Thursday, September 30, 2010

Signs of ageing

When I am old and have nothing better to do, I think it's very likely that I'll be one of those people writing long disgruntled letters to the Editor and Government ministers. Repeatedly. I am already showing signs of slightly ridiculous persistence.

When I went to New Plymouth for the weekend in August I spent a day at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. While I was there I read a little sign on the wall that said that the gallery was founded out of a gift (and, later, a bequest) from Monica Brewster who envisaged "a contemporary art museum of international standing that would offer a window to the world in the small coastal community of New Plymouth." It explained that Govett was her maiden name and Brewster her married name, but it didn't really tell me anything else about her or her life so I wondered how she came to be in the position to give a substantial amount of money towards the founding of a contemporary art gallery in New Plymouth and why she would want to do so.

I tried to do some internet research but had no luck. So then I emailed the gallery and asked if there was anywhere they knew of that I could find more information on her and her life or whether they had any such material. A nice customer services person sent me a scanned copy of a brochure about Monica Brewster and said she could also send me a photocopy for a small charge if I wanted. I couldn't open the scanned file so I replied asking for a photocopy and said I was happy to pay for it. Another nice person replied and said because the scan hadn't worked they would send me a photocopy free of charge and, sure enough, a few days later it was in my mailbox and I was very happy.

Then I sat down to read it and noticed that the paragraphs sometimes ended quite abruptly and the brochure didn't seem to flow logically - on one page it talked about her early life and then suddenly she was happily married in her 30s, then there was a Letter to the Editor about pacifism. I quickly realised that the pages numbered 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 - I was missing every second page. At first I thought, okay, well, I've got the general idea that she came from a wealthy family and was liberal and had a wide range of interests. I'll just leave it. But then I thought, no. I actually want to read the whole booklet.

So I have sent it back with a nice note pointing out that unfortunately the copy is missing pages and asking if I could please have a copy of the whole booklet (I also enclosed $5 for the copying and postage). I feel like an utter dork but hopefully the customer services people will continue to be as nice as they have been so far and send me the full copy and not think I am too much of a weirdo. Hopefully.

Apparently Monica Brewster spent the last ten years of her life in bed and "it is not clear whether at first she was actually bedridden through illness or fragility of age, or whether she simply preferred to retire in privacy." I do like to read and write and generally hang out in my bed, but ten years does seem an awfully long time to do so. Especially if you don't need to. Having said that, each to their own. I'm persisting in getting a full copy of a short and very basic brochure on a woman who founded an art gallery in New Plymouth. So really, who am I to judge?


  1. If there was a "like" button for this post. I would "like" it. :o)

  2. I so love that you are still intrigued by Monica - and reporting on it. An idea for a play or a research paper, perhaps? She seems like the kind of person we should know more about :D

  3. As I may have mentioned in the past, part of my job is writing replies to the letters people send to Government Ministers. We get A LOT of letters from older people, who I seriously think are just writing to the Minister so they can get a reply with an official-looking envelope in the post. You're going to be one of *those* old people, aren't you?! ;)

    Aw, and I also once got a disgruntled letter to the Editor published in the old Evening Post, back when I was a feisty 17-year-old! Joe Bennett wrote a column dissing the Irish culture, and I wrote a heavily-worded letter to the Editor in response. And, it got published! Good times.

    Also, I'd totally come and see a play about Monica, if you write one!