Linen fabric dinosaur
Fran White

Fran White

Life changing moments in my personal journey

‘So many congratulations on the special news of Molly Elizabeth – so thrilled for yourselves & Sal & Woody a new venture in their life and yours!’

I’ve been thinking about life-changing moments for a while now. My daughter recently had her first child, a daughter Molly, and I am aware this event has shifted my life trajectory forever.

The arrival of Molly has added another dimension to our family life: a 22nd great-grandchild for my mother, a new cousin for Tom’s children, and a new grandchild and cousin for Sal’s in-laws…

Molly was born in Beaune, France on the 3rd May this year. I worked in my garden all the previous day anxiously waiting for news. Two weeks after she was born, I drove to Burgundy to help Sal, as Woody had returned to the UK on business for a week. It was a much easier trip than the previous year when I’d had to do lots of PCR tests and fill in a Passenger Locator Form.

On that trip, I bought a pink portable fan which we used a lot this year to cool Molly down when we were out and about. We visited the doctor, pharmacy, supermarkets, the swimming pool shop, a huge DIY centre, the local Health Insurance office as well as touristy trips to Beaune and Chalons-Sur-Soâne. We also had home visits from the Midwife as well as many friends and neighbours and went out for wood-fired pizzas and an amazing meal at a local Relaise & Chateau restaurant.

In 1994 I bought a book by Janet Bolton about creating an appliqué Noah’s Ark, little knowing that I would start making this with my own linen fabric in 2016. Sal and Woody love my fabric and have used it in both their home and Gîtes, so I planned to give it to them once it was done.

Then Molly arrived so I took it with me and completed it while I was there. I guess there is more sewing in the pipeline as I have made both grandsons fabric photobooks and toy linen dinosaurs over the years.

Applique Noah’s Ark made by Fran

Following the birth of Molly, my mother wrote us a congratulatory letter, which was validation in print of this amazing occurrence and a continuation of my mother’s long-held tradition of letter writing. She wrote similar letters to me following the births of Tom and Sal.

My mother’s letter triggered in me long forgotten memories of my own childhood and recollections of all the times life has considerably changed for me in the past, and more recently, including:

• My parents’ divorce in the late 1960s.

• Working a summer holiday season in Menorca 1972.

• A June day in 1978 when I visited Angus, my husband-to-be, at Shepherds Cottage. When I arrived, he was mowing the grass. In 2014 I did a drawing of this memory.

• Getting married and buying our house in 1981.

• The births of our children in 1983 & 1985.

• Closing Linen Hire in London in the summer of 1995 and starting college that Autumn, terrified – ‘frozen with fear’ to quote a friend.

• Introduction to meditation 1996-ish.

• Starting The Linen Shop in 1999.

• Adjusting to meeting both Tom and Sal’s partners.

Life-changing moments – Fran’s sketchbook

One particularly clear memory, that I considered significant at the time, was a trip in the mid-1970s. I recall driving a boyfriend to Dymchurch to visit some London-based friends of his that holidayed there. I was reluctant to drive all the way to Dymchurch from London as it seemed like the back of beyond, but my boyfriend didn’t drive. Why I wonder did this place seem any less glamorous in my mind than The Riviera?!

More recently I took this same road between Folkestone and Rye where I was collecting two paintings of mine that had been in the Drawing Life UK MEMO exhibition at Rye Art Gallery. I now appreciate memories can be deceptive, however, as I didn’t recognise any part of the journey even though I don’t think it will have changed very much.

Fran with Chris at MEMO exhibition

Recent experiences which appear to have been life-shifting include:

• Lockdown;

• The start of the Nuthurst Community Allotment;

• Sal & Woody moving to France in spring 2021;

• Reading an obituary of a Female author, Susie Steiner, who died of a brain tumour on the 2nd July aged only 51;

• Attending a Memorial Service for Anne, who died of cancer 2 years ago;

• Having a painting accepted for Wells Art Contemporary, Book in Hand Feet in Sand.

Book in Hand Feet in Sand – Wells Art Contemporary

Something magical happens when you become a grandparent. As the old cliché goes it is the circle of life – the continuum. It is both reassuring and rewarding that as a grandparent you can be an anchor and solace, an educator and trusted companion for your grandchildren; and equally, your grandchildren can provide a reciprocal supporting role in your life.

When my grandsons were born to my son and his wife, memories of when my son Tom was born came flooding back. Jack was born in August 2013, 5 weeks early. We were at a nephew’s wedding in London when we heard the news. We visited him in the hospital the next morning. All nail-biting as Tom was working in Moscow at the time and, very luckily was able to whizz back for the birth. Clearly, I was rather overwhelmed as shortly after I went on a Book Club trip to Ragdale Spa and was ill for several days with one of “mum’s migraines”.

Sam’s birth date was Boxing Day 2015, an extra Christmas gift! This adds to a least 2 other Christmas birthdays in our family.

I have a deep and valuable relationship with my grandsons now, built up over the years from babysitting them in London and the boys staying with us, both with and without their parents.

Unconditional love arises when I spend time with them. I love to paint with them in my studio, sew, create, and cook together. Often picnicking outside or in my bedroom. We play “going on holiday” which means stuffing lots of suitcases very full of anything and everything before pretending to get on an airplane and dress up in my clothes which they call meditating. We especially love mucking about outside in the woodland and stream as I did with my own kids.

Just last week I spent five hours with the boys in their local shopping centre, Westfield. Once again, we avoided buying anything except for tea and supper stops. It reminded me of going to the Bluewater Centre with Sal and my mother-in-law when we all had a wonderful time shopping and snacking! I also took Sam to visit Harrods Toy Department as we used to do in the late 1950s. Needless to say, I found it quite a disappointment as most of the store was completely different. I was relieved to find the tiles had been left on the walls of the Food Hall which I used to frequent when I lived nearby, and the Egyptian relief escalator staircase was as I remembered. We avoided buying any new Lego but spent hours looking at a constructed model of Hogwarts. We also managed to buy a jute shopper with the Harrods logo stencilled in their famous green – no plastic bags anymore!

Life is so rich if you let it happen naturally. Of course, it can also be very complicated, but the excitement is you never know what is around the corner, which is much like art when you get into it.

I know all these moments and memories will merge with and emerge in my art eventually, although it is often difficult to trace their exact lineage in the outcomes.

Having said that, if I am engaged in a subject such as ‘Women who read’ for example, I can spot possible subjects wherever I go. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to spend more time than ever in my studio and explore freely, allowing thoughts and ideas to percolate, solidify and emerge anew. And Sal & Woody moving to France has already inspired a recent body of work titled Thursday’s Child.

THURSDAY’S CHILD – far to go

Who knows what will emerge next and in what form, but it is this not knowing that makes being an artist (and a grandmother) so exciting for me.

Follow @franwhiteartist on Instagram.

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