There's a lot of moaners and grouches in the pub. I'm one of them. Some border on misanthropy. We are the regulars who return day after day to complain about every change in light bulb or different angle of pumpclip, yet still return as we know we don’t want to drink anywhere else.
Amongst the malice and hyperbole is one regular who defies the norm and has a smile for every punter and every member of staff. He is universally liked amongst each clique and type of regular.
And - more fool him - he has become one of my very good friends.
The wonder of pubs for many is in the friends they make that transcend the days of social media, video calls and constant "group chats." Me and Colin have each other's numbers but they are rarely used, except for the odd facetious text of encouragement - "You are Two-Nil down already mate."
Mostly we just meet at the bar. First by chance. Then increasingly "by chance." Then it became Thursday club. Then Wednesday was added into the mix too. And of course we are always here Friday. And the odd quick pint on a Monday has been known to turn into five hours of putting the world to rights - or at least his beloved City's back four.
It is never about drinking to excess. It is never about avoiding home. It is about the pub ritual joys of good company in a comfortable location. It is the pub at its best.
I'm not sure I've ever socialised with Colin outside of the pub. I'm not even sure I've ever socialised with him out of the same pub, though maybe we did venture once or twice. We could and would but when you have a bar and a mate you are happy to chat with then you rarely have to change.
And he is too bloomin’ generous. Annoyingly so. I have to fight to even pay for a drink. I'm sure I'm about 20 pints behind now. I don’t think I’ve ever bought the bags of dry roasted.
I could not have asked for a better pub mate.
The very last Thursday club really was by chance but something made me hurry along from shopping to catch that extra hour in the pub. When his son messaged to say that the family were so glad that the last thing he did was to have a couple of pints with some of his best mates in his favourite pub that was enough for me. It broke me. I couldn't even consider going in the following Thursday.
It will never be the same. Of course it won't be. I'd rather be left alone at the bar now. I’d rather be left alone in most bars but never when Colin was in. He had that effect: the rare effect on an insular like me, that chatting with a mate was better than propping up the bar solitary.
As I said to our mutual mate, as we met on the night that the news broke, "Lots of people dislike me, lots of people dislike you, but everybody - EVERYBODY - loved Colin."
They'll need to hire a hall for his funeral, they say, as he touched so many lives. But selfishly all I can think is of his impact on mine and the hole at the bar that is left.
It is a hole that can never be refilled - he was that special a man. Everybody from my mother, to partner, to that annoying fella I can’t stand who comes in the pub on Fridays loved Colin. Everybody.
I'm writing this at the bar on a Thursday. There is no Thursday club this week. There never will be again. But there will always be a pint of line 2 and a packet of dry roasted waiting for my mate anyway.
Colin sponsored a beer for Salford Beer Festival - after only just meeting Jim, only just hearing of the festival and not being asked to. He was just that kind of human. If you are going to the festival then it is the Brass Castle American Brown which will definitely be my first beer. I hope you read this and raise a glass to him too.