Farewell to My Mate Colin

Posted on April 14, 2020

I was saddened to hear about the passing of my old friend, Colin Norton, yesterday.

I have known Colin for 30 years after meeting him in The Wellington Arms in Baughurst, a pub that my parents went on to run for a few raucous years in the late 90’s. I am not one to indulge in the past, but they were good times. It was a time when pub goers had nicknames. He was called ‘Cottage’ or ‘Cottage Col’.

It was a pub that, when you walked through the door, it had no bias towards class, age or status. Colin was a fundamental contributor to that era, with engaging stories, the ability to send himself up, take the piss and have the piss taken back out of him.

Of course, when you make friendships, you have a common ground. Colin loved cricket (Hampshire and Lancashire) football (Manchester City) and course fishing. In his retirement years he would travel around the counties from Glamorgan to Durham, watching games of cricket non geeks didn’t know were being played.

He also watched second and third team county games and was a self-confessed cricket tragic. I always thought he would have been a great county scout. I remember a few years ago, Colin gushing to me about this ludicrous talent he had seen in a second team match somewhere in Surrey. The best young player he had ever seen, apparently.

It was Ollie Pope. Pope is now, at a tender age, an England regular and indeed, an audacious talent. Colin knew a good player when he saw one. He also took a keen interest in the recent rise of Oakley Cricket Club where I am Chairman. He loved seeing our reports and the growth of our Colts section.

Colin was also a season ticket holder at Manchester City. He would go to every home game, picking up his mother (who still lives in Manchester) along the way. It is wonderful that he and his mother, after years of abject failure, got to see a golden era where their city rivals were knocked off their perch.

What also impressed me about Colin, it’s that despite a successful career in the heart of industries dominated by Tories, he remained a pragmatic socialist. He would always put forward the argument of the oppressed and pursue the truth about the financial corruption in government with regards to donors and tax avoidance crooks. He hated them with a passion.

In my own hour of need when I got divorced in 2008, Colin took me in to his home and allowed my then young children to stay whenever they liked. I demanded I pay him rent and he demanded that I didn’t. He didn’t take sides or have a bad word to say about my ex-wife, he just felt obliged to help.  

Colin also had a cracking sense of humour. He could indulge in jokes that were basic or complex and could dead pan anyone without even knowing it. I can remember once in The Wellington, when a semi regular customer enquired as to why his nickname was ‘Cottage Colin’.

Colin, with a deadpan face, simply said, “Because my name is Colin and I live in a cottage”.

After being told he had inherited his dad’s dodgy ticker, Colin had to have a bypass and was told he would get 10 years out of it. He got 11. During those years he decided he no longer needed to work. Instead, he went fishing, watched hundreds of cricket matches and saw Manchester City in their golden era.

I spoke to him last week. He knew he was dying but he was remarkably upbeat. He had rung me to ask if I could look after all his Wisden annuals and cricket memorabilia. Knowing Colin, I will need to build an extension to put it all in. It was a moment where my bottom lipped wobbled.

I have spoken to his dear friend Steve, and we have vowed that once all this virus stuff is over with, we will get together and give Colin a proper send off and have a pint for him. Not Doom Bar though, he’d be fucking furious.

Cheers Col, it was a pleasure knowing you.    

7 Replies to "Farewell to My Mate Colin"

  • Richard Chivers
    April 14, 2020 (10:38 am)

    Nice tribute Bob. He was obviously a man of discerning taste.

  • Ian Wilkins
    April 14, 2020 (11:06 am)

    I never knew him Bob but from what you’ve written I wish I had.

  • Mark v
    April 14, 2020 (5:42 pm)

    Nice post Bob. Seemed like a really decent bloke.

  • Julie
    April 14, 2020 (5:58 pm)

    He was wonderful, funny, mischievous and kind – he will be much missed. When we worked together our office for a long time thought there was another consultant they had not yet met as Colin and I had to pop off regularly in the middle of difficult issues to “go and ask Timothy” – code for adjourning the discussion to the East India over a pint of Timmy Taylor, which always helped both our thought processes and our tempers! I look forward to raising a pint to him and swapping stories.

  • Catherine Armstrong
    April 16, 2020 (8:48 am)

    A lovely moving tribute. So true, Colin was A CHARACTER of his very own, kind, good-hearted, true to himself and others, a reliable friend with a unique sense of humour. I am missing him loads… and will join with pleasure your get together to send him off the way he would have liked.

  • john roome
    April 18, 2020 (10:55 am)

    I got to know Colin more recently through cricket. I wish I had met him earlier as he was such a nice guy to be around. We used to meet up at the Oval where the day would go so quickly as we would chat away while watching the cricket over several pints. Our views were very similar on so many matters (except our football teams) that there was no end of subject matters to discuss. I loved his jokey emails, his only technology outlet.

    I was lucky to be able to speak to Colin a week before he died. He was remarkably chirpy and upbeat despite knowing that he did not have long to live. I don’t think I would have been the same.

    Colin, it was great knowing you.

    April 19, 2020 (10:39 am)

    What a wonderful farewell to Colin Bob, you got him to a tea. I also got to speak to him before his death and I agree he was his usual stoic self, what a hard thing to hear. Thanks for that and I look forward, if I can make it to the wake, Steve is going to keep me in touch when and where. I will always remember him like you as a very kind and generous person. Good luck with the cricket memorabilia it will take months to look through. Keep safe during this time of lock-down.

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