A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas
The Cockabully Hunters --- from an original painting by Noel Guthrie

Friday, 16 December 2011

Living with Depression.

Depression seems to be an ever increasing illness, perhaps it is the pace of life we are leading these days?
I spent almost thirty years battling depression, I was one of the lucky ones to come out the other side.  I wrote an article for the local newspaper recently on the subject, so if I may, I would like to share it with you.

Living with Depression
What is it about suicide that makes people clam up?  I certainly don’t profess to know the answer to that, but what I do know is, that those people who do suffer depression, whether it be mild or more serious, most want to talk about it.

However, apart from the mental health professional, who is there to, really talk to?
Have you ever tried to talk to someone about depression, of which you thought was a friend and was understanding?  No, well try it sometime, and watch them fidget and feel uncomfortable, and even embarrassed before eventually moving away in haste.  They just don’t want to know.  The fact is, they don’t know how to handle the subject.

Oh yes, we hear all these stories of how we should talk about it, get it off our chest, but it is not all that simple.  Think what you like, but the stigma still survives out there, regardless of the official line, true it is a lot better than it used to be 30 years ago, there are just not as many who tend to scoff and say, “Get your bloody act together!”
Perhaps in a way, the sufferer is to blame for this particular mindset, and has become their undoing.  They don’t help themselves in the way they dress, or their perspective on life. They just cannot be bothered any more.  They are sometimes referred to as dropouts, lazy, and so on it goes. 

But really, for those who have never been afflicted, they have no idea how terrifying or painful it is.  You can’t be bothered getting out of bed in the morning, so you are lazy.  You can’t be bothered being tidy in your dress, so you are a deadbeat, scruffy.  Society immediately categorizes you.  So, what’s the point? 
Just ask the family of those who suffer terribly what it is like, in some cases the family is put though pure hell.  Many can’t take it anymore and move out.  With that support gone the sufferer is lost, while in some cases his or her health continues to decline and they wander aimlessly through life.

Health professionals, and those who volunteer in providing a sanctuary and support for those who need a bit of space when the going gets tough, are doing great work and as much as they are able, but even they can only do so much, it needs a willingness by the sufferer to move on in life.  It also needs willingness by the public at large to accept that the problem does exist, and I guess unless the general populous accept there is this problem; the sufferer will forever be stuck in this rut. 
We certainly don’t want sympathy, all we need is an understanding, and not to be referred to as nutcases, society dropouts or worse.  When you think about it, it is no worse than breaking a leg, it is just the mind has become overloaded and the wheels fall off, what’s the difference, absolutely none?

Unfortunately, those who suffer tend to move at a slower pace than is usually the norm, just making a decision is depressing in itself, and agonizingly slow.  While there is this alarming increase as the merry-go-round of life spins faster by the year, those who suffer have to hang on, just to survive. 
In our day-to-day dealings with some of those in the commercial world, many officials and so on, perhaps unwittingly, make us feel guilty, as we stutter, and hesitate and wring our hands, trying to get our point across.  This ends up with some officials losing patience.  We go away feeling totally lost, and withdraw from society a little bit more.

I can only speak for myself, but many men, probably women too; who find that they are losing their marbles, and just can’t bring themselves to talk about it, for fear of being ridiculed.  We, in many cases just suffer in silence, I could go on about the black hole, how it looks so inviting, so soft and warm and cozy, a place where all ones troubles will just disappear forever.  But until one has stood on the very edge of that hole, most people haven’t got any idea of what I am going on about. 
Oh yes, there will be many out there who will say, ‘what a load of shit!’ 

The professionals say there is a new understanding today, well, maybe there is, as John Kirwin fronts for the TV program on depression, he says there is a way through it. 
I am not putting John or any other body down, but yes, there is a way through it, but believe me, it is a long journey, and at times, one feels likened to running the gauntlet, through a line of faceless individuals who want nothing more than to bring you down.  Sadly, some don’t make it through to journeys end, it is just beyond reach, but at least they gave it all they had. 

I was one of the lucky ones; I have a supportive family who stuck by me through every step of that painful journey.  I am aware I was probably a bastard to live with some of that time, but they still stuck like glue.
For twenty or more years I fought, and I fought bloody hard to come out the other side.  Yes, there were times when I wanted to give up and step off the edge. 
Then I found a hobby, something I had never attempted before in my life, I started to sketch and to paint and to write.  At the age of fifty, I had never picked up a paintbrush or a pencil in my life, I did not know how to write or use a typewriter, or a computer.  I didn’t think I was very good at what I did, I still don’t, but readers and viewers supported me, even though most never knew of my pain.  It was with the help of a lot of those good people out there who unwittingly pushed me on, to never give up the struggle, and to eventually come out the other side.

During that time when I wrestled with my pain, I started painting and sketching a little more seriously each year, painting became a therapy, bringing me back from the brink and into a world of reality.  Over the years I produced several hundred paintings and sketches, I sold some, and I gave many away.  Yes, I could have sold a lot more perhaps, but what is money, if you have not got your health.  Whether those that I gave away were worth something was not the point, the point was, each one of those paintings gave me a chance of a new start in life, where one day I could be free of that bloody awful pain.
Then I got the urge to write, my column was read in several newspapers weekly for many years, then came the books. 

