Setting fire to the cat

I set fire to Ming last night. Accidentally, of course – he was lying in front of the fire while I was putting some more wood on it, and a spark leapt out and landed on his tail. He didn’t notice, but I saw the glowing ember, and a plume of smoke coming from his tail, and tried to flick it off before it burnt through the fur and got his skin… and of course my sudden movement scared him, and he ran and hid under the table, still trailing smoke. We did manage to get him out (and put his tail out!) before it hurt him, but he was looking pretty confused for the rest of the evening trying to work out what he’d done wrong to justify the chase round the lounge. And he spent a lot of time grooming his tail, obviously trying to get the horrible smell off him – didn’t help get rid of it through the rest of the house, though!

I’ve just realised what a long time it’s been since I wrote anything here (or read anyone else’s diary or journal, for that matter). It’s been a busy few weeks.

So, going back in time a bit….

Tuesday, quite some time ago (12th?)
A clash of appointments. Meetup night, and I also had to go to a call-back training session for ESOL-HT, basically checking up on how we were doing with our learners. I took the opportunity to talk to one of the convenors about the problems I’d been having with finding a lesson time, with my learner working such long hours, and me working full time. We agreed that she’d probably be better off with a tutor with a bit more time flexibility who could fit round her weird hours, and the convenor said she’d find me a new learner.

The rest of the lesson was devoted to talking about resources, but as I didn’t know who my new learner would be, or what level they’d be at, there wasn’t much point in me sticking around, so I made my apologies and left early, then raced back into the centre of town to the bookcrossing meetup. I was only an hour late, so everyone was still there. It was a good turn-out, too: lytteltonwitch, awhina and family, and two of the new members, angela7715 and keenreda. Good to see newbies getting involved – we’re going to need all the enthusiastic members we can get over the next couple of years!

Fast forward a couple of days to Friday 15th and the start of my very long weekend
Wombles arrived late on Thursday night, but was staying with lytteltonwitch. I had arranged to have Friday off work so I could spend the day with her (L had to work), so I told her to ring me when she woke up and we’d meet in town. I gave her a quick walking tour of Christchurch (basically the same route as we used for the 2005 convention, and will probably repeat in 2009 – Firefighters’ Reserve (where there is a memorial to the firefighters killed in the World Trade Centre, made from beams taken from the rubble), along the river to the Provincial Chambers, then down to the Arts Centre). We walked along to Cathedral Grammar, which will be our venue for 2009, then back through the gardens for a while (geocaching as we went, of course – Wombles is another mad adherent of the sport, while I find it kind of like golf: a good walk ruined 😉 (actually, I do kind of enjoy the following the coordinates part of it, which can be interesting, and leads you to some weird and wonderful places, but the scrabbling around under bushes looking for small plastic boxes part is where I get bored)), finishing up at the Gardens Cafe, where we met awhina and lytteltonwitch for lunch.

After lunch, awhina took us out to Merivale to look for some more geocaches. One was a “multi” cache, where the original coordinates lead you to clues which give you the final coordinates of the actual cache. After a few false starts (and a few donuts in the Mona Vale carpark) we found the clues (one of which was very ingeniously hidden – it’s amazing the ways some geocachers find to disguise their caches), but never managed to find the final cache. It did give Wombles the chance to see another area of Christchurch, though.

Awhina had to pick up the kids from school, so she dropped us off at Jelly Park where there was supposed to be another cache (but when we found the location, all that was there was the laminated card explaining geocaching that’s normally inside the box, so it looks like it was “muggled” (i.e. found by a non-geocacher who destroyed it)), and from there we walked back to my place and caught the bus back into town to try for a couple more caches in the gardens.

We had to be back at my place by 6, because I’d invited everyone back for dinner, but I managed to miss-time getting to the bus exchange and we missed the bus. I checked the timetables, and it looked like a choice between waiting for the next bus, which would mean not getting home until 6.30-ish, or catching a different bus which would get us at least within walking distance, although we’d still be pushing it to get home by 6. We opted for taking the alternative route, and at about quarter to got off the bus at a stop that’s normally about 20 minutes walk from my place. By some very fast walking (and nearly killing Wombles!) we actually made it in time, just a few minutes before the first bookcrossers arrived.

