It will be followed by a wake at the Buckerell Lodge.
The same could be said about television, but what makes the internet unique is that the news can also come looking for you. Not only through alerts that you may have set up, but in the most unexpected way. And it can knock you down like a blow to the solar plexus.
On Monday evening I logged into Facebook for a game of Candy Crush Saga. There at the top of the news feed was a post from Catherine Fraser (Riley as was):
Another former colleague got in touch to ask if SubScribe was going to run anything and to offer a photograph. The response to the brief obit on the home page suggested that there was an appetite for something more; a page where people could share memories. Facebook is a closed society, this is a public website, so I contacted Catherine's partner Jamie Vittles and he gave the enterprise his blessing, so here it is.
This is a far more personal blog post than anything else you will read on the site and I make no apologies for that. For a start, it will talk throughout about "Catherine", rather than "Riley" or "Fraser", as is the style elsewhere. And there will be a total lack of impartiality. Contributions from others are not merely welcome, but actively sought. So if you want to add your stories, memories, pictures, tributes, please feel free to do so either by email or by using the comment facility at the bottom.
So much for the ground rules...let's get the ball rolling with screen grabs of the Facebook posts that briefly and poignantly tell the story that led to this page:
As that game of Candy Crush was loading the other night, a pop-up box invited me to "help your friends: send lives". Catherine's avatar - Ralph the pug - was at the top of the list.
If only, if only, it were as simple as a click on a name.
Time to hand over to others:
But Catherine was a bright light throughout it all – cheerful, funny, gobby and lovely - and I don’t recall her ever once moaning in circumstances that made moaning the default. And what made her all the more remarkable was that she was teetotal (in those days at least) long after the rest of us had been driven to drink.
She tweeted me last Wednesday with a restaurant recommendation. Foolishly I assumed she was doing ok. She was a lovely woman.
- Matt Kelly
As well as being always a fair and friendly boss she very quickly became a friend, and was godmother to my second child born in 2000. Although we saw less of each other once she moved back to Devon she never forgot either my or my daughter's birthdays. Apart from this year, we each received cards annually.
My abiding memories of Catherine will always be her sense of humour, apparent in much of what she wrote (I used to love reading her Gym Rat column), and often said. I was always in awe of her outward femininity, particularly her long blond hair, which belied her love of motorbikes, cars and football. And I don't think I ever say her happier than when she finally fell pregnant with Dulcie.
Catherine's stoical approach to her cancer treatment was humbling. Less than two weeks ago when updating us on Facebook she seemed to remain upbeat, reminding us that even in the darkest of situations, sparks of light can be found, and that by comparison, many of our complaints are trivial.
And I will remember her warm, open, welcoming face, and smile that always invited you to join in on the positive way she looked on life. Can there be a more uplifting legacy?
- Jennai Cox
Stunningly beautiful person in every single way;
And a beautiful friend I would be proud to say.
Clever and funny with striking looks rolled into one;
Working in The Times sports department was busy and you made it even more
Whether wrapped up in a deadline story or making me laugh;
A mischievous message would ping on my screen, making me check your
composure through the glass.
Like naughty schoolgirls and your controlled sense of humour;
You made me giggle whether it was true, gossip or rumour.
Through different directions in life, we always kept in touch;
Whether meeting, visiting, texting or phone it really meant so much.
Through thick and thin, through my treatment and yours;
We had time for each other between busy life and chores.
My life has been blessed with such an angel in my heart and soul;
But not seeing you will be felt like a poignant burning hole.
But your presence will always be here and in everything around;
On your early next adventure watching Dulcie and Jamie without making a
And though I will be missing you my friend in person so much;
I know your next assignment will keep you close enough to touch.
Goodnight, Sleep tight on your next mission each day;
Knowing you are near and I will see you again one day.
Love You Lots
of humour, taste in music and the need to constantly dye our hair a variety of colours and stick it up in the air. We were probably both at our most rebellious, nihilistic and mischievous back then, therefore, most of my anecdotes will have to remain untold.
