“Wanna free my mind, wanna be outside
Wanna be alive, pray I wake up again. Oh

Home, gotta get back home
Home is where I wanna be with you
I know, I don’t know what else I know
How I walk through fire to get to you”

Shariff-Farr/ Caesar/ Nahome

Every morning, I get a note from the Universe. This is not a spiritual,religious, nor miraculous occurrence. I signed up to get one from a website called which is a Dr.Feelgood self-help/manifesting malarkey/bookselling/conference attending thing, none of which I endorse, use, or suggest to anyone. I just get the note from the Universe every morning. I either introduced my friends Dermot, and Richard to it, or one of them introduced it to me and I suggested to the other one, or the other way around.

As I said, it’s neither spiritual, religious, nor miraculous…and yet sometimes…..

The note I got this morning was this :

“In the end, Paul, all you have are memories, and usually the ones you have with friends are the ones you treasure most.

I got you, babe –

  The Universe”

Last Saturday my Soulmate and I went to see the RTE Concert Orchestra perform the songs of David Bowie with some of our oldest best friends Micky, Helena, Paula, and Pat, and two of our newest best friends Gráinne and Karl.

“The David Bowie you met on the bus to Galway ?”

Yes. ( See P.S.)

We went for dinner beforehand, everyone knew my Soulmate and I, Micky and Helena had memories of meeting Paula at our wedding, and Karl had met Paula with me for coffee at the Chester Beatty before, but we had not met as this unique group before. The casual observer would not have been aware of this after 15 minutes or so. We regaled each other with stories old and new, tried delicious new wines, got a free Guinness, and fought over chips.

The concert itself was divine ! It was curated by Gerry Leonard, a famous Irish session guitarist who played on several albums with Bowie, and he accompanied the orchestra with his friends and fellow Bowie alumni Mark Plati and Sterling Campbell. I’d bought the tickets thinking it would be a light fotted trip through Bowies greatest hits, similar to the Radiohead Candlelight concert we’d been at a year or so ago where the Avoca String Quartet played instrumental versions of Radiohead classics.

This was different.

Gerry introduced each song with a short anecdote about the recording, and a guest singer for each track. I found the first half of the concert quite emotional as Gerry selected songs from Bowie’s penultimate album which he’d played on, especially ‘Where Are We Now’, which caused tears…and a slightly runny nose.

I was just getting over that happy sadness when he launched into ‘Five Years’. I have always loved this song, and loved it more after Bowie performed it live with Arcade Fire , and it took on an extra resonance when I told people I have stage 4 cancer, and because their clinical knowledge was garnered from US medical dramas , they though I have 5 years, so I found the song heartwarming and ironic.

They played more of the standard hits in the second half, but also threw in B-sides such as Bewley Brothers which was a glorious 12 minutes of otherworldly delight.

Then we walked to Capel St. and had a few pints while Helena sang  a few Amy Winehouse songs with the band there and we chatted about weightlifting, mutual friends, and chips.

Paula and Pat headed off , and something happened which has never happened to me in my life, Paula came back and remonstrated with me for NOT taking enough photos of us and demanding we take one there and then.

We said goodbye to Karl and Gráinne and got a taxi back to Micky and Helena’s where Micky and I had a couple more beers while discussing Kneecap, Bohemians FC, flea markets, and old friends.

I went to sleep listening to the gentle murmurs of my Soulmate and David Bowie singing Five Years

“Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got”

A few days later I was back up in Dublin , ferrying my friend , Tiny Ray, to an eye operation. I dropped him off and then went to meet my second favouritest poet ever, Colm Keegan, for a coffee at Heuston Station. I told him that I hadn’t been there in years, but that at a time I’d be there every Saturday evening, either heading to Galway to meet my Soulmate who was working there as a hair stylist, or to meet her as she visited me in Dublin, where I was working in a men’s fashion emporium called Hairy Legs.

Colm said that sounds and smells can evoke memories.

He asked what was I doing in Dublin back then, and I told him about my ‘career’ in fashion and how I was friendly with the crew in the shop Banana Republic, and we’d go drinking together on the Saturdays when I’d be meeting Eileen. I’d have a few drinks with them and then at 8.15pm make my excuses and say that I was heading to Heuston to meet my girlfriend. One of the girls told me years later that they were all convinced that I was gay and too shy to tell them and that Eileen was a figment of my imagination.

Colm and I chatted about world conquering ideas, and then I headed back to wait for Tiny Ray.

I daydreamed a bit.

When I worked in Dublin I lived with Micky’s brother Paul and some of his fellow student doctors on Beaumont Rd. and then later on Belvedere Road. On the night they finished their exams we went out for drinks in The Swan , then several other places , before ending up in Strings nightclub/wine bar/den of iniquity , on Leeson St. This was the late 80’s early 90’s when the licensing laws shut everywhere at midnight, except discos which could serve alcohol until 1.00am, or these wine bars which were supposed to serve food and could serve wine under a restaurant license until whenever they felt like it.

