it was early '79 and the tall figure walked into the eaglet pub on holloway road, and ordered a double vodka and orange.
this was not double vodka and orange territory, and the shadows from the midday sun showed it wasn't double vodka and orange drinking time either.
"cheers john", gil said as he then changed his mind "make that a triple" he instructed.
"before she gets here"
gilson lavis enjoyed his vodka, but probably a little too much for his wife's liking, and her imminent arrival would result in her getting upset at this choice of liquid lunch, so he chose to drink it rapido, before instructing john mcdonagh to replace it with another, "just a double this time john."
john mcdonagh was two years older than me, and played ice hockey with me on the sobell colts team in islington, and his dad bob, rest in peace, owned and ran the irish bar the eaglet, and i spent, or mispent my youth playing pool after hours, listening to irish rebel songs being sung with passion and gusto, and not really knowing whose presence i was drinking in during these troubled times.
i was in the thick of it, but i loved it, my mate nick davidson says 'life is a guestlist', and as the pub locked the doors, and we carried on drinking, i felt like i was on it.
gilson lavis was the drummer for the squeeze, a band that were going places, releasing their second album 'cool for cats' that year.
squeeze, as well as gil on skins had the brilliant lyricists chris difford and glen tillbrook on the team list, as well as the now legendary jools holland.
gil was in the eaglet, his safe haven, to see what the midweek chart positions were for their single of the same name as the album.
squeeze never got the number one slot, but cool for cats was placed at number two that day, heady stuff in this age of pop.
johnny mac was a great hockey player, slight in stature, pasty in complexion, but one of my best mates, and as such, bob let me stay in the pub for those legendary 'lockins,' halcyon days indeed.
"smitty, gil's got us some backstage passes for the rainbow, do you wanna go?"
the answer had three letters not two.
"and i've got a spare if you wanna bring someone" he continued.
"i'll bring moose, thanks mac" i said, knowing that the big guy was a big fan.
the setlist at the rainbow on 17th december started will the beautifully penned 'labelled with love' a melancholic ditty, which highlighted the writing skills of the lennon/macartney'esque difford and tillbrook.
as the concert finished, the mcdonagh's and me and moose hightailed it backstage to meet the boys.
we joked, we drank, and we loved this mad world that we were invited into at this time.
we then went back to the eaglet, drank more, made much merryment, and as i played pool against glenn tilbrook i tried not to miss my shot on the black.
decades passed, and moosey boy was struck down with the disease we all know the name of, and close to his death he chose not to want to be seen as i am sure he didn't want us seeing his slow deterioration before our eyes, but two weeks before he left us, we received a call.
"gary wants to see you guys" julie told me, and she didn't need to say it twice.
ten of his closest friends drove up from all parts of the country to whitley bay, where the big fella lived with his family, and as i saw him my heart sank.
this fucking disease was killing my best friend, and his body wasn't his anymore, as his almost skeletal figure shook our hands.
we entered his house, and sat around trying to break through the awful awkwardness of not knowing what to say.
we did it, as mates do, with humour.
we mocked each other, we were savage in our verbal duelling, and moose wouldn't have had it any other way, and for that time together, the real reason we were there wasn't mentioned.
moose was alive and on fire, his rapier wit on show as he held court and ripped us all to shreds, and we loved it.
his energy though eventually wained, and julie suggested he go upstairs to rest, and it was decided we would all visit him individually to say goodbye.
as i write this i am shaking with emotion, as i take myself back.
how do you say goodbye to someone you know you will never see again?
we hugged, and i asked him to come and see me when he could, but he had to make sure it wasn't just a coincidence, it needed to be something that proved without doubt it was him, he nodded, and as i left the room, we both said "love you like a brother", as we always did.
i carried his coffin into the church less than a fortnight later.
when i decided to name our non profit 'bigmoose' i wanted his spirit to live on, and to build a legacy about this man who was kind, loyal, and liked by everyone who met him, and every talk i do i show his picture and tell his story, and every kind action that bigmoose takes is in his honour, and as such his legacy and name will live on.
as you read this you all know about the last three years, but the future is unknown, and we are now building on the foundations that you have helped us build, and as i mentioned last week we have now got our commercial premises we are going to build our first coffee shop, and hopefully this will become a beacon of good, shining a light on what can be achieved when humans work together to act with kindness.
we hope to build an amazing business that can touch people, help give people hope, and put smiles on faces, and we want you to come on our journey with us, we hope we inspire you and make you smile too.
so this thursday we went to bristol to sign the legal documents with our awesome solicitor jonathan beck, who works in a 40' container in the most cool setting in bristol, and he walked us over to get a coffee and formalise things in a yurt, with the best coffee shop setup ever.
chloe and i sat as the barista delivered our coffees, and i decided to grab a picture for posterity, and as i did the yurt's sound system changed track, and i heard glenn tilbrook start to sing.
this may be just beautiful timing, but as the man sang at this momentous time in the bigmoose story, the power wasn't lost on me and i thought back to my best friend whose name we will always remember, and for you moosey boy as the song says, the past has been bottled, and labelled with love.