A Noel Guthrie Acrylic on canvas

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

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Gone but not forgotten

                                                       Gone but not Forgotten

Many years ago I was fortunate to spend a few days over a Christmas break with members of our family, who lived in Eastern Southland, namely, Wyndham. 
About eight kilometres south of this modest farming community, the once busy hamlet of Glenham lay in a shallow sun soaked valley.  A place we later returned to live for five short years, and a place our family learned to love with all our heart.
Here I sketched an old country store, still standing at the time and a short distance from our home.  This store played an important role in the development of a once thriving township.  As well as being a general store, there was a space at the western end of a long veranda, where a butcher once practiced his trade.
The store, so I believe, was erected by D.C.McKenzie, a local building contractor I 1908.
Only a short distance to the east, a small red brick Presbyterian Church remained and drew a small, but faithful congregation regularly each month.  These two structures, apart from the existence of two or three homes, are the only visible signs that a prosperous village ever existed in this delightful valley.
It is hard to believe now, but Glenham became the terminus for the Edendale to Glenham railway line.  Of course originally, that line had been planned to extend much further into the countryside.  However, improvements to roading and the development of more modern transport, proved to be the beginning of the end, for this extension.
A dairy factory, so I am told, stood about one hundred metres to the south of the old store, while a telephone exchange was conducted from the home of a railway ganger and his family.  Of course the public hall, the school and railway station, were but a few of those amenities that made up this once blossoming frontier township.

As I flew past this old store in my humble VW, on my way to work in Invercargill each morning, it never ceased to fascinate me.   Always meaning to stop and sketch it one day, I never seemed to get a round to it. 
However, given an opportunity one weekend to wander through the old place, I decided to sketch it, there and then. 
Apart from some of the interior being used for storage
much of the old shelving and wooden counters were still in place.  Some of the less popular products though, they still sat where they had been left many years before.
Memories of a by gone era flashed before me as I wandered about.  Images of a storekeeper in my old village flashed before me.  With a tin scoop, he measured an order of sugar from a Hessian bag behind the counter.  A roll of cured bacon, draped in mutton cloth and hanging from the ceiling, waiting to be taken down and sliced as you waited.
Boxes of dried fruit, raisins, sultanas, apricots, dragged out from behind the counter where the storekeeper used to dig out an order from a wooden box with a sturdy tin scoop.  Now, that was not yesterday.

Mr A. C. Bulling took over this general store and butchers shop on February 1st, 1930, however, after sixteen years, it appears he retired and his two sons Frank and Morrie succeeded him on August 1st 1946. 
They traded as F and M Bulling, expanding the business by making home deliveries as far away as Fortrose on the southern seacoast, as well as home deliveries to Waimahaka, Gorge Road, Titiroa, Te Peka, and Pine Bush. 
Unfortunately, a migration of the southern rural population to the north, or to the cities, saw trade fall away, forcing the closure of F and M Bulling in 1972.  Once more, national statistics could chalk up yet another vanishing village to their mounting catalogue. 

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Fair Dinkum

Fair Dinkum
This story is true, fair dinkum.

It was during the early 1970’s, about the time Lake Benmore was formed in the Mackenzie Country.  Our family went to the northern end of the Lake Benmore for our annual holidays every year at a section they call Haldon Arm. 
We had a boat and a caravan in those days and went there to enjoy ourselves.  At that time, the camping area was new and formed by the Ministry of Works, as part of the lake development.   The only building in sight was a typical country dunny, about four feet square, with a bit of a wing in front of a rustic door, for a little privacy.
 Some volunteers to the camp had done the job of erecting this ‘Heath Robinson’ contraption over top of a large hole in the ground, again dug by a few volunteers.  It had been built with a few sticks of second hand timber and rusty second hand corrugated iron.  The seat was one where you never wanted to linger for too long.
Today of course, there are all mod cons abound and every man and his dog gravitates to Haldon Arm at Christmas and New Year, many of them with sole aim in life, to get pissed out of their skull.