However, I have a few tales from 1985. Catherine and I shared a flat in Chelston during the year and had many adventures, here are a few of them:
We went to Glastonbury that year and were keen to see the Pogues, who were the first act on the Pyramid stage on the Friday afternoon. We always had to be in the thick of it so made our way down to the front of the stage. It had been raining all day and was getting pretty muddy. The band came on and we started dancing, Cathy threw some mud at me, I retaliated, Cathy ducked and the
mud landed on the face of the person behind. In a blink of an eye, a full blown mud fight had erupted that continued all the way through New Model Army and well into the evening. We spent the rest of that Festival caked head to toe in mud.
Despite being fearless, as you are at that age, we sometimes came unstuck. We went to see the Ramones at the Lyceum and again, raced to the front. The style of dancing back then was to flail ones arms wildly and to deliberately push into people, Cathy and I were doyens of this particular style, especially at Monroes nightclub on a Monday evening, it was all good humoured and
boisterous, no one really got hurt. Not so the version that the 'London Psychobillies' meted out, Cathy and I had to beat a hasty retreat, battered and bruised.
One of my most enduring memories of that year however, was much less
rock 'n' roll . One evening Catherine and I went to Meadfoot Beach and we sat outside gazing at the stars. We saw a shooting star, then another and another. It was one of those unique moments of complete happiness and contentment.
The following year Cathy moved to London, initially to work in a huge record store in Marble Arch and then for Virgin looking after bands. We stayed in touch, writing to each other I visited, she sent me lots of records of bands she was looking after.
By the early nineties our lives had taken different turns and we lost touch, but the advent of social media meant that we reconnected, then she moved down to Exeter, so we met up on a fairly regular basis. There we were: our grown up selves, no pink hair or piercings, no wild nights out, but still that shared wit and view of the world. I feel privileged to have met Catherine again, but mostly I am glad to have shared my rebellious teenage years with her.
- Nicola Glassbrook
In common with the others, Catherine asked for no special concessions for her gender. She was a sports fan first and foremost, with a regrettable passion for Arsenal, and could more than hold her own in the sometimes boisterous world of Times Sport, never fearing to tell her various editors what she really thought.
Catherine was a serious and talented journalist and a born organizer, swiftly demonstrating the skills that led her to become deputy football editor, motoring correspondent and editor of Bricks&Mortar. But what she really brought to us all was fun - a thought that is all the more heartbreaking now.
When Robert Thomson whimsically decided – in afternoon conference - that what our Wimbledon coverage really needed was a guide for readers to make a DIY sunhat from the sports pages of that day’s paper, there was only one person to whom I could turn. As far as I know, Catherine had no training in origami, but she delivered the hat in time for the first edition and even modelled it (being highly photogenic was another of her many assets).
When I wanted someone to write a piece on what it was like being in the cockpit of a formula one car, it was naturally Catherine who obliged, and her likening the experience to being strapped to a washing machine on heavy cycle still brings a sad smile to my lips even as I write this.
And then there was Krystal Balls. One of my less defensible ideas, Krystal’s job was to predict the outcome of the weekend’s football results according to the stars. Somehow Catherine managed to conceal - just - her contempt for this ludicrous proposition and make it funny.
Whenever lunacy or fun was in the air, Catherine was our first stop. She never complained (or not much anyway) and always delivered.
Her courage and determination during her illness will have come as no surprise to anyone who ever had an argument with her - just about all of us at one time or another, I’d guess. But my abiding memory is of a lovely, clever, talented woman with a will of iron, who could make me laugh at the drop of a DIY hat.
- Keith Blackmore
We ran a 5k race and she convinced me to run the London Marathon with her. Oh, the pain, but I would never have applied without her.
She was there for the laughs and good times and also for the great advice during the tough moments, especially during my IVF treatment. She supported me during the deaths of both of my parents, and we likewise in the death of her beloved Dad. My only consolation in all of this is that she is with him. I just cannot believe I will now be at her funeral, when this was the happiest time of her life. I promise to play a bigger part in Dulcie's life and get to know this amazing girl as she grows into a wonderful woman, like her mother. I feel so numb with grief, like so many others, I will miss her so much.
