The burning of 214 Brooke Drive:
Late on Sunday afternoon, the Borrowdale Brooke Security Gate spotted smoke rising, and dashed to our house…
Bruce Douglas and Murray, Helen and Mike Lynton Edwards also spotted the smoke rising from our roof, and attacked our house yelling, bellowing, for help.
The Borrowdale Golf Club and Homeowners were alerted and Beefy rushed to the scene…..bringing with them the “fire engine” that Graham Hall cleverly constructed years ago….
Kelli was out doing a wedding make-up in Msasa. Dad had just peacefully immersed himself in a relaxing Sunday afternoon bath, when he heard men running past his windows and shouting “Your house is on fire”!”
Kelli’s sister Holly called her at work…”Your house is on fire!”
Kelli left the bride in extreme haste, (make up was luckily complete!), and began the long drive home as fast as she safely could, calling her boyfriend Anton Milner….”My house is on fire!”
Anton and his mum Jackie leapt in their car and raced to The Brooke, calling the Fire Brigade en route…..eventually getting through to the Belvedere fire brigade….
Kate Mc Carter, living in the Brooke, saw the drama and called her brother to deliver a water bowser as back up…..
Andy Lowe leapt into action at the scene….
Gary Helliwell bravely climbed onto the roof manned a fire hose to subdue the flames in Kelli’s attic…..
Ed Whitfield climbed onto Andy Kennedy’s roof to direct fire hoses from that side…
Colleen Morgan from Borrowdale Brooke Golf Club tossed off her high heeled boots and donned her golf shoes to help ferry goods away from the burning house…..
Mrs Chiwenga, from her high balcony, saw the smoke and leapt in her car, arriving with her staff to help ferry goods….
Various gardeners who were around rushed to help…
Adrienne Rudland has told me of the many children who rushed to help with their families. Thank you children!
Martin Cameron organized people to ferry goods co-opted Bruce Douglas’s and Andy Kennedy’s garages to store goods…
Anton began evacuation of goods from my bedroom, and paintings from my studio, with cool assurance….his head wrapped in his mother’s scarf to keep the smoke from asphyxiating him.
These are just a few names that I know of, there were dozens of heroes that day and since- dozens of other people, many of whose names are only just being revealed to me as I talk to various witnesses, arrived to help..and have been freely helping ever since….
Kelli’s attic bedroom, where the fire started due to a short in the wall socket, after two strong power surges, was already gutted and unsavable. She has lost all her possessions, including her laptop and hard-drive and, sadly, all her digital portfolio make up work…her two diamond rings from her Dad…
plus she lost all the jewel-like little paintings she was working on for a looming ‘Kelli Barker’ exhibition at Kiki’s Gallery…..only this and one other were saved….
More than 60 people plus the Brooke Fire Brigade and the municipal fire brigade helped in physically fighting the fire. A chain of people ferried goods out of my smoking bedroom, plus rapidly evacuated all of Dad’s furniture and clothes from his side of the house, in case the fire spread to his side.
Brave men on the ground and the roof sprayed water into my studio and the middle section of the house, preventing flames from proceeding into my Dad’s side of the house.
By the time Anton was able to take time from fighting flames to talk to me, Kelli being beyond words at that stage, it was a done deal, the house badly burnt. Lying sick in bed at Senuko, with tick bite fever, my fevered brain luckily could not quite compute what Anton was telling me, (perhaps a saving grace or I would have had a complete meltdown). As it was I merely plunged into the numb depths of despair and closed my eyes against the world.
Dad is recovering his equilibrium. Of course so many brave acts were taking place all around that fateful Sunday afternoon, so many men and women giving their all to save our house, but he has particularly mentioned that two men who stood out to him in terms of fighting the fire and ferrying goods out of the flames were Kelli’s boyfriend Anton Milner, Andy (Lowe, he thinks…) plus young Rob and Haley…names to be confirmed!
Anton says that huge help and bravery was shown by Ed and Gary who directed fire hoses on the roofs.
More than 3/4 of my paintings have been destroyed, some deservedly so, others were my best pieces…it has been emotional and tough going through the remnants of my years of work.
Here is “Phoenix Rising” – a painting installation I created from the burnt wood rescued from Senuko Lodge in 2009, when we lost that lodge to fire…now it has survived a second fire!…
Surviving paintings are partially charred, or decorated with varying degrees of smoke swirls, an interesting artistic effect!
I do have smaller paintings, plus sketches saved in folders, which incredibly brave people saved from my studio in the heat and smoke.
The glassed paintings are cleanable, the canvas ones may or may not be saved…. beginning the cleaning process of the paintings will be daunting. Sue Mullins and Ngoni from The Framing Centre in Borrowdale are so generously taking all my glassed paintings to restore them! I can not thank them enough, they help me to see light at the end of the tunnel….