In our day, and for several years, I could count the number of families on the fingers of both hands, who spent their holidays at Haldon and we all knew each other.
One man in particular, who was a regular visitor and a keen fisherman, was Dick Holland from Pleasant Point. A really great chap, a friend to all.  He was the grandfather of Michael Holland, the T.V. One interviewer we see on screen quite often.
Well anyway, after about three years, the hole where we all made a pit stop at least once a day was beginning to pong in the hot weather, and the pile was getting higher.
According to old Dick, he was a great whistler by the way; he only had one note of course, but he was still a great whistler.  But lets continue, Dick thought it was time for a clean out of the dung heap, so bring on the half gallon can of petrol, that was a sure way to heat things up, according to the whistler.
Without mentioning his harebrained scheme to anyone in particular Dick trundles away down to the dunny located behind a willow tree in the distance.
The door was closed so he knocked lightly to satisfy himself that nobody was going to come out with a half-baked bottom.
Dick removed the cap from his petrol can and poured a liberal amount of flammable liquid down the hole.  Quickly he replaced the cap and placed the can outside away from the building.  Rushing back in he struck a match, dropping it through the seat aperture.  The petrol fumes had just enough time to rise steadily toward the seat when the match hit.
That’s when the campers all looked up in unison and shielded their eyes from the suns glare. 
There was Dick, taking a few hasty, but awkward steps in retreat midst a cloud of smoke.  His hat had gone; and the dunny roof was just steadying itself for its return plunge back to earth. 
Shit! I heard one of the neighbours exclaim, as a wind gust from the blast ruffled his hair.
It was several days before we heard that familiar whistle once more.  The dunny had its roof, although panel beaten to some extent, returned, and the door, minus a few nails and a board, was as good as new, even though the hinges were twisted somewhat.
I’m sure there is a moral this story somewhere, I’m not sure where, but someone is bound to come up with one?

Perhaps next time I will tell you about when Helen got her bikini hooked on a nail on the wharf just as she was about to take off for a round of water skiing

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Sherry Lovin Granny

Sherry Lovin’ Granny

Jan’s mother was staying over for a few months.  She had moved out from Holland several years ago, after Jan’s dad died.  Until a recent devastating earthquake, she was living in a Rest Home, not far from her daughter and son-in-law.
She enjoyed being near her daughter, but also enjoyed the camaraderie and the social side of Rest Home life, particularly her regular afternoon tipple with friends.

Frank found his mother-in-law demanding.  He tried very hard to make allowances; she was into her eighties after all.  Try as he may, his mother-in-law still got under his skin with her constant critical remarks. 
Much to Jan’s annoyance, he began to visit the local pub, a little more than usual.  Once his mates down at the pub found out where the mother-in-law came from, they were not in the least bit helpful.  They came up with ideas, such as; send her back to Holland as deck cargo on a submarine.  While Frank considered their suggestions hilarious, he dare not mention anything of the sort back home.

On Saturday a rugby match was being played down at the local park.  Frank said he would go to the pub for a while after the game, and that he would be back by teatime. 
Out of mothers hearing, Jan asked him if he would mind getting her mother another bottle of sherry while he was there, she had polished off the last one they kept in the pantry.
Frank gave his wife a peck on the cheek after agreeing to her request, however, come home time, he almost forgot. 
“Last round for me guys,” he said swallowing the last mouthful of beer.  “Oh, I almost forgot, must get a bottle of sherry for the old battle-axe, before I go home.”
“Drinks sherry, does she?”  Bert, smiled at his mate.
“Yeah, loves the bloody stuff.  Jan has got to hide the bottle away somewhere, or she’ll scoff the lot.”
“What does she like most?”
“I don’t know, don’t care either.  Thought I would get her a light pale sherry, the cheapest I could find.”
“Look.”  Bert looked at him with devious smile.  “Tell you what mate, you get her that brand.”  He pointed to a bottle on the shelf behind the bar.  “I can guarantee she’ll enjoy that.”
            “Anything for a bit of peace,” quipped Frank, pulling out his wallet.

It was several days before Frank and his mates got together again at the bar.  “How did the sherry go Frank?”  Enquired Bert.
“Funny thing happened there, y’no.”  Frank shook his head.  “After tea that night, she found the bottle in the pantry.  Whipped the top off and took a swig.  You should have seen the smile.  “Blow the wax out of your ears, that stuff,” she said, fanning her breath, and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“On the Sunday night,” he continued.  We woke up to all this noise downstairs.  Old biddy had found where Jan had hidden the sherry.  At two o’clock in the morning she had a Blues Brothers C.D. blasting full bore, and she was break dancing in the middle of the lounge, completely naked, except for a pair of her favourite fluffy slippers.”
“Now, would you believe it,” Frank laughed?  “I have to get my flamin eyes tested!” 
Frank cupped his hands to his mouth as if he thought someone might be listening. 
“Hey, you fella’s don’t know when the next submarine’s due in port do you?”