I don’t remember the very last thing Paul Kelly said to me. You never do, not unless you know there is a reason to commit it to memory.
We’d talked, as we did most days, about something or other, just putting the world to rights. It may have been about the magazine. Paul was a very useful critic, and barometer, of the magazine and how it was selling.
If he was doing well, I knew the chances were it was performing well across the country. If he was struggling, or in Paul’s word if things were “shite”, then I knew others would find it hard too. Paul did not stand on ceremony.
In recent weeks, he’d been talking about his father. He was on his mind. His dad had died last year and it hit him hard. He was missing him of late. But there was always his cat at home. And his regulars, his customers who were increasingly friends. People who stopped to buy the magazine, stopped to speak, maybe bought him some food and groceries now and then, a pair of boots.
Paul was just always there, a gentle pulse in the heart of Glasgow. “Don’t be shy, give it a try, I don’t bite” echoing up and down Buchanan Street. Regardless of how often that phrase sounded out, it never grated. There was a warmth and a winningness to Paul, a necessity of being.
So, last week when two of my colleagues burst into the office, standing ashen-faced in front of me saying, “Paul is dead – they think it’s murder” I couldn’t really understand them. When it became clear, I still couldn’t understand. And some days afterwards, it still feels like a gear has been slipped, that a correction is needed.