I love Art Deco Weekend in Napier, but I love it for the chance to dress up, and because I know so many fabulous people who go.
I’m not actually that keen on most of the official events of the weekend: generally they involve crowds, being really hot, and announcers who say things like “When this building was new it was the Roaring ’20s and all of Napier was dancing to the Charleston” while I mutter things like “Oh, for Pete’s sake! When this building was new it was 1932, because there was this little earthquake thing in 1931 that levelled Napier, causing it to be rebuilt in Art Deco Style which is y’know, the whole reason we have this weekend – supposedly. And ’32 is Great Depression, because the fall of ’29 put paid to the Roaring ’20s pretty effectively, all over the world. Seriously, you’ve only been announcing this for what, 11 years? Learn something!”
Yes, under my cap of dark gold waves and cheery smile hides the soul of a curmudgeon. One who talks (well, mutter) in run-on sentences. And may not say Pete.
So, not so big on the official events.
But the un-official events? The un-official events are amazing. Just watching the show go by. Kids dressed up in period clothes just running around and being kids, not knowing that they are supposed to act a certain way, and looking far more authentic for it. People who just really get into the spirit of it, and create their own street theatre. The swing dancers setting up their own music and creating dances on the street corners.
And the most awesome of all the un-official events is the gorilla hunt. Every year some of the dance people, just for the heck of it, and of their own initiative, rent a gorilla costume, and dress up in safari gear, and the Great White Hunters (tongue very firmly in cheek) hunt the gorilla through the crowds. There are Tarzan moments, and King Kong moments, and slapstick moments, and it is hilarious, and fabulous, and most un-official and definitely the best thing to happen all weekend!
And this year I got to participate – oh, the joy!
My safari outfit was very thrown together – I found out I was participating less than 10 minutes before I got in the car to go to Napier. So in a great rush I grabbed my pith helmet from the back of the closet (what do you mean? Don’t you have a pith helmet sitting in the back of your closet, just in case you need to go on safari at last minute?) and shoved my Goldilocks blouse in my bag (it’s got green on it, close enough for a safari) and added a greenish-brown belt.
Not bad for last minute:
The deal with the hunt is that the ‘Great White Hunters’ are 1), very, very, dumb (VERY), and 2) very, very British (VERY).
We say “Oh, I say” a lot. And “Splendid!” And “Jolly Good Shot Old Chap” (I do an excellent terrifically over the top grand dame accent)
The gorilla, for the record, is not dumb at all.
Because I didn’t have a ‘gun’ I acted as a beater. With a parasol. And a handbag. Because, of course.
First, the Great White Hunters survey the jungle, looking for signs of their prey:
(the hunter pointing in a different direction was the not-British and not-nearly-so-dumb member of our group. When our roles were explained he inadvertently created an actual dumb-British-Great-White-Hunter moment. “This is Jack. He’s going to be smart and tell us where the gorilla is, but we’re going to pretend we can’t understand him because of his French accent.” “Oh, can you do a good fake French accent” “Errrr….no?” “Then why are you playing the role, man!?!” “Because I’m French” “………………….oh, Jacques!”)
With a bit of assistance, we finally manage to catch the gorilla:
And convey it home, to the adulation of the natives, in their picturesque costumes of fringed dresses and feather boas.
But Oh NO! What’s this? It’s escaped!
We must catch it before it goes on rampage!
(or whatever it is gorillas do. The hunters were a little vague on the finer points of gorilla etiquette. And gorilla everything. We may have though it had tentacles.)
We inquired if the natives had seen any sign of a gorilla:
No gorilla here!
We looked high and low for it, to no avail:
We stopped to watch a festival of the peculiar native dancing, with all odd moves, like swing-outs and sugar pushes, but didn’t see a gorilla:
We searched, and searched, travelling through the jungle, and across the savannah:
We even stumbled across the film set for Tarzan, and asked the director, but he hadn’t seen a gorilla…
All the while we were hampered by the foreign hunter in our group, who kept babbling on in some peculiar tongue (we think it was Scottish) and saying ‘oooh!’ (think about it) all the time and demanding water. I have no idea why he was so thirsty….
Finally he got frustrated and started threatening to leave and telling us au revoir, or something that sounds like that.
And why was he going on about water?
It’s not like we would find the gorilla at the watering hole (look it up in French) or anything…