Sunday, 16 November 2008
Mad Dogs, mad artist and a walk along a beach.
A day at Sumner. Photo: Bob McKerrow
I go into hospital tomorrow to get two total knee replacements so I thought I would give my old knees that have served me so well over five decades, a last chance to walk me along a beach. I picked Sumner beach and went with Ruia my daughter, Deva her dog, and had a delightful outing.
Ruia and Deva at Sumner
We had fish and chips on the beach as we watched people frolicking in the waves, kayaking in the surf, and others picnicking. Deva enjoyed chasing unreachable seagulls, fetching sticks and loved our fish and chips. Life is sweet.
New Zealanders love their beaches and it was good to hear the laughter of children, feel the sun, wind and salt spray on my cheeks. It was a little nostalgic for me as this beach evokes so many memories.
My Mother went to the School for the Deaf here and told me that as a child she would catch a train from Invercargill to Lyttleton, and walk over the bridle track to Sumner with her suitcase tied to her back by a rope. This was in the 1920s. She was a strong, sensitive and loving mother who brought us five children to have a love of the outdoors, walking and books. We never had a car when I was a child so Mum took me up all the local hills surrounding Dunedin: Mt. Cargill, Round Hill, the Soldier's monument perched on a spur overlooking the Otago harbour, Flagstaff, Saddle Hill and used to take me for long walks along St. Kilda and St. Clair beaches. Mum thought nothing of walking 15 km to see a relative on a Sunday and would relish the walk home. So her memory was with me as I walked yesterday.
I thought we would cap the day off by visiting the man who wrote his auto biography,aptly named Mad Dogs.
Robin Judkins, or Juddy, lives in an old two-storied house atop a hill in Sumner.
He was delighted to see Ruia and I as he left his drain laying work and took us to the kitchen. For an hour we talked about politics, religion, love, life and family and then he took us out to see his new $5000 work of art, an outdoor glass table that was painstakingly made by artist Phil Newberg which he named Arrow River 2. Note the middle section of the table has been scattered iron pyrites by the artist. " It took four strong men to carry up the drive way to the back garden, " he proudly said.
Robin Judkins (right) with his glass art table. I am on the left.
After his quintuple bypass operation on April 17, 2007 he started of examining a fairly bleak future.He soon came to the stark conclusion that he would turn his disability into his opportunity and on July 14 2007, he picked up his daughter Bonnie’s paintbrushes and painted “Iraq,” 39 years after he had painted a portrait of a girl he had fancied at University.
This is Juddy's latest work and I feel it is one of the best as the shapes and colours convey a subtleness, a passion he has for lighting on the landscape. Photo: Bob McKerrow
“I have been collecting pieces of driftwood and timber from Kumara and Sumner beaches for 25 years and “Iraq” landed on Sumner Beach in the form you see it today - two pieces of equal length timber nailed to a wooden upright that might have been part of a gate but now looks like a sign, “ he proudly recalled.
His first painting, Iraq.
Iraq” took two days to draw and paint and then I couldn’t put the brushes down. Everything I looked at every piece of flotsam and jetsam took on a new meaning,” he said with intense passion.
In Robin Judkins studio in Sumner. Robin on the left.
Juddy and I go back a long way. I met him first when I did my first Coast to Coast in 1985 and after that we became firm mates.
Three years ago Juddy came to visit me in India and we travelled to Nepal together and had a great time in that fabled city, Kathmandu. We're good mates and exchange emails every so often. Usually I start off with the phrase, "where are you?" and, are you still alive?"
Just over a year ago his reply was, "yes, but just. I've had a heart quintuple bypass." Juddy's determination to drink life to the lees, saw him slowly but surely recover. Some years back we talked for more than an hour about disabilities and how you need to turn them into opportunities. So tomorrow I will get that opportunity as I go under the knife to get mobility back into legs so I can stride strongly over the hills again, and climb the odd mountain. Thanks Juddy for your inspiration.