- Denise Stringer
We had this joke about my supposed latent sexism, which she happily played up to one evening when I realised I hadn't ironed my dress shirt ahead of the football writers' annual dinner. Sourcing an iron from the fashion department, she set up the board in Keith Blackmore's office and got rid of all my creases so I could look smart, while she had the slightly less glamorous job of putting the pages to bed. It sounds a bit Gene Hunt, but she and I were just having a laugh, as we did pretty much every day we worked together.
We launched and edited The Game, under KB's stewardship; she also became a footballing 'Mystic Meg' with a predictions column that carried a byline picture she absolutely HATED (odd, for someone so clearly an absolute stunner); she recounted me with tales of sportsmen who'd tried (unsuccessfully) to chat her up over the years, and when she came to my wedding, just a few days short of giving birth to Dulcie, she was only too happy to pose for an hilarious 'belly-out' picture that summed up her fun-loving personality.
I used to call her my 'work wife', and she was happy enough to allow me to be her 'work husband'. But Catherine wore the trousers. And I love her still
- Jeremy Griffin
She can't be that pretty and know the offside rule, I thought.
I'll drag out the tommy sauce and the salt 'n' pepper and explain very slowly to her, as I have done many a time for my female comrades who attempt to work in sports departments. Should see her off in a month I reckon...
But I'd got it all wrong. She knew her game, she knew her football and, by Christ, she knew how to write.
Catherine went by many names, including Catweasel and Krystal Balls, mainly because she could turn her hand to anything. From making hats, predicting scores on the doors, riding massive motorbikes, smelling petrol from 200 ft and selling houses. Multi-talented, quirky, extremely pretty and my best buddy for over 15 years.
As you have probably read from other tributes, Riley worked on many newspapers and in many departments, but as a friend she was always there and always had your back.
She had some very strange habits too. Watching Catherine eat was a terrifying experience - never go out to a restaurant with her. Things had to be in a certain order, she only drank from a certain cup or glass and God forbid anyone who moved it from her desk. When she lived in London, she had her groceries delivered by some weird posh nosh bloke every Wednesday and always complained loudly that there wasn't any kelp or somesuch as ordered - like you get that by the bucketload in East London?
She swore like a navvy under her breath, which made her sound like Julie Andrews, had some very strange piercings and, for her sins, supported Arsenal.
Her grab of social media was something to behold. Random tweets would appear overnight including 'great to see the bats this evening', 'River looks bare down there' and 'I had Spain'.
No me neither.
She shamed her poor dog Ralph into admitting on Facebook that he ate her underwear and posted images of him in every possible pose I told her he would need therapy.
I could go on and on about her and our amazing friendship, we have laughed till we wet ourselves, literally; we have cried together, lost parents together, lost pets together. We have shared every event that life throws at you. She was always there for her friends.
Riley battled her cancer with such force and determination. After the breast cancer op, she rang me to say she had ordered a pair of 'south-facing boobs', as you would a garden on a new house. 'I told the doctor, I said I want them pert and south whether I'm lying down or standing up'.
Catherine leaves her Mum, her loving partner Jamie and her beloved adored daughter Dulcie who is turning into the spitting image of her mother. Maybe it's time I took my salt and pepper pots down to Devon to run her through the offside rule - but I bet mum has already.
I love you Riley and miss you bud xx
- Sue Connolly
relationship with Catherine for some years while we both worked on The Times sports desk. Like many other people. But for a single week we were intimates and we talked of love.
We were in Tokyo. Both covering the 2002 World Cup. It was the last long week of the tournament. We had both been away from our dear ones too long, and were both running on empty. Neither of us knew anyone else in town. We were stuck with each other.
Days were spent working, obviously. Evenings we spent together.
“If you want to eat anything other than curry you organise it and I’ll come
along happily,” I said. “Otherwise I’ll organise a curry.”
So each evening we met in the bar and then went off for a curry. And talked. And talked. Because there was no one else. This wasn’t a flirtation: it was much more intimate. We both needed to get home far too badly. So we spoke much more candidly than we would normally: talked about the problems and contradictions of our lives and yes, the love and the loves that made them possible.
