Tom died at 2.15 yesterday afternoon. I don't know what to say about that fact, except that I'm sad. Today's Independent carries an obituary by Charles Darwent and a personal appreciation by Tom Sutcliffe; I gather an obituary by Kevin Jackson will be in tomorrow's Guardian. [UPDATE: Kevin's elegant, gentle obituary is here.]
Tom Sutcliffe mentions a weekly column Tom L. wrote purporting to be the diary of the administrator of a regional arts centre: when I was sub-editing on the Independent arts page, "Coales' Notes" - Tom's heteronym was Gordon Coales - was a highlight of my week; Cocklecarrot absurdity merged into real anguish as Gordon's marriage failed, his faith in art waned. Quite early on he wrote to Peter Brooke, just appointed secretary of state for National Heritage:
"As I understand it, you are someone who has previously had little connection with the world of the arts. I would strongly recommend that you keep it that way. The accepted formula for the relationship between government and the arts - 'arm's length' - does not come anywhere near to conveying the very great distance that a wise man should maintain between himself and the creative process. I would suggest then that you confine your activities to closing down theatres and facilitating the export of irreplaceable national treasures to any country that will have them. There will always be a warm welcome for you at the Wormwood Centre should you be in the area, when I hope we will be able to discuss matters of no cultural import whatsoever, such as cardboard, soil types, and the age of steam."
The column ran from some time in 1992 until early 1994, ending before the joke had run out of steam. It would be wonderful if some publisher issued an anthology of Tom's best writing, including Coales' Notes in its entirety; in the meantime, the Independent website carries a fair selection, as well as Tom's criticism. Si monumentum, and all that.