We got on like a house on fire and remained friends throughout our school career and beyond (we’re meeting him and his wife Jane for the day when we go on holiday in August). I spoke to him today and ended the call with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Jan, his Mum, passed away this morning.
Childhood was slightly different in the 70s and 80s than it is today. During summer holidays, we’d wave goodbye to our Mum’s and go off in search of adventure, without a phone, without any money, often without a Roughneck flask. But when we wanted to be fed, we went to whoever’s house was closest.
Nick’s Mum & Dad were craftspeople - Alan is a skilled carpenter who could fashion anything out of a bit of wood, working with no seeming regard for what he was doing, until he showed you a small mouse on a delicate ear of corn. Jan was likewise talented, creating beautiful handmade flowers (she made Alison’s bouquet on our wedding day, plus the button holes).
Jan was a big hearted lady, in every sense of the word. She was kind and gregarious, warm and caring and nothing ever seemed to be too much trouble. My Mum is the best lady in the world, of course, but if I’d had to choose a “Mum 2”, Jan would have got the job. During those schoolboy summers, as my Mum did to Nick, Jan fed and watered me, taught me card games, made me laugh and always looked after us - I don’t think I ever heard her say a cross word. Later, once we’d discovered the joys of pubs and nightclubs, we’d often stay over at their house, watching Night Network and having a laugh, before getting up in the morning to bacon sandwiches.
When Alison & I got married - Nick was my Best Man, as I’d been his - Jan stood by proudly, both because of us boys and also because she and Alison had quickly developed a mutual love for one another.
The Duncan’s moved to France not long after that, so we didn’t see them as much as I’d have liked, but we still spoke and saw them around when they were back visiting family. Alan rang me late last year, to say that Jan wasn’t very well and I kept up with the news through Nick and his brother Chris, via phone, emails and Facebook.
I can only imagine how Nick and Chris, let alone Alan, feel today and I wish there was something I could do. They showed great strength and friendship to us when we lost Tracy and I only hope that I can do the same.
Jan Duncan was a genuinely lovely woman and she will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her. I just wish I could have said goodbye.
Me, Alison, Jan and Nick, August 2000