Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

20130707-104112.jpg

Although New Zealand is still the only citizenship I hold, I haven’t lived there since the late 1980s. In fact, I have spent more of my life outside NZ than in it. However, I still feel very much a New Zealander, and I painted this picture, “Voices from Home”, to convey my nostalgia.
I included some books by authors I admire: Joan Druett and her wonderful Wiki Coffin series, Katherine Mansfield, Keri Hulme, Paula Morris. There are also a traditional flax woven bag called a kete (pronounced kae-tae); a painting bought at Coromandel; a greenstone carved pendant; a paua-shell ring; and an old book my friend Yvette bought me about the All Blacks. She bought this book for me because my great-grandfather, Harold “Bunny” Abbott, is listed in it, having played for “The Originals” in 1905.
A lot of my paintings include items of nostalgia, and I’d like to do more of them while I am learning about creating fine art.
Have you noticed that when you start to think about an old object or event, memories start to come back to you that you didn’t realise you had?

Advertisements

New Zealand paints a rainbow

Maraetai Beach, NZ, courtesy Tomwsulcer & Haley Sulcer

Maraetai Beach, Auckland, NZ. From  Tomwsulcer & Haley Sulcer

I was thrilled to hear yesterday that my country of birth, New Zealand, agreed in Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage. This makes it the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.

Although I left NZ in the late 1980s, I have never changed my nationality, I visit often and I still feel very much a New Zealander. So I am proud when I hear that NZ has taken such a big step toward equality of all its people.

NZ has many problems, like any other country, such as a growing economic division between rich and poor,  outrageous real estate prices in major cities, an over-emphasis on commercialism, corporate greed and materialism in some quarters.

But it also has, at heart, a people with a generous spirit, people who believe in equality, be it in regard to gender, race or sexual orientation.

Like Flick, the “little engine that could” in the children’s story, NZ to me is the “little country that could”. This group of dots in the Pacific Ocean has certainly made its mark on the world, and I wanted to celebrate some of those firsts in my blog today. There are, of course, many more, but these are a few that I know of:

  • 1893: First country to achieve universal suffrage when it gave women the vote.
  • 1894: First county to enact a national minimum wage—Australia did not do this until 1907, and the US until 1938.
  • 2001: First country in which women simultaneously held its three top positions of power—they were, then, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark; the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright; and the Chief Justice, Sian Elias.  In fact, the top five positions were held by women if you add the attorney general Margaret Wilson and the leader of the opposition, Jenny Shipley.
  • 2013: First country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex marriage (and 13th in the world).

There are lost of firsts in terms of inventions, technology and scientific advances, too:

  • 1882: First country to ship refrigerated meat (to England).
  • 1884: William Atack was the first sports referee to use a whistle to control a game.
  • 1919: Ernest Rutherford split the atom.
  • 1954: William Hamilton invented the jet boat.
  • 1961: Arthur Lydiard invented and popularised the method of fitness training known as “jogging”.
  • 1987: A. J. Hackett invented bungy jumping.

NZers also invented the spring-free trampoline, the Zorb, the blokart, the circular hairpin, the cycling monorail. More: NZ innovations

But going back to yesterday’s step forward regarding human rights, I believe that in order to achieve a peaceful world, we must treat people equally. All people must have the same opportunities to live in safety and comfort, to pursue happiness, to be educated, to earn a living, and to marry the person they love. Parliament broke into song yesterday (Pokarekare Ana, a traditional love song) when the results of the vote were announced. If you missed this very moving moment, catch it here: NZ legalises same-sex marriage

I hope, too, that this step forward will prompt politicians in Australia to do the same. So far, both the federal government and the opposition are saying they will not. But it’s only a matter of time, surely.

