Coffee with The Big Man

Published on 17 February 2024 at 13:31

I was in a jewellers, just off Carnaby Street, looking for a ring for someone I don't remember, but anyway changed my mind, and left, walking the back way through to Old Compton Street, in Soho, thinking about when I lived and worked on that patch, selling ad space.

Really I was thinking about The Big Man, my first and only boss, at least the only one I ever took seriously, and then I took a left up Frith Street, and there he was, outside Bar Italia, opposite Ronnie Scott's, with coffee, smoking, and he looked up and saw me, and raised his hand to me.

He was legend in my mind, The Big Man moniker an earned mark of respect and affection, and also accurate. I owed him my start, and he had set me straight on so many things, and whenever I don't know what to do, he is there in my head.

Years had gone by since I last saw him, and I hurried over to meet him, and hug, thinking maybe I made him appear, because sometimes that happens, but as I sat down at his table there was an espresso for me, and a sleeve of Kent Lights, as if he knew I would just happen on by.


We talked for hours, and this is the bit I want to pass on, the things he said that changed me, and still do, the bit I remember word for word, even now.

I asked him "Do you remember what you wrote in my leaving card, what did it mean?"

Straight away, he nodded. "I wondered when you would ask me that. I wrote 'Make Your Gig, Kid', and I'll tell you what it means."

He finished the last of his coffee, pushed the cup aside, resting his giant arms on the table, leaning towards me.

"Making Your Gig, whatever the gig, anything that matters to you, means you need to rise and shine, keeping turning up, early, ready, switched on, looking for a good day. 

More than that, it means thinking about the things you do, having clear and simple standards, that you make sure to meet, and then look to raise the bar.

It's about values, not safely typed on a forgotten mission statement, rather lived, there for all to see in how you go about the things you do. It's about having goals, wanting destinations, stepping towards them.

It means being grateful for the gig, giving all you've got, it's about being thankful, and saying so, along with please, and having some kind of real actual love for what you're doing and the people you meet, and acting like it.

It's also about dealing with the tough stuff and daily disasters, and keeping on, taking the defeats, and their lessons, yet still rising, step by step, lightly, unburdened.

It's about seeking out the good, deciding to be relentlessly positive, in words and, more importantly, in actions. Making Your Gig is a whole lot more about the walk than the talk.

Making Your Gig is about giving yourself a long loving look in the eyes every day, about connecting to your inner self and life, about forgiving yourself your failings, celebrating your triumphs, trusting yourself to know the right thing to do, and doing it."

The Big Man paused, thinking, reached into his pocket, came out with a couple of big cigars, Cuban, and handed me one.

"Making Your Gig is mostly, really about love, good coffee and sometimes a big cigar" he stopped, reaching for the lighter across the table, and laughed. "And", he said, with a rare smile "it's about doing it all with a big, fucking smile on your face, because you're glad to be alive and to be who you are!"

He leaned back in his chair, concentrated on lighting his cigar, then handed me the lighter, and looked me at intently, wanting to give me something more.

"At least, that's what Making Your Gig means to me"  he said  "How about you?"


Good fortune, dear reader, see you next Saturday, love you.


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