A few short weeks before life was snatched away from her, Lyra McKee messaged me to say that she would be moving up to Derry - a new woman had entered her life and that's all there was to it is close enough to how she pithily phrased it. Our promised drinking session would have to be put on hold.
My introduction to Lyra came via John Coulter about seven or eight years back. I met her soon after in Belfast. It was the beginning of a solid friendship and I would often slag her that she was my little boozing buddy as both of us had sampled the delights of alcohol on offer in Belfast, Dublin and Drogheda. Lyra would come down to the house, spend an hour or two chatting and then off to The Pheasant, a local within walking distance from our home. Pinting was how she put our mutual indulgence in the pleasures of the bevvy.
The one time we never made it to the bar was the morning she arrived with a close friend. The companion had previously lost a member of her family to the political violence of the IRA. None of us had any idea as we sat there laughing and bantering that another needless death was in the making.
Lyra was bubbly and a pest in the nicest way possible. If something bugged her it didn't matter what time of the night or day it happened to be she was onto us, whether eager to satisfy the curiosity fuelling her restless mind, or simply on the hunt for material for the Muckraker, or details for the book she was working on. At times she worried needlessly, at others not so needlessly. When she worried, she took it upon herself to share it with us so that we would get no rest either. That was her - witty, bubbly and endlessly curious.
Leona O'Neill, writing about the night in Derry when Lyra died, observed, "Threats and hostility have become a part of the fabric of being a journalist in Northern Ireland, sadly."
Usually this is expected to come from outside the journalistic community. In Lyra's case it came from within. One persistent fear that burrowed deep within her peace of mind was the bullying she experienced at the hands of a NUJ colleague. Lyra felt that the motive behind the malign attention she was getting was jealously. We advised her to raise it with the NUJ. Such was the level of intimidation she took it to the PSNI instead, who did nothing. Her partner raised the matter at a recent NUJ conference in Dublin where she spoke on the topic of hate speech and slammed the abuse Lyra was subjected to from a fellow member of the NUJ.
Not that this should be allowed to detract from the threat from without. In a bid to strangle Leona O'Neill's description of the events she witnessed on the night of Lyra's death, a hate campaign was launched against her.
The day after I escaped death in a shooting and had witnessed a colleague being murdered, I was faced with hundreds of messages calling for me to be attacked, stabbed, arrested, set on fire, that my children would burn in Hell, that I was a liar, and that I made up what happened for personal gain.
The fascistic threats failed to work. Leona O'Neill's tribute to Lyra McKee was that she continued writing about the type of political culture that Lyra McKee stepped into on the night she died.
Late night calls from a Lively Lyra were nothing new. A late night call to tell us her life had been snuffed out was a different matter, surreal as it disorganised the mind. I queried the authenticity of the news, saying to my wife that this doesn't happen now and definitely not to Lyra. Wrong on both counts, I was confrotned with death coming to Lyra McKee at 29. The intent to kill her was absent but that is hardly mitigation. The intent to kill someone was very much present on the night she died. The people firing the guns set out to kill and succeeded. To whom their malice transferred is a secondary matter.
What makes Lyra McKee's death all the more futile is that some of the people involved in senior levels of leadership in the New IRA were involved in the process of decommissioning Provisional IRA weapons. Disarming a competent IRA and arming an incompetent IRA, selling out the Provisional IRA and buying into the New IRA - none of it computes in its defiance of all political logic.
Nor had political logic any role in the death of Lyra McKee. The violence of psychological self-gratification robbed us of this warm woman, this engaging friend, this committed journalist, whose sole reason for being on a Derry street was to keep the rest of us better informed.
In the desolation of her grave rather than the comfort of her home on Christmas Day, the wilful, wanton futility of it all bites with a winter chill.