I’d never met him. It had taken ten days to find out he had died. But then you don’t go around checking the people you have only a drifting correspondence with online are still with us.
While we’ve all tried to work out how we are supposed to use Twitter over the last couple of years or so – maybe we’ll never know the answer to that – J.C. (James Connor) was pretty constant, embracing its friendly side. Living halfway between Crouch End and Finsbury Park, he showed how north London and beyond could bond over vaguely shared experiences whatever their age and background, and the clothes they wear. I hadn’t a clue about the fashion house world he tweeted about – he would have recoiled if he saw my shabby suit had we met in real life – and I know little about the life he led, but we found a jokey common ground for our support for Arsenal. It sounds more corny than profound to say, but it’s true that we are all from different worlds while at the same time being from just one.
I ribbed him one day for his outrageous trench coat when the Ham and High newspaper up the road turned one of his tweets into a story last year. There he was, standing in that coat outside a cash-point in Belsize Park where he had given a homeless man a copy of The Great Gatsby. People remember those stories more than the council meetings I cover.
He always replied. A sort of opposite to an internet troll. This teeny-tiny-tiny-teeny relationship online might not have meant much in his life, my life, or to anybody reading the messages, but it was something replicated with hundreds of north Londoners who never met him, jokes and observations shared across Twitter. Cumulatively, these kind of experiences and these kind of people reassure people about the world beyond their screens and keyboards. Many have said his words and blogs helped them love this city a little more.
Better writers than me have already talked of the effect a man they never met had on them without them really realising at the time. Here is a link to one of them.
It is confusing that a man who shared so much with us ended up taking his own life at the age of 24. He left us with a tweeted apology for not seeking help and a quote from Winnie The Pooh, which resonates with every shiver: “There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
His funeral is on Wednesday.
Come on you Gunners, JC. Come on you Gunners.