Sunday, 27 March 2011

Like many people the news of Mark Hanson's death a few weeks
ago has left me feeling numb. I sat at my desk watching the sheer volume of
tributes, reading about the lives he influenced and touched and my thoughts below
have sat on my computer since the Thursday after he died. No words have
seemed enough or quite right. And to be honest, I am not good at putting
personal feelings into a public space. I just haven’t been able to press the send button.

But it seems right to share just a few personal memories of Mark, a colleague for 8 years at Lansons who I worked very closely with and a friend for much longer, as we head to his funeral tomorrow to mourn his loss but also mark his life. So, I dedicate this first personal online post to you Mark. I know that would make you smile.

I first met Mark 13 years ago when I interviewed him fresh from his graduate role at Lloyds. He was a full on Scouser, full of energy and brimming with confidence. He told me he was 'from the right side of Liverpool' and 'I would never regret hiring him'. We spent most of the rest of the interview talking football – perhaps not the best interview technique - but he was right. I loved working with Mark.

Some of the time he could be difficult, stubborn, controversial with colleagues and pushy with clients beyond belief. But those traits also made him willing to push boundaries, embrace change and simply get
things done. In a world where there is just so much ‘talk’, it is important to remember that actions matter so much more. Mark saw that. If Mark said he would deliver he did. He was a natural.

And, as so many people have already commented, he shared his experience and ideas so generously with his teams and invested time and energy in their careers. In addition to teams here at Lansons, so many people who used to work with Mark years ago have contacted us to tell stories of how he
‘took them under his wing’. It’s a phrase repeated time and time again. I think that is just a wonderful legacy in itself.

Like many people my head has been full of questions and I know from experience that it is inevitable to repeatedly ask Why? A death so young and so tragic feels impossible to come to terms with. The shock is so great. But despite all of the questions and sadness because we now know just how ill he was, I really don’t want to edit all of those good memories with that new knowledge. I want to remember him for his brightness, for his questioning and free spirit, his passion and for just simply sharing some great
fun moments which make working life so much better. I have such fond memories of Mark – or ‘Marky Mark’ as many of us called him. So here goes. Just a few of my memories – or the ones that can go in writing anyway….

- Monday morning football banter. I had a particularly long good patch as a Gooner in the late 90s until around 2005 and Mark really did have a raw deal but took it with typical humour and as only true football fans know how

- Lansons karaoke evenings in the early days and his so serious renditions of ‘Three Lions’ arms linked round our shoulders. The rest of us were laughing but Mark was very poker faced. Singing to England was serious stuff

- My wedding. He was just so legless…well we all were

- His terrible one-liners at Christmas parties in the early days. He obviously got better and won Clare’s heart

- His turn of phrase, raised eyebrows and ‘Lauuuuura’ for anything he didn’t quite agree with or just thought was amusing

- ‘Cash is King’ - he never wanted a birthday present from his team just cash. The same for his leaving present. He was refreshingly straight about those type of things. However, we finally persuaded him to have something more sentimental and those who know him well will have noted his chunky silver rings that he liked to wear. He was a softie at heart….

- He made an excellent ‘cup of builders’. I would have gone thirsty for the entire 8 years without Mark’s team brews 

- Advising on his Christmas gift list. Typically hopeless

- His desk clear outs. His paper mountains were truly unique

- His meeting scribbles – notes would be too grand a description

- Toastgate.  Toasters were banned in the office for literally years - yes years - because of Mark

And of course all his fantastic work…….and some of our joint ‘disasters’ too.

As all the tributes have shown, he obviously went on to great things in his professional life and followed his passion in the political world. But, despite all of his achievements, he always seems to be searching
for something else. I hope that he can now see that he had actually achieved a great deal. I think it is amazing how much drive, energy and focus he had against what we now know he was battling. 

So, as we head to his funeral, my thoughts are with his amazing wife Clare and his family as they try to move forward. Having lost a brother at 32, I know the journey is a long one but I hope that there is some solace both now and in the future in how many people thought so fondly of him. And, for Mark, I hope you
have found peace at last.  I will miss you greatly.