It wasn’t my first summer job, but it was the first to give me independence.  With some spare cash in my pocket, not needed for rent, bills or food, I made my way down Grafton street, heading to lesser known parts of Dublin to buy myself a cassette player.  Until now, my access to music had been parentally determined.  I grew up with Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Cash, Demis Roussos, Tchaikovsky and Top of the Pops.   An eclectic diet for a wannabe singer/songwriter.  Ok, I couldn’t sing, but there was one guy who fell in love with my songs, so much so, he came a calling with a dozen roses in hand, only later to write a plaintive letter to “La Belle Dame sans Merci” after learning I wasn’t really interested.   Teenage angst in minor chords at a dying party triggered a broken heart I didn’t intend.  Sorry.

I was in search of poetry.  I returned to my live in job armed with cassette player and an album, by Leonard Cohen.  I was so in love that everyone else had to hear him too, and as silence was the operative word in the care home that gave me a modest income, I took my new acquisitions off to Stephen’s Green.

There was a little known place hidden from the paths and lawns in the centre of the Green.  It was a place you could sit and listen to music without being disturbed.  But I met some interesting people there.  On various occasions I was offered a delectable palate of colourful weeds and pills, herbal teas and friendship.  La Belle Dame sans Merci found a new heart in a Cohen-loving punk rocker.  We found privacy behind the rhododendrons, and I learned the difference between punks and hippies.  I decided then I didn’t want to be put in a box with a label, so I left the rhododendrons to enter my “be different” period, where I hung out with a “be different” group of art students and industrial designers who didn’t make art college.  The Outcast, whose ear was attached to his nose with a chain, traded a haircut for my newly discovered soldering skills, and my hippie locks became asymmetric and colourful.  He also confessed to a broken heart.  Sorry.

I never learned what happened to the punk.

Despite later loves and losses guiding the course of my musical education, Cohen stayed with me.  I learned his words off by heart.   Someone would always sing one of their songs at parties, and I’d join in the chorus.  It was never in a key I could cope with.  But then again, a guitarist once complained when I tried to sing a song in E flat minor, so I guess there isn’t any key my voice could cope with.  I’ve managed to make his songs difficult to listen to.  Sorry.

In memory of Leonard Cohen, a formative influence in my youth.

Highlight of the concert when I finally got to see him


Featured Image: By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (Green in St. Stephen’s Green) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


5 thoughts on “Catalyst

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