I don’t care what other people think now, I’m too old to worry about that anymore, but those who I do feel sorry for are those who think depression is catching.  When I had my heart attack; many came to see me or sent messages of support.
However, when my wheels fell off and I slipped into the depth of depression 30 years before, many shied away, they did not know how to handle it.  Many crossed the street rather than speak to me.  I guess they thought it was catching.  That in itself does a hell of a lot for ones ego; it really does make one feel inferior and one withdraws from society.
How does anyone explain that, I certainly can’t?

All I can say to those who suffer from depression, you can get through it.  It may look black and you are in total despair, but don’t give up, you must not give up, you can do it.  I did it, so if I can, so can you.  I am nothing special.
Oh sure, I still have my moments, the odd day or night when tears come for no reason, but I can handle it now, it is nothing to be ashamed of, trust me. 
Those days are gone when it was considered a sign of weakness if a man cried, well many times I bawled my bloody eyes out and lay awake for nights on end, sleep just would not come.  It takes guts for a man to cry.  It’s when you can’t cry, that is when everything turns to custard.  And just because you have to take a couple of pills at night, doesn’t make you less of a person.

Yes, there were a couple of times I chose the ultimate, but the family would not let me go, and looking back, I suppose I was being totally selfish, but you don’t think that at the time, all you can think about is your failure in life, you are ashamed to show your face.  In my case, I looked at what I had done to my family, I made one bad decision in business, and the bottom fell out.  They had to start life again with absolutely nothing, so to my way of thinking, they would be far better off without a deadbeat, a failure like me.  But, if I had succeeded in what I was about to do, what I was doing to my family was far worse, but then you don’t see it at the time.
If I had succeeded, I would not have experienced the joy of creating a sketch, or a painting from nothing, I would not have experienced the joy of writing my books, I would not be experiencing life as it is today.  Of course life is not perfect, nothing ever is, it is what you can make of that, which counts.  So if I can come through that tunnel, so can you. 
Com’on, give it a go, you can do it, it just takes courage to take that first step.

