Rugged beaches are amazingly inspiring places. The sea brings chaos to the stones, artfully displaying them in ways that almost look crafted, then layers them with the detritus of distant places. It leaves us wondering about where that debris came from, and how it ended up just there before your feet.
Beach stones, Makara, New Zealand.
I think that’s pretty inspiring for any writer. And does anybody know what I am getting at with the title of this post?
When I think of classic American art deco cars it’s hard to go past the Packard Six. It was stylish, well-engineered, and set the look for the age. Think it looks a bit like a Morrie Thou? Well, that’s no coincidence.
A 1935 Packard Six, immaculately restored, Napier, New Zealand. Sir Alec Issigonis styled the Morris Minor after its descendant, the 1941 Packard Clipper.
I spotted this one during the annual ‘art deco’ weekend in Napier, New Zealand. And it got me thinking. That celebration is light-hearted, owing more to Hollywood fantasy images of the 1930s than the reality of the day. But wouldn’t it have been just wonderful if the 1930s had really been like that! A thought to inspire.
I used to live in one of the houses in this photo, on the south edge of Karori Park in Wellington, New Zealand. I won’t say which – it’s thirty years since I was there and I have no idea who lives there now. But I remember the place, and I remember being able to look out on the park while I tapped out my thesis on my mechanical typewriter, and Madonna got into the groove on the stereo.
Little house I used to live in…
The ‘Young Ones’ were still showing on New Zealand TV. And, on the other side of the park, Katherine Mansfield’s childhood home still stood. Actually, it’s still there now.
I’d already written my first books, as part of what amounted to an internship with the New Zealand Forest Service. But I had no idea where that might lead. Or whether I might ever really write professionally, though even then, that was what I wanted to do.
Who’d have ever imagined that an Italian car company might produce radiator caps in the shape of a rearing elephant? Well, Bugatti did. Here’s the one adorning their 1930 Bugatti T-46.
1930 Bugatti T-46 radiator cap.
It’s an amazing piece of 1930s sculpture by any measure – and here it is, as part of a vehicle. Of course, there’s no question that cars – and 1930s cars especially – were wonderful examples of industrial art. And I think that it’s in discoveries such as this that writers can find inspiration, if they know where to look for it.
The other week the pilot of a P-51 Mustang fired up its Rolls Royce Merlin – all 27 litres of classic engine – right next to me. Moments like these don’t come around very often.
P-51 Mustang at Napier airport, February 2015. Note the blade motion.
That sound is one of the classics of the piston-engined world. And it has to be experienced, up close and personal, to be really understood.
This particular Mustang is owned by Jetfighter Ltd, based in Auckland, and I photographed it at Napier airport. The Royal New Zealand Air Force received 30 just after the end of the Second World War, part of a batch of 370. The order never eventuated and in 1951 the 30 P-51’s were deployed instead with the Territorial Air Force, where they remained in service until the middle of the decade.
When night falls the deco-age Tom Parker fountain in Napier, New Zealand, glows in a multitude of colours. And it’s been doing it since 1936.
Tom Parker Fountain at night, Napier, New Zealand, New Year 2015. I knew the guy that used to replace the light bulbs.
You can imagine how this would have seemed in the 1930s, when a few minutes watching the pastel glows, with all their redolence of fantasy Hollywood on the other side of the Pacific, helped distract from the often grim world of inter-war New Zealand. An inspiring thought.
I am always inspired by Napier’s annual Art Deco weekend – particularly its vintage car parade, one of the largest in Australasia, all set against a city backdrop of classic 1930s deco architecture. For a moment, if you get the angles right, you can imagine yourself transported back 75 years or so to an age that was not simpler than ours, but which I think was certainly a lot more stylish.
Anybody would think it was a busy street some time in 1937…