Some Memories of Grahame White
Grahame was sitting on a tall stool behind the counter, staring out into the street with a roll-up held delicately at the extremity of his fingers. Yes he would apply for the Masters course in Narrative Illustration and Editorial Design. His application form explained at length (8 A4 sheets of closely typed text) his addictions, his travails, his enemies, his passions, his pals, books and musical favourites.
1. Masters Project; to construct within a computer a simulated seventeenth century House in its own grounds. Here, a group of Curators disputes the provenance of the items in the Collection through a haze of alcohol and misunderstanding. The musical sequence starts with the ominous section of Philip Glass (Akhnaten) and continues into the stately Baroque of Vivaldi’s Tito Manlio. For some one who clung desperately to the conveniences of a small portable typewriter, the screen and keyboard of the Apple Mac posed many problems, all of which he solved to please those who had put their trust in him. More important to Grahame was a return to an academic community with its culture of mutual support and delight.
2. PhD project; English Antiquarianism. Viewed through the lens of the absurd, Grahame re-assessed his previous observations on the very nature of what it was to be English. The attraction of the subject for Graham was the sheer weight of the material. The responsibility of the Supervisor (me) was to encourage the student to narrow down the field of enquiry. Traditional students respond to this narrowing of the options. Grahame fought it tooth and nail.
3. Chocs for Books. Living in ill health and on benefits, Grahame could not afford the research resources others would have acquired for their own convenience. He wrote to many people, editors, scholars, and collectors, enclosing a box of Black Magic chocolates. In this way he was sent signed limited editions, artwork and newly published books. “How did you know my guilty secret?” wrote one correspondent. I heard that the photographer Helmut Newton grew to be alarmed by the implications of this bizarre business proposition, but placated his eccentric correspondent with regular letters and free gifts – a sort of protection payment against the terrors of the unknown.
He wore his learning lightly but with conviction. He surprised constantly with the depth and richness of his reading and viewing. In conversation (both academic and otherwise) he spiced the interchanges with puckish humour, esoteric references and helpful asides. In helping him realise his academic (and other) ambitions I had to carefully negotiate the space between encouragement and rigour. We never fell out. I shall miss him immensely.