All the best
Noel Guthrie

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Coal Miners Daughter

Charlie Blackler had a bit of land out behind Cheviot.  Along with Marjorie, his wife of thirty or so years, they lived in a little cottage where they could overlook the ocean. 
Marjorie, a fanatical housekeeper, was a plump little redhead, with a temper to match, so some say.  Yet, in all the years I knew that couple, never once did she raise her voice.  She kept that cottage as neat as a new pin, inside and out.
She swore by the old black coal range in the kitchen, it was, according to her, the only method to cook by.  Maybe she was right, for I have never known anyone like Marje, who could slap up a feed fit for a King, in two shakes of a dead dogs tail.  She would have roast lamb when I called on several occasions, with roast spuds, parsnip, and pumpkin.           
But those scones that came out of that oven, you have no idea of how they tasted, they just melted in your mouth.
 There was a flash electric stove at one end of the bench, but I don’t think she ever used it.  When I was there, it was supporting a beautiful crockery vase, filled with a selection flowers out of her garden.
Charlie, well, he was the sole breadwinner in the family. The little lifestyle block was not quite enough to support them both, so to top up their earnings; Charlie sought casual work from around the district. 
My job took me around the countryside, and I called in when the time allowed.  This one time I stopped by, it would have been around the 1960s, and Charlie was grading spuds for a joker by the name of Kinsman, not far from the village.
He was a dapper little man our Charlie, perhaps five seven in his socks, and with a hairdo, the Brill Cream Kid would have been proud of.  Actually, he was the most polite casual worker I had ever come across in my travels, never ever used bad language, and always offered a seat to a lady. 
However, he did have a fondness for a dram or two of the hard stuff, double malt whisky, as a preference.  Get a few nips into old Charlie, well he wasn’t that old really, maybe fifty, and out would come those stories. 
As I said, I called in on my way to somewhere else, just to see the couple. 
“Come down to the pub for a noggin or three,” he said to me.  Marjorie gave him a nod.
“You can stay the night, if that’s your concern, so you can have a couple with me, can’t you?”
We got down to the pub, a cozy little place; I’d never been there before.  Even though Charlie did not drink a huge amount, it was the camaraderie, and all the locals knew him. 
We got chatting away about this and that, before I realized, the group of blokes around our table had begun to increase.  Charlie, it seems, was more than just a bit of a storyteller?  He was a legend for tales in the district, so I found out.                                   
Our visit to the pub happened to coincide with early winter, and Charlie hadn’t yet fully warmed up from grading spuds all day in that cold and drafty shed.  After a couple of snorts, his nose was taking on a pinkish tinge.  It wasn’t until Maggie, that’s the bar maid, shoveled some coal into the fireplace, that Charlie suddenly said. 
“Now, that just reminds me, I need to get some coal for Marjorie.”  Then he smiled, “did I ever tell you fella’s about the Coal Miners Daughter?”  Every body shook their head in unison.
To me, this was a whole new feature of Charlie that I had never witnessed before.  It’s amazing what a couple of whiskies will do to a man.
“Yes.”  Charlie said, wriggling around on his stool in an effort to get more comfortable.
“At the time, Marje and I hadn’t been married all that long, our only vehicle back then, was an old 1929 Model A Ford truck.  Man, she’d done some miles that old girl.  It was about this time of the year, and the coal in the shed was getting down a bit.  I wasn’t doing much that particular day, so we decided to take the truck, and go for a run up to the mine, and load up for the remainder of the winter. 
We covered ourselves with rugs and so on, it was about a twenty-mile drive and the old girl was a bit drafty.  Well anyway, we arrived at the mine, and backed the truck into a heap of slag.  In this heap, were these lumps of coal, as big as Ted Connors dunny, man they were huge.”
I said to Marje,  “be good to get one of those lumps on the old truck, be a load in itself.” 
“You have got to be joking,” she said to me.  “Just climbing out of bed, you put your back out, imagine what you’d do with that lump.”
“Well.”  I mumbled, “I thought with your muscle we’d just about do it.”
“In your dreams Sonny boy.”  She laughed at me.
“Very well,” I muttered,  “I suppose we better start on the little stuff for a kick off.” 
Just at that precise moment, this shadow crossed my path.  I looked up, and here was this woman, in a set of dirty overalls. 
“You people right,” she asked in a gravelly voice. 
Cripes she was whopper, couple of rounds in a king size bed with her, and you’d be in traction for months. Of course, as a joke, I had to say we were just going to lift 
“You.  You little squirt, you couldn’t lift my shovel, let alone put that lump onto the truck.”  She slapped her hands together and spat into her palms, then smiled at me.  “Get out of the way shorty.” 
She waddled up to the nearest lump of coal. 
Look, without a word of a lie, she must have been six eight in her socks, hands the size of a leg of ham and a bum on her the size of the back end of a double-decker bus. 
Wearing an old crumpled slouch hat, she smiled, exposing this huge set of teeth and gums.  I’ll swear to this day, there’s a Clydesdale connection, somewhere in the family genes.
Anyway, she looked at this lump of coal for a minute or two, and then she balled her fist and drove it right into the centre of this lump.  I stood there with my mouth open, as a crack appeared in that block and it fell in half.  I was expecting to see her hand all mangled, but she just blew on her knuckles and picked up the biggest half, and waddled over to the truck and just dropped it on the deck. 
The old Model A groaned a couple of times; the front wheels jumped of the ground, but then she seemed to settle back and take the load. 
“I think that’ll be enough for the wee thing,” she barked.
 I nodded in agreement. 
Marje went up to her and thanked her for her trouble. “My name is Marjorie,” she took her hand. 
“Oh you poor darling, that must have hurt.”
“I’m Bess.”  The coal lady said, looking down on Marje.  “Big Bess, they call me.  The old man owns the place, and no, it didn’t hurt lady.  You better toughen up the wee fella’ though.”
“Have you paid this lady.”  Marge says to me, still
embracing the hand of that giantess.
“No,” I said, “you can pay her and I’ll get the truck started.”  I got in, adjusted the spark, and pushed the button on the floor with my foot.  She was dead.
“Blast” I said, and shoved my hand under the seat, pulling out the starting handle.  I decided I’d have to crank the old girl.  Placing the handle in its slot, I gave it a turn, but to no avail, not even a little kick.  I adjusted the spark again and gave another couple of turns.  This time she gave me a kick, and almost broke my arm and flattened me on my back. 
I looked up, as this shadow appeared to tower over me again.  Bess grabbed the crank handle. 
“Move, squirt.  For Gods sake, get out of the road.”
            She slammed the handle into the slot with a clang.  Bloody hell; I was expecting to see the crankshaft shoot out the exhaust.  Then she gave that handle a bit a turn, but nothing happened.  So she rolled up her sleeves, shook her boobs a couple of times, and then with her feet apart and steady as a rock, she laid into that handle with an almighty swing.  You won’t believe it, but that motor gave a kick, Bess stood there, like the rock of Gibraltar, hanging onto the handle so tight, that the old truck just flipped itself clean over onto its back, coal and all.  Bess just stood there jiggling the handle in her hand, and her mouth wide open.  “Jeepers,” she said, “that’s the first time I done that!”
I picked myself up and sauntered over to the truck.  I gave it a kick in the headlight, shook my fist, and yelled. “There, take that, you bitch!”
There was a howl of laughter from the crowd, and someone shouted Charlie another dram of the hard stuff. 

I laughed for month after that story.  However it was the last I saw of Charlie and Marjorie for quite a while after that.  I had been relocated to another sales district.  Yet I still recall that night, just as if it were yesterday. 
I still laugh at that story from time to time, when the memories come round to Charlie.  I have even tried to imagine a romp with Big Bess, and wondered if it would have been worth time in traction.  Anyway, I’ll never know now, will I?
Sadly, my friend and outrageous raconteur, passed away not so long ago. 
During the service for Charlie, many of his mates from around the district, spoke of him with great affection, and repeated some of his stories. 

