THE day I met Yogi is stored forever in my memory bank.
Gruff doesn’t do him justice. Not even close. It was around Christmastime in 2013 and he had made an arrangement to meet my husband Alex to discuss the possibility of an autobiography. (It hit the bookshelves the following year, entitled: Yogi Bare: The Life and Times of a Celtic Legend.)
Unsurprisingly, the meeting was to take place in a pub, The Iron Horse, on West Nile Street in the heart of the city.
Yogi, clearly, had business on his mind when we sat down opposite him at a table tucked away in a quiet corner of the busy establishment. I got the distinct feeling I was going to be an unused substitute, my input was as welcome as an ingrowing toenail.
The chat between Yogi and Alex took a couple of hours as the beers arrived and the conversation veered all over the place. By the end of the chat, I was fully aware of how that transparent character in HG Wells’ science fiction literature from another century must have felt.
However, as time progressed, I grew to love spending time with The Bear after he eventually got around to acknowledging my existence.
How many people can say that they have spent three separate week-long holidays on the idyllic little island of Cumbrae, better known by the name of its only town Millport, with Yogi, his missus Theresa and stepson Craig? Mary Gemmell, wife of Tommy, also came along on a couple of occasions.
HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG’S ALL HERE…happy days in a pub in Millport as Alex and I spend some quality time with John Hughes (aka The Yogster), his wife Theresa with Mary Gemmell and Craig standing.
It was a luxury coming downstairs in our massive rented accommodation in a Victorian mansion to see the big man sitting in a recliner, positioned in front of enormous windows and wistfully gazing out at The Firth of Clyde. Occasionally, he even threw a smile in my direction. How lucky was I?
At the end of most evenings, we gathered in the vast living room on the equally-huge sofas and Yogi regaled us with his extraordinary version of Grace. It was a small and select audience and was most enjoyable. What a great crooner that big chap was.
He was larger than life and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
I liked that about him.
The number of times he called me a “cheeky wee bastard” stretched beyond double figures, I can assure you. I think it might have been a term of endearment, maybe even his pet name for me.
Alex and I visited him in hospital shortly before a light went out in our lives.
As we sat on either side of his bedside, Alex attempted to gee him up, reminiscing about his glory days at his beloved Celtic and recalling some of his performances that were seared into memory banks by anyone who had witnessed Yogi in full flight. Alex rattled off some of his memories of his greatest goals that won him a place in the club’s history.
I said to Yogi: “You weren’t really that good, were you? Maybe you should have tried harder.”
My friend, The Yogster, as I liked to term him, was struggling that particular day, but he still managed to summon up enough strength to aim a playful pat in the general direction of my head.
Aware our big pal was tired, we left shortly afterwards. That was to be our last meeting. Yogi passed away two days later.
He is always in my thoughts. I miss him. He was, and always will be, smarter than the average bear.
Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Yogster.