In Memory of Ann Davies
I knew Ann Davies for almost 8 years. I can’t say I knew her well. I met her only once, and then only fleetingly, near the beginning of what turned out to be a long distance relationship. We had one person in common, her daughter, Sarah, who was one of my work colleagues.
In September 2012 I spoke to Ann on the phone and successfully recruited her to a little conspiracy at Sarah’s wedding. Then she ‘friended’ me on Facebook and an electronic relationship began to blossom. Over the years Sarah provided me with fragments of the jigsaw, but never enough pieces to be confident of creating an accurate portrait. What does seem evident is that she was an excellent teacher who went beyond the mere statutory obligations of her post in reaching out to her students. Always generous with her time for others, she created a much larger world for her children than would be customary in most families. Lucky the children who grew up in Ann’s big global family!
In 2015 five ‘events’ drew me closer to Ann. First, there was Ann’s Facebook expose of the Epsom ‘boxes’ which I chuckled at from afar. Ann lamented that a new, almost sinister, form of life was colonising her Epsom home, boxes. They filled up every empty space. She posted photos of this sedentary swarm of boxes. She tolerated their presence because each box signalled the imminence of her and Chris’s eagerly awaited retirement from Epsom College and the family move to their beloved Utrecht.
Second came the accidental by product of sifting through a lifetime’s worth of belongings i.e., what's going with us, what's being left behind, what's being recycled, what's being binned. In sifting through her 'life stuff', she found family treasures and proudly showed them to the world. Up went the baby and infant photographs of her two prizes and legacies, Gareth and Sarah. I took a much greater interest in the photos because they were charming and oozed the pride Ann and Chris had in their children. For me, one photo stood out, Sarah as a beautiful little girl, the first evidence of the beautiful woman she would become.
Third, there were the repeated best wishes for my retirement and latterly my health. Somewhat out of the blue, I had a heart attack in April, followed immediately by a quadruple bypass operation. Someone – Sarah, I assume – must have told Ann. Heart attack and retirement in that order, developed into an unlikely and unwanted symmetry with Ann’s reverse order. Her illness would turn out to be more complicated and severe than mine: it took no prisoners. She generously wished me a speedy recovery, a sentiment I would unfortunately not be able to reciprocate. Ann and I were to become ‘twinned’ medically. I was the older and luckier twin.
Fourth, there was Freya, unmistakably a Celt Ann wrote jubilantly, a fourth generation of living Davies women. I can only imagine the expectancy she must have felt as she jetted across the Atlantic and joy she must have experienced holding her first grandchild for the first time. And then her lament in the airport departure lounge a week later when saying goodbye to her wonderful American family. No one could have guessed it would be Ann and Freya’s last meeting. Ann’s death has robbed Freya of a remarkable woman who was only too briefly in her life. Freya’s other grandmother, Maureen Kinahan, now has a difficult double duty.
Fifth, there was the rugby in the past year, leading up to the World Cup. The ball started rolling last November when Ann and Chris got tickets to an international match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Then came the Six Nations, followed by friendly matches leading to the World Cup. Ann enjoyed a good World Cup, celebrating several Welsh victories, especially the one over England, before losing in the first knock-out phase. When I moaned about the ill fortune of the excellent but winless Canadians, Ann agreed they had defied expectations for 60 of the 80 minutes in each of their games. Having expressed some sympathy - and from a position of authority as a Welsh woman married to a rugby coach and referee, I have conferred on Ann posthumous honorary ‘Canadianhood’.
Everything else I know about Ann comes from a reliable, if reticent, source, her daughter, Sarah. I soon learned the person named Ann was Sarah’s Mother and not an older sister. What could I know of mother through daughter? Both women were passionately Welsh, yet citizens of the world, internationalists, multi-linguists, educators in the best sense of the word, Ann in the classroom and pastoral role, Sarah more in the wider curriculum of travel, advice, friendship and administration. Both were creative: Ann sewed and made dresses, and latterly baby clothes, Sarah was a student of fashion and made jewellery, and now completing her mother’s sewing. If family life was a GCSE or ‘A’ level, Ann would have earned an A*. Her untimely passing has left a chasm at the centre of the Davies family. In her last Facebook entry Ann revealed her enthusiasm for the music scene in Utrecht. I suspect she was a dancer like her daughter.
Ann was very welcoming and hospitable on several occasions. She invited me and my wife to touch base if we ever visited Utrecht, possibly for the start of the Tour de France this summer. This was an appealing offer: I anticipated maybe a mini tour, a glass of wine or beer, perhaps a shared meal and possibly even some dancing. The day visit I made in October 2015 is one that neither of us could have wished for or predicted.
We can’t explain why Ann, a giver not a taker, a lover of life who had influenced so many people, was taken so prematurely and seemingly unfairly from family, friends, loved one and new grandchild. Perhaps Greek mythology offers a clue: the gods have always been unfair.
May Ann rest in peace and memories of her console her family and friends. May in years to come Rosina, Chris, Gareth, Sarah and Kieran see something of Ann emerging in little Freya
Ann Davies, might have written her own epitaph in August 2014 for her students and for each of the generations of Davies women, especially Freya: "WHY CAN'T PEOPLE JUST BE TOLERANT OF ONE ANOTHER. WE HAVE TO LOOK AFTER THIS WORLD - IT'S THE ONLY ONE WE HAVE."