That would have been the only time in my life I have ever witnessed a Minister of Religion, almost wetting himself in Church Pulpit, at some of those tales. 
Even though Charlie has gone, and I do miss him.  His memory, along with his hilarious stories, will remain forever, deep in my heart.
Marjorie still tends to the garden, as far as I know.  I must call in again sometime, for another taste of my favourite scones. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Well, I'll be dog-goned

I've just got to tell this little story.
Now, about a year ago I went into the local Council Office to re register the dog.  Over the last five or six years the Council has a applied a discount if the dog was neuted.  Well, how was I to know they had ceased this practice.  Anyway, I was told when I fronted up to the desk, "Oh no," she said, "we will have to send an inspector to inspect your property."
"What for," I asked.
"To see if your property is suitable," she smiled at me, like a great white cruising around in every decreasing circles.
"So what do I do now?"  Dumbfounded I just looked blank, well that's par for the course for me anyway.
"Well," she said, still smiling, "you will have to pay the full price, and we can adjust it later." Yeah! Right!
Now, about a eight or nine months pass when this blond with an international accent arrived at the gate.  She stepped out of this $60,000 utility, donned her coat and gumboots, the sun was shining, but she'd obviously spotted a black cloud over our section.  She knocked on the door, saying she had come to see if our section was suitable for our dog.
"Mmmm," she said looking around the place, "you will have to put a high gate between the garage and the house and fit a padlock, you will also have to fit a padlock on the side gate, otherwise everything is fine."
I could see what the wife was thinking, our dog is bright, but unlocking a padlock that high up?  The damn thing is no higher off the ground than a grasshoppers rectum!!
"Is all this because we asked for a discount for our nueted dog," grumbled the wife.
"Yep, it's in the book," and she started to thumb through a thick wad of papers.
"If we don't bother with the discount," says the wife, by this time, sparks were shooting off the loose ends of her hair, "what happens then?"
"Oh, that is different," the dog lady says, "everything is fine, you don't have to anything."
Boom!  "Well, stuff your discount," yelled the wife, and slammed the door.
I have never stopped laughing since, they say blonds are more fun, they say lots of other things as well.
If that experience is anything to go by, many of those comments could well be true.

Have a nice day, and don't stand in a dog turd on the way home?

Noel Guthrie

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Here I am broken hearted, paid a penny and only...........

Isn't funny, how memories have a habit of popping into one's mind when least expected, and how the past fifty years or more can be recalled with such clarity.  Yet something that happened only yesterday can be so obscure.

"Let me tell you a story," I told my kids some time ago.  "As you well know I grew up in Albury, and of course an excursion to the city on the bus during the school holidays was always something one dreamed of, for weeks in advance.
During the early 1940's, the New Zealand Railways bus traveled to Timaru from Fairlie, early every morning, passing through Albury about 9am.  It pulled into the Timaru depot about 10am, on the corner of Sefton St and Theodosia St, at the northern end of the city.
Now being cooped up on that bus for over an hour, my sister and I would inevitably be busting for a unowhat.  Unfortunately the nearest toilet facility was at the south end of the city, on George St.
Alighting from the bus, I was already hopping up and down, doing figure 8's with my legs, Mum, I want to go!
My mother gave me the look only mother's can, without physically inflicting tremendous pain.  You'll have to wait she hissed out the corner of her mouth, as she grabbed my arm and set off down Stafford St, towards the south at a pace even John Walker would would have been envious.
Up George St we went, I was trying to mimic a contortionist by running with my legs crossed, while my best Sunday shorts were in jeopardy of becoming horribly wet.
Out of breath, my mother frantically searched her handbag for a penny to open the cubical door.  Precious seconds rushed by as she dragged everything bar the kitchen sink out of that bag.  Eventually she found the precious coin she was looking for.  The sound of that penny dropping into that slot, ohhh, what a relief.

Kind wishes

Noel Guthrie

Monday, 3 October 2011

Old haunt stirs many memories

It was an acquaintance who reminded me that my autograph, dated 27/9/54 was scrawled above the fireplace in this old hut, in the heart of the Mackenzie Country.  My goodness, over fifty years has past since I slept in this old hut amongst the high country tussocks, and it has not changed one little bit in all those years.
Yeah, I was about 17 years of age at the time and working as a carpenter's apprentice, I was as skinny as a milk straw and a fit as a buck rat.  Two of us had been sent out to do some work on a high country farmers wool shed at the time, just across the gravel road from this old hut.  The other bloke went by the nickname of the 'Black Duke', he was a great chap, much older than myself, but how in the devil he got name like that I have no idea.  The crowd we were working for at the time seemed to come up with a nickname for some us, I sort of missed out on that one. 
It was during the middle of summer when we were there and those summers in the Mackenzie can get hot.  One bloke I knew at the time, and who worked on the Public Works, he told me he quite often cooked a feed of bacon, eggs and sausages for his lunch, on the side of the road.
          "But there's a fire ban in the summer, I said to him.
          "Who said anything about a fire," he smiled.  "I used to cook it all in the sun on my shovel."
          "Yeah right," I said to him.  "And when you've finished pulling that one, have a go at the other leg will ya, it's got a squeaky knee joint." 

