Got your scarf? Your hat? Jacket zipped to the neck? Bring your camera but forget the gloves; they’ll only be a nuisance. You need to be rugged up for this walk; it’s the middle of winter, here. Today the sun’s come out and I’m taking you along one of the most interesting sea fronts in New Zealand. Brace yourself for the cold sea air and prepare to be enchanted by visual delights that charm photographers from all over the world.
Yes, you and me, we’re going for a stroll along Napier’s Marine Parade.
Dear Reader, we have been there before – several times. This was the very first place I took my camera – remember the photo of a log on the beach – my foot an interloper? It’s where my father defied the threat of a tsunami. And, it was here John and I met up with my blogging friends Jack, from Jack’s Jottings, and Pauline, from Gypsy Life.
Oriented now? I knew you would be.
Our walk will take us along the most historic part of the Marine Parade, built on the rubble from the 1931 Napier earthquake. I’ve talked about the quake before, too, probably quite often.
Right now, it’s only two in the afternoon and the midwinter sun is already low in the sky.
Our first stop is The Veronica Sun Bay. It’s named for the HMS Veronica, the navy ship that was in the harbour at the time of the earthquake. The crew were the first responders. This sun bay is actually a replica of the original. I think it’s a pretty good replica. I’ve lived here all my life and it seems almost the same as the sun bay I sat in many times as a kid.
One time I came here after a horrid job interview. Defeated, I was in tears. A complete stranger, a man who seemed really, really old to me but was probably only my age now, approached. He said, It won’t be as bad as it seems, my dear.
I’d never seen him before and have never seen him again but his words have become a bit of a mantra in my life. Amazingly, I did win the job. I turned it down – on account of a better offer.
Can you spot my shadow? I’m next to the shadow of the centre arch of the colonnade. Above the arch, itself, is the quote: Courage is the thing: all goes if courage goes. I reckon my Dad lived his life according to this motto.
No tears for these happy workers, taking advantage of the winter sun. There used to be a clear perspex behind the seats, a shield against the wind; gone now, a victim to vandalism.
When I was little I was always frustrated by this sun dial. The sun never seemed to be shining when I visited. Today the gnomon (very fancy word for pointer) casts a clear shadow.
The sun dial was one of the first attractions installed on the parade after the earthquake. It was donated by the mayor of Gisborne and designed by Louis Hay – he designed many of the Art Deco buildings in Napier. There are three inscriptions on the dial. The two on the top are a bit preachy, a sign of the times perhaps.
On the marble face:
Smiles equal sunshine in helping folks along.
True enough, I suppose.
On the square base:
Serene I stand admidst the flowers to tell the passing of the hours.
I don’t know about you but when I want to know the time I am rarely serene.
Near the base of the structure, and probably overlooked by most, is a brass plaque acknowledging the donor. It says:
Calamity is man’s true touchstone.
No doubt earthquake survivors, like my parents, would be able to attest to that.
As a kid I was most entranced by the arrows at the base, pointing to far away places waiting for me to visit.
Further along, past the flower beds that this afternoon are looking a little bedraggled, is one of my childhood favourites – the Tom Parker Fountain.
It was a huge treat as a kid to be brought here to watch the colours in the fountain at night. When I take the first steps toward night photography it will likely be an early subject. Can you spot the moon, high in the sky?
Nearby is the floral clock – another childhood favourite. This, too, is a donated feature.
Look, it’s taken us half an hour to walk two hundred metres. We won’t get fit, or far, at this pace. But there’s so much to look at, so many photos to take.
I have one more spot to show you before we head back. It’s this: the site of our old paddling pool.
Check out the complexity, the detail in the design; the long lines of the bench, the angles and lattice effect in the ceiling, the curves in the stone pillars. So much, some might think too much, but I think, somehow, it all works.
Of course, as a kid I took all this for granted. This was simply where my Mum brought us for a swim. We used to stand on this bench seat while she changed us into our togs (swim suits for northern hemisphere readers, currently enjoying summer and no doubt reading this in tee shirts and shorts, lucky you).
We would squirm and wriggle and try to hurry but togs weren’t then, and still aren’t, designed to pull on quickly.
In those days there was no fence. It was a paddling pool, free for anyone.
Nowadays a family pass for the swimming complex will set you back $30.00. The upside is that the water is heated; there’s even a sauna and a soak pool.
Some I know go to the pool when it’s threatening to snow. Who would that be I wonder? For myself, I draw the limit when the air temperature drops below 30 degrees – I’m talking Celsius.
On the road side of the wall is the bust of Mr Swan. He was a mayor of the town during the late 1800s.
Quite frankly those eyes are designed to freak out the bravest of kids.
It’s time to wander back along the Parade. Notice the old sea wall.
Okay, I’ll own up – I’ve cheated. I took this particular photo last spring; this is a virtual walk, right? The wall was built in the early 1900s to stop the sea spilling into the township during rough weather. It was effective but hasn’t been required for that purpose since 1931. The quake raised the land more than a metre here. In the far distance of the photo you might glimpse the Veronica Sun Bay and the SoundShell. We’re heading back there, now.
At the Sun Bay turn 180° and this is the view.
I can’t help but wonder at the juxtaposition of the canon and the kowhai. What are we telling ourselves? And others? What do you think?
Turn another 90° and you’ll see the T&G Building. It’s one of the most famous of the Art Deco buildings in Napier. I used to go to the dentist here, back in the day.
We wander down to the beach. Forget earthquakes, today the Pacific is thundering in with enough force to shake the ground. Although in the photo the waves look relatively benign, it’s not a a day to turn your back on the ocean.
No wonder the sea wall was a necessity. Best to retreat to the safety of the path.
A large white anchor catches my eye – stark against the blue sky. A cyclist winds his way towards us. We’ll wait for him to come into the shot. Let’s be surreptitious, we don’t want any posing, just an anchor and a man on a bike. But instead of cycling on by he comes right up to me. Hello, he says with a laugh and he plants a big kiss, smack on my lips.
Do you recognise him? It’s he who must swim when it’s threatening snow. He obliges and provides the photo – but it is posed.
And, yes, he’s wearing shorts! He doesn’t feel the cold, not like the rest of us.
For more walks, from all around the globe visit Jo’s Monday walks.
And if you like benches, they’re a thing over at Jude’s. This month her theme is unusual details.