Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Putaruru Hotel - A Hidden Treasure

As we hurtle along State Highway 1 on our way southwards and zip through Putaruru we never pay much attention to the town.  To reach the town centre you have to leave the state highway, which probably makes life much quieter and less dangerous for the residents who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the passing traffic.  On our winter deco trip last weekend though we decided to turn off to investigate what we had heard rumours of but never seen and only half believed – a magnificent old hotel in the centre of the town. 

Apparently the hotel was built (or possibly rebuilt) in 1953 in time for a visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and it had been hoped that she might spend a night there.  Unfortunately the Tangiwai disaster intervened and the locals only had a passing glimpse of Her Majesty as she sped past on her train, travelling to her more urgent engagements.  Over the years the hotel became less busy and eventually only the “pub” part of the hotel was leased and used, with the accommodation side being neglected and falling into disrepair.  Even the internal walls were overgrown with ivy and water flooded down them when it rained, and the building was almost condemned for demolition.  In the nick of time it has been given a lease of life and is being restored to its former glory. 

When we called in we were amazed to see how close to original condition the hotel remains.  So many wonderful details are still there to see, right down to the hexagonal tiles in the bathrooms and the small lights which apparently illuminated to tell the porters where their attentions were needed.

The entrance area is richly wood paneled and the staircase very grand, broad and sweeping.

Though they do not do so at present we suspect the long glass columns would have been illuminated from within originally, possibly with long fluorescent tubes which seemed to have been all the rage and much in evidence in other parts of the hotel

 The staircase is furnished with black wrought iron curlicues - you can see one at the bottom left of the railing.

Two comfortable original looking chairs to rest your feet when you arrive or if you are waiting to be met by a guest.

The special little room for using the telephone still has its sand blasted telephone symbol and the rooms for guests to iron their clothes still have the markings on the doors. 

The exterior of the hotel is unpainted concrete.  I am not sure whether this was intended as a design feature or it simply never was painted but I suspect it was meant to be left unpainted, as an example of modern industrial/utilitarian architecture.  The curving front is very deco looking but considering that it was built in 1953 it must have been at the very end of deco buildings' vogue.  In the 1960s an altogether different “look” would have been sought after, I feel sure.  So it was probably a slightly old fashioned looking building almost from the start.  How lucky we are that it is still standing and that its interior features are still almost original, it is like stepping back in time when you enter the grand reception area.  What a great place for a group of friends to meet, stay the night and maybe do a good long walk the next day.  And what a find!  We need to patronise these kinds of venues, so if you do get a chance be sure to call in for a meal or even stay overnight. 

We couldn't go into this bar as it was locked up, but we could see through the glass that it was in spectacular and near original repair

 A special room for writing one's correspondence and sending off many postcards no doubt.

 In one of the bathrooms we could make out this special fixture for the disposal of used razor blades
 In case of confusion a plethora of signposted rooms off the main corridor

 Behind the pillar is an enormous concrete fireplace.  The frosted glass you can see in the distance on the left is a feature seen in many places
Original cabinetry in excellent condition

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DIY Deco 2013 - Winter Deco in Napier

Once again it was time to pack up all our furs and hats (well, no furs for Mr Shoestring but a lot of hats) and take ourselves off to Napier for the DIY Deco winter weekend.  This time we were taking the Figaro (who seems to have acquired the name of Figgy since we can’t come up with anything more exciting), so we had to be a bit careful with the packing, and more discerning as to which outfits “made the cut”.  No room for any spares this year.  In fact Figgy’s boot is so diminutive that we couldn’t fit much more than a hanky in there, so the back seat was stacked to the roof with all our finery.  We shared the driving and found that wherever we stopped people would strike up conversations about Figgy and want to know all about her.  I remarked to Mr Shoestring that we wouldn’t be able to commit any major crimes such as bank robberies along the way because there would be a whole string of witnesses who could swear as to our exact whereabouts through the day.  Of course we had to investigate all the op shops in the towns we passed through, squeezing various parcels into the remaining nooks and crannies in the back of the car.  Mr Shoestring found a three piece suit so he was beaming from ear to ear, but I didn’t miss out altogether and got some “new” doilies for my latest crazy quilt plus several garments which should be able to be modified for art deco costumery. 

When we finally arrived there was only time for a quick cup of tea with The Duke and Duchess of Ringloes before it was time to give myself over to the tender ministrations of Rose and Claire from Decadia Vintage, who had set up a temporary beauty parlour above Decorum vintage shop, and gave me a hairdo and makeup to go with my costume for the opening soiree.  What a wonderful job they did, I was thrilled with the result and only wish I could have them tame my mane and beautify my visage on a daily basis.  It was very special. 

