France, 11th August 2011
I am sat here in the sun, on holiday, soaking up the rays of the sun and the heat. Just as you loved to, armed with a suitable cold alcoholic drink. You would have been on the beach in Jamaica or Barbados rather than in deepest France. You always looked forward to your holidays, and made sure we all knew about them. Every time you booked a fortnight away with Terry you would grin and clap your hands like an excited seal, shuffling your legs and bouncing on your chair, gleefully announcing your next very hot location. You counted the days down one at a time. Each day you would announce be a jovial reminder, until you were finally gone.
You enjoyed your life in a way I admired and envied. I remember once listening to you on the phone with a girlfriend talking about meeting up, laughing and joking. You were so easy and comfortable being you – with your unique characteristics and even eccentricities. You were you, unashamedly you, and happy to express yourself.
I met you on my first day working at Punch Taverns. You sat on my desk, swung your legs and growled at me because I hadn’t given you enough notice about my laptop. This is when you ran the desktop and Lotus Notes team. It took me a while to get to know you, to earn your friendship. You tested me out first. You were hard on people who were foolish, insincere or posturing or took themselves too seriously. I am pleased that you overlooked most of these faults in me.
First came the test of the flying pigs and other assorted animals, catapulted from your desk to the unsuspecting people walking out to the toilets or the canteen. You hit me – I have to say after several attempts – a full blow to the neck with a flying pig. I passed it off with a laugh. I was through the first hurdle. Eventually I recruited you into the project team and you sat next to me. Every day became a mix of hard work, interspersed with regular bursts of childish humour and laughter.
We became the best of friends – people who confided in each other. “Tell Aunty Sue all about it” you would say. And when you were stressed – usually about BT or “the management” , I would try to support and help. Between us we would put the stupidity of work and the way so many seemed to behave in its rightful place. We mocked the self-important and mimicked those who were being idiots, or who were just weird or weak – sometimes quite cruelly, but always with humour and disdain rather than hatred.
You brightened up the dullness of the office with your humour, energy and irreverence. You looked after your team like a mother. You bought them all wine at Christmas. And offered sweets “Sweetie little boy?” you would suggest, menacingly but with a twinkle and a smile, revealing those gapped and nicotine-stained teeth. Your other favourite irreverent sayings “do you know who I am” or “no shit sherlock” always followed by another cheeky laugh. And only if I were very brave would I say a word against Newcastle United or your idol Alan Shearer.
We sat together for many months grappling with BT and the project. We trotted down to the canteen for coffee with Louise and Heidi several times a day, risking the antiquated lift rather than the steps in your stilettos. We spent many hours in A7, planning on post-it notes, ploughing through contract schedules, correcting plans. Me, you and Louise, and often Heidi, Steve or Art. The good guys who were hampered only by the inadequate imbeciles around us. Most forms of demise were too good for them – shrink wrapping and burying in contract was a favourite imagined disposal method. We migrated email, opened a service desk (with your 20:20 shirts) and outsourced our services to India. And beat BT into delivering close to what we needed.
You were never intellectual or sophisticated – you had no airs or graces, you never pretended to be what you were not. You hated pretentiousness or self-seekers. But you were a great colleague, committed and smart. You strove for quality and perfection in all you did, which is why you were so stressed by the crass incompetence of some of those around us.
I remembered to notice your haircuts and to admire your new shoes (your favourite purchase). You were a woman of a fuller figure and fishnets. You loved your car – we once raced each other home along the A50. I think I outwitted you at the roundabout through the benefit of a better choice of lanes.
I helped you try to fix your heating in your flat. I helped you smarten up your CV for the many times you considered leaving. But you helped me more, with your smile, your support and your straightforward wisdom.
The last time I saw you I think was one evening in Burton. I drove you back to your flat as I often did, and we put the world to rights. And we hugged as usual before you got out of the car, and I gave you a couple of minutes to get into your flat. We embraced with genuine affection and friendship. I think you had many good and loyal friends –at work, at home, at the gold club. I know so many are rallying round you now.
Even after I left Punch, we would email occasionally, meet sometimes and text from time to time. You would text at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I don’t expect I will have a text from you this year.
I wished I could come and see you and support you in what seem so tragically to be your last days. Maybe of you hadn’t smoked so much you wouldn’t have developed the cancer. But you always lived for the present not the future.
I am glad I managed to text after you knew you were ill so you knew I was thinking of you. I am sorry we lost touch afterwards when your phone stopped working. I am glad for me that I will remember you as alive and well, rather than emaciated and forgetful. And maybe that’s how you would want to be remembered, rather than you are now. I hope that even those who have looked after you through the deterioration of body and mind will remember you at your best – irreverent, witty, sexy, vivacious, comfortable in your own skin, intolerant of self-importance. Yet caring and loyal. I will miss you greatly, even as I already have for many months.
You would say this is all sentimental. That you don’t do emotion or feelings. I never really believed you. I promise I will remember you Sue, fondly and inevitably with a heavy heart, but also with an irreverent smile and immeasurable fondness.
Sue Morgan sadly passed away just a few weeks after I wrote this. The letter was never delivered.