Posted by Billy in July's Magazine
The first time I met Paul Reekie he was sporting a Rastafarian ski jumper and telling anyone who would listen that he directed porn films. Later, I saw him talking to a guy in full highland dress (circa the 13th Century) including a sword and full-faced bronze helmet. “Do you know him?” I asked nervously. “No,” said the bold Reekie, “Ah jist took it upoan myself tae hae a bit wind wi’ the fella like.” It was my first introduction to his wonderfully idiosyncratic vocabulary and speech patterns.
Later still, we went to a flat off Ferry Road where, in no particular order, these things happened. A whiskied up girl walked through a glass door, assorted pies were bought from the all night bakery and I was blindfolded and tested on my pie knowledge… “erm, would that be macaroni?” Reekie showed me his most prized possession, a framed cigarette stub. “Oh, now, Gould, ah rescued this eftir David Bowie threw it away.” When the inevitable munchies kicked in, he disappeared to the kitchen and reappeared with a tin of sparrows – no, really – “aw the way fae Italy.” We ate them, bones and all; I can still remember him picking the splinters from his teeth with a match. “Extraordinarily toothsome,” he belched. Much, much, later I made the mistake of closing my eyes, “Dinnae go tae sleep Gould, or yi’ll wake up humiliated,” and I nearly believed him. I was later to discover that any night out with Paul required one to adjust one’s internal compass for stormy weather.
Zap! You’re pregnant
Things I didn’t know about Paul; he attended Leith Nautical College to train as a radio operator, his band The Thursdays appeared alongside Joy Division on Edinburgh’s legendary Fast Product label and he played bass with Bristol’s influential avant-funk art terrorists The Pop Group – whose motto at the time might have been his own. Stay cool, hang loose, admit nothing. His public debut as a writer came when he gave a lecture at Edinburgh University entitled Towards a Royal Arch Built From Broken Ribs. His first published works were his translations of French symbolist poet Baudelaire, followed quickly by Three Edinburgh Writers (with Kevin Williamson and Barry Graham) and a poetry collection called Zap! – You’re Pregnant. The novella Submission appeared in the anthology Children of Albion Rovers and his favourite poet was John Berryman: ‘In the end it is important to be courageous and kind’.
Rabbit fur hat
And he was, above all, kind. A present from Reekie was always measured and thoughtful. A print that he mounted and framed himself, a rare book that touched upon some obscure subject you had lately discussed. Latterly, as our birthdays overlapped, he would – no matter how skint – leave a pint behind whatever Leith bar I then called home. Almost always, I forgot his birthday, and thus never tendered him the same kindness. Which stupidly, but insistently, I regret.
He never published again, it all ground to a halt in the mid 90s, one of Scotland’s brightest, most idiosyncratic talents silenced. His public pronouncements came mainly from his beloved East Stand at Easter Road: “We are the Hibees, we’ve got Aids and Ecstasy!” Or “Win lose or draw, we blaw…we blaw.” God alone knows why he chose not to publish – on his death, a tea chest full of writings was discovered. We must hope there is meat and substance – the redoubtable Kevin Williamson is sifting even now – for what we have on the page is slim, if audaciously good.Then again I always thought performance, rabbit fur hat and aviator shades, was the heart of him.
Ah Reekie, (as Donleavy would have it) under what part of the blue sky do you rascally now go? Your funeral was grand – Rosie, Nick and family did you proud – like you it was a curious admixture of bravado and uncertainty. Inspirational words from ‘the Welchy boy’ and Tam Dean Burn, couldn’t quite fill the vacancy of future. I even liked your dub reggae throbbing through the crematorium. Remember, we always argued about music, you called me a musical racist.
And I am reminded, incongruously, of meeting you at a Flaming Lips gig. WayneCoyne (thesinger) was walking over our heads in a giant, transparent, inflatable balloon. And you said, “Oh, now, Gould, there’s nae doubting they kin pit oan a show but kin thae write a tune?”
The only song we agreed on was The Voidoids, Blank Generation: ‘I belong to the blank generation and I can take it or leave it each time’. Well I guess you just went literal with that, you took it and then you left it. But heck, remember I used to quote someone who said there was a number for everything? Well there is Paul; there is even a number for you. And it sings to me. It sings. The Editor
Photograph: Douglas Jones