Friday, 17 September 2021

Wife and mother who travelled the world

OUR mother, Jan Baldwin, a resident of Shiplake since 1976, died peacefully on May 17, aged 80.

OUR mother, Jan Baldwin, a resident of Shiplake since 1976, died peacefully on May 17, aged 80.

Jan was creative, musical and sporty and had lived in several far-flung countries with her husband Geoff and four children.

She was born in south London and at the age of three emigrated to Australia with her parents. It was there that she developed a love of tennis and skiing and became an accomplished pianist.

She trained as an occupational therapist in Melbourne before setting off with friends by ship to the UK.

Jan enjoyed a lively social life and in 1956 spent two months travelling around Europe with friends in a battered old car, quite an intrepid adventure for four young women in those days.

She settled in Oxford, working as an occupational therapist, interspersed with stints as a “chilly-ho” with P&O.

It was on one of her many skiing holidays that she met Geoff, our father, and they married in 1961.

Geoff was a civil engineering graduate from Oxford University and his career would take the couple around the world.

They moved to Doncaster where their first two daughters, Sarah and Caroline, were born.

Geoff then received his first overseas posting to Syria. Despite the remoteness of the desert location, they created a real family home for two years, during which time son Hugh was born.

From Syria, the family moved to Iraq and lived in a small town outside Baghdad where their fourth child Nicola was born.

Next stop was Java, Indonesia, for five years. There was no international school for us growing children but that did not deter our mother.

She decided to teach us herself, setting up a school room at home where she organised a proper timetable of lessons for us all.

Postings after that included short stints in Brazil and Iran followed in 1980 by six years in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

It was here that Jan discovered a love of golf and also published her first book of drawings, Colombo Heritage, with pictures of colonial buildings and landmarks accompanied by their historical background.

In between all these foreign postings were frequent visits back to the UK and in 1976 our parents bought a house in Shiplake, which became Jan’s base for the rest of her life. She embarked on a second book of drawings, this time of the local area around Henley. Each scene was meticulously painted and researched. The subsequent book that was published, Henley Heritage, is still on sale in the town today.

Jan also returned to work as an occupational therapist with Reading social services and later at Borocourt Hospital until its closure in the mid-Nineties.

Jan enjoyed singing with the Goring Choir and hosting crews for the royal regatta every year.

Her last great project was writing her memoirs, Around The World In 80 Years, which was published last July, after she had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a contributing factor in her death.

Her determination to complete the book in the face of increasing difficulties was a testament to her strength of character.

Jan is greatly missed by her all her family and friends.

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