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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Davies

Jannypops

Since I started writing my blog, back in December 2021, I've managed to remain remarkably consistent, writing almost every week since, with the exception of those when I was on holiday, enjoying time with the family. It's important to me, firstly to maintain an internet presence and make sure I'm in people's eye lines (so that if they're in need of support in terms of coaching, leadership training, consultancy or speaking engagements, I'm front of mind) but also because it keeps me sharp. I love writing and the more I write, the easier I find it and the more topics and ideas come to mind to write about.


These last couple of weeks, however, I haven't written anything. I've sat down a few times to try and I've noted down a few ideas to write about, but the inspiration hasn't hit me. That's been true, not just about blogging, but about most other aspects of my work and life. I've felt flat and lacked the motivation that has always been my secret weapon. Today's blog should go some way to explaining why.


The first coaching job I had, began in August of 2013 in RBS and it's the moment that my career completely changed. Until that point I'd tried quite a few things, with varying degrees of success and enjoyment, but the moment I saw the coaching job advertised, I knew everything was about to be different. I was the first person recruited to the brand new team of a handful of coaches and we quickly expanded to extend our offering across the business. That was where I first got to know Jan.


We'd crossed paths before, both having worked in the branch network around Edinburgh, but now that we were in the same team, we immediately hit it off. We found quickly that we had very similar senses of humour (a combination of complete nonsense and inappropriateness) and a deep passion to be great at what we did. To an extent we were both still looking for the work that would both fulfil us and allow us to go from having jobs to building careers and lives around them, and in that team was where we started to discover those. A little while later, we went from being in the same broader team to being side-by-side, working for the best manager that I ever had in my decade and a half in corporate life, and I know that Jan held Margaret Ashley in similar high regard. This meant that we relocated our workplaces to the same building in St Andrew Square in the centre of Edinburgh and spent a big chunk of every working day together. We'd help each other work through thorny work problems, make one another laugh with stories and jokes and bond over the absolute filth that we ate for lunch (at that time, generally purchased from either Greggs, KFC or the legendary Snax Cafe, nestled in an alley behind the bank building). Snax was the kind of place that may leave bystanders baffled about how they manage to pass any kind of health and safety audit, but if there's a better mac and cheese and chips on offer in Scotland's capital city, I've yet to discover it.


During our time in the same team, we were part of a charity event and had to pair up to take part. It was a horse race with a difference; each pair had to dress as a pantomime horse and race around an obstacle course! As part of this, the pairs each had to name their horse and write a blurb about their horse's background and capabilities. Naturally Jan and I were straight in a pair and while most pairs didn't bother their arse to do the pre-work, Jan and I spent the best part of a day writing the story of Sugar Dumpling, the unfortunate and chunky horse of our creation, while ending ourselves laughing in the office! Race day came and as we manoeuvred around a cone at the half way point, making good pace and in the middle of the pack, Jan lost her footing and absolutely stacked it, falling over and taking the back end of the horse with her! I turned to see her rolling across the grass and shouted at her to get back up, but in her dramatic fashion, lying on her back like a stranded Beetle, while dressed as the back end of a horse, she shouted "I can't! Go on without me!!" I was forced to, and crossed the line dressed as half a horse, in last place!


Jan loved a night out. We had many, with Jan introducing me and my boys to her besties; the Borders girls she'd grown up with, who were a massive part of her life. They all became part of the wider gang and we had a lot of laughs, most memorably in the 'Nage nightclub on Victoria St, where we took over the karaoke and shouted down microphones at the unsuspecting punters while laughing uproariously!


We also spoke a lot about our lives. We were in different places at that time; I got married to my girlfriend of a decade the year Jan and I met, whereas Jan was on the dating scene and struggling to find the right guy. Her lack of luck in love was a recurring theme for the next few years and she longed to find the Mr Right, settle down and start a family. When a new boyfriend came on the scene, I'd secretly hope for her that he'd be the one to bring her the happiness she longed for, but again it seemed to pass her by. I'd chide her for her terrible taste in men and we'd laugh about some of the funnier debacles she found herself in the centre of, with some chicken nuggies or millionaire's shortbread and a cuppa to soften the blow.


A couple of years later, Harper was born and Jan was one of the first people who babysat her. Harper slept through the night, without interruption and Jan ate crisps and watched the telly; the perfect babysitting experience! I moved on from the team to another coaching team within the bank but we stayed close and still made the effort to enjoy nights out and lunches together. Talk of fun clients and shitty bosses, families and friends and the trials and tribulations of life. I loved those moments because as well as laughing a lot and behaving like clowns, Jan held me accountable and told me straight when we I was being a dick. Everyone has those moments and needs someone like Jan to tell them to wind their neck in and I tried to play the same role in her life. Jan could be impetuous when it came to frustrations at work and I tried to give her a space to talk and think and digest what was going on. We held each other accountable and didn't pander to one another's egos.


