I thought long and hard about writing this post as I try not to make my blog too personal. No one likes to hear bad news. No one likes to hear sad news. No one likes to be shocked by both, but sometimes it happens and your immediate reaction is disbelief closely followed by “What?” or “Why?”. Bad and sad news is also invariably a taboo subject and people don’t generally know what to say or do. I had a big “What?” moment last week. My dear friend Clare Francis took her own life on May 25th and I’m shocked and devastated with this dreadful news. Those that have read my blog for a while will remember Clare from my Zanzibar and Tanzania entries as we enjoyed an amazing “holiday of a lifetime” together. Here she is at a viewpoint above Lake Manyara in August 2012 …
I first met Clare in Muscat though work in late 2011, although it wasn’t until early 2012 that I began to strike up a friendship with her. By May, we were good enough friends to decide to go on holiday together. Going on safari is a very special and indeed a “once in a lifetime” experience, so sharing this with Clare strengthened our friendship. I left Muscat in late 2012, but we remained in close, regular touch. I last saw her in February this year when I returned to attend some domestic business, spending my last night in Muscat with her and an old school friend.So as I think about Clare, what has happened, reflect on the last time we spoke and read all the facebook messages from her grieving friends, I have decided to dedicate this blog post to Clare and her memory.
Regardless of all the questions we are all asking at the moment, we should still remember Clare by her amazing life and how she touched those around her with her generous and thoughtful personality. Clare was a success and this was most obvious in three areas of her life; her career, her sporting prowess and her wide social circle. Clare was such a wonderful, loyal and decent human being and managed to achieve that perfect balance of acknowledging her accomplishments and strengths with a modest, graceful and guarded attitude – she didn’t like to rest on her laurels. Clare was also a very private person deep down, despite her gregarious nature and active social life. Add to this a beautiful person inside and out, her passing really is a great loss to those who loved her and cared about her.
Clare started off life in South Wales and was educated at Monmouth Comprehensive School and Pontypridd College of Further Education. After a few years working in administrative roles in Gloucester then Cheltenham, she moved to London in 2000 where her career went from strength to strength. Clare was a formidable organiser and extremely discrete and this I believe was a key factor in her professional success.
Claire moved to Oman in 2009, seeking a new start and a taste of ex-pat life, quickly using her strengths and skills in Muscat, supporting leaders running businesses. Many in Muscat will remember her from her time as Events Manager at Alive Entertainments. Right up until April this year, Clare was organising her CEO and executive board level “inner office” operations. Clare was instrumental to the success of any business she worked for and was an asset of true value. I always admired her amazing organisational skills and ability to think clearly and calmly.
Many of course will remember Clare for her sporting activity – a major part of her life away from work. Clare was one of the fittest women I knew. She loved keeping fit – for her it was more than a habit, it was part of her lifestyle and she consistently rose at 5am to train and beat the Middle East heat and Middle East drivers. Only Middle East based cyclists can truly appreciate this. Clare was also a regular gym visitor, had her own TRX equipment, was an active member of Muscat Cycle Club and Muscat Road Runners…
Photo credit: Muscat Road Runners – Bill Huguelet
|With fellow MRR runner Naomi, Aujke and Clare. Photo Credit: Kevin Stockton|
|Clare was very much an active part of the MRR community. Photo credit: Kevin Stockton|
Clare was also an accomplished tri-athlete, competing in local and international events. Her latest reported sporting success was winning the Muscat Festival sprint triathlon in January this year. In January 2011, she travelled to South Africa with Keith Downing, her training partner, to compete in the South Africa 70.3 Ironman. After months of hard training, the rougher seas and windy conditions on the day added to the challenge. Clare achieved a very respectable time of 7 hours 4 minutes, given the conditions. Later that year, the pair travelled to Belgium to compete in the Ironman 70.3 Antwerp. Clare significantly improved her performance, completing the course in 5 hours 58 minutes. Here she is shortly before crossing the finishing line…
|Photo Credit: Keith Downing
Here are Clare and Keith training together in one of the regular MRR running competitions …
|Photo Credit: Kevin Stockman|
I know Clare will be especially mourned and missed by those who trained and competed alongside her. Sporting based friendships are unique. I always admired Clare for her incredible self-discipline to train consistently, and to encourage others, including myself. Through working at Alive Entertainment, Clare was a very recognisable face around Muscat and her circle of friends and acquaintances was wide. The number of people grieving her loss in Muscat is a testament to Clare’s popularity and her affable nature. At the weekends, once she had trained, Clare liked nothing better than to meet her friends to relax at a beach side or poolside location, enjoy the sun and catch up on the weeks events, followed by dinner and drinks in friends homes or the Turkish Restaurant in Al Khuwair. Clare also loved to dress up and attend some of the swanky events in Muscat. Here she is from December 2009 …
|Photo credit: Unknown, from Clare’s Facebook Album|
On occasion, Clare would also respond to social invitations that required an altogether different style of dressing up …
|Photo Credit: Kevin Stockton|
We will all miss Clare’s big beaming and welcoming smile that added warmth and fun to our social lives. The attributes that I will especially remember Clare for however were her generosity and her compassion. She was a good listener, was sensitive to others, really did care and was very giving of her time. Those that were close to her will understand this. The stray cat outside her apartment will also miss her compassion and generosity. Clare kept food and a towel in her car, keeping the kitty fed, watered and clean, remaining by its side until it had finished eating so the other strays wouldn’t bully her away. Finally, I have selected some pictures of Clare in happier times during our holiday last year. I was truly blessed to have had her wonderful company and shared such amazing experiences with such an exceptional friend …
With Clare’s premature and tragic passing, we will all continue to wonder “Why? for quite sometime. I felt genuinely privileged to be one of Clare’s friends. Those that knew Clare were aware that she chose her friendships carefully, so it is even more tragic that we were not there for her when she needed help, nor recognised the severity of her plight. The only thing we all really want in life is lasting happiness and I am so very, very sorry that Clare couldn’t find hers. We will miss you so very much Clare – you are still loved by many and I have lost a dear and valued friend. My deepest condolences to your family, especially your mother in Abergavenny. Should you wish to keep Clare’s memory alive in a more practical way, please consider supporting the charity nominated by her family – The Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies. Donations can be made via their website – click here for more information. Rest in Peace dearest Clare.