Local Brooke residents, Borrowdale Brooke Golf Club, and The Brooke Bridge Club, and so many other dear friends and family have given freely of their personal help, plus the help of their staff, in clearing the charred rubble, sending hot meals every night, per kind favour of Colleen Morgan, and washing copious amounts of laundery (the clothes and soft furnishings, especially in my downstairs bedroom, were smoked by flame, then soaked by the fire hoses, but that soaking action saved most of my bedroom furnishings). Dad has been moved back into his side of the house, and happily has his stove and television working.
Adrienne’s grandchildren have brought Dad a lovely letter of commiseration, and an owl collage!
The Spotted Eagle owls are disgruntled that they no longer have a roof peak to perch on , but are adapting to perching on scorched palm fronds lower down!
Still am not sure where half my bedroom furnishings, shoes or clothes are…will find out which kind souls have rescued what over the next days!
Graham Hall has spent much of his time checking the electrics for Dad to move back into his side of the house, and collecting and hauling our rubble to the dump with his trailer and staff.
The able-bodied and generous men and women who come from their gardening and household jobs every day to help with the clearing have been unfailingly willing and efficient, even going through all the rubble twice over looking for poor Kelli’s rings…..no luck yet.
My darling sister in law, Clare, has been on site every single day with me and Dad, a pillar of practical strength and love….
Our next door neighbours have been wonderful…Bruce Douglas allocated space on his verandah, and Andy Kennedy has generously given up his boxing arena in his garage to store all our goods while we sift through everything.
Rory and Brenda Rooney have provided a home for us to live in in the Brooke, a welcome haven of hot showers and cool white sheets to retreat to at night, while we gather our wits and our resources. Angels flit in and out of this house when we are not there, delivering meals, stocking the refrigerator and leaving fresh washing detergent next to the ever busy washing machine!
Other angels keep popping up at 214 Brooke Drive, bringing fresh baked bread, meals, laundered curtains, hot coffee, cake, warm words and willing hands.
Wonderful women in the Brooke have offered Kelli some fabulous clothes, and she is overwhelmed by their generosity.
When each and every one of them leave, no matter how short their stay, they leave us with an increased assurance of hope, love and warmth!
Strangely, what gave me tick bite fever was sitting in long grass at Senuko, my Jack Russells perched on rocks above me, on the look out for lions, while I painted a large, fire-damaged rock that I call my Henry Moore sculpture…
No lions appeared that day, although I had heard hyenas there the night before, but I was attacked instead by something less easy to spot…pepper ticks!
This painting that I am working on is for the forthcoming National Gallery exhibition, Woman at the Top, a celebration of Women against adversity sponsored by the EU. I am not sure if I can in any way be described as a woman ‘on top’, feel more like a woman submerged at this stage, but I certainly feel on top in terms of the wonderful and uplifting support, physical and verbal, that I have recoved recently!
This painting, begun in the bush at our Tsavene house on Senuko Ranch, is taking on new meaning as I continue to paint here in Harare. Called “Woman of Stone”, flames are integral to it, trial by fire, surmountable only with the help of many wonderful people….
Kelli herself has been a tower of strength to me and Dad, in spite of all her personal loss, a true lesson in love, fortitude and grace….
Clive has been as usual, my rock…steady, innovative and optimistic beyond belief, despite all the varied travails we face at the moment, and without whom I would be lost.
“Woman of Stone” -acrylic on canvas, 130 x 100 cm
I have been asked to donate a painting towards fundraising for repairing the leaking roof for the National Gallery, to protect their valuable collection of art….it will be auctioned at Black Tie Mask Ball on 5th April…this will be a fabulous evening, plus I really want to contribute to their roof, knowing the gloomy feeling of not having a roof at all!
Luckily I have pieces of art at various venues in Harare, so these happily escaped the fire-
A large wild dog painting, “Exuberance” is hung for sale at Kikis Gallery in Umwinsidale. Kiki’s Harare: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kikis-Harare/185206691515138
“Exuberance” , acrylic on stretched canvas, 100 x 200 cm, by Lin Barrie
Visit Chris Kaye framers in the Chisipite shopping area, next to Chris Hair Salon, for a couple of my selected loose and framed pieces…. Greystone Pk Shop Centre, 14 Hindhead Ave, tel 04 86 0106.
A few samples of my art are left also at the Doone Estate shop run by Pete Simon…next to Veldemeers Chocolates…good to view art and grab a chocolate croissant! Here is one of them…
“Ground Hornbill and Diamond”, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 100 cm
My art is on display at The Plot Coffee Shop, just down the road from the Brooke, so pop in there for a good coffee and to view! The Plot Cafe: https://www.facebook.com/ThePlotCafe/page_map
This is “Intent”, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 200 cm, at The Plot…
Very luckily, I recently left some of my best pieces of art at NMLC lawyers premises for display/sale on their walls!
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