I would thoroughly recommend them to anybody wanting a vintage look for an occasion, they really make a girl feel special.  And as well as making a great job of the hair and makeup, they were full of useful information as to the whereabouts of likely charity shops and the treasures they had recently obtained. 

In the mornings we went for walks along the foreshore, where the sunrises were spectacular.  Even after a late night it made a beautiful start to the day.  If you cross the road and turn inland you can wend your way through the streets on the hillsides and discuss the merits of all the houses and gardens, and decide which you would make your very own if you were able. 

Though fewer people attend winter deco the costumes are very impressive.  We decided that the “hard core” fans who are willing to brave the cooler weather come along and that might be the reason why.  

I have to confess that I have never seen such a magnificent selection of furs, I was wildly jealous and came to the conclusion that my own poor selection needed to be increased.  Not least of all because various tails and other bits and pieces have been falling off with alarming frequency. 

On Sunday night there is always the “winding down” event but just as we were arriving the large light fittings began to sway in an alarming fashion.  This was as a result of the earthquake which had just hit the top of the South Island and of course caused a good deal of worry amongst the assembled guests.  Fortunately there was no serious damage and no loss of life but it was an anxious time, particularly for those who had loved ones in Wellington and were finding it difficult to contact them.  This final event takes place at The Hawke’s Bay Club which venerable institution is steeped in tradition.  It has so many of the original fixtures and fittings and an unshakeable air of permanence which make it a very popular venue. 

 Some of the hats and coats awaiting collection
 A handy repository for the payment of one's subscription
 The grand staircase - I omitted to take a picture of swaying light fittings

 Even the original china in the ladies' hand basins is special

This house is a museum full of exquisite art deco furniture and artifacts, it is like stepping back in time. 

On the way home we visited a very special treasure, more about that soon.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Winter Finally Arrives - It Had To Happen Some Time

One of the joys of life in a small provincial town is the stories which dominate the news.  As soon as we arrive at Shoestring Cottage Mr Shoestring scours the local newspaper eagerly to see what he has missed out on this week, while earning a crust in The Big Smoke.  The lead story in our local "rag" this week was that a cow had given birth to triplets, and all of them were heifers so the dairy herd would be increased by three instead of one (or possibly none at all if they were bobby calves).  At least it has got to be more encouraging than reading about robberies, burglaries or assaults.

We are suffering the effects of an icy blast and so it was perfect timing that the gas fire was finally installed this weekend.  It still needs to have some sort of surround made for it, but the effect of the flickering flames is very warming and cosy and I crouched over it like some morose tropical bird who had been brought to colder climes this weekend.  The older I get the more I crave warmth and sun, and when I looked around the garden was very saddened to see that nothing almost was blooming apart from a few early white hyacinths (the result of some frenzied planting when first I hit upon the idea of a white garden) and some primulas.

Most things hibernating though one of the lilies was sending forth shoots and Mr Shoestring eventually became tired of being shown the green spikes of new growth and being asked to predict how many blossoms might be expected this summer.

At the monthly market in Matamata I had to give in and buy some pansies luscious purple and yellow, just to cheer the place up a bit.  I love the way their faces are all slightly different with differing amounts of black, yellow and purple.

And I decided to give precious cupboard space to this ridiculously sentimental plate with the lady and gentleman in their powdered wigs, deep in conversation.  I suspect the gentleman is making romantic advances to the lady but being hopelessly unromantic myeslf,

I began to wonder what he might be whispering in his good lady's ear.  I suspect he was saying something along the lines of, "Oh no, it's those ghastly people we met last month at Lady Ramsbottom's soiree.  Just look behind me, where I am indicating with my right hand thumb and index finger, but for goodness' sake don't let them catch your eye or they will attempt to engage us in conversation!"  The lady is a very haughty looking minx, I don't think she would be pleased to make conversation with the newcomers either.  

Though these plates are ridiculously sentimental the colours and scenes are so pretty with their gold surrounds, I would like to build up enough of them to make a whole dining table full and have a luscious pastel dinner party one day.  I remembered I had this one already in the cupboard, which is slightly smaller, and now that my interest was roused I had to have a closer look and try to guess what this gentleman might be saying.

He seems to be dusting off the lady's armpit with a heart encrusted handkerchief, and she is blushing mightily.  (So is he, now I look at him closely.)  Most curious behaviour.  I wish I hadn't hung so many similar plates around the garden, I could use them now to boost up the numbers in my new collection.  

The cross stitch is coming along for some new cushions on the bed, but I must say it is very slow going.  I like the natural coloured Irish linen 

but it is hideously expensive and I think I shall need to put in some pieces embroidered on cheaper fabric.  Lo and behold my mum gave me an enormous piece of cream cloth from her local op shop which will fill the bill nicely.  