Bloggers for Peace: Rediscovering the inner peace of childhood

This post for Bloggers for Peace is inspired by a photograph taken by my childhood friend, the New Zealand actor Yvette Parsons. She took it while lying in a hammock during her annual break on Waiheke Island, off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand. This looks like paradise to me, and she agrees. It brings back to mind those simple pleasures in life: a good book, warm weather and a gentle breeze, an unspoilt view, nothing much to do but go for a swim, read a few pages and doze the day away. It took me, in fact, back to my own childhood in New Zealand.

The view from a hammock at Kennedy's Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Picture: Yvette Parsons

The view from a hammock at Kennedy’s Bay, Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Picture: Yvette Parsons

Remember childhood, and how easy it was to find inner peace, even though you didn’t know that was what you were doing? Provided you were lucky enough to have a great childhood, like I did, peace was something you took for granted. As I see it, peace is about safety, shelter, freedom, love and comfort. I was so lucky to have found all these things at home.
To illustrate this, I’d like to share in this post some of my favourite childhood memories:
*Deep, long sleeps, and next morning bouncing out of bed, eager to meet the day ahead. On Sundays, I was told not to get up too early, so I’d lie in bed listening to the children’s requests story hour on the little red transistor radio my parents had bought me.
*Our “under the house house”. This was something my brother, Phillip, and I put together. Under our house was a basement, not big enough for an adult to stand in, but big enough for a child. It ran the length and breadth of the house and contained the wooden foundations which, upstairs, divided the house into rooms. Mum and Dad used the front space by the door to store the lawn mower and gardening equipment. They never went further back: if they had, they would have found our secret house: rooms with curtains (cadged from discarded material), book cases, tables, cusions, cups, knives and forks. It was like a giant dollhouse. Phillip and I would allow only the two neighbouring kids, a brother and sister about the same age as us, to come in. We’d think it hilarious to hear Mum or Dad above, calling our names in vain, not knowing we were right beneath them. Then we’d hear, “I don’t know where they get to”. We never did let on, and Dad eventually found the “under the house house” many years later when he was preparing to sell the Auckland house. He found it just as we’d left it, and it must have been sad for him: I had moved out of home at 17 to become a journalist, and Phillip was killed in a motorbike accident when he was 17 and I was 19.
But to continue with some happy memories from childhood:
*Finishing a homework assignment, and having the rest of the day to play.
*Sprinting across a field, running as fast as I could.
*Ice skating to disco music, skating very fast with the wind in my hair.
*Rolling over and over down the freshly mown lawn at my grandparents’ house, then sitting with my grandad on the deck, sharing his binoculars to watch the yacht races on the Hauraki Gulf.
*Reading Famous Five books under the covers, with a torch, when I was supposed to be asleep. It was like being in a tent.
*That lovely feeling that, no matter what happened, Mum and Dad would make it right. No matter how many kids were mean, or if you’d fallen over and hurt yourself, or been disappointed with a classroom grade, when you got home, you were in that magical world again, our own domain.

Everything you wanted to know about beginning art…but were afraid to ask (part two): “Old Gadgets”

This post discusses not the techniques of painting, but a reason to paint, other than simply wanting to be creative.

One of the reasons I took up painting was because I wanted to use art to preserve the past. Of course, photography can do this too, and I appreciate fully its importance in documenting our lives and times. But for me, painting a picture of something makes it more personal, almost as if I actually manufactured the subject myself.

I had the idea for my “Old Gadgets” series before I started painting—in fact, it was the catalyst that led to me picking up a paint brush, laden with colour, and gingerly directing it across a canvas.

I’ve completed two paintings so far in the Old Gadgets series, of my manual typewriter and my film-era camera. They have been framed and they will hang on a wall side by side. Here is the first:

Old Gadgets No. 1: my manual typewriter, bought in Bangkok, 1991. On the case is the German version of my novel, The Occidentals (Das Erbst Der Schwestern). I wrote the first draft of this novel many years before it was published, on this typewriter. Acrylics on board.

