Friday, March 6, 2009

The Circus Comes To Town (1)

Weber Brothers Circus Riverside Drive Whangarei 6th March 2009

Carl Gustave Jung the great psychiatrist once said that one of the negative aspects of modernity was the anonymity that was bought to peoples lives when they lived in huge cities which overpowers the human spirit and reduces the individuals role to that of an ant. He said that the heritage of humans is the scale of the hunting group, the tribe, the village and the small town. His point is that for our psychological health we need to live somewhere that is small enough for us to 'know' and be 'known'. We need a place where we rub shoulders with the familiar and the known - where our humanity is enhanced and developed amongst friends and acquaintances - a place that humanises rather than dehumanises - where we can become someone with a name and a face rather than a cypher.

I was thinking about this when I drove down the hill turned left to head down the harbour and saw to my immediate right that the circus had come to town again - A huge circus tent only one minute away from where I live. As I drove to work I pondered on the human scale and convenience of the city of Whangarei.

My workplace is a pleasant 20 minute drive with the shining Whangarei harbour on my right.
My yacht is 4 minutes drive away. I can be on board in 10 minutes.
Revas Pizzas to die for Restaurant is 3 minutes away.
Parks and walking tracks are close to the city centre or within easy reach of town.
The library, the shopping centre, swimming pool, hospital and all the other amenities of a small town are all within 5 - 10 minutes drive.
The coast and its many stunning beaches are about 30 minutes away by car.

The downside of course is that it doesn't have the huge choice and depth of choice of a city such as New Zealands biggest city of Auckland - and Whangarei can't match London or New York for international sophistication and excitement. Nor is it a crossroads to other foreign countries and cultures close by on a shared border. It is too much of a backwater for that - BUT as I found out in 2006 you can purchase a ticket, clamber aboard a 747 and go and have a look at all those other very nice places.

Whangarei is fairly typical of New Zealand. Outside of the four main population centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, most of the country is made up of small towns
- places where, when the circus comes to town, it is only a short drive there and back and where when you sit waiting for the show to start, you scan the audience, and you see many people that you know and many that you have never met, but are familiar to you in the way that faces are when you live in a small town. You know and you are known.


Dan Gurney said...

I am familiar with the feelings you describe. This seems like a gratitude post.

Alden said...

Yes Dan that is a good description, it is a gratitude post - count your blessings as they say - which is what you do on your blog all the time!! which is a very wise thing to do.

Delwyn said...

Hi Alden. I read your post last night and as is my custom sometimes I like to mull things over before replying...

You are very lucky to feel such a part of the community and be 'known' by many. You are leaving quite a mark on the people's lives there through your work and friendships.
Altho' I've been here for 31 years I don't feel that and I guess that could be partly attributed to the difference between and Introvert and an extrovert...
Part of me would like to feel more connected but another, obviously stronger part, likes to remain a little anonymous.

I do however make more of an effort in my social interactions each day now to build a friendly caring sense of community.

My 'longing for connection part envies you, while my reclusive part revels in its quiet peace.

And now to circuses... I grew up in Riccarton - I don't know how well you know that area, but 'when I was a wee little lass' the circus would come to town each year and set up in a vacant paddock at Church Corner - which is now a bustling intersection where the Main Rd Sth and the Main West Roads diverge.
They brought elephants and lions and for a five year old the big top was monstrous, and I remember the smell....of fresh, animal dung....

Alden said...

I think that there is an element of introvert / extrovert in all this but I wouldn't like to give the impression that I am the life and soul of the party with a million friends because that is certainly not the case - it is more about the size of the place and the fact that as a teacher perhaps you are meeting a lot of children and their families over time - so you become known around town a bit - Christine says being a teacher is about as close to being a celebrity as the ordinary person will ever get - (lots of greetings from kids and parents on a Saturday morning shopping in a small town) - and she is right.

I remember a circus that I went to once that was in Hagley Park and I remember running from the circus to the Christchurch Square and only just getting the last bus to New Brighton - I still remember the scary feelings as my brother and I ran for the bus contemplating what would become of us if we missed it - it would have been a long and scary walk home from the centre of the city - The interesting thing here is the difference in parenting - my parents didn't blink at letting us do all that - I would been waiting outside the circus in the car ready to pick up my kids - how things have changed!! for the better??? - that nearly missing the bus experience taught me a lot!

There was another circus that we used to go to which I shall write about in my next blog - a story with quite a bite to it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kathryn said...

Whangerei sounds like your own little peice of paradise, Alden. I think I might just have to pay you a visit and check out this very appealing sounding place the next time I am in NZ.

I have noticed that teachers become very well known within their own community. I think I prefer to be anonymous :-)
Although I do have a tendency to strike up conversations with people that I don't know!

My own wonderful childhood circus experience was at the Blackpool Tower circus when we were still living in the UK. I remember it being very exciting (lions!!!) and lots of fun (very funny clowns) and lots of other things besides. I must have been only about 6 or 7 at the time.

Alden said...

I think if you came to Northland Kathryn you would find it very different to Christchurch or Perth where you now live. Both these places know hot dry times. I bet you remember that golden burnt colour of Canterbury in the summertime - well Whangarei is a bit like Ireland - emerald green and wet - the weather is very unpredictable - its one of those places where it is very hard to know what sort of clothes to put on in the morning because the weather is so changable - but you would like it here I am sure.

I remember the circus coming to Rawhiti Domain in New Brighton - with the lions and elephants etc. The thing I remember most about the shows were the clowns who always seemed to be throwing buckets of water over each other.

Kathryn said...

Memories - aren't they wonderful? And especialy when they can be shared. Even just mentioning Rawhiti Domain!! Where we used to have school sports days.....

I look forward to visiting Whangerei, but it might not be soon - I'm off to Germany at the end of May!

Alden said...

When I was at Central New Brighton Primary school we always had our annual sports days there - what school were you at Kathryn that had a sports day there as well?

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