My husband and I, our four daughters and our baby son gathered around the breakfast bar in our small, but newly renovated kitchen, Devonport, New Zealand in 2001. Up for discussion? What has God got for our lives going forward. We had spent eight busy years in Gisborne, where the last three of our daughters were born; we’d all made lifelong friends and were brimming with extremely happy memories. (There were hard times as well…the best and worst of times!)
Where was God going to take us on our life’s adventure? What was birthing in our hearts and where did we want to set our vision? The answer that day – Britain.
Fast forward fourteen equally busy, fulfilling years, sixth child now entering his teens and we arrive at the day we boarded a plane, flew the friendly skies and settled in the UK.
Our house in England is an old Victorian Terrace, still gowned in dated wallpaper and old carpet; and when we arrived it felt rather lifeless, yet oozed hidden potential. Gloomy cold of February had us in its grip, revealing a desperate need to brighten up the interior. (Or maybe it was just me who was desperate!)
After a couple weeks, I ventured on foot to a local shopping centre, wrapped up in anything and everything woolly enough to combat the chill. The walk was an orientation exercise, with a happy discovery; there in a shop a framed piece of art work caught my eye. The title Southampton Bargate 165/850 of an original watercolour
by brothers, Philip and Glyn Martin. One of a series entitled Portraits of Britain.
Shall I buy it, shan’t I buy it? rang through my head; after all, we didn’t have a job yet. Hmmmm, shall I, shan’t I?
I shouldn’t, because there were more pressing things to spend our money on! I should, because my heart will sink when I get home and look at the blank walls in the kitchen! I walked around the store listening to both sides of the argument reverberating through my head. One more look…BOUGHT!
You see, we didn’t know too much about Southampton and the history it brimmed with, nor sites that were intrinsically Southampton, but we did know Bargate was the top historical site.
Bargate is a Grade I listed medieval gatehouse constructed in Norman times as part of the Southampton town walls and was the main gate into the city. It is an historical structure that was up for demolition at least twice in its history. It was used as the city’s Guildhall until the 1770’s and after that as Police Headquarters on two separate occasions – the latest time during WWII.
Most recently Bargate, after refurbishment, opened in 1006 as an art gallery. The Bargate Monument Gallery, stages exhibitions and has shown the work of hundreds of artists. It serves to bring emerging artistic talent to Southampton while also providing artists from the local creative community, a platform on which to exhibit their work and build their public profile.
With all that understood, surely a noble picture to have hanging in our house! (justification!)
Buying the picture birthed a new dilemma; how was I going to explain to my husband, why, while we were still eating from plastic plates, with useless bendy plastic knives and forks, that this artwork gracing our wall, had been a priority buy.
Big swallow, deep breath…I know! I didn’t need to say anything, just hang the print on the wall and allow the piece itself, the new compelling ambience, the deep-rooted history and my palpable delight, to win him over.
Reader, I can happily report, it worked…A brighten kitchen, a happy husband and one exonerated wife. Bullet successfully dogged!