Strings was a relatively exclusive one then, and we only got in because the owner’s brother was also studying in the Royal College of Surgeons. Paul and I met his future wife and her friend that night…although Paul didn’t know it at the time as he was chatting up her friend Michelle all night. The next day was the FA Cup semi-final, and we were invited to some of Paul’s friends’ house in the leafy suburbs of South Dublin for a barbeque. This was a huge house with a large garden. The house was full of bins of ice and cans and bottles of beer. They’d hired in caterers to cook the food. We dozed through the match, as we’d only left Strings at 4.00am that morning and then someone decided that we’d all head to the College’s sports fields nearby and play a match among ourselves. So we did.

When we got back we ate the food outside in the garden in glorious sunshine and then someone started making Pina Coladas and the rest is a very merry blur…

I hadn’t thought of that weekend from thirty odd years ago in….thirty odd years.

After another hour or so the daycare ward rang to say that Tiny Ray was ready to be collected, but that I had to come into the hospital to collect him. I rang Ray to say I’d parked the car and was making my way in, and a few minutes later I could hear him saying to a nurse “Yes. He says he’s here now.” And then he appeared at the bottom of the corridor flanked by two nurses escorting his out. I waved. One nurse asked “Is that him ?” and Ray said yes.

I shouted down the corridor “ Did the vasectomy go well ?”

One of the nurses gave me the thumbs up sign.

We treated ourselves to a 5 Guys and drove home talking about the Superbowl, McGinley’s Bus, Payday bars, vodka sales, Mr.McGeogh our old teacher, Coriolanus, the Barkley Fall Classic, and generally how lucky we are.

“In the end, Paul, all you have are memories, and usually the ones you have with friends are the ones you treasure most.

I got you, babe –

  The Universe”



P.S. For the other Paul, this is Bakar’s wonderful ‘Alive

P.P.S. This is ‘Bowie On The Bus’, written in January 2016

I’m still surprised at how much the passing of David Bowie has coloured my week. I remember arguing with my school friend , Milo Murray, way back in 1982, on the merits of Bowies latest album, Scary Monsters & Super Creeps, Milo was going through his ‘Eagles’ phase at the time (he’s still stuck there)  and it was a challenge to get him to listen to anything later that 1975. I remember buying two compilation albums , Changes One Bowie, and ….you guessed it, Changes Two Bowie for £5 from Cyril Boylan, smoker of John Player Black and class ‘Dude’. And I remember wearing out the ‘Lets Dance’ album and two sets of needles on the record player.

And I especially remember a bus journey to Galway in 1989…….

In 1989 the only way for a madly besotted boy without a car, or horse, to get to Galway was by the CIE bus. The journey took between 3 and 4 hours depending on whether you got the Express or the regular service and whether the cattle mart  was taking place in Granard. The bus, even the express, stopped in Cavan, Longford and Athlone on the way for periods of 10 to 20 minutes each time , waiting for connecting services. It was a long journey.

My Soulmate was working in Galway in the cutting edge Ken Wakefield Hair Emporium and as often as I could I’d travel by bus to see her for the weekend. The only thing worse than the bus journey there was the broken hearted journey home on the Sunday night, which seemed to take even longer.

I was also a notoriously bad traveller. Even today if we’re travelling anywhere I have to drive, I can get motion sickness on an escalator. This meant that reading was not an option on the bus, so to pass the time I’d borrow my brother’s Sony Walkman and listen to compilation tapes the whole way over.

The Maxell C60 cassette was the tape of choice. It wouldn’t spool out too often, it was the right length, the C90 had a habit of draining the batteries on the Walkman which made Lou Reed sound even more mournful than normal, and the cover could be used to write out your track list.

This compilation was 60 minutes exactly :

The Blades – Downmarket

The  Pogues – A Pair Of Brown Eyes

David Bowie – Scary Monsters & Super Creeps

Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Everything But The Girl – I don’t want to talk about it

New Order – Thieves Like Us

Sinead O’Connor – Troy

The Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven

David Bowie – China Girl

Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster

Van Morrison – Coney Island

David Bowie & Queen – Under Pressure

The Waterboys – Trumpets

Simple Minds – Let It All Come Down

The Police – Can’t Stand Losing You

On this particular occasion, it was around HallowE’en ’89 ,I was on the bus sitting over a wheel arch , against the window , looking out at the belting rain as we meandered out of Cavan.  I was listening to the Walkman on my headphones with my rucksack and the cassette box  in the empty seat beside me.

We must have hit a pothole , as I woke with a jolt to discover that someone was sitting next to me with my rucksack on their knee and had taken the inlay card out of the cassette box and was looking through the listing with a red pen in his hand and laughing quietly to himself.

I grabbed the bag and looked at him indignantly. He smiled a crooked smile and said “Sorry mate, I didn’t want to wake you and then I couldn’t help myself. Did you put this together yourself ?”