Another fun and well-attended meetup: as well as Wombles, MrPloppy and I there were lytteltonwitch, awhina & co (minus the kitten, who was at youth group, but plus awhina’s cousin, whose bookcrossing name I can’t remember), keenreada, and TheLetterB. Pizza for dinner (I wasn’t wasting my day off cooking!), and loads of books being swapped. I’ve totally lost track of which books I picked up when, but in the pile sitting beside the computer in the aftermath are:

The next morning lytteltonwitch and Wombles picked me up and we headed up to Arthur’s Pass to prove to Wombles that NZ really does have mountains (it’s been a running joke with her that NZ’s mountains are just a story invented to bring in tourists, because on both of her previous trips here the alps have been hidden behind low cloud). It was pouring with rain when we left Christchurch, but the mountain forecast was clear, and sure enough, as we left the plains (after quite a few geocaches along the way, of course) the rain eased off and the clouds began to lift. There was snow on the side of the road at Porter’s Pass, so we stopped so Wombles could experience snow for the first time (mainly through me throwing a snowball at her – well, you can’t say you’ve truly experienced snow until you’ve had some thrown at you and discovered that while snowball fights look like fun, they’re actually cold and damp and sometimes painful! :-))

We got to Arthur’s Pass at lunchtime, so after rejecting the Chalet (which used to be a nice restaurant, but is now looking really dingy, and had no customers and no sign of staff when we went in, despite the Open sign outside) we went to the Wobbly Kea for hot soup and a shared pizza, and donned thermals before venturing back out in
to the cold (leaving behind a few books – I left Journey by Danielle Steel).

Our explorations of Arthur’s Pass were dictated by the location of geocaches, but at least they were all in nice scenic spots. The first was at the end of the Punchbowl Falls walkway, which Lytteltonwitch sprinted up while Wombles and I wheezed along slowly behind, both suffering from the combination of cold air and steep steps (one day I’ll actually remember to take my inhaler with me when I go on adventures like this – the trouble is, because I’m not asthmatic enough to need it all the time, I keep forgetting to carry it with me, so when I do need it, it’s usually safely at home in the medicine cabinet). While they scrabbled around among the leaf-mould for the cache, I released a book (Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught), and took some photos:

Looking back down the valley

Punchbowl falls

A smaller fall further down the river

Strangely lumnious fungi growing out of a bank

Next walk was a much shorter one to Avalanche Falls, where I released All Fall Down by Jenny Oldfield while lyttletonwitch and Wombles clambered around in the dirt under the viewing platform.

Wombles dressed in nice white clean Charleston convention shirt – not the ideal uniform for clambering around in the dirt looking for hidden things!

The weather was starting to pack in, so we wanted to get down off the mountain before dark, so we headed back towards home. Of course, by the time we’d stopped a few more times for geocaches (including one that L. decided to head off-road for, insisting that the narrow track was a perfectly adequate road for her (non-4WD) car… until the ruts got so deep that she bottomed out, on a winding stretch closely lined with matagouri – no going forward, too difficult to back out, and no room to turn… that was fun getting out of!), plus a bit of book releasing (The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy at Lake Linden, and The Ranch by Danielle Steel at Cave Stream), it was almost dark by the time we reached Porter’s Pass, where there was one last geocache, hidden among the spaniard grass. While L & W had their hands sliced up by the spaniard grass (and they do this for fun???), I made a tiny snowman for Wombles to take a photo of for her kids, and then realised that the reason the wind had suddenly got so much more biting was that it had started sleeting. Sense prevailed then, and the hunt for the elusive cache was quickly called off before the road iced up.

Back in Christchurch, we took up awhina’s offer of dinner at her house. I bet she wishes we hadn’t, because while setting the table (with the beautiful new dinner set, a wedding present and only used a few times before), the kitten managed to drop the entire stack of 7 dinner plates. It was incredibly spectacular – the whole pile slid out of her hands and cascaded to the floor, smashing one after the other. Poor kitten was so shocked by what she’d done she could just stand and stare at the huge pile of crockery shards at her feet, while the rest of us didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I did feel sorry for awhina and MrAwhina, having lost their lovely dinner set only two months after they got it, and I felt even sorrier for the kitten, who was so upset by what she’d done, but it was incredibly funny all the same.

Right, it’s too cold sitting here at the computer, so the rest of the weekend will have to wait until later – I’m going to go and sit by the fire and read for a while.

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