@bombaylychee on Twitter
Much has been written here about Norman Geras’ politics and the influence he had on people. It’s where I first got to know about him too, but it was in that huge hinterland of his other interests where we got to know one another.
I’d followed Norman on Twitter a couple of years ago, and was fairly astonished that he followed back, then started retweeting me and, as happens in these things, we soon got into an online conversation here and there, almost never about politics, almost always about books and music.
It wasn’t before too long that he proposed we meet up, which we did on an afternoon in November at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. I was visiting my mum, and Norman and Adele had recently moved there from Manchester to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
Norman’s intentions were clear from the start: he produced from his pocket a printed list of the records in his jazz collection, he asked me to look over it, he asked me for my opinion. Norman urged me to get together my own list, which I did and which I shared with him. Norman was a great man for lists, for cataloguing things.
So from an acquaintance online began a friendship based on shared interests. On the occasions when I’d come up to Cambridge to visit my mother I’d ensure I make extra time to drop in on Norman and Adele to catch up for a chat: they were the ones who told me last Christmas to watch Breaking Bad, I was the one who told them to read VS Naipaul; Norman asked me for the name of a good local dentist, I asked him to recommend some Country & Western; I brought them a box of Indian mangoes, they gave me homemade cake and tea.
I was very pleased to be a small part of Norman’s life, online and off: I contributed to his blog with a big bar of soap brought back from a trip to France (number 16 in his list); he asked to feature me in one of his blogger profiles, even though I insisted I didn’t really qualify as my blog was just a bunch of photos from my many trips abroad; we discussed a list of questions for a Normblog interview with Charlie Haden, the great bass player who had become one of his many followers, but Charlie never got back to us.
It was a short friendship that has been ended by his death. I was very fortunate to have known Norman Geras. I will not forget him.