Anyway, getting back to the hut, built on the bank of the Irishman Stream, it measured about 2.4 metres by 1.8 metres.  It may have only been sheathed with corrugated iron on the outside and lined with solid timber on the inside, but it was reasonably comfortable.  There were a couple of bunks, quite easy on the bones, a small table and an open fireplace, all the comforts of home.  I can't remember how long we stayed in the hut, must have been about a week I suppose.
The hut was built by the Mackenzie County Council in 1910, and tied down with No8 wire, to save it from being obliterated by the fierce now-west wind that that sweep down these valleys.
Obviously modern transport eventually made this building more or less redundant in more recent years, but 100 years ago things were a lot different, particularly during those harsh Mackenzie winters.
Run holders of those times, returning home from a trip into Timaru, a journey of around 100 miles on horseback, more than once some of those pioneers were stranded in this hut during the whiteout of a winter snowstorm. 
It was a little later that Mr Burnett, of Mt Cook Station, built the fireplace and erected the chimney.  This added a little comfort to those who may have been caught out in a storm.
It must have been around the 30s that a telephone line was installed and connected to the outlying stations. In this instant, directions on how to use Morse code was located in a framed sign beside the phone. 
That brought back childhood memories of a similar phone system in our village during latter part of the Second World War.  Yes, we annoyed the devil out of the exchange operator, by ringing SOS and a few others I can't quite recall, every now and again, we should  have had our bums kicked I suppose.

When I sketched this old hut, there was still hanging above the fireplace, the neatly painted sign, in original condition, it read:  "This hut is for your protection, so we trust you will protect it.  Would you please shut the door, a little firewood left inside would be a kind act."

Noel Guthrie

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Repositories of the Morning Mail.

The air was crisp in that rural village where I sketched these mail boxes.  Frost lay on the ground, like millions of tiny diamonds, sparkling in those first rays of a burnt orange sun, heaving itself above the distant horizon.
My fingers were blue with the cold, and  I was blowing on them as this stranger appeared at my side for a chat.  I thrust my hands deep into my pockets, for a bit of warmth,  while we exchanged a few pleasantries, such as the state of the economy and the mothering instincts of a clay pigeon.   He appeared to be dying to ask me what I was doing, as if it wasn't blatantly obvious.  Eventually, he got around to suggesting that the landscape, in this neck of the woods was quite something.  I had to agree with him on that score, but reminded him, that was not what I was doing.  "Oh."  He said.  "Well what are you doing?"  I pointed to the mail boxes across the road, "I am interested those boxes over there," and opened my sketch book.
"Good God man, what the hell do you see in those things, they are a blot on the landscape."  With a quick "see ya,"  he ambled off down the road, in the direction of what I assumed was his home.  As he crossed the verandah, I heard him say to someone beyond my line of sight.  "You wouldn't believe it, that dickhead over there is sketching those old mail boxes!"
I had to smile, he was probably right about the dickhead bit.  Here I was sitting on my stool in the cold, freezing to death.  But then I was not all that concerned what he thought,  I was enjoying myself and what I was doing.  I saw numerous shapes and sizes that appealed to me.  One or two appeared to be newish, introducing recent immigrants to the district, while others proudly displayed their battle scars through years of conflict with the elements
My recent visitor, obviously having lived here for many a year, just took for granted these 'repositories of the morning mail'.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

My run in with the law.

I was recently reminded of a little incident that occurred during the late 1970's in New Zealand.
You see, I had been into the city on an errand, and that day I had the trailer on behind the car.  To cut a long story short, I was minding my own business on my way home when this traffic cop pulled alongside on his flash 750cc motor bike, indicating me to pull over. 
All sorts of things ran through my mind at a hundred miles an hour, what the hell did he think he was doing, I had done nothing wrong, well, not intentionally.
He climbed off his machine, I swear to God he looked no older than sixteen, but I suppose he was twenty five. 
"Hello Sir," he said with this smirk on his face.  It must have been slim pickings that morning, he was probably thinking, 'ha, got one at last.'
"Have you got a warrant for this trailer Sir," he smiled.
"Course I've got a warrant, I'm not that stupid," I growled.
" I can't see it Sir."
"Well, it's there, I'll just show you."   I walked around the back of the trailer and rubbed the mud off the little plastic holder,  "There, I told you I had one."
"Looks a bit dirty Sir," he said, "are you sure you have a current warrant Sir."
"What do you mean, you don't believe me." I said.
"Well, no its not that Sir."
"What is it then? Look, I'll damn well show you," I said half running to the car to grab a screwdriver,  I was going to show this baby face cop, we are not all dipsticks.
The young cop could see what I was going to do and said.  "No, no don't worry I believe you."
"No bugger it," I grumbled, "you questioned my honesty, so I'm going to screw that plate off and show you."
I was sore that this young bloke had stopped me for such a minor thing, why the hell did he not go out and catch some of these people who were really breaking the law.
I finally got the face off the plastic holder and stood back, all proud of myself. "There, see for yourself ," I said, a smile on my face.
The young cop bent down and had a look, still with the same stance, looked back at me with half a smile and half a smirk.  He finally stood up, and moved to his bike.
"Satisfied now," I scoffed at him, I thought he was going to ride away.
But he lifted his book out of the bag on the back and walked back, with a satisfied smile on his face.
"What?" I said.
He still never said a word, just had this stupid annoying look on his face.
I bent down to look at the warrant, it all looked in order to me.  I saw the date written clearly in the square, and in big letters at the top of the ticket where the word  April was printed.  "So," I said to him, "what's the problem?"
 "What month is it Sir?" He says to me, with a little snigger.
What month, what is this?  Perhaps he's a bit slow, you know?  "Oh I dunno,"  I said,  " it was July, when I left home this morning."   "July!!" 
Me and my big mouth, I was two months overdue with my warrant.  Now who was the dipstick, aye.

