H.I. had the most caring and considerate parents that I have ever heard of, and her childhood - though simple and austere through lack of money - was almost ideal from what she tells me. Even to this day, she cannot comprehend some of the accounts of other people's relationships with their parents - she thought that everyone's childhood was like hers.
She spent the first half of it with a toilet at the bottom of the small garden, and taking baths in a tin tub in front of the fire. It was quite an event when a toilet and bathroom was installed inside the little house.
Her father would get her up in the middle of the night, just to see the once-in-a-lifetime sight of the river Don which had burst it's banks and was roaring down the road where the busses normally went. He would make crystal radio sets for her with a 'cat's whisker', and generally treat her like the boy that he never had.
She would walk to school past the long-gone steel-furnaces, and watch bare-chested men wrestling with snakes of red-hot iron inside cavernous and hellish mills.
There were the great piles of mother-of-pearl off-cuts outside the cutlers and button factories at the end of the street, glittering like butterfly's wings in the city sunshine.
Her mother used to say, "I don't know where she came from. She's like the Queen of Sheba".
She knew where she was going, even before she went to the Junior Art School in her infancy, and the drawings and paintings in her school-books were - and still are - staggeringly good.
She was taught how to make proper coffee by a Turkish noblewoman who had, somehow, ended up in Sheffield, and the smell of real coffee drew her down to Soho and the Slade School of Art in London, where she studied painting with Frank Auerbach as her personal tutor.
When she arrived in Bath about 40 years ago, she was shocked by the rudeness and hostility of the southern locals. She had only ever experienced the warmth and directness of Yorkshire people and the kindness of the child-loving Italians who ran the coffee shops she frequented with her little girl in Soho. She would walk down the street like an Italian film-star and literally get hissed at by middle-aged woman for looking too good.
Her little girl is now almost 43, and - I am very pleased to say - part of my family too, as her her children are. I am the only consistent male figure that they have had in their lives, and they call me their 'grand-father'. I think I deserve that, since I was probably the first or second man to have picked them both up a matter of hours after they were born, and the only one never to put them down.
Every now and then, I remind myself of how lucky I am, and this produces a somewhat soppy post like this one. At least it is written in the cold light of day, and not after I have got back from the pub, so you know it is meant. It is not written without a pang of guilt for my biological offspring (born from a one-night stand years ago), however. Circumstances have separated me from them for all but a few days every year or so.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible (after I have got back from the pub).