I found a book!

I found a wild book today!!! That might not sound that exciting to some people, but in nearly four years of bookcrossing (ooh, I just realised it’s my BC anniversary next week!) I’ve only found four books actually in the wild (I’ve picked up hundreds from meetups, conventions and OBCZs, of course, but they don’t count). I was walking through one of the buildings in the university during my lunch break and spotted a book lying on a table. It’s a table where old and unwanted books are quite often left out for people to take (sometimes interesting books, but more often dry academic stuff), so that wasn’t unusual, but then I noticed it had a BCID written along the edge of the pages, and my heart leapt – a bookcrossing book!

The book was Arthur: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I couldn’t wait to finish my lunch and get back to a computer to journal it and find out who’d released it. The university isn’t a usual releasing spot for any of the Christchurch regulars, so maybe it was a sign of a new active bookcrosser. Once I finally got a chance to journal it, I discovered it had been registered three years ago by mecka-antics, a bookcrosser from Greymouth who lived in Christchurch for a while before moving up to Auckland. There were no release notes or other journal entries, so I don’t know if mecka-antics released it years ago and whoever caught it never got round to journalling it, but did at least re-release it into the wild, or if perhaps he passed through Christchurch today and decided to release a few books on his way through. I’ll probably never know, but who cares – it was very exciting finding a book in the wild, anyway.

I managed to get a reasonable number of books registered on Saturday (in between marathon house-cleaning efforts and dinner-party shopping – see below). Thinking I had no books to take to Wellington, I suddenly remembered a box of books which I’d bought at the booksale in Dunedin last year, and which were still waiting to be registered. So I spent several hours on Saturday registering those. I’ve still got to label them properly, but it’s a start at least.

For the last few weeks we’ve been trying to get a chance to see Comet McNaught, but the weather has refused to cooperate. Even on the days when it’s been fine, the clouds have rolled in in the evening. But finally on Saturday it looked like we’d get a clear evening, so lytteltonwitch invited us to join her and her son going up the Port Hills that night to look for it. But by the time the sun started setting the clouds were gathering again, so our chances didn’t look good. I was being optimistic (I could see a tiny patch of clear sky to the south), so when lytteltonwitch rang to ask if we still wanted to go I said yes, but MrPloppy thought we were mad so opted to stay home. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?)

Lytteltonwitch and her son arrived to pick me up, and we headed for the hills… and it started raining. It looked like the tops of the hills were covered in cloud by now, so we decided on a change of plan, and decided to try Birdlings Flat instead, which is on the other side of the Port Hills, so might have better weather (the Port Hills, although not particularly high, are the only hills to interrupt the expanse of the Canterbury Plains, so clouds often bank up against them, meaning it can be raining on one side of the hills and fine on the other). We weren’t all that hopeful, but thought it was worth a drive out there anyway. And it was – as we rounded the edge of the hills the sky began to clear, and there were only a few bands of clouds obscuring the south-western sky.

The sky was still quite light when we got to Birdling’s Flat, so we sat and waited for it to get dark (and tried to work out which direction we should be looking by using lytteltonwitch’s GPS as a compass – it wasn’t very useful though, as it tried to tell us that we were facing north, despite the fact we’d just seen the sun set directly in front of us!). As it got darker I got out my binoculars and started panning the sky searching for the tell-tale fuzziness of a comet. I saw Halley’s in 1986, and Hale-Bopp while I was in the UK, so I knew what comets looked like in “real life” (as opposed to the spectacular photos you see on astronomy websites), and was expecting something similar – a small fuzzy blob with a faint streak behind it, maybe half a degree of arc at most (roughly the width of the full moon, or of your thumb held at arms length – that’s pretty huge for something in the sky), but probably much smaller.

So when I saw a long faint streak in the sky, spanning probably 4 or 5 degrees of arc, I didn’t immediately think of a comet. I wondered it it was a crepuscular ray, but it was too late after the sunset for that. I began to suspect maybe it was the comet, but didn’t want to say anything to lytteltonwitch and her son in case I was wrong – it was so much bigger than I was expecting that I was certain it couldn’t be the comet, and I’d look really stupid pointing out a big streak of light when the comet was actually a small fuzzy thing. But I had a look at it through the binoculars anyway, just in case… and saw a clearly defined head and tail. I passed the binoculars over to lytteltonwitch, “Um, I think it’s right in front of us. That big thing.”

Half an hour later it was dark enough that there was no mistaking it, and the binoculars were completely unnecessary. Totally amazing. I was kicking myself that (a) I hadn’t tried harder to convince MrPloppy to come with us (he’s an astronomy geek from way back too), and (b) I’d left my camera at home (I had thought about bringing it, but decided not to because the comet would be way too small to photograph with my little camera).