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Pied-a-Terre in Our Garden

When I was a kid growing up in the 1940s, I can recall a little verse that did the rounds of my country school, on quite a regular basis.
Part of that verse went something like;
                       "Old King Cole was a merry old soul.
                       And a merry old soul was he."

Now, the rest gets a little rude, so that's all you are going to get from me for now.  Just stretch your imagination and work out the remainder.,

For many youngsters, during those early years at school, perhaps those naughty verses reflected their perception of the 'long drop toilet', down the bottom of the families garden.
Most country folk referred to their long drop as an out-house, or the dunny.
Of course, there were always those who were snobbish, and thought theirs smelt of roses.  Oh by Jove's yes, their long drop was referred to as the Pied-a-Terre.
For ours, it was called the "Throne".  I think that came about because of my sister,  she always claimed to be busting, and had to make a quick visit each time the dishes were to be washed, conveniently returning as I was finishing up.
There were many descriptions of the dunny, but for this story however, many are really too crude for readers with a sensitive disposition.  No matter what it was called though, when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

In several countries around the world, at least until about the middle of the 1900's, the out-house was a common feature beside, or behind a tree, down the bottom of the garden.  That is until modern science did the dunny out of business.
They are however, still a common sight in many an out-back location, such as behind the wool shed.  To visit many of those out-back dunny's, one needs a certain amount of courage, perhaps even the mark of a fearless soul.  For who in their right mind, would dare to plonk their bare bum on those seats of knotty, cracked pine, covered in bird droppings.
Apart from the likelihood of a splinter or two, there is always the thought of that little Aussie Country Classic in the back of ones mind.  "Theres a red back spider on the toilet seat!"
Now, if that's not enough to scare the crap out of you, there is always that other Aussie Country Tune, bound to suppress any sense of humour in the snobs.  "Fifty thousand blowflies can't be wrong!"

In some cases, those who engineered these small shacks, many had a great sense of imagination.  Yes, they made the seat with a double orifice, one for junior, and one for mum, or dad.  Just imagine junior sitting next to mum, and she sort of......you know?   "Ooohh Muumm," says junior, "that's rude!"

Now for the townie, when is comes to household toiletries, it is quite normal for them to frequent the supermarket just down the road, and look for the budget supersoft.
In the outback though, there is no such thing as a supermarket, so, there's a whole new spin attached to that term, Budget Toiletries.  Many who visit that rusty corrugated iron, or drooping weatherboard dunny, will find the only toilet paper is a scrap of newspaper, perhaps a screwed up edition of a local 1915 sports section.  It's brittle, it's crumbly, and it feels like sandpaper on ones botty.

For me, the sight of one of these little places of unmatched discomfort, they rekindle a special childhood memory.  Our family out-house was a way down the bottom of the garden, and as I said before, it was recognized as the Throne.
My mother used to cut the local newspaper into little squares, where each square hung for future use, spiked to a rusty nail.  She also had a regular ritual, with a bucket of hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush.
Of course, there were times in the dead of night, when I was bursting to do wees, and unable to hold off until morning.  I would creep out into the darkness, my eyes protruding like knots on a tree, searching for those bogymen, my sister had conveniently informed me were lurking out there.
Reaching the Throne, my heart pumping overtime, I'd slam the door shut, my little trembling hand holding it tight with a piece of rotting string.  Composing myself for the return flight to my warm bed, I'd take a deep breath, and fly out the door, running like blazes, while keeping a weary eye out for those unfriendlies in persuit.

