I have had two occasional companions this summer, one musical and one poetical. The musical companion, a birthday present (thank you ED) was a double-disc recording of David Bowie’s 2003-4 Reality Tour. The album, of thirty songs, was recorded over two nights in Dublin in November 2003. Bowie was at his stupendous best and I just wish I could have been there. The range of the tracks is in itself a graphic illustration of why Bowie has been so influential in so many different genres and to so many different generations. Whilst performing on that same tour, in Scheessel, Germany, in June 2004, Bowie suffered a chest pain which was soon diagnosed as an acutely blocked artery. He underwent an emergency angioplasty in Hamburg and the rest of the tour was cancelled. Bowie has since made a few musical appearances, but there have been no more concerts, no more tours and no more albums. He is not a total recluse (he was recently spotted at a Jeff Beck concert in New York) but his creative output has dwindled to next to nothing. Those who got to see Bowie at his prime on his Reality Tour could not have imagined how privileged they were. The poetic companion was Mark Strand‘s New Selected Poems. I was introduced to Strand by an American friend (thank you, LE) whose favourite poem is the wonderful ‘Our Masterpiece is The Private Life’. Strand is excellent on relationships. To give just one example (from ‘Coming to This’); ‘We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry of each other…’ The heavy industry of each other; it takes a poet to sum up in six words the key to long-lasting relationships! Brilliant stuff.