Our fabulous firies

Firefighters Being a firefighter requires a lot of dedication – practice, fitness and a willingness to put yourself at risk to help others.

It’s always been the case – you can read our newly-digitised booklet for proof: Rule V of the 1862 regulations of the Christchurch Volunteer Fire Brigade stated firefighters  could be fined up to five shillings if they didn’t attend practice. That was a fair whack of cash for the day.

From 10am to 2pm in the Square this Sunday there’ll be chance to say thanks. There’ll be a parade, displays, and screenings of a new  documentary based on Always ready by Tony Philips. It’s part of Beca Heritage Week and celebrates 150 years of the fire brigade in Christchurch.

Celebrating scary movies for Halloween

Cover image2010 is the 50th anniversary of the movie Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock and the 100th aniversary of first movie edition of Frankenstein.

To be honest, I have never watched either of these classics, but it got me thinking about scary movies and how they have changed over the years. I love a good scary movie, even if I am much less inclined to watch them alone and in the dark than I was in my teens and early twenties.

These days, it often feels less about the audience’s mind working in overdrive to imagine the ‘scariness’ that’s happening off-screen, and it seems more about the gore, the violence and the “spell out the plot” viewing.

I thought I might go back through some books to get some ideas for classic movies to watch – such as How to survive a horror movie, Creepy crawls : a horror fiend’s travel guide, and The Rough Guide to horror movies.

Check out our Halloween page for more scary stuff.

So have scary movies gotten scarier? What’s your favourite? Any recommendations?

Is Hallelujah the best song ever written?

CoverIt  might be. 

In a strange and lovely synchronicity, Rufus Wainwright sang it last night in the Christchurch Town Hall. He also sang a gorgeous number about fellow singer Jeff Buckley (whose version of Hallelujah is also considered one of the supreme covers of this classic).

Wainwright paid tribute to the song’s creator, fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen. And Mr Cohen will be in Christchurch next week.


Going ape over Ape House

Cover image of "Ape House"I’ve just finished reading Sara Gruen’s latest offering Ape House. Her first book Water for Elephants is one of my all time favourites, so I was really looking forward to what she came up with next. I even selflessly sacrificed working on an assignment so I could get through it in 2 days. Oh the hardship.

I had assumed from the title it may be a kind of sequel or spin-off from her circus-inspired first novel, but as I devoured the first chapter, then the next…and the one after that…it became apparent Sara Gruen had invented something entirely brand new and original. While her familiar style of funny, intelligent and observant writing continues to shine through, the story explores a very different kind of circus – the clown antics of today’s reality TV and the people (and animals) who are exploited in the name of entertainment.

I loved this book.  Please read it so I have someone to talk about it with!

I have a great respect for authors who risk their place on the bestseller list by dishing up something different and surprising with each book.  What serial authors do you appreciate the most? Those you can rely on to deliver a winning formula every time, like Jodi Picoult or John Grisham? Or those who never do the same thing twice?

One book sale to rule them all – Friday 29 and Saturday 30 October

Book sale

The Christchurch City Libraries book sale is a must for any book lover. Restock your shelves, spruce up your stereo – there is something for all ages and tastes – and it is all cheap as chips.

Where? Pioneer Leisure Centre, 75 Lyttelton Street, Spreydon. There is easy access, plenty of parking and it’s on the Orbiter Bus route.


  • Friday 29 October 2010, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday 30 October 2010, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

What will be there? And how much will it cost?

  • Pay by EFT-POS or cash only – no credit cards sorry.
  • All adults’ books are $3 except for selected premium art books at marked prices
  • Young adults’ and children’s books: $1 for hardbacks – 50¢ for paperbacks
  • Magazines: 10 for $1
  • AV (CDs, videos, tapes, talking books etc): $2
  • There will also be artworks from local artist for sale

I have seen the future…

Cover image of "The Psychic Tourist"…It’s 2033: Climate change has left half of the world’s cities underwater. Every so often a Black Wind blows in, suffocating anyone who crosses its path in a dense cloud of killer toxins. Our cellphones are no longer separate from our bodies; they have been implanted in our heads. Cars, buses, trains and planes can steer themselves. We have semblants (computer generated versions of ourselves) we can send to the office in our place if we don’t feel like working. Criminals are sent to the UnMinded Cellblock, where their brains are switched off and they serve their time as obedient zombies, ignorant to the passing years.

