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The Trial of Norman

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Of Youth and Folly

In the early nineties when I was a little younger and just a tad more carefree, I found myself in a packed beachfront bar on a sizzling hot day in southern Europe. I clearly recall the heady pleasure of that summer vacation vibe with the hovering glamour of the crowd somewhat carrying me away in a flux of joie de vivre.

Cleary all that joy must have radiated as not long into that afternoon a tall, muscular, blonde with just the right amount of careless tussle approached.

He sat down, smiled and said ‘Hello.’ He was a titan of a man: sun kissed from Californian shores like a descendant of Helios who was now seated at my table. He was truly gorgeous, and I was dazzled!

Naturally, introductions followed. ‘Nice to meet you, my name is Norman.’


Instead of luxuriating in the attention this stunning man was offering, spontaneous, intoxicated giggling erupted, and I wasted the rest of the evening trying to persuade him that he had to change his name.

This Adonis could not go through life known as Norman.

My shock and surprise at hearing his name was born out of what I can only describe as parochial ignorance of what a Norman should look like other than Norman Wisdom - my grandmother’s favourite clown - Norman our elderly milkman, or Norman the man-child still living at home with his mother on our street where kids teased the life out of him. Mind you, his mother still lived and breathed unlike the mother of Norman at the Bates Motel.

My exposure to people named Norman made the tag so uncool and old-fashioned that I genuinely felt sorry for my new handsome friend sitting next to me.

These days I know better than to judge in the same way. My daughter is married to a Swede, a Norseman, a ‘Man from the North’, a man whose ancestors plundered Europe and from where the identity of Norman originates.

And since my nineties beach-bar faux pas as I’ve read, travelled, listened and experienced more of life, I have come to greatly admire and respect many Normans that have touched my life and interests.

I’m thinking of Norman Granz, jazz musician; a pioneer of racially integrated bands in a Jim Crow era, Norman Foster and all his beautiful works, the uber-cool literary polymath Norman Mailer (who incidentally chose his moniker, changing it from Nachem Malech Mailer) to Norman G. Finkelstein - American political scientist and passionate advocate for human rights noted for his searing intellect - and finally, the Right-Here-Right-Now-Norman, Mr. Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, who’s dancefloor beats have given me hours of pleasure.

Clearly there are cultural biases and prejudices to certain names that influence what we think (or believe) of the people who carry them before we know the individual. That’s natural. That’s just a tiny part of the imperfect, illogical and inconsistent beings we all are.

So, yes! Norman is a perfect name for a strapping young American to wield as he woos a fair British maiden in a Grecian taverna. It is to my eternal regret, or perhaps more to my amusement, as it does make for a good story over drinks, that I didn’t realise the chic of Norman all those years ago.

Words by Alison Appleton - Images by Jack Hunter and Shahin Khafaji

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