It was Thursday 12th March, a fortnight before things got serious on the coronavirus front, when I was invited to the press launch of Q Shoreditch: a new pool club cum cocktail bar in a swish casino-style setting on East London's Tabernacle Street, as far removed as can be from the dingy snooker clubs I'm better used to.
I readily accepted the invite, being a life-long cuesports fan (blogged a few years ago about meeting Ronnie O'Sullivan, and tweeted only last week my Crucible ticket for the cancelled World Championship, and having to settle instead for a BBC rerun of an old Steve Davis match.)
Handily for me I was already in town that afternoon for a Puressential press conference at The Ivy (eat your heart out Alan Partridge) so was able to arrive early doors for the Shoreditch opening, which I also made sure of knowing a certain former six-time World Championship snooker finalist (and my mum's favourite ever player) was in attendance for the evening.
As luck would have it, Jimmy was just loitering about at that early point, and the PR man Antoni Heatley asked me if I'd like a game of pool with him. It was an offer I inwardly laughed loudly at: would I ever want to shoot some pool with one of the all-time legends of snooker - the 'People's Champion' no less - having only expected a brief meet and greet with him at best. "That'd be amazing," I replied, in the knowledge that I was at that point sober and decent with a cue when not intoxicated, and that pool is a great leveller - if the balls go your way and you can hold it together, you can beat anyone. Minutes later Jimmy duly arrived with a handshake and smile as I racked up the balls at the corner table I'd chosen.
Further luck was on my side in that my new girlfriend Margo had also just arrived after running a bit late, so would be my mobile photographer for the game, although it quickly emerged she didn't have a clue who Jimmy was while I gave her the briefest of briefs as to what was happening.
I will now provide a blow-by-blow pictorial account of exactly how that game transpired, for the benefit of anyone who might find themselves playing Jimmy or another pro of his ilk any time in the future...
Link to Facebook gallery for mobile phone visitors, as slideshow appearing only on desktop version annoyingly
When that black sank I don't think I've felt that ecstatic since maybe the Pointless win in 2015, or scoring with my first touch for my new Sunday league team ten years before that. What was the cherry on the cake was when Margo and I left the place a few hours later, several cocktails down and preferring somewhere a bit quieter, we stopped and peered back through the window at Jimmy still playing with the umpteenth journo as a gathered drunken crowd watched on. While his opponent was taking his next shot, Jimmy chose that moment to glance up and spotted us standing there over a cigarette, looking fondly his way. "You beat me" he mouthed back, pointing his finger and returning the smile, before turning back to his game.
I floated on air for the rest of that week, despite everything in the world going to shit, and will unashamedly be dining out on it for a good while to come. Have considered putting it in my CV under the Interests/Achievements section. As I reply to people who don't believe me ("He probably let you win", "Are you sure it wasn't a lookalike?" etc) I probably wouldn't believe them if they'd told me the same, because it doesn't make sense that a snooker icon who can rattle off a 147 on a full-size table can be beaten - while clearly trying not to be - by a random dabbler on a pub pool setup, and not via him prematurely sinking the black.
So thank you Q Shoreditch for bagging the legend for your venue launch, and PR don Antoni Heatley for setting up the game, and Margo for the impressively composed snaps and subtle distraction tactics.
Once the Covid-19 lockdown is finally over it's going to become my mission to find and beat another snooker player at pool, to prove to myself and others that it wasn't a fluke. Until then, I'm going to find and dust off my old Amiga in the attic for a rematch on 'Whirlwind Snooker' - a 1991 80% 'Hit' in Amiga Power magazine no less.
*Q Shoreditch at McQueen, 55-61 Tabernacle St, London EC2A 4AA. www.mcqueen-shoreditch.co.uk