Sunday, March 03, 2013

Napier and the Sea Princess

Since giving up my art group Wednesdays I have been having trips out to unexpected places and found myself in Napier last week. I lived in and around Napier for twenty eight years from age four. Growing up on the seafront at Breakwater Road was a relaxed upbringing with hot evenings spent walking on the oil pipes that once ran along the beach holding my Dad's hand so I didn't fall off. Or else we'd wander down Harding Road which was lined with cute but slightly worn old cottages, many with sofas on the verandah so people could sit in comfort watching the waves.

Then after years of pulling down Art Deco buildings someone discovered this whole thing could be big business. Suddenly everywhere had a paint job, many of the cute cottages were pulled down to make way for faux Art Deco houses, and the Art Deco Weekend became an annual event where people thought that dressing up in flappers' evening dresses in the middle of the day would make them appear authentic.
The old T&G building used to house an x-ray department & doctors' offices

I didn't realize how majorly Napier had changed until my visit last week which also coincided with a visit by the Sea Princess cruise ship. The streets where filled with bewildered looking tourists touting cameras and bum bags getting their fill of the Art Deco experience before being shunted back on board. Their few hours were spent ferried around in tour buses from shop to winery safe from interacting with any "real" people ensuring they only saw a sanitized version of Hawkes Bay. Even the shops got in the act with their windows filled with Art Deco dressed mannequins and expensive NZ themed items made in China.
The Sea Princess moored at Napier Harbour
Even around the Iron Pot inner harbour where my brother once had his succession of fishing boats moored has changed from a working class area surrounded by warehouses to boutique cafes and upmarket apartments where you have to ask your neighbours' permission to have a couple of people round for dinner.
The Iron Pot Inner Harbour
After channeling my frustration at how Napier has changed into a Disney Art Deco theme park into a passion fruit ice cream I saw something that gave me hope. Amongst all the upmarket faux houses along Harding Road snuggled one small battered cottage. And on its verandah nestled two weather beaten pink sofas for sea gazing of an evening.

No comments: