Wakatipu reflections

Friday Flashback to 1979

If you ever get to visit Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, you won’t know where to point your camera first. The area is a photographer’s paradise. Lake Wakatipu is a good place to start in any season, whatever the weather.

Lake Wakatipu 4-3

A very cold morning in August 1979. I was grateful for the red boat to inject some warmth into the scene.

The Remarkables make a spectacular backdrop and you won’t have much trouble finding an angle to fit them in. An Australian travel writer once noted that if they were located in a less reserved country they’d be called the Bloody Astoundings.

Lake Wakatipu 1-3

Winter sun disolves the clouds to reveal the jagged face of the Remarkables.

You probably shouldn’t expect to find tranquil urban scenes like this, today, anywhere close to town. It’s safe to say, without linking to boring pages of stats and charts, that Queenstown’s resident population has at least doubled in the past 40 years – and is expected to double again in the next 40, although it’s anybody’s guess where they’re going to live with the area bursting at the seams already. And then you can add the tourists….. These images were made when most of the daytime action was still on the skifields, before Queenstown became the self-styled, year round, all seasons ‘Adventure Capital of the World.’

Lake Wakatipu 9

 The Cecil Peak barge moored at Queenstown wharf. This is an essential piece of farm equipment for the station across the lake which has no road access.

Now we have tandem paragliding, zip lines, and – heaven help us – the hydro attack, not to mention people jumping out of perfectly functioning aircraft at 15,000 feet. Before the bungy was invented there was the lake, Earnslaw cruises, amazing scenery, and fresh mountain air. They’re still there if you want them.

Lake Wakatipu 7

Cecil Peak is on the left, Walter Peak with cloud cap at centre. The red funnel at right belongs to the vintage lake steamer t.s.s. Earnslaw.

Next Friday – a flight to Milford Sound.

Yeomen of the Guard

Mantled in hoary grandeur and serenity, the Tower crowns the Pool of the mighty waterway that makes London the first and richest of the ports of the world. Sentinel of London for 25 generations, it stands magnificent and unmatched, defying Time as it has defied the fret and scour of a hundred thousand tides swirling turbulent past its defences.

Tower

In its day, a fortress, a royal residence, and a state prison. The White Tower, the oldest part of the present fortress, dates from soon after William the Conqueror. (postcard caption)

Here, where kings ruled a nation that knew not Parliament, our Law had its cradle. Here is still the home of the forerunners of our first regular Army, the Yeomen of the Guard. As Yeomen warders they still guard the Tower, still carry out the nightly ceremony of the King’s Keys as performed without a break for over 600 years.

T_warders

Postcard by Valentine c. 1908.

It is all done by candlelight, a tallow candle flickering in a lantern carried by a drummer to enable the Chief Warder in his Tudor bonnet and scarlet cloak to lock the gates, and, the keys having been saluted by the troops, to carry them for the night to the King’s House. After that no one may enter or leave the Tower without the password, which, changed each night, is known, apart from the garrison, only to the King.
‘London’, Arthur Mee, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., 1937.

The Pool of London is no longer the hub of commerce on the Thames but the Ceremony of the Keys has survived to entertain curious tourists every night at 10 p.m. You’ll need to book your ticket well in advance, or hope for a cancellation in the next twelve months. And don’t worry, visitors are escorted to the the gate when the ceremony is over and you will be allowed to leave.

Old Whaling Days

Friday Flashback to 1983.

In my post about Wellington’s friendly whale (9th July), I mentioned that New Zealand’s last shore whaling station closed as recently as 1964. This is how it looked nineteen years later.

Whaling station 1 web

It sits in Fisherman’s Bay, Arapawa* Island, Marlborough Sounds, on the edge of Tory Channel. East Head and the exit to Cook Strait are in the background. If you travel from Picton to Wellington on the ferry today you’ll see what’s left of it from the port side.

The station was established in the 1920s by Joe Perano, a local fisherman who decided to go after something bigger, and the business continued with his sons in charge after Joe’s death in 1951.

Whaling station 2-2

It was a calm summer’s day when I visited but the corrugated iron cladding creaked and banged with every puff of wind that wafted in from the Strait. It has been removed in the years since then, leaving only the skeleton of the processing factory. The Department of Conservation took responsibility for the site in 2010.

Whaling station 4-2

A rusting harpoon head that should have been in a museum was just lying on the floor among the rubble. The Peranos are credited with introducing the explosive harpoon to New Zealand, followed by an electric version. I don’t know which this was – it had a hollow core – but it looked brutal.

The island has a long association with shore whaling. An easy walk back down a dusty track from here brings you to the neighbouring bay, Te Awaiti, where John Guard and Joseph (George) Toms established the first shore station in the country in 1827.

Te Awaiti 2-2

Guard moved to Port Underwood about three years later, leaving Toms – “a noted disciplinarian” – to rule over the unruly in the small settlement. He was known by several names during his life, a fact that has spawned numerous confusing and confused web pages.

Toms family grave 1-3

The fenced grave site at Te Awaiti for George Toms, son Joseph and his wife Harriet.

You can rent self-catering accommodation on the island, where the Perano family once had a farm, but be aware the only way in or out is by boat (or helicopter if your budget stretches that far) and there are no shops. Bring you own food supplies.

