I noticed in myself a strange personality switch. I’d become uncharacteristically reclusive, warning dear friends to give me space for rest. I’d also gone off things that used to excite me, alcohol being one of those things and some of my favourite foods.
A lovely Christmas lunch with those I love was almost a hurried affair. One of my sons was in NZ with his grandparents for Christmas and the other was off to spend the week with his dad. As soon as I was alone I slept. Not like normal sleep … I was unconscious for seven hours a day and night and I hardly had the energy to breathe. Four days in I decided it wasn’t simply a case of over-exertion. So I did a blood test and the moment the results landed on my doctor’s desk I received a phone call.
I had an extreme case of hypothyroid, with results so through the roof that my doctor told me that I should be in a coma.
So, this is partly why it’s taken me a while to write this blog. Apparently (in fact evidently) my brain had been ‘aged’ as a result and it has taken months to recover cognitive function. I had six weeks off work so, as you will see, we have a lot of catching up to do.
Most of my time has been spent painting my favourite school, Tweed Heads South. Why is it my favourite school? It’s very much about the people. Principal Ian Reeson trusts my creative leanings and also guides me in subtle ways that have improved my painting. His happy staff are appreciative and thoughtful. The students are curious, funny, unspoilt and grateful. They really look into the murals and ask questions and want to explore the landscapes and subject matter. The two men who have really helped me are groundsman extraordinaire Jim (who has been mentioned in previous a blog) and Mark who keeps the school sparkling puts some sparkle into the start and end of my day.
So, since our last chat, I have painted THS’s library space with giant 3-D books and a scene from the owl and the pussy cat. The entrance depicts a landscape pre-european settlement with a family collecting and cooking pippis on the Tweed Coast. Around the corner is a scene of bees: native blue banded and teddy bear bees cooperating with European honey bees in the pollination of native medicinal plants. This whole image is about healing. Flying above are migratory birds, symbolic of borderless lands.
The pre-school now has a water tank adorned with humpback whales and turtles.
In March I painted Merrimac School’s Centenary Mural. A time when children rode barefoot on horseback to school that is now the epicentre of a metropolis. It’s so important that students understand the permanence of change.
The jewel in this years’ crown so far has been a commission for a beautiful heritage building in Bangalow’s main Street. Commissioned by the Burke family, this mural is epic. It is called Past, Present and Future and exposes Bangalow’s time-line from the days of the Big Scrub Rainforest, to it’s clearing and up to the present day. Looming large are the Big Scrub plants and birds, suggesting that they will once again, in time, reclaim the land back.
The Federal Tennis Club commissioned the next mural. Federal is a small but vibrant village in the Byron hinterland. It attracts an eclectic mix of folk. The painting shows lost tennis balls in possession of the creatures that occupy the parkland.