You may have heard of the Logos Hope: it is a large boat which sails all over the world (well, the watery bits) and has a bookstore which brings all kinds of books to people who would not otherwise have access to them. It's the latest ship belonging to OM (Operation Mobilization), which is a Christian organisation which aims to take Christian books and stuff all over the place. But they also take other books as well.
Their website is here.
Anyway, the point is that the ship is currently in Belfast, and is open to visitors, such as WhyNotSmile, for instance. And it's free, and you know what WhyNotSmile thinks of that.
So this afternoon saw me saddling up Fifi and setting off for the docks. Fifi and I do not like to do things too directly, of course, and tend to have what we might call an 'iterative' approach to finding our destination; so it was that we had 3 laps of the St George's Market/Victoria Square/Laganside area of Belfast before we managed to spot the large sign saying 'Docks' (or at least, before we managed to spot it before it was too late). Rather helpfully, once you get to the docks there are signs pointing you to Logos Hope, although they do leave you guessing at the final turn (I think the large ship surrounded by a car park is supposed to be a clue, but you know how it is), so after an unscheduled tour of the new Stena terminal, and a little fun chasing pigeons, our 40-minutes-to-do-5-miles journey was completed.
The first thing that struck me was that the boat was really very big; the second was that the car park attendant was frantically signalling to me to go left. I hate those car parks where they tell you where to park; Fifi and I are not the sort of people who just fit into any old space. We like our parking spaces to be... well... big, mostly, and also extremely accessible. Anyway, I eventually got Fifi parked and headed for the boat.
Everyone is very friendly, and I was welcomed on board several times and directed to a video thing in a little boat-shaped theatre telling us all about Logos Hope and various related topics. By this time I had spotted the books through the far door, and was itching to get among them, but thought it might be rude to skip the video, so stayed there for the 5 minutes and quite enjoyed it.
On entering the book shop I started to feel a little seasick; it is extremely unlikely, of course, that this is actually possible, but I really am not that keen on boats. Anyway, the book shop is really rather big, with lots of books, many of which are at bargain prices. There are Christian ones, reference books (atlases and dictionaries and stuff), children's books, cook books, and also other things like CDs and keyrings. And lots of Bibles: if you want a Bible, this is the place to go.
I was having a nice time browsing away, debating whether or not 'How To Write A Christian Novel' was worth the money, when I bumped into my old physics teacher. We had quite a chat about How We Are and What We Are Doing and so on, which was nice. And then back to the books. WhyNotSmile can go mad in situations like this, and buy recklessly, but I restricted myself to a world map (for the little girl I sponsor), and a book on church finance (which is extremely relevant to Our Present Situation). I realised with slight horror how many Christian books I have actually read, and skillfully avoided the immense range of 'Christian Life' information, AKA (in this case) 'How to have a nice married life'. There was a rather fabulous-looking book entitled something like 'How to really enjoy sex', but when I'd already met someone I know, I didn't think it was safe to have even a peek.
Anyway, by the time I'd done all this, I was ready for home, so I paid for my book and map and headed out (at the tills I overheard a conversation between 2 staff members, one of whom must have been foreign and the other of whom was trying to explain 'No you shouldn't do that, that's a rude sign over here. Yes, the other way round is ok. But not that way.'). There's a photo exhibition telling the story of the ship, which is quite interesting, and there is also an offer of Logos Hope bag and 3 books for £5 - the books, however, are from a Certain Selection, in which the Left Behind series appeared to feature prominently, so I beat a hasty retreat.
The cafe looked and smelled extremely nice, but time did not permit, so I passed on through, picking up my free copy of LifeTimes (argh) on the way through.
In a final burst of generosity, they gave me a free book for signing the log book (and have promised me a digital photo in my inbox, but it hasn't arrived yet, so they might be lying - you know what Christians are like. Or I might have typed my email address wrong. I dunno).
And so my voyage aboard the Logos Hope concluded, although the walk down the... what is it?... steps? gangplank? big metal bridge thing? had potential to add a more unfortunate tone to the day. Thankfully the journey home was less eventful than the journey there; I think knowing where I live really helps.
Anyway, if you get a chance to visit the ship (it's in Belfast till May 11th, and then goes to Dublin, Cardiff, London and Cork), you should probably jump at it. Unless you don't like books, boats or Christian things, in which case probably don't.