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Never one to shy away from a cliche, eh? It was Marks idea, once again. He is now officially in charge of blog titles.
Anyhow, the hostel that we have come to in Christchurch is an absolute blinder!! It is by far the best we have gone to in New Zealand, it’s only downside is it’s location isn’t that great, but then with the current state of Christchurch, it doesn’t seem that anywhere is.
The hostel building is a former prison, built in the 1800s and in use up to 1999. It was bought in 2006 and converted into a hostel. On the hostel side it is the dream hostel. I thought it would be dark and pokey but they’ve built a glass atrium on the front so it’s full of light and has lots of large open spaces. An internet room with macs, a tv room as well as a cinema room, a brilliant kitchen with everything you could possibly need and nice things too rather than skanky old saucepans and plates. The bathrooms are great so I’m actually squeaky clean for once.
Anyway, back to the former prison side of things. We are sleeping in an original cell. The cell viewing windows have been replaced by mirrors so you have privacy but from outside it looks like you can see into the cells. Bunk beds again – but I’m not silly, Mark is up top this time. Funnily enough this room, despite being a real cell, is larger than the room we had with bunks in Rotorua! There is a cell setup with old stuff from it’s life as a jail with a mannequin of a guard (more of him later) and there’s various artifacts in glass cases about the place.
There is also a cell which has artwork on the walls done by the inmates on the last day the prison was open in November ’99. A guy name ‘Willy Two Worlds’ features heavily. Can’t help but wonder what has become of ol’ Willy.
The creepiest park is at the back of the building where you can go up some stairs to the old isolation cell. This is a small (obviously) room which horribly also has a trap door down to a lower level of even worse isolation which had little light or space. As we followed the stairs round we heard this screaming and wailing which rather freaked me out, but fear not, it just turned out to be the cinema room where you can watch dvds in surround sound on a projector – think they were watching Lord of the Rings or something of that ilk.
That leads me to our interesting discovery – stay tuned fact fans . Routing through the dvds which are an odd mix of slapstick, thrillers with a bunch of prison and crime movies thrown in, we came across a film at the bottom of the pile which had a label slapped on it saying ‘Pauline stayed here’.
The film is called ‘Heavenly Creatures’ and when later in the evening, having discovered the cinema room empty, we made a run for it and got in there with it. Because people like to have a good look around the hostel (as we did) when they first get here we had the odd person wandering through from time to time. But I felt fairly safe in the knowledge most folk who looked up at what we were watching wouldn’t take much interest.
The story, set in the early 50s in Christchurch, starring a very young Kate Winslet, is a true story about two school friends, Pauline and Juliet who kill one of the girls mothers. I’m not giving anything away, it’s obvious from the start and it’s a good film – worth a watch. Anyway, they live in a kind of fantasy bubble and write books together and think they are genius, kindred spirits. This, bizarrely leads to them blugeoning Paulines mother, pretending it’s an accident but they don’t get away with it as Pauline has recorded everything in diary that she had kept for years.
They tried to plead insanity but that was denied and they were too young for the death penalty but were sent to seperate jails. The shocking part of this story, we thought was that they were released after only about 5 years. Seemed a bit foregiving but hey ho! A condition of their release was that they never contact each other again.
What we THEN discovered, after a little googling, is that Juliet moved immediately to England and has lived in the States for a while and now lives in Scotland. She fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a writer and is a very successful writer of historical crime fiction, going by the name of Anne Perry.
Pauline, meanwhile, at some point also moves to England, gets married and runs a kids riding school in Kent. She now lives in the Orkneys. All very peculiar and it seems so odd that they should end up so close to each other in their 70s, on the other side of the world to where their story began. I’d so like to know the ins and outs of their lives.
So, after an evening spent watching that movie, which wasn’t scarey as such but quite dark and dramatic, I was left a bit spooked. Mainly, when we paused it for Mark to go to the toilet and I was left in the dark room on my own. The realisation hit me that I have to sleep in an old prison. Me! Scared of the dark and ghosts and everything that could possibly go bump in the night. I hadn’t really thought about it when I booked it as a treat for Mark who has a (frankly morbid) obsession with prisons. After I came out of the shower room at around 9.30 they’d dimmed all the lights and as I came down the stairs I could see a dark figure looming at the back of one of the cells. Yes, I am being overly dramatic and yes it was the mannequin I mentioned earlier, but colour me creeped out!!
I am typing this sat in my cell, on the bottom bunk, wondering how I can convince Mark to leave the light on all night!!! Wish me luck.
On the upside, Mark is having a ball. Ever since we got here he has been wandering around talking in an east end gangster stylee going about ‘screws’ and ‘lockdown’. He apparently wants to score some scag (whatever that is) and has decided to give everyone who walks past a prison nickname. ‘Beanpole’, ‘Greeny’, ‘Mr Big’ to name but a couple. And I have indulged him by coming up with a few scenarious – like the young lad with nickname ‘Chipper’ – he’s called that be cause his dad is also banged up in here and he’s a chip off the old block! We also have the ‘Prof’. He is a former tax accountant in here for murdering his wife and kids but he is innocent and was framed by his former business partner. Because he reads books of any kind he has been labelled the Prof and helps the other inmates out with their legal paperwork and so therefore he is looked after and ‘safe’. No cliches here – no sireee!!! And OF COURSE Mark made the joke about going in the jail showers!! We are on day one but I don’t think he’s going to tire of this readily.