Or at least this is the future John Shirley has envisaged for us, in his novel Black Glass: The Lost Cyberpunk Novel. John Shirley is pals with William Gibson, the godfather of cyberpunk . You may remember me mentioning Mr Gibson a while ago, when I first embarked on my Five Book Challenge. I have to say though (please don’t sneer at me) I think I like John Shirley better. He reminds me of American crime writer Don Winslow. His writing style may not be quite as creative and literary as his fellow cyberpunker, but it is much easier to read, get absorbed in and be entertained by.

Black Glass captures what I am beginning to learn is the essence of good cyberpunk: a hero who is a bit rough around the edges but charming nonetheless; femme fatales who are not afraid to use their sex appeal and cunning to their advantage; narcissistic villains who you love to despise; and a bleak and dangerous environment where the reader gets swept up in the thrill of the chase . Basically it’s crime noir with a technological, futuristic twist.

So if  the future John Shirley has predicted includes robots, illegal and addictive virtual reality games, and spy cameras that hover in the air like flies, what kind of future do you predict? In the year 2033, what will the world look like?

Ralph Vaughan Williams – Painter of musical canvases

This month marks the anniversary of the birth of  Ralph Vaughan Williams (RVW) 1872-1958. He was a popular and prolific English composer of orchestral works, choral music, operas,  symphonies, chamber music and film scores.

As well as composing, which he did into his eighties, he conducted, lectured and edited other music, notably the English Hymnal.
He also became interested in English folk music and song. He was concerned that they would become extinct, and travelled about transcribing and preserving material, some of which he later included in his works.

It has been said that RVW could paint a picture in sound. His Lark Ascending is typical of his pastoral works and is thought to be one of the finest pieces of English music ever written. Based on a poem by George Meredith, it evokes images for the listener – beautiful summer days, birdsong, flowers, gentle water and languid peace.

Recently, a CD of his Sancta Civitas and Dona Nobis Pacem was short-listed for Best CD in the Choral section of the Gramophone Awards. These are considered to be two of RVW’s finest choral works.

Sancta Civitas – The Holy City, is a powerful oratorio written in the early 1920s. RVW drew inspiration from the Book of Revelation and it is a musical depiction of the battle between Good and Evil. It was said to be his favourite choral work.

Dona pacem nobis– Grant us peace,  is a cantata written in 1936 as the war clouds were beginning to gather again in Europe. He sourced his texts from the Mass, the Bible, Walt Whitman poems and a political speech. Even though he was older and it was not required, RVW chose to enlist in the Royal Army Medical Corps in WWI. This work is viewed as his plea for future peace.

RVW was born into the privileged intellectual upper middle class being related to both the Wedgewoods and the Darwins but it is said he never took his fortunate situation for granted and worked all his life for the democratic and egalitarian ideals in which he believed.

Library tree cat

On Thursday 21 October 2010, customers on the 2nd floor pointed out a grey cat sitting in a tree through sun and hail, looking lost. The fire brigade came along to try and coax him down from his lofty perch.
The drama ended when he crossed to the other side of Gloucester Street, using the tree as a leafy airbridge.

Libraries and cats have a long lasting connection. Last year we hosted a lost cat called Dell and there have been other cats in our libraries as more long term guests – including George who lived in the old Canterbury Public Library from 1963 to 1976 and Pete the Shirley Library cat.

Painting a NZ Korean picture

Chichi Greemteo Painting ExhibitionArt exhibitions are not something that many people would immediately associate with libraries,  but then Christchurch City Libraries has always delighted in providing more than you think! 

So this month visitors to the library network are in for a double delight – while New Brighton Library is hosting the Bookish Artists exhibition, Upper Riccarton Library is featuring paintings by Chichi Geureemteo (i.e. Christchurch Art Gallery in Korean), a local Korean painting group.  The group has some 15-20 members who meet weekly at the library to work together.

The exhibition includes over 30 paintings depicting both New Zealand and Korean landscapes, as well as still life subjects, and there is some great talent on show.

But be quick to visit – the exhibition finishes on Sunday 24 October!

And if you are inspired to have a go at painting yourself, why not try some of the following links? 

How we were – central Christchurch 1978

Map of Christchurch I suppose Google Maps and Google Earth have taken over now, but I do love maps like this with the buildings drawn on them in 3D. Use the Zoomify feature to look closely at this map of central Christchurch in 1978 from our digital map collection.

The detail is amazing and you can see what buildings were on the site of the Central Library (which was not built until 1982).