You Didn’t Know It, Now You Do.

“I feel like a contradiction
I’m a walking science-fiction
I don’t know which way to turn
I’ve got a lot to burn
I’ve got a lot of lot to learn”


**** This makes much more sense if you’ve already read the ‘Most Peculiar Mama’ blog ****

A month ago, if you’d asked me what I’d be doing on the third Saturday in June, getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to God’s own parish of Tang to write Haikus on a wee organic farm around a campfire would not have made the top 10. But that’s where I ended up.

It was a magical day.

There were 10 of us, Colm Keegan and Kate Egan were our leaders,  three or four who seemed to know what they were doing, three or four that were doing it without realising it , and me.

The weather , along with everyone, was glorious. The farm itself was a slice of heaven, wild meadows, meandering paths mown through them, random little oasis with sofas, hammocks in quiet spots, chickens wandering about, a pot-bellied pig, three rescue ponies, and a dog called Lilly.

This dog called Lilly.

Yes, I know, we all said she had David Bowie’s eyes.

I knew Colm from a course we’d done together a year ago, and admired his poetry, so when he advertised a writers’ retreat, on a farm, I booked it immediately. I didn’t know any of the others when I arrived, but , again, it was one of those wonderful days when everyone was equally nervous, supportive and cool.

Colm took us through some introductions and  exercises.We smile and introduce ourselves, holding most of ourselves back. Reflexively we jump to conclusions about each other, a practice we hate to be on the receiving end of, but still…

Then Kate introduced us to the ponies, we had lunch, a tour of the farm, jotting down ideas for Haikus, potted some plants. After a few hours we pick up bits and pieces of each others jigsaws, he loves vinyl, he’s wearing a replica of  Maradona’s 1986 world cup strip, she’s here because she won a competition, she runs a forest school, she’s a festival princess, she has 60,000 words written of her novel, the lucky bitch, he loves Leonard Cohen, organic potatoes sold at €3.50/kg still don’t make money.

 We wrote some more, chatted, wrote even more, had a divine dinner beside the campfire, consisting almost entirely of produce from the farm, we’re not judging each other anymore, or holding anything back, not entirely…just a bit. And then we swapped stories around the fire until midnight. We’re all the same really.


Lilly had followed us around the farm all day, we’d all petted and tickled her whenever she sat beside us. She slept under the table, in the long grass, under the hammock, beside the sofa…she slept a lot. She was very gentle, not barking once all day.

Of course as soon as we zipped ourselves into our tents she started to bark at everything and anything. I could here various ‘Shushes’ being hissed from the other tents for a while and then I put my phone beside my ear and started to play the greatest ever playlist on Spotify, the BrixWorkwear Blog, consisting of the best 1,115 tracks of all time. I drifted off to sleep, hearing ‘Shushes’ intermingle with the Pillow Queens and Joan Armatrading….

And then I woke. Gently. Even though I’d drifted off to the music playing I was still sensitive to changes, someone had skipped a song forward halfway through and this had jarred my subconscious. As I became aware of where I was I could hear someone commenting on the songs, as they skipped through them after a brief listen “Magic…awful…good start and then they lost it…brilliant…Jesus you never change do you…that’s cool…lovely accent…”

I didn’t feel afraid, strangely, as I’m a big scaredy cat at the best of times. I’d gone to sleep in a tent on my own and was waking to someone critiquing my Spotify playlist.

And then when they came to ‘Oh Such A Spring’ by Fontaines DC they let it play through and then repeated it…and then repeated it again. I opened my eyes. It was just Lilly , her nose against the screen of my phone. I got a hand out of the sleeping bag I was hermetically sealed into and patted her head “Good choice Lilly…”

I was dozing off again when I heard , in an English accent, “That is a wonderful tune, so sad ‘And I wish I could go back to Spring again’ gorgeous.”

I opened my eyes wide this time.

Lilly was staring at me, less than a foot away from my face.

“It’s not….”

“It is.”

“But you…”

“Go on, you’re so close, the eyes ?”

“David ?”

“Bingo! A goldfish for the young man !”

I tried to sit up, which isn’t the easiest thing in a sleeping bag. A paw reached over and pushed my chest back down.

“Relax, stay there, we won’t be long.”

“You came back as a dog ?”

“Indeed ! This magnificent creature no less.”

“Why ?”

“Why not ? I wanted to be the furthest thing away from a famous human, and I’d already been a wombat, so I chose this glorious existence, loved beyond measure in this perfect little spot.”

It sort of made sense. “Are you happy ?”

“Deliriously so. I have never been so loved.”

“Do you miss …..”

“Please don’t. I’m here now. You can’t look back, that was that time, this is now.”

“And are you aware of all that happened before ?”

“Sometimes. Like now. With the music on your thing there. And us speaking. But mostly it’s a wonderfully uncomplicated life of lolling around getting , tickled and scratched, and most delicious of all, not thinking of anything of that very moment. You should try it.”

“Can I ask a question ?”

“Of course ! This is your gig Paul.”

“Did we meet on the that bus to Galway in ’89 ? I wrote about it, on the day you…you left us…and lots of people said they knew it was a story , but wanted it to be true…and I can’t tell anymore…and …” A lick on my cheek stopped me.

“We met.”


“ I was right about that Van Morrison prick , wasn’t I ?”

I laughed. “You were…and then some.”

“Did you marry her ?”

“I did”

“I knew you would. Lucky sod. Did you do anything with the Free Cloud story ?

“No. I couldn’t face it after you….”

“I’m here. Always.”

“I do write, for myself mostly, I seem to get halfway through something and then…”

“Don’t worry , it’ll happen. It can go like that for years , lost, nothing seeming to click…”

“Like Tin Machine ?”

“Fuck off ! Tin Machine were brilliant. In 20 years they’ll be appreciated. “

“It has been 20 years.”

“Really , seems like….never mind. Anyway we’re talking about you. Write , you little shit, or I’ll bite you !”

We laughed.

“I have to go now”

“Is it time to pass on again ?” I said reverently.

“No, not that, you idiot. I’m going over to Briana’s tent. She’s having a class dream, and she gives the best cuddles.”

The beautiful dog turned to leave.

“David !”

“Yes Paul.”

“I miss you. We all miss you. I hope you know what you meant to all of us.” I started to cry.

“I’m here. Always.”

I woke up around 7. Tired but happy. I got dressed and went outside. Cathy’s tent was lready packed away. Briana was sitting outside hers.

“Did you get any sleep ?” I asked.

“Some. I heard Lilly barking, so I took her into my tent. She kept me lovely and warm.”

“I think she was in mine at one point…although that might have been a dream.”

We laughed.

Sam got up, and they both helped me put my tent away. We had little brioche buns and ham for breakfast before we left. Lilly came sauntering around. We all gave her some ham. She was so happy that her whole body, rather than just her tail, wagged.

We all said goodbye.

I started my car, Ed Sheerhan came on the radio, I could here Lilly growl. I switched from the radio to my Spotify playlist , the Pillow Queens, HowDoILookNow, she barked and wagged her tail.

I drove off.

David Bowie is a dog called Lilly, living on An Ghrian Glas farm. They grow writers there.



Author: paul

1 thought on “You Didn’t Know It, Now You Do.

  1. I wish he was Paul. Loved David . Miss him. Fav song- The wild eyed boy from Freecloud.
    The ” village ugly”.
    Must visit him in Tang.

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