A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

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

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




Regards
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.