Now, this story would never be complete, without mentioning my dear old dad, God rest his soul.
My old man, he was a highly skilled handy man, painting being one of his many forte's.  To clean his paint brushes back in the 1940's, he just used a little drop of petrol.  However, to dispose of that lethal mixture, he would pour in down the Pied-a-Terre, at the bottom of the garden.
On one particular occasion, after disposing of the goods through the aperture in the seat, he obviously felt the call of nature.  He did a down trow, behind the closed door of course, then plonked his aging buttocks on the well worn seat.  Contemplating a delay in the passing of a motion, he pushed the door slightly agar, so that he could bask in the warm rays of the autumn sun.
Pulling out his trusty Brier pipe, he proceeded to fill the bowl with tobacco, his favourite, Bears Dark.  Tamping the bowl firmly with his thumb, he placed the stem between his false teeth, and into a special little groove that had taken twenty years to form.
Reaching for a part box of Beehive wax matches, he touched a flame to his special Brier.  Sucking on the stem long and hard, he soon had the bowl glowing and smoking to his satisfaction, that's about when a bout of gut-wrenching coughing brought tears to his eyes.  Leaning his old and wrinkled bum to one side, and with an expert flourish of the wrist, he let the still burning match spin off into the gloom below.
That still burning match met those petrol fumes below with a sound like distant thunder, the 'boom' of which echoed around the hills.  A sudden rush of scorched air, powered upward, through every available fissure in and around the seat.  The dunny door took a major hit, almost wrenched off its heavy duty hinges.  Smoke billowed from around the outside of that little building, after it had been given a not to gentle nudge to starboard.
My old dad, with the look of a petrified rabbit caught in the headlights, he could barely be seen through the dust and the smoke,  his trousers around his ankles, and his shirt halfway up his back.  The stem of his favourite Brier pipe was all that was left between his teeth, the bowl had completely vanished.  His tamoshanter hung from the top of the door, while his spectacles hung skew-wiff from one ear.

According to mother, poor old dad's aging posterior had taken a fair old pounding that day.  Apart from being constipated for the following week, the smoky outline of the seat remained tattooed to his bum, as a temporary reminder of his folly.
Now, if ever there was a moral to this little story, I think it could be;
"never get caught with your pants down."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Love, Lies and Laughter.

Keep a lookout for my new book about to be published in the next few weeks.

My previous non fiction books, in particular the Memories Series, have told a selection of historical and autobiographical stories complete with sepia watercolour images.
Those proved to be extremely popular at the time, and are still sought, fifteen years on.
Love, Lies and Laughter is my first venture into the fiction field, and I have thoroughly enjoyed, not only the writing, but the sketching of the sepia images as well.
As I said before, this book is total fiction.  It is made up of a selection of ten short stories, all total figments of my imagination.
I don't know what started me on this course, perhaps I felt there was so much hate, violence and death in the world today.  Maybe  I thought I could lighten the load if you like, put a little humour into the lives of the many.
I know what it is like not to be able to laugh at ones self.  For twenty years I was caught in the depths of despair, that deep black hole, on a couple of occasions looked so inviting.  But  with the assistance of so many, particularly my family, I won a tremendous battle.
For the first time in years I feel alive. I feel alive to write. I feel alive to sketch and paint.
So it is perhaps with this in mind, that I began this blog site, to share my feelings, to share some of my experiences, and to share my stories.
I know that to some this may sound all so stupid, but if you had been suppressed by deep depression for twenty years, and through your families constant belief in you, you had had won a major battle with life, how would you feel? Would you feel elated?  I think you may.

I'll start another post shortly giving you one of the stories out of Love, Lies and Laughter.  Hopefully you will get a smile from it and your day will seem so much lighter.

See Ya.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

21st August 2011

Did you see the acrylic painting by Helen.
She has painted a Rose, it has been sold by the way.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Best Little School of All

This little school was once located at Blue Cliffs, along the border of North Otago and South Canterbury, I suppose around 40 kilometres south west of Timaru in New Zealand.
Just a few notes on its history.  It appears it was first mooted by Robert Rhodes in about 1909.  At the time, Robert was the owner of the large sheep station, Blue Cliffs, and took a keen interest in community affairs, as well as keeping a fatherly eye on those families who worked on neighbouring farms.
He was concerned that children from the area around Blue Cliffs, to get any form of education, needed to travel to the Esk Valley School, a distance of around ten kilometres.  There was no form of transport other than riding a pony or the horse and cart.  Robert voice his concern by visiting the homesteads surrounding Blue Cliffs, in order to estimate how many families would pledge support for a new school, if one were to be established.
Not only did the Rhodes family donate land to this project, they also milled and transported the timber to build the school and the teachers residence.  All this came from a plantation on his own property.  In June 1910, Robert Rhodes performed the official ceremony of declaring the Blue Cliffs Household School, officially open.
The first teacher, a Miss Symon's, took a keen interest in those first five pupils who attended Blue Cliffs,  during the second year, the roll is thought to have swelled to twelve.
Some said, Robert had an almost paternal interest in the school, and dropped in on many occasions, just to see how the children were progressing.  He liked to keep thing simple, and used to set a few mathematical problems of his own, just to test the kids from time to time.  On one of these random visits, he decided young Willie Beattie should be the recipient of his mathematical knowledge.  He said to young Willie, "if your father paid a man four shillings to plough one acre, how much would he pay him to plough a paddock containing fifty six acres?"
Quick as a flash, Willie retorted indignantly, "but Sir,-- my father would never dream of paying a man four shillings, he always pays five shillings."  It was plainly obvious that young Willie had done his homework.
This little school brings back some lingering memories of my time at school, especially the day we all auditioned for a singing part in the school concert.  The headmaster, like it or not, every kid would sing a verse of his choice.
Now I had a voice likened to that of a rusty nail.  I had just reached to peak of that first octave, when the headmaster clapped his hands over his ears, and screeching,...."for goodness sake boy, go and sit down."

