I met Nick in 2001. I was a trial lawyer in Washington when I fell in love with Rhys and Nick was one of the first people Rhys introduced me to.
Nick was reassuringly a fan of my future husband. He was an incredible asset as a friend, present in the hospital, at weddings and funerals- as Kate said- Nick was really a stickler for being a good friend.
He was generally a real stickler. Nick may have been seduced into the glamorous world of journalism as a youth but he matured into – in my estimation- a great ethical thinker. He brought big thoughts into everyday matters. A practical justice. Should you thank someone for a thank you note? (yes but it had to end there). Could we bring about a society that embodied the true socialist message of Bagpuss? (he went back and forth on this one) Should you ever buy towels that are not white? (no you should not).
When our son was born and I went back to work, I confessed to him how horrible I felt. He told me that his mother had worked, and that some of his warmest memories were sitting on the couch watching TV with his mom after work. It’s good that you work, he said. It’s right. Nick enjoyed finding practical justice.
In the early days of Facebook – 2008 -- he posted a quote attributed to EM Forster.
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
There is a graciousness here and Scottish practicality. Pure Nick. The life that was waiting for him became his art. That’s what he told me. And it was mostly the art of having as much fun as he could get away with in the circumstances. He was still dancing when I met him- he danced with ideas. He would leap and flirt, ditch his partner for a more attractive one, race away only to circle back, striking poses, endlessly engaged and endlessly engaging. He had a lot of dance moves. He had the prism of his legal education. He had his journalist background. He had this natural inclination to art. He had his encyclopedic mind.
Nick was one of the most open-minded people I have known. I mean, I think of myself as quite open-minded but he was a radical dancer in that regard. I remember showing up for a Halloween party in Midhope House dressed as Groucho Marx and he loved it and was sort of prodding me about this male persona and didn’t I love it and did I want to come back next week in the same outfit. Very open-minded. His own ethics created this obligation to truth. No idea was above humour, and no idea was beyond consideration.
To me the subtext of his friendship was a mandate. Find the truth of who you are – that’s what he was saying- look fearlessly and then celebrate it.
He once said to me at a Gaylords party that he didn’t know what he had done to deserve such wonderful friends. I said some lame thing at the time but last night it occurred to me what he had done to deserve such wonderful friends. He had found them wonderful.
To be loved by Nick was to be believed in. He had an intuitive understanding of art coupled with a stockpile of good judgment and the patience to – at least with me – sift through scenes and scenes and scenes and help me find the truth worth noticing, worth dancing with, worth celebrating. He rejoiced in my successes and said never mind when I failed. He saw the best of me and I wanted to be who he could see.
Whatever situation you have in your life, whatever burdens you are carrying, however you are living the life that is waiting for you it should be of some consolation that Nick found you wonderful.
This past Saturday I was at his flat to help clean it out and the first thing I saw - on the floor - printed out in large font - was this quote from Martin Luther King:
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood. The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists. In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!
He loved to dance with those big, magic, show-stopping ideas of justice and peace and to play with the big energies that you must play with to imagine how to get to a secure and liveable world.
The last time I saw Nick really dance with these ideas – that now popularly fall under the heading “human rights” was when David Knott - a true nonconformist - came back from Calais this winter and we met in Nick’s flat. Nick knew in his bones what it was to be vulnerable to the State, and he knew the fragility of humans already and when we heard David’s stories there was a resonance. An understanding of suffering. That understanding gave him a depth of wisdom and empathy. That depth of empathy infused his mind and made the merely clever profound. To me that was the most beautiful dance of all. That’s what human rights were to him, the vision of a possible world. Practical justice.
Nick saw that further shores are reachable from here. The quote I found on the floor starts with hope. The hope of a secure and liveable world. Maybe a way to be inspired by his memory is to keep hope for justice alive. With graciousness and practicality. For hope does come from the same place as jokes, as mischief, as dancing, as Nick.