Old Gadgets No. 1: my manual typewriter, bought in Bangkok, 1991. On the case is the German version of my novel, The Occidentals (Das Erbe Der Schwestern). I wrote the first draft of this novel many years before it was published, on this typewriter. Acrylics on board.

As a young journalist, a manual typewriter and a camera were my tools of trade (as well as a shorthand notebook and a pen, of course). I started at a small newspaper in Waipukurau, New Zealand—the Central Hawke’s Bay Press—for which I was both photographer and reporter. Here’s a photo of me there as a teenage cadet in 1979:

Caron Eastgate as a cadet reporter, Central Hawke's Bay Press, 1979. Note the manual phone. The typewriter is pushed up like that to indicate that I've finished my story and will now work on another. I'm also balancing my cheque book. I had to leave home to come to this job, and when I went to the bank to enquire about a cheque account, they told me I wasn't old enough to have one. When I said I was a reporter, however, they made an exception.

Caron Eastgate as a cadet reporter, Central Hawke’s Bay Press, 1979. Note the manual phone. The typewriter is pushed up like that to indicate that I’ve finished my story and will now work on another. I’m also balancing my cheque book. I had to leave home to come to this job, and when I went to the bank to enquire about a cheque account, they told me I wasn’t old enough to have one. When I said I was a reporter, however, they made an exception.

Note the telephone: Waipukurau was the last  town in New Zealand to operate a manual exchange, which didn’t become automatic until 1980. You would turn the handle in the centre of the phone and tell the operator what number you wanted. Many people were on “party lines”, that is, several houses shared the same phone number, each with a different letter at the end. So, you might ask for “2645E”, for example. We were all convinced the operators listened in to juicy conversations, and they definitely knew what was going on in town. I remember one day asking to be put through to someone I wanted to interview, and the operator said, “I can try for you, but I’ve just seen him go past on his way to town”.

We were still using manual typewriters at metropolitan newspapers in Auckland when I moved to Australia—and computerisation—in 1988. After the move, I thought my days of writing on manual typewriters had gone. I was wrong. When I moved to Nonthaburi, near Bangkok, Thailand, in 1990, I decided to write a novel. I had an electric typewriter with a memory then (I got my first personal computer in 1992). The problem was, the electricity was unreliable and, particularly in the wet season, would frequently drop out, though usually only for half an hour or so. This disrupted my writing, and I decided I would have to buy a manual typewriter again to work efficiently.

I found a cute German model in a dusty little shop. I think it cost 2000 baht (about $AU100 in those days, but less now). I hadn’t used that typewriter since 1993, however, and it was gathering dust in the spare room. So I asked on Twitter what I should do with it, and a friend of mine who lives round the corner said she’d love to have it (she collects such things). But first, I decided to do a painting of it, so I would always have it, and as you can see above, I did. This picture took me a very long time to do, working on it most nights for a couple of months until it was right. Each key has about 10 coats of paint on it.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I loved photography and used to shoot about 20 rolls of film whenever I went on holiday. When I lived in Bangkok, it was a great hobby, because film processing and printing there were much cheaper than in Australia. I bought my first Canon Eos in 1990, and a new Eos—the subject of Old Gadgets No. 2 (above)—in 1999. I still have the latter camera in its case, with film and all the other things you see in the picture, but I haven’t used it since 2005. Here’s my old camera:

Old Gadgets No. 2: my film-era camera, 1999. Acrylics on board. The prints are from a trip I did to China in 2001. The slides are the only ones I ever took, on a trip to Vietnam in about 1996.

Old Gadgets No. 2: my film-era camera, 1999. Acrylics on board. The prints are from a trip I did to China in 2001. The slides are the only ones I ever took, on a trip to Vietnam in about 1996.

I stayed at my mother’s house for a few days this week, and in my room there is a large portable cassette player we bought in the US when we lived there in the early 1970s. I remember when my parents bought it, and it seemed the ultimate in modern sound equipment. I think it will become Old Gadgets No. 3.