I have to admit that I was nonplussed to begin with, how would I ever use such an enormous piece of fabric, but now I think it could look very pretty as a curtain if it had lots of cross stitched motifs on it.  Definitely too good to pass up, anyway.  

The weave is perfect for cross stitch.  (I suspect that there are a lot of keen stitchers, knitters and  crotcheters out there who rather than be endlessly confronted by the proof of occasions where their ambitions outreached their time/ability/interest, will furtively hie themselves off to the local op shop and get rid of the evidence.  It is the only reason I can think of for there being so many bargains to be had from time to time!) 

And speaking of our ambitions outreaching our time, I found these little hexies which I prepared for a new quilt with a chicken and egg theme.  

I can just picture them, each "feature" chicken being surrounded by "fussy cut" hexagons creating gorgeous geometrical patterns which will all blend in together.  But first I have to complete some other projects, the second hand rose crazy quilt, the doilies and damask one and all the others stored in various nooks and crannies in the sewing room.  I sadly put away my hexagons and will try my best to resist their alluring call.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Glenn Miller Via Roy Orbison and Elvis!


Well hello possums!  I must apologise for my lack of posts in recent times.  Mr Shoestring and I have been preoccupied with the installation of our "new" gas fire which Mr Shoestring rashly purchased second hand on TradeMe, only to discover it needed extensive refurbishments in order to be legally installed.  This weekend he spent most of his time up on the roof (and you know how he hates heights, the poor thing) trying to install the flue which he has laboriously modified to make it fit the old chimney space.  He eventually informed me that he had lost one glove, two screwdrivers, a level and a hammer.  He seemed to take a certain grim pleasure in retelling the loss of all these items which apparently have fallen down the chimney and can never be recovered.  He also broke three angle cutting blades (whatever they might be) and ripped his overalls.  Well, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs and no doubt you can't install a new fireplace without losing most of your tools - c'est la vie!

It has not all been toil though.  A couple of weekends ago we went once more to the local RSA on Saturday night to see "Roy Orbison" and "Elvis" and to dance our socks off.  Last time we sallied forth to this hallowed venue we were approached by a woman who enquired, "You're not from around here, are you?" after we had danced a particularly vigorous swing set.  This time a venerable gentleman told us we had put on a great floor show (I am not sure whether this was supposed to be a compliment but chose to take it as such), and after that whenever we sat down he would express his surprise not to see us dancing, as he thought this would be "just your kind of tune".

Then last weekend we came back to Auckland early to meet up with Senor and Senora Valentino and watch The Glenn Miller Band perform.  What a treat that was.  As well as the band we were treated to performances by The Swing Kittens (think of The Andrews Sisters) and a troupe of swing dancers.  Beforehand though, Senora Valentino and myself were treated to the expert ministrations of Rose from Decadia Vintage who transformed us.  Senora Valentino who usually sports a sleek asymmetric bob ended up with curly locks (which suited her very well) and I was thrilled with my victory rolls.  We both had scarlet lips, of course, which was a great responsibility - the retouching, you understand.  The other members of the audience looked rather startled as we arrived (attired in the best we could do for 1940s costume of course), but we were absolutely delighted with our glamorous appearance and afterwards went out for a little swing dancing.  (Only a very little for me because Mr Shoestring becomes petrified in the presence of expert dancers and his limbs seize up completely.  He did manage one dance though.  Senor Valentino being a more confident dancer rarely sits down.)

This weekend the weather was very fine and in between swearing and cursing up on the roof Mr Shoestring descended for a walk around the wetlands, where we were charmed to see the bare trees full of abandoned nests.  I wonder whether the same birds come back year after year to use their nests again, or if the nests are taken over by other birds (but of the same species one would presume), who recycle them.

One particularly voluble fantail seemed to be following us.  It is tempting to think they do this because they are companionable and genial, but (disappointingly) it is apparently because they want to catch all the tiny insects we disturb as we clumsily lurch over the surface of the earth.  Sigh.

We noticed this butterfly feasting on nectar in the sunshine.  Obviously some Monarch butterflies must overwinter but it is always surprising to see them in the middle of winter.

In the garden some bromeliads are flowering (still, or already?), some with blue/pink blossoms and some with a more shrimp-like shade.

I was pleased to see the first of the hyacinths, and the primulas about to follow suit.

The Dancing Queen came for a visit recently and I was enchanted by this little pansy plate she gave me.  This weekend I realised my next crazy quilt must be a pansy themed one - how had it not occurred to me before?  My favourite flower, and I have been neglecting it entirely in my crazy quilting!  I can't wait to get started, but first of course the other two must be finished.  It will have a small black silk piece in the centre of each block with vibrant orange/purple/yellow/pink and other assorted jewel shades around the outside.  That is the plan so far, but of course these things change.  Good to have a plan though.