We became each other’s support network. She listened, she talked, and so did I. We laughed a lot too. On our last evening she ordered a ghastly girly champagne cocktail, so forever after I called the Peach Princess; she called me Curry King. I also sometimes addressed her as Mrs Slocombe, for her love of cats.
The madness of newspaper life can throw up some odd situations.
This was one. It was a week I shall always value, and always be grateful
for. And a person.
- Simon Barnes
This is Storm the kitten, a new addition to the family.
Catherine posted this picture on Dulcie's 11th birthday last month.
I first met her just over two years ago in her office at Exeter City FC, just before running a workshop as part of Jamie's Kickstart Football in the Community programme. I then met her by coincidence, on most days, on our school runs, often twice. Ralph was usually there, our daughters sometimes.
We talked for a few minutes, sometimes longer. I always felt better after meeting her... much better. Catherine was hugely witty, profoundly compassionate, very intelligent and incredibly generous and perceptive. She knew me much better than I know myself. I liked that.
I feel honoured to have known her and will miss her hugely.
Dulcie, Jamie... Catherine loved you so very much... you were everything for her, always will be.
- Gabriella Giannachi
She always believed that property supplements are fundamentally about people and encouraged her team to find out interesting stories about the owners, past and present, and the community in which a house sat. As a new mother, whose daughter Dulcie was born the year before she took on the job, she understood and played to the aspirations of home-builders, focusing on possessions as much as square footage. She also got TV names like Kirstie Allsopp and Kevin McCloud involved.
Catherine was tremendously fun to work with, encouraging her writers but also giving them a lot of free rein. I think it baffled her how much hand-holding we seemed to need when she first took over, since Anne had been quite an autocrat (I say that with great affection for her). Catherine didn't understand why people couldn't just get on and do things rather than wait for orders each step of the way. Weekly team meetings were a bit haphazard, but also more democratic. She asked for ideas, somehow a schedule and flatplan emerged and then we just got on with filling it. She seemed to be more of a colleague than a boss.
Of course, you remember the silly things when a friend dies, such as the time when she was at pains to tell a PR firm that her name was spelled as "Catherine, with a C, Riley". The letter duly arrived addressed to "Catherine Withersea-Riley".
No one who worked with her could ever forget the sneeze, either. A sort of semi-stifled squeak that sounded like an Eastern European tennis player - "wiii-cheee". It was said that even in the pit lane at a grand prix, a Riley "wiii-cheee" could cut through the noise of any engine.
- Patrick Kidd
PS: I have a recollection that Catherine once dated Edward Tudor-Pole, the former punk rocker with Tenpole Tudor who went on to present The Crystal Maze. She was quite a biker chick and think she got to know him through that.
Her main loves were motorsport and football, particularly as an Arsenal season-ticket holder. Promoted to deputy football editor, she helped to launch The Game, the Monday supplement, and reported on the 2002 World Cup from Japan and South Korea. Her normally meticulous organisation let her down when the birth of her daughter, Dulcie, coincided with the climax of the 2004 European championships, an error of timing compounded by the football editor having been allowed to go on honeymoon the same week.
- The Times obituary
For the full obit, please click here (£)
Catherine was a great Facebook "sharer". The cartoon above made me laugh out loud. Here is her response to the challenge to list "seven things you don't know about me", her "religious and political" philosophies, and, finally, a cautionary tale she shared during the election campaign
- I can wiggle my nose like Samantha in Bewitched
- I passed my motorcycle test first time
- I was the product manager for the Liverpool FC single "The Anfield Rap"
- I always wanted to be an astronaut
- The pronunciation of the letter H as "haitch" drives me to distraction
- I can dive backwards
- I have a total fear of frogs and toads
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see someone like you around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.
'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'
'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.
'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he went down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he found himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and dressed in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They played a friendly game of golf and then dined on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it's time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and wave whilst the elevator rises....
The elevator rises and the door opens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
'Now it's time to visit heaven.'
So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'
The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down down to hell.
When the doors open he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.
' I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened? '
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, ' Yesterday we were campaigning... Today you voted."