Saturday, 19 August 2017

Penny For The Guy

An English tradition that had cemented itself into Waitara's culture in the 1950's was the observance of Guy Fawkes Day.

Why we celebrated a pyromaniac/arsonist with great gusto many thousands of miles away from the fable origin remains somewhat of a mystery?  My best guess is that it was one of the vestiges of "Mother England" that remained in our psyche at the time.

As children we were not worried about origins.  November 5th was an excuse for buying skyrockets, catherine wheels, sparklers and crackers from the local stationers and Chinese grocers.

There was a also a competition run by the town to see who could produce the best 'Guy'.  This involved stuffing old and discarded trousers, shirts and jackets with hay or newspaper so that the effigy resembled a human.

We wheeled these around the neighbourhood in a wheel barrow shouting "penny for the guy", although in truth, very few pennies were forthcoming.

The local children then paraded heir Guy Fawke's creations down one of the main streets of Waitara where they were judged by a local panel and prizes awarded.  I have to report that my efforts never made it to the winner's dais but we had great fun nevertheless.  (An example of another town's celebration can be seen in the image below).

The fate of the 'guys' was preordained.  They were all incinerated as part of the big community fire down at the Waitara Beach domain. This was the time where we lit our fireworks and placed rocket sticks in an old beer bottle holder so they blazed upward.  Sparklers were the chosen fancy of the younger set who were closely supervised.

While fireworks are still sold in New Zealand to celebrate November 5th I suspect that the legend of Guy Fawkes is no longer understood by those who make such a purchase.  Times change, and our Asian community and civic authorities use fireworks to celebrate other major events on the calendar.

Guy Fawkes Day 1912 – History Geek

Saturday, 1 July 2017

An Art Awakening

Yours truly at right on a potter's wheel in the PNTC art department. (Dianne Foley at left?)
When I first went to Palmerston North Teacher's College in 1967 I majored in music.  But I found both the tutor and the curriculum rather boring and far more exciting things appeared to be happening in the Art department under the tutelage of Frank Davis and Ray Thorburn.

My good friend John Brebner who I played rugby with for College was also studying art, and I recall visiting his lodgings and seeing him plugging away on a painting.

I decided that the visual arts (and particularly sculpture) were far more appealing than banging on a triangle!

Te Kooti Inspires His Warriors - F. Davis 
Frank Davis, who later became my mentor and a close family friend, agreed to me changing my study major from music to art if I produced a satisfactory portfolio over the Xmas break -  which I did.  (The painting at left is one of Frank's Te Kooti series.  I bought it off him when I was teaching in Rotorua and sold it much later at auction when I was shifting cities. Still have one of his drawings from this series)

Prior to Teachers College I had never really shown any great aptitude or motivation where the visual arts were concerned but I took to it like a duck to water.

It was a decision that changed my life and to this day the visual arts have dominated my life -  the creative beast unleashed!  A career as a secondary school art teacher followed after two years as a primary teacher.  Then a three stint as head of a regional art school in Papua New Guinea.  Several years where also spent as a Director of NZ art Museums in Hawke's Bay and Waikato (with a dash of museum marketing at the NZ Maritime Museum in Auckland thrown in)

I exhibited painting, prints and sculpture along the way before moving in to digital art later in life.

But all of this life started back in the Grey Street art department of Palmerston North Teachers College.

NB: The woman in the top photograph appears to be Di Foley from Wanganui who sang in a folk singing truly with Tom Hunter and myself.