Jo & Guin Istanbul
Fran White

Fran White

Seeing Guin

We are friends for life. When we are together the years fall away. Isn’t that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you. To have someone who remembers how far you have come?

Judy Blume

I have been friends with Guin for 61 years. We met in the winter term of 1960 at our boarding school, Knighton House, near Blandford, Dorset. My earliest memory of her is struggling with her name, Guinevere, so I called her Guinea Pig; I had a pet Guinea pig called Pongo.

When I asked her what she remembers of me at that time she remembers my homesickness and seeing me sobbing into my cereal.

Guin has been a constant in my life and a role model. In the late 1960s, Guin was living in Istanbul with her first husband. Another school friend and I made an intrepid trip to visit her which involved travelling out by plane and back by boat from Izmir to Brindisi, Italy where we hitched a lift in a tiny red sports car all the way back to Dover!

At school Guin hadn’t been considered university material, nonetheless while living in Istanbul she learnt Turkish and went to university. When she returned to the UK she lived in my flat in London for a while. During this time I was a photographic stylist collecting props for photographic shoots and I also started LINEN HIRE, a business that hired fabric backgrounds for use in editorial and advertising sets.

She was also a guest at my wedding to Angus in 1981, prior to which she composed this poem:

Ones heavily into tablecloths and one is into wood

Really some combination but they thought if they tried, they could

They gathered their act together in Sussex and W2

And when they eventually made up their minds – well, points? They got a few

There were one or two hectic moments in the hall at LINEN HIRE,

When the wedding presents clashed with the clients. The scene was really dire.

But Fran and Angus finally made it on ’81 January ten,

That’s really a lucky number for swimming in the Norfolk fen.

They’ll know when the honeymoon is over (they hear the Danish cry)

When a quick one before dinner just means pouring a Martini dry…

In 1989 my mother & I travelled to Los Angeles. I stayed with Guin, her second husband and her young son. My mother stayed with her school friend Mimi, whom she’d met at school in Montreal in the 1930s. Later Guin and her family moved to Wales where they brought up their children.

Guin, Leo, Fran Los Angeles

During this time Guin started studying horticulture and, inspired by this, I too “went back to school” starting with the same course but moving on to A Creative Approach to Textiles with the OCA and a City and Guilds course at The London Institute, which eventually led to me going to College.

College graduation day

Meeting up with Guin recently, I have been reminded of the importance of friendship and our shared experiences over many years. Not only with Guin but also with other school friends, such as Pennie, from Herm in the Channel Islands, Lone and Annabel.

After school Pennie and I went to Canada and America to visit friends and relatives.

Pennie, Greg, Fran Florida

Lone came from Denmark to join our boarding school at Cranbourne Chase in 1967. In the early 1970s Lone and I travelled to Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan, returning to Europe on the Trans-Siberian. Subsequently, I have spent a lot of time with her and my “second family” in Denmark. We’ve visited many exhibitions together including Matisse – A Second Life at The Louisiana Museum and the Ordrupgaard Museum in Copenhagen.

Fran & Lone

I met Annabel in 1968 through mutual friends in East Anglia. She now lives in France but whenever we meet, we easily pick up where we left off.

Fran & Annabel

There are many more friends I’ve made along the way. Not just at school but through friends of my family and through my children. Although I was older than most of my fellow students, another layer of friendships developed when I was at college, as well as through hosting life-drawing classes at home, being tutored by Francesca Clarke, and then attending many art courses at Emily Ball at Seawhites.

When Guin was invited to a party in Lewes recently, it gave her the chance to meet people in real life that she’d been singing with over Zoom during the various lockdowns. This also gave us an opportunity to meet up and reminisce. We walked and talked. Being a passionate gardener, she was interested in The Nuthurst Community Allotment which we’ve developed during lockdowns 2 and 3. It is on and around the previous Architectural Plant Nursery propagation greenhouse and outside area. Our daughter Sal, who she has known since she was born in 1985, was also there entertaining one of her school friends & her young son.

This meeting was so wonderful and restorative after so long apart, not only from Guin but people in general. We plan to meet up again in London to visit an exhibition, film, or theatre and/or all three. The last time we did that was December 2019 with another mutual school friend whom we met at Cranbourne Chase.

Jules, Fran, Guin

So many adventures and unexpected turns have come about because of my long friendship with Guin and others. It will be interesting to observe what this reconnecting leads to next and how it might emerge in my artwork…

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