Francine Olga Winham, master creative persona, died December 29, 2013.
Drumming in the New Year with Francine Winham at Joldwynds became a tradition for many of her friends. At her invitation, they would arrive one by one on schedule in the secluded castle-like place in Surrey, England. Her home was acquired in the 1930’s by her father where she and her family lived, only to be disrupted by World War II when her father decided to take his family to Colorado in the US for safety from German bombers flying across the “Channel”.
Joldwynds, Abinger is situated just beneath the old fort at Holmbury Hill.
“Joldwynds is described as a modernist style house in Holmbury St Mary, Surrey, England, designed by architect Oliver Falvey Hill for Wilfred Greene, 1st Baron Greene.”
The old norse venda blows through the site in the winter where the air is cold and damp. Yet, inside the Art Deco architecture, Francine appointed the interior with her special touch to warm each and every room with exciting art and cozy places to relax, practice music, read, and most importantly, play bridge. For me, the activity was to paint, and to listen, and have a conversation.
For me and my family and friends, the best of New Year’s experiences came from drumming in the new year. Some of the drummers were renowned celebrities, filmmakers, artists, and writers who coalesced at her beckon to hear her sing by the piano against the backdrop of a warm fire.
Her chef prepared a glorious spread of food and drink, supported by a cast of visitors. New Year’s eve was a build, beginning with climbing to the top of the ancient fort on the hill next door. Francine showed no lack of stamina as she led the pack up the 10 story hill wearing rubber boots to slosh through the cold icy path. I struggled to follow behind.
Back at the house, a group of visitors screened films in the viewing room. Others took their position at the bridge table where master players belonged.
Hanging out in the kitchen was welcomed too, especially by Brenda, the head chef.
As the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight, Francine began passing drums to all of the guests who assembled around the fire in the great room. Some of the guests were professional singers who led the chant with drummers who eventually found a common beat.
An actress with exceptional dancing ability leapt forth, adding an exotic touch to the spirit-filled space.
Next, Francine emerged with her long mink coat to announce that fireworks could be seen from the activity room. The crowd dawned coats and sweaters, and followed her to the porch outside. At her command, the fireworks began exploding against the sky where sheep slept in their stables and far away in the distance are the shores of the English Channel.
Last evening, here in America, we assembled our makeshift percussion instruments (oatmeal boxes) and drummed to the spirit of Francine Winham. This will be our tradition and everlasting tribute to a beautiful woman artist who filled our souls with fun and joy.
“Francine Olga WINHAM
Francine Olga, 1937-2013, beloved sister of Josephine and aunt to Francine and Philippa, died peacefully on 29th December 2013.”