10 days, 10 songs - Walking Down the Line

I MET MY old friend Willie Gregg by accident in Ground coffee shop in Coleraine in the winter of 2009. Willie’s a walking inspiration. He’s one of those fabulous roman candles that Kerouac talked about: 'The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles'.

  Willie runs a charity, www.williesorphanfund.com, that raises money for the orphans of the tsunami that devastated Thailand on New Year’s Day 2005. He never stops moving, and never stops smiling. His hugeness of heart blows me down sometimes, and every time I part company with him I find myself trying to pull all the luck and love and goodness in the world down on his shoulders.

  Anyway, on this bitter October morning, We started off with smalltalk and without making a conscious decision, we ordered an extra cup and sat looking out at the huddled people walking around in the rain as the windows steamed up and the cups and saucers rattled around us.

  Both of us talked about old relationships that had gone wrong, business deals and high hopes that had gone down in flames. And both of us reasoned as we swirled the remaining coffee in our cups that the only thing you can do to survive is to move on – to the next thing.

  As I pulled my coat on and headed for the car, the opening lines occurred to me: ‘Bad decisions, oh where do you start? Time and money and affairs of the heart. Let it go or let it tear you apart.’ I sat in the car with frozen fingers and scribbled them into a notebook. By the time I closed the notebook, I reckoned that Willie had made it to the next thing already, while I was still in the car park. I came across a piece by Raymond Carver (left) a few weeks later that nailed the whole thing deeper into my heart:

 ‘breathing evenly and steadily once more, we’ll collect ourselves, get up... and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.’

The musicians:

Anthony Toner – guitars, vocals

Eilidh Patterson - vocals

Clive Culbertson – bass, vocals

Paul Hamilton – drums

John McCullough – piano


Walking Down the Line - lyrics


Bad decisions, oh where do you start?

Time and money, and affairs of the heart;

let it go, or let it tear you apart,

trying to hold back time,

just walking down the line.


Things you wish you’d said, things you might have heard,

the well-intentioned and the downright absurd -

they flap around you like those bad news birds,

trying to hold back time,

just walking down the line.


The kind of luck you want just comes and goes -

slips through your fingers and between your toes -

hold back time, just walking down the line.


Some you lose and some you win.

But we’re still the people that we’ve always been,

so just lie here til the light comes in,

trying to hold back time,

just walking down the line.