* Arapawa Island has been known officially by the more phonetically correct spelling of Arapaoa since 2014. Most of the web sites I’ve seen haven’t caught up with that yet.

A Glorious Holiday

A letter card from Torquay, England, 1948.

Torquay harbour

Dear Mother & Father,
We’re having a glorious holiday, I don’t think I want to work again. The weather is perfect, blue skies, sunshine, and a cool sea breeze, not too warm for walking about. We’ve been to Plymouth, and this afternoon we’re going on a sea cruise. Wish you could see the scenery round here.

Torquay Meadfoot

We’re sitting in deck-chairs, sun-bathing while I write, that’s the reason for the bad writing.

Torquay sands

We’ve filled in the 8 days very well, in fact we’ve been ready for our food and our bed, of course the sea air always affects Nancy.

Torquay prom

We’ll be leaving here at 7.20 a.m. on Sat. and hope to get to Darlington by 9.30 p.m., then we’ll have to start married life proper.

Hope father is well again now,
Cheerio! for a week or two,
Love Nancy & K.

Nancy and her new husband would have been ready for another holiday after their 14 hour journey from the south coast to Darlington in the north east of the country.

Although the letter was posted in 1948 – the year Torquay hosted the Olympic yachting events – the photographs probably date from the 1930s. Updating postcard images wasn’t a priority in Britain between 1939 and 1945.

Big Bird

Friday Flashback gets airborne.

Air New Zealand took delivery of its first Boeing 747 in May 1981. Two more arrived in June. I flew up to Hawaii in one of them in August. It still had that ‘new car smell.’

Air NZ 747 4

 In showroom condition at Honolulu airport.

As luck would have it, a distant cousin was a flight attendant on board. She might have been called a stewardess or hostess back then, before the word police neutered the language. When the safety drills had been drilled and we were all safely in the air, she dropped by for a chat.

Air NZ 747 3Would I like to visit the flight deck?
You could do that in ’81 if you knew the right people. They hadn’t yet seen a need to fortify the cockpit to protect pilots from crazy passengers. And they certainly hadn’t foreseen a day when passengers might sometimes need protection from crazy pilots. Simpler times. She didn’t have to ask twice so Distant Cousin went off to have a word with the Captain, promising she would give me the nod later in the flight.

She came back an hour later looking disappointed. The Captain sent his apologies but he would have to cancel my visit. One of the engines was surging periodically and he needed to concentrate on that with no distractions. I suspect this isn’t the kind of information cabin crew normally share with passengers. I said nothing but tried to fake an expression that showed I was totally cool with a malfunctioning engine at 35,000 feet over the Pacific on a dark night. D.C. could see through that.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said reassuringly, “we’ve got three more.”

That was the closest I ever got to a ‘Jumbo Jet’ flight deck. And now they’re gone. Air New Zealand retired its last 747 in 2014.

Air NZ 747 2

This was my ride home, ZK-NZW, the second Boeing 747 to join Air New Zealand’s fleet – on 9th June 1981 to be exact. It was sold to Virgin Atlantic after eighteen years service.

 

 

The Skirl of the Pipes

Are these Highland gatherings, these Highland games (I have never been able to discover the difference, if any, between “gatherings” and “games”), ancient and traditional? If they are, then history is remarkably silent on the point. Was it ever the pastime of the Highlander to hurl the trunks of pine trees about the countryside? Somehow I doubt it. Indeed, I harbour a suspicion that Highland games are only about 100 years old….

Braemar Pipe band

To put it bluntly, I do not believe that the Highland Gathering is ancient nor that the Highland Games are traditional, although they have undoubtedly become a tradition. They are also one of Scotland’s very best advertising media.

Let me hasten to add that this does not mean that I dislike or disapprove of Highland Games. On the contrary, I love them. As a spectacle I do not think they can be bettered anywhere in the British Isles.

Braemar duoWatching the games, the observant onlooker cannot fail to notice a marked difference in interest between the Scots in the audience and the foreigners in the audience, especially among the women. The kilt, it is apparent, arouses emotion in the foreign female breast; the Scots female…. appears to be quite unmoved….the Scots, male and female, are much more interested in the pipe music and the dancing.

This, surely, is because both are, in fact, ancient and traditional, technical and very highly skilled. You have to be an initiate to understand the finer points of either. I like watching Highland dancing, which I find both graceful and energetic: but the technical points are a closed book to me. I love the barbaric music of the bagpipes, but I am quite unable to distinguish between the playing of one competing piper and another on the platform. They sound exactly alike to me. But they do not to the Scots.

Braemar Pipers

Text edited from an article by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald (1900-1981) published in the ‘Sphere’, September 21, 1957.

Images from the Royal Braemar Gathering 1984.

A Donkey on the Lawn

Friday Flashback to Arncliffe in 1973.

Arncliffe 2

 

The village of Arncliffe lies in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, England, and is a popular spot today with cyclists, walkers and people who enjoy fly fishing in picturesque streams (even when they don’t catch anything).

Fans of British TV soap operas will know it was the original location for Emmerdale Farm, first broadcast in October ’72 and still running. The Falcon Inn was cast as The Woolpack pub. Arncliffe’s time in the showbusiness spotlight ended four years later when the production moved closer to the television studios in Leeds.

This scene was shot exactly as found. To be clear, I did not hire or position the donkey for rustic effect. Maybe it was an Emmerdale extra on its lunch break.