“Yes I did “ I snapped, waiting for some snarky comment, but he simply  said “Cool” in an English accent.

He was wearing a long black tweed coat with the collar up, a flat black peaked cap, he had a decent beard and most noticeably he had a patch over his left eye. His right eye was a startling other-worldly blue. He held out his hand , “David Jones, friends call me Patch, pleased to meet you.”

“My name’s Paul, pleased to meet you too, Patch.”

That’s some eclectic mix you have there Paul.”

He seemed old to me, not just in the way that everyone over 30 seems ‘old’ to everyone under 30, but maybe because of the coat, hat and eye patch, so I assumed that he wouldn’t have heard of most of the bands.

“Do you know any of them ?”

He smiled and said “I know all of them”.

“Really ? Even ‘The Blades ‘ ?” The Blades were fading from view here and I wasn’t sure if they’d ever released any singles in England ,and  I couldn’t for a second imagine my Dad knowing who they were.

“Yes, but I don’t think they were ever the same after Pat Larkin left.”

I was impressed.  “Which do you like the best ?” I asked .

“Lou Reed, The Pixies, The Pogues and Sinead.”

“I thought you’d have picked Van Morrison.”

“Because I’m old?” he replied mock indignantly.

“No, I meant……..well…yes.”

“Never judge a book by it’s cover, my young man. And in any case how can you really listen to anyone that’s recorded with Cliff Richard ? “

He put his hand inside his coat and took out a packet of Marlboro’ and offered me one. “You’re not allowed to smoke on the buses anymore. They changed the law last year.”

“Live a little” he smiled ”If anyone says anything  we’ll say we’re tourists……in German.”

I laughed as I took one.

“Have you seen any of these bands live ?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve seen them all , except Lou Reed, Stiff Little Fingers and David Bowie.”

“That’s very impressive. Why haven’t you seen those three ?”

“Well, Lou Reed isn’t touring and hasn’t toured since I was 7, so I haven’t had the chance and  Stiff Little Fingers, I’d be afraid of getting my head handed to me.”

“And David Bowie, you’ve three of his songs on this tape ? How come you haven’t seen him ?”

“I don’t want to actually see him, ever.”

“Why ??”

“Well, some people say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, that they will never measure up, that they couldn’t possibly match the ideal that you have created around them. I don’t want to burst that bubble. Have you seen any of them live?

“I’ve seen them all except Sinead O’Connor, but I will see her soon. I know what you mean, but then sometimes they could be even greater than you could have wished.”

“Wow. Who did you see that was even greater then you could have hoped ?”

“John Lennon, genius.”

“When did you see The Beatles ?”

“I didn’t , just him in 1975 in New York. One of a kind.”

“Were you close to the stage ?”

“I didn’t actually see him in concert, I met him, person to person, same as you and me….just not on a bus….in……where are we now ?”

“Athlone. Get out of town ! You met John Lennon ??”

“Why not ? You will live a long time, travel far and meet and help people throughout your life without even realising it . Everyone does.”

“ Wow, John Lennon ? What did you talk about ?”

“Music , just like us. In fact we ended up writing a song, but it didn’t get very far.”

I looked at him again. It was that bright blue eye, the crooked teeth. It couldn’t be ? Could it ? David Bowie wrote “Fame” with John Lennon in the Seventies.

I was about to ask him when he said “So , my young friend where are we off to ?”

“Galway, to see my girlfriend.”

“Serious ?”


“Lucky guy. If that’s true, cherish it. Not everyone gets that chance. I’ll be getting off at the next stop, can I ask you one more thing ?”

Sure, what ?

“You have three Bowie songs on there, he’s your hero. So what did you think of Tin Machine ?”

“ I only liked two of their songs ‘Working Class Hero” and “If There Is Something”.”

“They’re both cover versions ! One’s by Lennon, the other’s Roxy Music.”

“Exactly !”

He seemed a little disgruntled, but only for a moment. He smiled again and said

 “ If you were here with your hero right now what would you love to ask him ?”

“I’d ask him if there a whole story in his head about “The Wild Eyed Boy From Free Cloud” ? And if I wrote a whole story about it would he write another song for it ?”

“ That’s a good question. I’m sure he’d say yes.”

He turned and lifted up his patch and winked with his large brown eye.

The bus hit another pothole and I woke to find the bus pulling into Galway station. The seat beside me was empty except for my rucksack and the cassette box sitting on top with the inlay card poking out of it. I lazily picked it up and saw that someone had ‘corrected’ my track listing in red pen ! There were approving ticks beside all of the tracks, except Alternative Ulster, Coney Island and Can’t Stand Losing you, which all had an  ‘x’ beside them. The Van Morrison track also had ‘Loser’ written beside it. And in capitals at the bottom was this :


Sweet dreams, Starman.

Author: paul

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