I first met Nick 15 years ago, in my second year at university in Manchester. He houseshared with some other friends of mine, and we soon bonded over a shared love of music (our tastes were not entirely similar, but there was plenty of crossover). Over the next few years, we went to gigs together, shared drunken nights out at the rock clubs of Manchester and played five a side football with no great ability. One of the things I loved about Nick is that he was always so open. Unlike many men, he was always able to talk about feelings, to lay his heart on the line without fear of mockery.
Another thing I admired about Nick is that he would do things rather than just talk about them. He wanted to write about music, so he started a fanzine, A Short Fanzine About Rocking, which he kept going for 13 years and almost 40 issues. When he found bands he loved weren’t playing in Manchester, he decided to put on and promote the gigs himself, regardless of the time and money it might cost him. I was lucky enough to contribute a handful of reviews to most of the issues of the zine, which was the only thing that kept me writing through my twenties, and hence the reason I am still writing now. I always went along to the gigs he put on, regardless of whether I liked or had even heard of the bands, because I wanted to support him. I loved the fact that the gigs were such a family affair, with his little brother Rob in the audience and their mum taking tickets on the door. They always seemed such a close family, the three of them.
When Nick met his wife Jen, they moved just a few minutes walk away from me, and we and few other friends enjoyed many happy evenings and afternoons in the local pubs and beer gardens. Nick, in particular, was happier than I had ever known him. Soon work took Nick and Jen to London, and I moved onto to Brighton, and now Leeds, but we always kept in touch. We’d go the odd Shrewsbury game together, meet up for meals or drinks or day trips to the seaside. We were there for each other’s stag dos and weddings. We’d chat on Facebook about football and music. He was one of those friends you know you’ll never lose touch with, even if you don’t see them that often. Which is one of the reasons the news was such as shock.
Late Sunday evening, I had a message from one of my university friends asking me to contact her urgently, I immediately knew it was bad news, the only question was what and who? She told me she had heard Nick had been killed in a train accident, but the details were sketchy. I went to be bed in tears, but with still a tiny bit of hope that somehow the reports were wrong, that he was injured but still alive, but the next morning bought only the worst news. Nick had died attempting to save his brother who had fallen onto the track at Old Street underground station, when both were hit by a train.
I always knew Nick was brave, because he was prepared to take risky decisions in the hope for a better life, but I never knew just how brave he was until the manner of his death.
I always knew Nick was devoted to the things and people he loved, because he spent thousands of hours and pounds following Shrewsbury Town FC around the country, did everything he could to support his favourite bands, and had so much love for wife and family, but I never knew how deeply devoted he was until yesterday.
I knew Nick inspired people, because he inspired me to keep writing, but I never knew how many people he inspired until I saw all the messages on Facebook and Twitter, from friends and bands and other fanzine writers.
It is customary when a tragedy like this occurs to learn important life lessons from it but, frankly, fuck that. It’s still too soon and I’m still too raw. I want to rage and rail against his death, not accept it. I want Nick not to be gone, and for my Facebook feed to be once again filled with photos of his latest craft beer purchases, and his adventures watching bands and football. I want to stand with him on the terraces of some godforsaken, windswept, half-built, lower league football ground just one last time. Most of all, I want Nick’s wife and brother and mother to not have to deal with this, because no-one should have to, especially them.
I last saw Nick last year, when he was up in Leeds for some festival or another. We spoke of fatherhood, mine impending, his potentially a few years down the line. Now we’ll never know, but I’m pretty sure he would have made a great dad. I’d been in touch with him more recently though, interviewing him by e-mail for a piece I’d been writing on Joy Division and Manchester. The last e-mail I sent to him was on Saturday, the day of the accident, letting him know that of all the people I interviewed, his quote was the one I would be using in the piece because, as always, he had expressed what everyone else had been trying to say, succinctly and beautifully. Whether he ever read it, I don’t know.
On Sunday, when I heard the news, I happened to be wearing my At the Drive-In t-shirt for the first time in years. They had been one of the first bands Nick and I ever saw together, and one of the best gigs I’d ever been to. Just a coincidence of course, but it seemed apt, as it bought back happy memories, but also as the most famous line in their most famous song is “I write to remember”. And that’s why I write this Nick, to remember you by.
Love you Nick.