The Guardian ran an appropriately generous obituary of my Open University colleague, Catherine Cooke, who was tragically killed in a road accident recently. Catherine was a remarkable person — larger than life in every sense of the term, with the grand manner and bearing of a dowager duchess and the relentlessness of a steam locomotive. I used to work with her occasionally at OU summer schools and remember thinking once that she was the nearest thing in real life to one of Bertie Wooster’s aunts. Our students really loved her — they responded to her directness and haughty indifference to the petty considerations of life. To them, she looked like a real academic, completely different from the colourless, earnest mediocrities (us) who surrounded her. Like me, she lived in Cambridge — but in her case right in the centre of the town. When I asked her once why she had chosen to live there she replied that she had chosen a house that was exactly midway between the two most important facilities in her life — the nearest university photocopier and the railway station! She was also a great scholar — in the words of Andrew Saint’s obit, her research “transformed understanding of the [Russian] constructivist movement not just in the English-speaking world but in Russia as well, and inspired the generation after perestroika with enthusiasm for its legacy”. It always seems trite to say “we shall miss her” when someone dies, but in Catherine’s case it’s the literal truth. Larger-than-life people leave bigger gaps in our lives. May she rest in peace.