Topic: Retired principal drawn to humour

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THAMES resident Paul Heffernan is a man of many talents. The former primary school principal has dabbled in a variety of creative mediums, including illustrating children’s books, producing humorous sport cartoons and creating unique and personalised birthday cards. His story appeared in the Hauraki Herald on 19 July 2011.

Mr Heffernan, or ‘‘Mr Heff’’ as he was affectionately called by his students at Laingholm Prim ary School, came to Thames almost two years ago to retire with his wife Kathy. The couple had previously owned and rented out their Tararu property and were regular visitors to their bach in Waikawau. They made the move from Auckland after the loss of a close friend the same age as Mr Heffernan proved a wake-up call. ‘‘We just thought that’s it, there’s more to life . . . let’s go smell the roses,’’ he said. ‘‘We just loved Thames and the people here.’’

Mr Heffernan, who describes himself as ‘‘creative, mad and a bit insane’’, now uses his newfound freedom to explore the pent-up creative energy he suppressed during his 16 years as principal. ‘‘What I had to do when I was a principal, which was most of my life, was I had to stop the ideas coming because there were so many and I wasn’t doing them justice. I was being a principal and paying a mortgage, and doing the ‘life’ thing. ‘‘So when we retired I thought that’s got to be the main push now, to get these things out there.’’

‘‘These things’’ include a collection of witty sport cartoons, covering everything from tennis and rugby to golf, waterpolo and even a ‘‘mum on the sidelines’’ series. Mr Heffernan describes them as ‘‘Gary Larson-ish with a twist’’ – referring to the awardwinning American cartoonist and creator of the popular Far Side series. The cartoons are produced on regular A4 paper, using a calligraphic pen, and Mr Heffernan insists he doesn’t spend too long on them. ‘‘I don’t muck around when I do them, the ideas just come and usually I can splash the cartoon down straight away.’’ And according to Mrs Heffernan there is never a shortage of ideas. ‘‘His ideas just flow. One minute he might be out in the garden and the next I can’t see him, he’s in his office. I say ‘what are you doing?’ and he says ‘I just got this idea for a book’ or ‘I just have to make this’,’’ she said.

Prior to teaching, Mr Heffernan’s cartoons featured in the Rodney Times newspaper, alongside humorous sport articles and sporting tips. Even as a principal Mr Heffernan never did things within the norm and fondly recalls dressing up in a special jacket he refers to as his ‘‘Supreme High Commander’’ jacket and shooting at students with water pistols. ‘‘I ran a pretty quirky school, it wasn’t normal. I used to shoot at people with a water pistol, I had a big gun rack above my head with all my water pistols,’’ he said.

Mr Heffernan’s jacket wasn’t his only dress-up accessory. ‘‘I always used to wear crazy costumes. Even when I was doing the road crossing I’d be wearing big fur coats and big hats,’’ he said with a laugh. Mr Heffernan continues to explore his creative ability and one of his newer hobbies is constructing ‘‘ceramic creatures or ceramic worlds’’ out of pottery. ‘‘I’ve always had this passion to do other things. I have no shortage of ideas.’’ He plans to one day sell the ceramic figurines, along with a story and a book containing all the working drawings involved.

Mr Heffernan, who also hopes to eventually write and publish a children’s book, just wants people to enjoy and understand his various creative works of art as much as he does. ‘‘I just hope they enjoy them . . . and see the humour and the quirkiness.’’

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Retired principal drawn to humour

First Names:Paul
Last Name:Heffernan