and it was still there (it was even seen still circling at 5.30 pm that night!).

We then walked along the river (Take the Long Path by Joan de Hamel), past the swimming pool (Diving Adventure by Willard Price) and the odd little “telephone cabinet” (BMX Billy by Brian Ball) to the Firefighters’ Reserve, where there is a monument to the World Trade Centre made from pieces taken from the rubble of the building (Men Without Women by Ernest Hemmingway and Z Warning by Dan Oran and Lonn Hoklin).
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Then it was back along the other side of the river (A Woman’s Place by Katherine Yorke) past the Retour restaurant built inside the old band rotunda (More Home Life by Alice Thomas Ellis) and the Seattle-Christchurch Sister City monument (Modern American Humour ed. by Michael Barsley) to the Town Hall and Victoria Square (The Mouse Who Trusted the Cat by Mischa Damjan and Tiger of the Track by Michael Hardcastle).
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On the tram bridge in Victoria Square, lytteltonwitch discovered a new release technique: as a punt full of tourists passed under the bridge, she dropped a book into the arms of one of them, much to his surprise!

Next stop was the old Canterbury Provincial Chambers, a hidden gem that no tourists and very few locals know about, but which are totally free and open to the public. We spent quite a while exploring the beautiful old buildings, resting on the comfy chairs, and releasing books here and there (Milkman Bill by Jessica Potter Broderick, The Balcony by Jean Genet, The Siege of Babylon by Farrukh Dhondy, and The Chancellor Manuscript by Robert Ludlum).

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Lollie-mavette recording the official council minutes in the stone chamber.

We left the Provincial Chambers and continued along the river to the Kate Sheppard memorial (Happy Easter Mother Duck by Elizabeth Winthrop), where the discovery of one of catsalive‘s books led us to the discovery that catsalive wasn’t actually with us any more – we’d lost her somewhere along the way! We finally narrowed it down that the last place we’d seen her was in the courtyard of the Provincial Chambers, where she’d stayed outside for a smoke while we went inside to explore. I then realised that I’d led the group out through a different exit, so she wouldn’t have known that we’d left! A couple of people retraced our steps back to the courtyard, but returned to say there was no sign of her. We were nearing the end of our tour anyway, so I pointed out the location of the Arts Centre, where we’d planned to have lunch, and the Museum where we’d be meeting for the afternoon’s Flashmob, and we set off on our separate ways, hoping that someone would run into catsalive.
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As it turned out, someone did, quite quickly. rarsberry found her a few minutes later, sitting happily outside the Arts Centre waiting for us. When she realised we’d left without her, she did the sensible thing and followed the map I’d put in the goody bags to the Arts Centre, where she knew we’d be finishing our tour, and managed to arrive there before us (because we were all still mucking around up by the river looking for her!) So, having found our stray cat, we headed into the Arts Centre to check out the food stalls for lunch (but not before I’d released Painted Lady by Francois Sagan beside a statue of a woman outside the Art Gallery – a themed release that paid off, because I got a catch!)

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I released a few books around the Arts Centre: The Cat on the Dovrefell by Tomie De Paola, Eighteen Desperate Hours by Roderic Jeffries, Return to the Stars by Erich von Daniken, and Little Chick’s Big Day by Mary DeBall Kwitz, which we not only watched get caught (again by an excited child), but the people who caught it re-released it in Wellington on Monday, and it got caught again!

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Little Chick being caught.

After lunch, we assembled in front of the Museum (No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Holmelund Minarik) where rarsberry gave us the instructions for the Flashmob: we were to slowly make our way from different directions to the North Quad, take out a book or two with an animal theme (a couple of people didn’t have an appropriate book, so I passed out some of mine: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse and The Three Little Pigs by Alan Benjamin, Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, and Ride a Wild Pony by James Aldridge), and sit th
ere reading it (or pretending to read it) until the signal was given (Littlemave standing up and walking away), when we should one at a time put down our books and walk off, leaving them behind. So the Flashmob, which is normally a very energetic event, turned out to be the calmest part of the convention – we sat and read in silence (I read Fraidy Cats by Stephen Krensky and Betty Lewin and Mother Rabbit’s Son Tom by Dick Gackenbach – actually I read them both several times over… remind me to take an *adult* book next time we do a Flashmob!), drawing very little attention to ourselves (although I noticed out of the corner of my eye that quite a few people did stop and look at us – I think by our very calmness we attracted some attention – there was certainly a strangely calm atmosphere pervading the quad, almost like people became silent when they entered – maybe we *did* turn the world into a library for just a few minutes!).

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The only time it rained properly all day was for a few minutes between the release walk and the flashmob – perfect timing.

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Rarsberry giving instructions (photo courtesy of Skyring)

Afterwards, we met back at the Museum, and then raced back through Hagley Park to Riccarton Road to catch the second-hand bookshop on the corner before it closed at 4 pm. We got there in time, which I was very grateful for, because I managed to find loads of “releasable” books on the 20c table, and came home with a couple of supermarket bags full of books for only $15.

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