Said Robert Louis Stevenson and, if that is the case, I have had forty years of gifts in the shape of my close friend Frances May Long. We shared so much, both work and pleasure. She befriended me when I arrived in Bristol in 1970, introducing me to the Unitarian Church (Oakfield Road, Clifton). We were on church committees together, attended meetings of the Hibbert Trust at Essex Hall, London, a memorable weekend at Great Hucklow and several annual meetings. Together we served on the WEA (Workers Educational Association) committee for thirty years and Frances eventually overcame her fierce loyalty to that body to join me in the U3A (University of the Third Age).
We also took the coach to London on many occasions for pure cultural enjoyment. There were certain landmarks en route not to be missed - the road where her son, Richard lived long ago, the fascinating row of artists' studios in Talgarth Road, the modern Ark building and Hogarth's House. Frances and I were equally upset when a chatty coach driver mentioned the Hogarth roundabout but not Hogarth's house, although it belonged to the first British painter of note. Once, there being no internal light to read by in the coach returning to Bristol, we quizzed one another and, at journey's end, a fellow passenger told us how much she had enjoyed that and had been able to answer some of the questions.
On another occasion we went to the Hayward Gallery in London for Richard's exhibition with Marion Breen of the WEA, only to find that the exhibition was over but, when it was revealed that the group included the artist's mother, we were ushered in and had a private viewing - just we three amid the staff dismantling the exhibits.
Frances was so good to be with; she personified hospitality and was always a warm and comfortable presence. She was unforgettable and I was often asked about her when we were apart. I shall miss her - she was an irreplaceable gift.