LIZ JONES DIARY: In which I remember my brother

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LIZ JONES DIARY: In which I remember my brother

  • Liz Jones remembers her brother Nick who died 11 years ago
  • She reveals he was extremely shy and didn’t tell anyone when he got married
  • He hoped and dreamed of becoming a rock star, but they died before him

Late Saturday night I received a WhatsApp message.

‘Hello Liz. Fifty years ago today your brother Nick played one of the first Cockney Rebel shows at the Roundhouse. Time passes. Be well, Steve H.’

Nick has been dead for 11 years. He would have been in his early twenties when he played that gig in Camden. Steve Harley once told me that my brother had a nickname in the band: Shoe Gazer. Because he played guitar on stage without ever looking up at the audience. Nick was terribly shy. He didn’t even tell anyone when he got married. He became a recluse in his later years.

ILLUSTRATION: Tom Peake at Meiklejohn. Liz Jones remembers her brother Nick, who died 11 years ago. She reveals he was extremely shy and didn’t tell anyone when he got married

He wanted to be a writer but couldn’t publish anything. He was too bellicose to stay long in a gang; at his funeral, a friend who first met Nick at the University of Essex described him as “mad, angry but extremely articulate”. No wonder my brother got kicked out.

As a child, I dreaded Sunday lunch. My mother would have been in the kitchen for hours, her face red from the steam (I was always sent to the vegetable garden to pick leaves for the mint sauce), but the meal she slaved for hours was still ruined, as Nick and my other two brothers were arguing with my dad. As a man who had fought the Nazis, always smartly dressed in pressed chinos, pressed Viyella shirt, polka dot tie, his sons, whom he called long-haired loafers, enraged him. .

Nick wanted to be a writer but couldn’t publish anything

My brothers were often mean to me too. Angry if I touched the reels of their tape recorders or if I didn’t know the difference between Bob Dylan and Donovan, although in a rare moment of selflessness, given that he was obsessed with Bach, Nick bought me my first LP: The Monkees. It only softened with age. When I lived in a slum in Brixton and woke up to find someone had tried to slam a front window open, Nick slept on the floor every night in case they came back. At his funeral, a former member of the band told me that when our father died, Nick sold his last guitar so he could help with the cost of the coffin.

JONES MOANS… WHAT LIZ HATES THIS WEEK

  • People who claim to have OCD, but when you get in their car, you have to wait for hours while they move coffee mugs, sweaters, Oreo wrappers, McDonald’s cartons, and carrier bags from the seat.
  • People who borrow my car don’t put the seat back the way it was.
  • TV news readers who say, “It’s now exactly 6:18 p.m.” We know.
  • Twitter.

Nick was so handsome that he had a succession of beautiful girlfriends who inevitably lived in the mansions of Hampstead. Every time a relationship broke down, he was homeless again. He never had children, but was close to our nephew, who bears his name. He wrote long, amusing letters to Little Nick, who dreamed of being a director when he grew up. He died at age 21, before he could.

We only hear from successful people. You can’t read an unreleased manuscript (I still have Nick’s novel in my closet) or hear an unreleased record. I have been buoyed up for the past ten years by the hope of one day getting there. But more often than all these stories, you hear that it took years to get Mamma Mia! from the ground is the fact that nothing happens and you die to be buried, like Nick, in a cardboard coffin. He hoped and dreamed of becoming a rock star, but they died long before him. No one makes a pilgrimage to my brother’s grave in an Essex eco cemetery.

Most of the writers I started with fell by the wayside: they became moms, or retrained as reiki healers or breathwork gurus or relationship counselors. Nick never tried to do anything other than music and writing; he wouldn’t even teach, because he felt it was beneath him.

I have an appointment with another publisher on Tuesday about my novel. I’m going to give it one last nudge. I know she wants to sweeten the sex and the ending, and as someone who is precious even if an ellipse is turned into a point, I will swallow my pride and do the right thing. I decided to dedicate the book to my brother. At least he won’t be completely forgotten.

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