These are some thoughts I contributed for a celebration of the life of Jan Fletcher, my friend, held in Brisbane, Queensland, on September 8, 2011.
Jan and I developed a close working relationship in the Queensland Opposition Office between 1998 and 2002, when I left the building. She was an indispensible part of the operation there, truly the keeper of the keys – and of all sorts of documents including policy documents that we should probably all have memorised minutely and hadn’t. Jan had all the answers and if – and this was rare – she didn’t, she’d say so. She was in every sense the most valuable colleague you could have.
I didn’t know much about Jan’s personal life. I did come across her husband Ian from time to time. He seemed to be playing the role of corporate spouse on most of those occasions and I sympathised, having had years of experience of the same phenomenon after my wife, Lea Crombie, left daily journalism and joined the arcane world of corporate relations. It can be trying, attempting to look interested and yet not too interested, lest those among whom you are circulating in a sort of tolerated way begin to think you might know more than you should! Emma (Jan's daughter) I knew by repute. She was one subject on which Jan would never be silent.
All of us have our favourite memories of Jan. Mine flow from a delightful corporate practice that we developed, she and I, which involved visiting a number of wining and dining establishments in Albert Street (in Brisbane's CBD). We would repair to one or other of these from time to time – not too frequently, since you ask! – and set about the business of intensive policy discussion.
When we left these little soirees we were each convinced that we had solved all the world’s problems, not to mention those of the Queensland opposition. It was always a nasty shock to discover on returning to the office we hadn’t, or that someone, known or – worse – unknown, had in our absence created new ones.
Those little excursions were a great time of laughter and fun, as well as for serious chatting. They weren’t all beer and skittles. In fact, I don’t think we ever had a beer. As well as a workplace and a political conviction, Jan and I shared a deep love for that nicely matured fermented grape juice you used to find in good quality bottles with corks in them. I think we would have benefited from the modern practice of screw-tops.
Jan was my friend. No – IS my friend. Times change; people move on; sometimes, sadly, they pass away. But the good ones are never forgotten.
Jan Fletcher died, of cervical cancer, on August 30.