H.I. is Northern through and through, but knew from an early age that she would - as soon as old enough - flee to the South and - more specifically - the great metropolis of London and the Slade School of Art, where her personal tutor was Frank Auerbach. We have met Frank a few times over the years, usually by invitation to a preview of his shows. She began her career in the Sheffield Junior Art School, when she was extremely young - about this young!
She could not believe how unfriendly us southerners appeared to be when she arrived, compared to Sheffield, where people would stop to talk to strangers in the street, or simply greet them as they entered a pub, etc. She spent most of her time in London living in Soho, which was then populated by Italians during the day and prostitutes by night. Both of these groups are - by nature - naturally friendly, so she felt very at home. Whenever she took her little daughter (now 42) into 'Vallerie's or the 'Bar Italia', they would come over and make a great fuss over the little girl. She couldn't leave Valerie's without some sort of sweet present being given to her girl by the huge and corpulent Celeste - the then owner, and at Easter or Christmas, these presents would be quite substantial.
H.I.'s mother and father doted on her, and were - quite simply - unrealistically perfect for ordinary, mortal parents. I met them many times before they died, and could not believe what a marvelous childhood they created for her. Even today, H.I. has no real concept of the ordinary childhood that most of us experienced, with flawed parents who we have to forgive for the insignificant, personal imperfections that caused us so much pain as we grew up. Although I don't think she was a spoilt brat, she wanted for nothing in her childhood - or at least nothing that money could not buy.
She remembers - whilst walking to school in Sheffield - stopping to sift her fingers through the vast piles of iridescent clippings of mother of pearl, heaped up in every yard in the street of the cutlers, just down her road. She remembers peering into the great steel mills and watching bare-chested men catching huge snakes of red-hot metal as they flew out of the rollers, and diverting them around their bodies as they speeded away to another process. She remembers being woken up in the middle of the night by her father in order to see a once-in-a-lifetime sight - the river Don which, having burst it's banks, was then flowing down the street in a great torrent. And she remembers being caught up in the huge and friendly crowd of football supporters on saturday afternoons, outside of the ground at the bottom of her road. All these sights have been extinct for a long time now.
Her mum used to say about her, "I don't know where she came from. She's like the Queen of Sheba".