We stayed for ages admiring it, and stopped again on the way back to Christchurch to have one last look, so it was nearly midnight by the time I got home (I did try to keep my gloating to a minimum when I told MrPloppy what he’d missed, but it was difficult :-)) – and I had to get up early the next morning…

Sunday was going to be full of family (hence the cleaning and shopping), with both Mum and Dad coming up to visit, and having to be kept suitably segregated (the perils of a post-nuclear family). Dad was coming up for the Roger Waters concert on Saturday night, and Mum was coming up to meet her cousins from Scotland at the airport, so neither could be deferred to another weekend, which made for an interesting juggling act. Luckily Dad is pretty relaxed about that sort of thing, so wasn’t offended when I asked him if he’d mind if we met him and Stepmother elsewhere instead of them coming to our place – he understands how awkward things could have got if the visits had accidentally intercepted.

Dad and Stepmother had come up on Saturday night, but arrived in Christchurch just in time to go to the concert (they were staying at Stepsister #2’s house), so wouldn’t be able to get to see us until Sunday. And Mum and Stepfather were planning on arriving mid-morning on Sunday. So I suggested to Dad we meet them for breakfast at Trattorie. That worked really well – we had probably a better chance to sit and talk than if they’d come to our place (when Dad would have insisted on pruning the fruit trees or mending the bathroom cupboard or some other essential task). After breakfast we went up to Northlands so I could buy a small jug (the one we normally use for gravy/sauces/whatever got chipped, and we’ve been meaning to replace it for ages) and Stepmother could look for some new bedlinen, and
then Dad dropped us off at home (with instructions that if he saw a car in the drive he was to put his foot down and drop us round the corner out of sight! :-))

But our timing was perfect – about half an hour after he left, the phone rang: Mum letting us know they were just coming in to Christchurch and we should put the kettle on.

Mum insisted on taking us to the supermarket to stock up on groceries, despite our protests that we’d only gone yesterday and really weren’t short of anything (how old do you have to be before your parents believe that you really aren’t starving and don’t need them to buy you food?), and then after a quick lunch back at our place they went to the airport to meet the cousins, while I got dinner in the oven (I was finally cooking the leg of lamb that we’d originally planned for Christmas dinner but hadn’t felt like cooking at the time, and ideally it should to cook slowly all afternoon).

The cousins turned out to be really nice. Mum had met once before, about 20 years ago when she went back to Scotland for a visit, but I’d never met them, not being brave enough to go and visit them when I was over there (I got a bit of teasing from them about that, especially when they heard I’d been living in Dunfermline (near Edinburgh) for a while (they live in Greenock, which is near Glasgow – on the other side of Scotland, but it’s not a big country, so not that far away really)). We all sat and chatted for a while (and waited for Mum to develop a Scottish accent – she was born in Scotland, but came over here when she was 8, so normally has a New Zealand accent, but when Granny and Grandda (who kept their accents their whole lives) were alive, whenever she talked to them she’d start sounding all Scottish again. So we’ve been teasing her that by the time the cousins go home in a fortnight she’ll have be speaking broad Scots again :-)), and then Mum and Stepfather took the cousins for a drive around the scenic spots of Christchurch for the rest of the afternoon while MrPloppy and I finished cooking dinner.

Dinner went really well – the lamb turned out wonderfully. We did all the traditional “kiwi roast dinner” accompaniments like roast kumara and pumpkin to go with it (well, you have to when you’ve got visitors from overseas!), plus a nice leafy salad in honour of the fact that it was actually a reasonably summery day for a change, so a bit hot for a full-on roast dinner without something to lighten it up a bit, and then fresh strawberries for dessert. The cousins seemed suitably impressed with their first NZ meal 🙂

Once dinner was over Stepfather wanted to get on the road back to Alexandra. The sky was still reasonably clear, so he was hoping to get up to Tekapo before dark so they could see Mt Cook. I haven’t heard from them yet whether they actually managed it, though.

Anyway, a good day overall. We survived the parent-juggling act, and although both visits were pretty short, at least we got to see everyone, and made the most of the time we did have with them.

Oh, and Mum brought us up a box of books, and various goodies for the convention, and a big box of fruit. And Dad brought us up a big box of fruit. So we’ve got more fruit than we know what to do with – I see a batch of chutney in my near future.

I’d planned an early night last night to make up for Saturday night. But lytteltonwitch had said that if it was clear again she’d take MrPloppy out to try and see the comet. And it was still looking pretty clear when the sun set. And I really wanted to try and take a photo. So instead of an early night, I had another very late night…

We didn’t go as far as Birdling’s Flat this time, but just to the Selwyn Huts. In theory, we should have had just as good a view from there, but the weather didn’t cooperate, and the clouds closed in before it got properly dark, so we couldn’t see the comet this time 🙁

Oh well, hopefully we’ll get another chance before it totally fades from sight. I’m happy just to have seen it once, but it would be cool if MrPloppy got to see it too. Lytteltonwitch’s car has gone back to the panel beaters, but she should have it back by the end of the week, and then it will just depend on the weather. Actually, I’m glad we can’t go out again tonight – I am so incredibly tired! I thought I was going to fall asleep at my desk at work today. I seriously need an early night tonight!

In fact, the bed is looking very inviting about now… zzzzzzzzz….

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