To those kids who attended this little school at Blue Cliffs during those early years, it was most probably the best little school of all.  A short poem I read somewhere and entitled the "Best little school of all," seems appropriate to end this story.

It's good to see the school we knew
The land of youth and dreams
To greet again the rule we knew
Before we took the streams

Though long we've missed the sight of her
Our hearts may not forget
We've the old delight in her
We keep her honour yet

The men that tanned the hide of us
Our daily foes and friends
They shall not lose their pride in us
How'er the journey ends

Their voice to us who sing of it
No more this message bears
But round the world shall ring of it
And all who are be theirs

We honour yet the school we knew
The best school of all
We honour yet the rule we knew
Till the last bell call

For working days and holidays
And glad and melancholy days
They were great days and jolly days
At the best school of all

Noel Guthrie

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Watercolour sketches all are for sale. 
More  later.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

friday 12th August 2011

The Albury Hotel is located on the edge of the Mackenzie Country, in the Central South Island of New Zealand, about 60 ks nth/west of Timaru.  Still standing today, in 2011, it has many more years of life in the old place yet.  Many years ago it was my home town, or village if you like. Away in the background you can see the old Albury Store, or what's left of it.  It is still used today, but not as a store.  Some enterprising young bloke had ideas of turning it into a back packers, but nothing seemed come of it, but yet you never know what's around the corner.  The old store can recite a few stories, however I'll leave them for another day.  But back to the pub, I have many fond memories of that, not as a drinker, no publican would ever get rich on the takings from my pocket, I'm an original skinflint from away back.  The pub was built around the end of the 1800s, being the second to be erected.  I remember the publican, a wonderful lady by the name of Mary Gibson, she  served behind the bar in all the years I lived in the district.  I was born in the village in 1937 and I left the township about 20 years later and I think from memory Mary was the publican for about 40 or so years.  Since Mary death several have had a go behind the bar, but none have ever been able match Mary Gibson as a bartender.  I can recall when the young women school teachers used to stay at the hotel during my very young years.  Of course all the budding young cockies would be hanging around the hotel like bees around a honey pot, and Mary acted like a stern old chaperon, chasing those randy young bucks from the door.  A few must have made their mark however, for a good number of them seem to have ended up as farmers wives. 
I can recall embarrassing my mother during the early 1940s.  Mum used to invite some of the young teachers home for an evening meal sometimes in the weekends.  This particular evening, mum had done everything just right, she put on a spread fit for a King, or a school teacher as it was in this case.  However she forgot about her kids.  At that stage it was only my sister Doris and myself.  Now we had never seen the likes, mum was out to make a big impression on these two girls.  One of the things she laid out was a butter plate with this flash silver butter knife.  Yes, you know what I'm going to say don't you.  I pointed at this dish with the fancy little knife, "what do you do with this thing mum?"  As mum told all her friends later, she reckons she could have screwed my bloody neck.  From what I can recall the teachers all thought it was a great joke.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August 11th 2011

This computer age is a challenge.Damn right it is.  The other day I wrote that I was attempting to set up a blog site, or a blogspot, to use the correct term.  No matter the term blog site, blogspot, sunspot, they just about had me beat the yesterday.  You know, I ended up with four, yeah would you believe it, four bloody blogspots.  Somehow they were all interconnected, if you could remember which key to press.  In total frustration, I contacted a bloke I knew.  He took one look and burst out laughing, how the hell did you get yourself in such a goddamned mess.  I told him was easy, I did this and I did that, and a couple of other things.  He asked if could remember what I did?  You gotta be joking, I'll tell you what happened fifty years ago, but yesterday, I wouldn't have a clue.
He shook his head, I thought he was going to cry.  Give me a while to get my head around this and I'll come back.  About an hour went by, he came back all smiles, she's all go he said.
He was a damned nervous wreck by the time he left.

Noel G

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

tuesday 9th august 2011

This is a milestone for me.  In my middle seventies, I never grew up with computer technology.
What the hell is a blog, I asked when I started thinking about a site.  I thought it was something that was blocking the drain.
Anyway, I have started setting up a blog, If anyone gets a few laughs at my expense along the way, at least I will know you are reading my stuff.
Any of you computer whizz kids out there who can offer an old bloke a bit of advice along the way, I would be most grateful.
I must tell you a little story though, it surround those two boys at the beginning of my site, lying on the old bridge catching, or trying to catch a cockabully.
While painting that scene, I remembered the time when I was a kid of about four or maybe five years old, and my late father took me to catch a cockabully.
He told me that the idea was to tie a length of cotton onto a bent pin with a worm attached to the pin.  This was great stuff, I was shaking with excitement.  But I was blowed if I could figure out why the little blighters just swum up to the pin and then took off.  You know, I swear to this day, they would swim up to the pin, look up at me, and laugh their heads off.
Of course, now I know that was just a load of codswallop, but at the time and at that age, it was great fun.

See ya.