OVER the years I've finally come to an uneasy peace with where I am now in the world.

Both literally and mentally. Apart from the odd cry from the wilderness, the constant nagging sense of lack of purpose, I'm settled. More or less.

And then, as seems to be happening increasingly frequently, another old friend and colleague dies. Another chunk of the wall around the inner house of my being falls off to crumble into dust, leaving me just a little more exposed.

And stuck here with no direct flights to Scotland, no carer for a still semi-doubly-incontinent pup, I realise just how far, far away I am from all that figured so hugely in my life.

I can't be at the funeral of the "legendary" Gordon Airs, former chief reporter of the Daily Record. Won't be back with my tribe at the undoubtedly raucous reception afterwards; will take no part in the topping of stories; will make no contribution to the often drunken escapades that made our lives a messy, rip-roaring, glorious daily adventure.

Glorious for us. Rarely for the casualties we left behind - the wives, the husbands, the lovers, and yes, sometimes the children.

And also not glorious for those who fell over the edge and into senselessly early alcoholic death.

The job came first. Always came first.

We could leave the house on a Monday morning and usually not return for days.

Armed with "drinking vouchers" - advance expenses - and on the trail of a story, we were uncontactable and deaf, dumb and blind to all but the news editor and the story. And sometimes even to the news editor - but never the story.

Porridge as Gordon was called, nicknamed after a night spent in jail for refusing to reveal his source during a Tartan Army trial, was the leader of our quarrelsome, competitive rabble.

An undoubted ladies' man, handsome, if somewhat small, although he disputed that; he mixed charm with foot-stamping, loose change jangling, puce-faced rage when arguing a principle or a point.

When not in the thick of the argument, he was separating the rest of us, as point-scoring erupted into brawls and fist fights.

Often he'd caused them and stepped back smiling while sipping his whisky and chain-smoking his Gold Flake.

Yet, until his death he was still following our lives; visiting and helping those down on their luck, checking in on the ones living unhappily alone, dragging the now reclusive out for a drink.

In working life he'd pushed some into rehab, others out of nasty relationships, and did it quietly without fanfare. Although reluctant to have executive responsibilities, he held hard to his team duties ... For all of his life.

But, even in denied old age, he was still Mr Angry; still fermenting over news issues he no longer had a part in, still forever seeking stories and angles. And still following the ladies in his ceaseless travels in his beloved baby blue Morgan.

Why do I tell you all this about him and us? Possibly even reinforce the prevalent belief that all journalists are lying, phone-tapping, salacious, drunken scum?

Because I can and because we're not. So, indulge me.

Unless of a certain age, it's hard to imagine a time when newspapers daily sold in their millions. When to work in Glasgow was to work in the world's toughest and most competitive newspaper city.

We were paid Fleet Street rates and more to keep us there and each paper employed a vast team of committed, dedicated, passionate reporters and writers.

Nobody fell into the job for lack of something better to do. We truly believed we had a vocation to give voice to the "little man"; to fight injustice; to expose those who preyed in all senses upon the weak and to give no quarter when we found them.

Owners and editors gave us both the money and the time to track our quarry. As meticulous as detectives, as beguiling as conmen, as tenacious as Jack Russells cornering a rat, we never gave up unless the story proved untrue.

Editors may have had a vague budget but believed in busting it. Owners had deep pockets and the accrued revenues from a news-hungry public helped continue to fill them.

More importantly they also believed in what they were doing.

A newspaper was more than a product and more than an accountant's set of figures. It was a living thing, and the paper a family 'took,' set in stone their beliefs and values. And we, the hacks, were proud to produce the stories that gave each paper its unique voice. If we played as hard as we worked, well why not? It was our life, never just a job.

Reporters may no longer have the freedom we had but that doesn't make them less passionate, less determined to seek the truth.

The medium may have changed but the messengers haven't.

Anyway, the great sadness of this is I'll never again see the Morgan, Saltire waving, coming over the hill to LM with Mr Angry behind the wheel.

His ban - for hitting on my neighbour and frightening the expats - would have ended next month. RIP Gairs.