Then, one day, Jan got in touch to say she'd met a new guy. That day, everything changed for her! When Andy arrived on the scene, after Jan hit on him while he was working as a doorman in a bar on George St, her whole world opened up and she was the happiest I'd ever seen her. They flourished and when he proposed, they asked me to MC their wedding. It was an amazing day and Cathryn and I met more of Jan's friends and her family. She always scrubbed up well but that day she looked at her very best and she basked in the love of all the people who mattered most to her. It was a year or so later when Fern and Grace, their beautiful twin girls arrived. Cathryn, Harper and I visited when they were tiny and brought them the obligatory presents. Cathryn, with a much better memory and a huge heart, had managed to find the cutest chubby horse cuddly toy in the world. Jan's face was a picture, opening the presents and being confronted with the girl's very own Sugar Dumping and we laughed as we recounted the nonsense!


Eventually I left the bank and but again, we stayed close and kept in touch via messages and some very funny phone and Zoom calls. Life gets busier when you have kids, and when you have two kids at once, it's even more so, but we tried our best and caught up when we could. Last year we messaged a lot but didn't spend nearly enough time together so when December rolled around and my diary was slowing down for Christmas, I asked if she'd like to go for lunch. We spent hours chatting and laughing and talking about our work, our families and where our lives were heading. Mum life was amazing, but tiring, with twin girls who weren't the best sleepers. Work was challenging but rewarding. Everything in her life seemed easier with Andy by her side. That lunch together left me feeling rejuvenated and was the perfect end to the working year.


In January, Andy organised her surprise 40th party and it was a joyous affair. Once again, a room full of friends and family who loved Jan and a chance to see familiar faces and laugh about what a nonsense Jan was!


And then March rolled around, and I was working down in Leeds, delivering a session to a really fun, engaged group, when my phone rang during a break. Jan was gone. She went to bed the night before and hadn't woken up. Everything stopped and my head swam as I struggled to understand what I was being told. Who was Jan? Not my wee Jannypops. She was fine, sitting somewhere telling inappropriate stories or hugging the girls. I struggled for the next few days, with a niggling feeling that something was wrong and feeling like I needed to call Jan and have her explain what was going on.


But it was true. At 40, with beautiful three year old twin girls, a husband she loved dearly and family and friends left waiting to hear from her, Jan was gone.


Over the past weeks, my grief has felt like an indulgence. What about the girls? What about Andy? What about Maisie and Doug, her parents? What about her brothers and sister, especially young Doug with whom she shared a remarkable bond? What about the Borders girls who had known her for all of the meaningful years of their lives? Their losses eclipse my own. I've never been good with endings and death is an ending of the worst kind. The moments we had together are all the moments we will ever have and it's not just those that I'll miss. Seeing Jan and Andy laughing together, watching her and her brother Doug share a knowing glance, seeing her with Fern and Grace being the kind of awesome mum I'd always known she'd be. Seeing her laughing with her girls as the drinks flow and the stories become less and less family friendly. All of those are no more.


But what I'll always have, are the memories and the photos and the stories. Jannypops loved a selfie so there weren't too many special moments that she didn't manage to capture. As the twins grow up, I'll be there to make sure that they know what a special person their mum was and make sure they know the tale of Sugar Dumpling. At her funeral service last week, the number of people who attended (including many who had to stand outside) and the many more who watched online are a testament to the lives she's touched. She packed a lot of life into her forty years and that impact and the love that she shared will live on long after she is gone.


Right now, you have people in your life who mean the world to you but whom you've been too busy or lazy or distracted to get in touch with or to make time to see. I've thought endlessly about that lunch in December with Jan. If I'd missed that opportunity, I know I'd feel very differently right now. Pick up the phone to them. Make that time. Do it now and make the most of the time you have with them, because nothing is guaranteed.


I've heard it said that we should seek to be the things we loved most about someone who is gone. Jannypops was warmth, care, love, joy and a little bit of nonsense. I'll do my best to be those things in the years that follow.

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5 Comments


claire.marsh
Apr 25

Beautiful words Matt. Am glad you felt able to. They are a fine tribute to Jan. xxxx

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donnadunlop10
Apr 05

Thank goodness you got the energy and creativity to write this Matt - it matches everything going on in my head at present. While the world will never be the same without Jan, my world will always be better for knowing her and loving her xxx

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Philip Martin
Philip Martin
Apr 04

"Warmth, care, love, joy and a little bit of nonsense". Seems like a great way to pay tribute to a lovely lady.

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dave.harrison
Apr 04

Such a touching tribute to Jan. Life can be so cruel at times, to take someone away so young and who obviously loves life and gives so much to others too. I do hope you get some solace from the many happy times you had together and the to see the person she became and the lives she has impacted. My thoughts are with you, her family and friends.

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Matthew Davies
Matthew Davies
Apr 04
Replying to

Thanks Dave, really appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. She was incredibly special to me

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