Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Here is my gorgeous son-in-law, Mikey, holding some balloons. Why, you are asking? Well, you might just see balloons but I see symbols of love, care, hope, people who care about you and have your back. Mikey and Beth brought them over for Holly and I at the end of what's been a traumatic couple of weeks.

It all started when my older sister, Karen, invited us over for coffee and cake. A lovely family gathering? Well not exactly, she made a devastating announcement.... She just found out that she had breast cancer and that it's serious. What? We were all in shock. Overwhelmed, gutted for Karen, wanting to shield her from the pain.... all reeling with the feeling of here we go again.... another family battle with cancer. This is a first that I don't want to repeat! I'm don't think I'm ever going to respond well to an invitation for coffee and cake again!
And so the rollercoaster ride has begun..... Karen has had a mastectomy and with one possible suspect lymph node, she has chemotherapy to follow. She is undertaking a huge emotional, physical, pyschological and spiritual journey. And we are all right by her side - loving her, praying for her, trying to help her out in any way we can. She is amazing - brave, honest, facing her fears, trying to rest, being a little bit naughty and still wanting to be there for every one else. An impossible task. And so we journey on - loving, supporting and finding strength in each other, being real, hurting and crying, wondering what's up with our family and cancer, seeking God's support, peace and comfort......
So why the balloons? As we were trying to be there for Karen and process it all, Holly and I just seemed to be victim to a series of disasters. Not much in themselves but when combined they proved to be quite overwhelming. Downstairs flooded, Bunny got diarrhoea (everywhere!), Holly's bag was stolen, her starter motor stopped working in the middle of Newmarket and the insurance company was not that helpful. We just wanted to be with Karen and all of this stuff got in the way - mentally, emotionally and physically. So as I felt myself slowly going under, beautiful Beth and Mikey turned up with balloons, love, support, lunch, dinner, big hugs and all the encouragement we needed. Thanks guys. I love you so much!!
So when I look at the balloons they remind me that I am loved! They make me smile! They are a reminder to not take each other for granted because you never know what's round the corner. They are a reminder to hug the people you love and tell them that you love them. Give someone a balloon!

Keep up the breast self checks and get regular mammograms. Karen's cancer was picked up in a routine mammogram. For more info check out http://www.nzbcf.org.nz/

Photos by Beth Peters

Colin McCahon

Tucked away in the bush at 67 Otitori Bay Road, French Bay is a hidden treasure. It's the house where Colin McCahon lived with his family in the 1950's. It's a tiny house with a basic bachlike quality. It's hard to believe that a family lived here permanently.
It has many handy man "do it yourself" touches made by Colin. Money was tight so he used materials that he had at hand. Marbles for ballbearings in a rolling cupboard.... knitting needles fixed into shelves for a dish draining/storage rack in the tiny kitchen.... cupboards decorated with his paintings.... concrete paths with bronze heads embedded in them. 
When the family moved up from Christchurch, the McCahon children were not happy with their first impression of the cramped, seemingly primitive surroundings. They were sent off to explore the beach at French Bay (a short walk away). They thoroughly enjoyed this and were in better spirits when they got back. There was food prepared and mattresses set up in the lounge and somehow it seemed more homely and welcoming! The children loved the lifestyle, spending endless hours in summer at the beach and in the bush. Colin built them bunks downstairs under the deck, so they basically slept outside. Fine and fun, almost like camping in summer, but miserable in the cold, damp, rainy Titirangi winters. People have said that they were often sick.
Anne McCahon spent a great deal of time cooking, making ends meet, planting beautiful gardens and making their little house a home. Anne was also an accomplished artist in her own right and still kept her hand in. Her art illustrations were produced and published in school journals while they were living in this house.
Even though the house is small and basic, it sits in a beautiful setting. It's quiet and peaceful. You can hear the tuis calling. The trees rise up all around reaching majestically for the skies. You can understand why Colin was so inspired to leap out of bed to paint. In talking about a painting - Titirangi 1956 - Colin said, “This amazing view was what I saw when looking out of large window we had in our house. At the time I was very much taken by diagonals made by the trees in relation to the window frame.... the painting is painted in what I call my impressionistic style. This later developed into the little squares technique used in the Titirangi and French Bay series."
Their time in this house was settled and happy. Colin had a regular income working at the Auckland Art Gallery and teaching. Lots of inspiration came from his bus travels into town and his surrounding environment. Colin and Anne were very social - entertaining artists, writers and creative friends on the deck. Lots of parties. And while everyone partied, Colin would be painting. He was prolific - producing the Titirangi, Kauri and French Bay series, his word and number paintings and several panel series. He began painting on large scale unframed canvasses, playing around with the idea that frames were not a necessary part of his paintings. He started painting his signature very close to the edge so that if it was framed you wouldn't be able to see it!

It's a real privilege to be able enter a small part of Colin McCahon's world and gain some understanding into the everyday life of New Zealand's greatest painter. Check it out for yourself... http://www.mccahonhouse.org.nz/

Monday, June 28, 2010

french bay

My "new" thing this week was actually revisiting a place that was quite significant in my childhood. I packed Bunny into the car and headed out west to French Bay. I haven't been there since I was a teenager. Why French Bay? I was one when we emigrated to New Zealand leaving behind our grandparents. When we got here I met my Dad's Auntie Emmy. I immediately bonded with her and she became my grandmother figure. She had a bach at French Bay.
We celebrated quite a few family Christmases there with our New Zealand (second) cousins. They were pretty happy occasions with hours spent playing in the bush and at the beach.... only marred by the traumatic experience of traipsing through the bush to use the stinky, cobwebby, insect infested long drop. It was located quite a long way from the house. Great for night visits! I would put off using the toilet until the last minute and would make Karen, my older sister, go with me even when she didn't want to!
My sister Karen had her 21st at the French Bay Yacht Club in 1977. A very classy affair! Although the only photo of me is with my tongue out. As you can see not so classy! Meredith (my younger sister) looks much cuter, resting her chin on her hand! The funny thing is that the yacht club looks exactly the same as it did in 1977!
I loved swimming at French Bay. It was safe and easily accessible for young children. It was here that Meredith first demonstrated her aversion to sand (which she has to this day). She would try to make it from the sea to the towel Mum was sitting on, with a minimum of sand stuck to her feet. An impossible task!! I remember her jumping around, curling up her sand-covered toes in distaste as Mum tried to brush the sand off her. There also used to be a shop right opposite the beach where Dad would buy us Jellytips after a day of swimming and sand. I still associate Jellytips with summer, swimming and fun!

So Bunny and I set off exploring, walking along the beach and up the road. It was a really lovely, still, crisp winter's day.....
French Bay is still very pretty, peaceful place for children and families. It's largely unchanged from my childhood, although much smaller than it seemed in my memories and sadly there is now no shop.


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