How far we have come

This was originally going to be a wee post about a gorgeous new photograph that we've just installed over our dining table (see photos below) It's "Echoes of Light" by the talented Kelsi Doscher, and I just love it. I bought it, and several other new artworks, at the recent NZ Art Show.

Alistair and I have been on an art-buying mission to replace all the art we lost when I nearly burned our house down a year ago (you can read all the gory details about that here). At the time of the fire the loss of our art was one of the things we found hardest to deal with. The only item we had a receipt for was a huge Trent Parke print, which thankfully he was able to replace. The rest were just bits and pieces we'd picked up, or paintings that I'd done myself, and how do you claim for those on insurance? We didn't in the end - we made a small claim for framing costs and left it at that. I have to admit there has been a bright side to this loss - MAN it's addictive buying new art!! I get such a kick off it: this could be dangerous.

Anyway, once I'd photographed Kelsi's work to put on here, I took some photos of our lounge area in general, because I realised that I hadn't done so since we finished the fire repairs. Then I started looking back through my folder of renovations photos to compare the new with the old, and found a batch of photos I snapped at the Open Home when we first bought this place in 2003. It was really interesting (to me at least - hopefully this post won't bore you to tears. I can see that it might be a bit like someone dragging out their album of baby photos!) to see the house's evolution over the last decade. We certainly added to its history with the fire. There's a patch of faint scorching on the door leading to the hallway and the insurers were talking about replacing it, but we decided it was better left there as a memento.

Here are some comparison photos: I've tried to match the views up as closely as possible but my material was limited!

Above: looking toward the French doors at the 2003 Open Home, and after the fire in August 2011. Below: the same view today. I took the big photo specifically to go there: I had a flash of inspiration, and the kids and I went to the Nikau Reserve at Paraparaumu to find what I wanted.

Below: the view to the dining area at the Open Home, during the fire repairs and then today.

Below: some more Open Home photos, showing the enormous green-painted fireplace that used to block all the light between the lounge and what was a dark, narrow galley kitchen with very little bench space.

The fireplace had once been double-sided, but the kitchen side had been covered over so it was just a blank expanse that blocked all communication with anyone in the lounge! And at the end of the bench was a wall: everything beyond that was laundry, so when the door was closed down there you also lost all the light coming in from the garden. We've now incorporated that space into the kitchen, and at the end, where the laundry cupboards are in the photos below, is where you now walk through into my photography studio.

Below: a very murky photo of the kitchen in 2007, when we'd nearly finished our renovations.

Below: The kitchen on the day of the fire, during the fire repairs last year and then as it is today.

The awesome clock I bought from fellow photographer Fleur Wickes for 45 bucks! It wasn't working - I just liked the look of it - but clever Alistair did a simple fix and now it goes, which is an added bonus! Also shiny new coffee machine courtesy of the insurers after the old one got written off, and a ceramic plate that Alistair spotted in an art gallery in Oxford.Below: The lounge at the Open Home, in 2005 after we installed a log burner, on the day of the fire in August 2011 and then during fire repairs. The log burner had nothing to do with the fire, incidentally. It was those damned tall halogen lights you can see below!

The lounge corner today. The huge black and white print is the Trent Parke one, and the painting in the corner is another of my recent exciting finds: Family Structure, by Waikanae artist Greg Chaston.

It's amazing to think it's been a whole year since the fire. The memory of first discovering that pillar of flame in our lounge is still so strong in my mind, and I get a physical reaction if I ever encounter that hot plasticky smell of something over-heating. But at the same time when I look back at the state of our house after the fire and during the repairs it feels like such a long, exhausting road, and I can easily believe that it took a full year to get to where we are today. There have been many upsides from the fire, but it hasn't been a journey I want to repeat.

Anna and Billy

New and precious