Saturday 22 April 2017

IF YOU’RE FEELING CONFUSED, READ DESPOTS FOR DUMMIES!

 
We all might be dead by the time you read this.

“Aha!” you say, “You’re wrong there, because if I’m dead I can’t be reading anything at all!”
 

That just shows you’re confused. Anything is possible in our new world, where facts are the things on Facebook you agree with and truth is whatever makes you feel good about yourself.
 

Don’t worry if you’re feeling confused about the international situation. We’re all mixed up and muddled over what the hell is happening. 

Sitting down for my pub breakfast last Saturday, I glanced at the paper to discover that China had all of a sudden become the voice of reason.
 

“Beijing warns there can be no winners in conflict.” screamed the headline in The Guardian. Would this be the same China that’s closing in on Taiwan?
 

Don’t feed your confusion by trying to make sense of what’s going on. Don’t start to doubt what you know. Don’t consider anyone a smidgeon more worthy of respect because they have used weapons of mass destruction.
 

Don’t confuse respect with fear.
 

Just accept that you should be confused right now. If you weren’t, that’d be something to worry about. Be confused but fear nothing.
 

It’s as easy to laugh at the Leader as it is to underestimate him, so neither visualise him as a Simpson’s character (oops, too late!) nor as Joseph Stalin. Is this At Home With The Kardashians And Their Nuclear Missiles or a dangerous man consolidating his position?
 

Breathe. 

Trust your human instincts. The Leader is what he is, and you and I know pretty well at what level his good ship intelligence floats around in his head puddle.
 

Yer man is reading Despots for Dummies, the idiot’s guide to attaining totalitarianism, and so far everything’s gone with much tremendousness.
 

After the victory, the Leader needs to create widespread confusion. Show time and again that truth is irrelevant, that scandal is puny and that it’s perfectly acceptable for opinions to change 180 degrees in a heartbeat.
 

Say one thing and do another. Ban objective media from the White House. Declare your number one intention is to replace Obamacare and then force that replacement to fail, leaving Speaker Ryan to carry the can.
 

Talk long and loud of America First. Bray about how you’re not going to go to war, because from now on it’s all about making America great again at home, when all of a sudden you realise that those coal mining jobs you pledged to West Virginians just aren’t viable for business any more, while mega-bombs are worth billions.
 

When your links to Russia cause problems, send 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles into the night skies over Syria, saying to your accusers
 

“Look over here. I am very visibly pissing off Putin right now, so go to hell with your Special Prosecutors and impeachment for Treason!”
 

Having repeatedly declared you wouldn’t go to war, you’re now fighting against two of the three sides in Syria’s messiest of civil wars. You’ve verbally attacked China and then tried to make friends with them. You’ve used Afghanistan as a mega-bomb advertisement location and threatened that least predictable of nuclear powers: North Korea.
 

America First?
 

To be fair, the tone was set early and clearly at the inauguration, insisting we should not believe what we saw with our own eyes. But wasn’t the Leader was merely a puppet, manipulated by Bannon?
 

Apparently not. Enter more confusion.
 

The Leader didn’t like the way his Chief Strategist was upsetting his family, so even though Bannon won the election with his data mining and rustbelt rhetoric, the Leader has sidelined his alt-Right ideologist, firing him from the National Security Council, while simultaneously installing his family into the heart of his home and regime, just as any self-respecting dictator might do.
 

With his daughter ensconced in her own office in the West Wing, the Leader has burdened her husband with a portfolio so absurd in its magnitude, he’s doomed to fail.
 

Previously a New York estate agent, Jared Kushner is now responsible for solving America’s opioid epidemic; diplomacy with Mexico; diplomacy with China; reforming care for veterans; reforming the criminal justice system; redesigning the entire government structure (a practice traditionally much-loved by despots - keep an eye on this one) and, lest we forget, also bringing peace to the Middle East.
 

“Err, thanks Dad. I can call you Dad, can’t I?”
 

“Sure son. You go right ahead and call me Mr. President Dad. That I like. Bigly.”
 

In Chapter Two of Despots for Dummies, a major terrorist incident on domestic soil occurs, at which point all those confused people turn to their Leader, because they no longer know up from down nor left from right.
 

Having spent so long scrabbling around, frantically trying to prove his wrongs and their rights, they now can no longer distinguish one from t’other.
 

The Leader looks down upon them and says 

“Told you so!”

and presents them with whatever form of martial law, army or police state that best suits his needs.
 

This colyoom still feels that the American people are far too strong in number and spirt to let their freedoms be taken from them, but it’s happened to some damn wonderful people in the past.
 

Now it’s up to us to make sure we stay in Chapter One.
 

But don’t listen to me. I’m confused.
 

So maybe you should.

©Charlie Adley
18.04.2017.

Sunday 16 April 2017

IF THE WORLD’S TOO NOISY, STAND AND STARE AT SPRING!

All pics courtesy of the Snapper ... of course!

 
Phew! What a trip that was. As I steer into our driveway, the Snapper and I are back in our quiet corner of the west of Ireland. 

Stepping out of the car, my mind sends me flashbacks of crowded food halls in glassy international airports, traffic roaring around London’s M25 and through the streets of Tel Aviv.
 

The modern world is a noisy place. Each time I arrive back from a family trip, my ears ring with the silence here. This calm quiet almost makes me feel dizzy at first.
 

Silence takes many forms, and as I stand outside my car for a few seconds, I feel the gentle tickle of the breeze on my ear. I can hear birdsong and a dog barking up the way.
 

It’s not pure silence, but there’s nothing manmade about these noises. Even when a strimmer starts in the distance, it makes no difference. We all have to cut things down and back. It’s a fact of life in the country.
 

More than anything when away, the Snapper and I miss the peace of being here.
 

Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s another member of our family group who ranks much higher, and now there’s another sound: the welcome and familiar explosion of energy and blonde hair that is an ecstatic Lady Dog, being walked around the corner of the house by my wonderful friend Whispering Blue.
 

“Howya mate. How’s it all gone?” I ask, as Lady launches herself at the Snapper, covering her with face licks and half a ton of dog hair.
 

Lady shedding her Winter coat is a natural phenomenon worthy of a David Attenborough TV special. Be careful as you read this. If you become too involved, you might well find dog hairs on your clothes.
 

"All good mate!” smiles my mate, with a gentle calmness that immediately reassures me.
 

I always believed in the rare gifts of animal whisperers, but first saw them in action when we moved to this area five years ago. I’d seen a sign about dog daycare, so pulling off the road, I drove towards what I thought was the main building.
 

As Lady jumped out of the car, a slim woman emerged from a smaller building over 100 metres away.
 

Immediately my pooch went full-on mental, straining at the lead, tail wagging like a Sikorsky helicopter, as if there were floating above this distant figure a massive sign flashing in bright neon lights declaring 

“I BLOODY LOVE DOGS!”
 

Lady dragged me over to meet the wonderful Gabriella, whereupon the two of them fell upon each other with the excited joy of reunited best friends.
 

Rescued by the excellent folk at madra.ie, Lady was two and half when we adopted her, so maybe these two had met before. Gabriella smiled and shrugged when I asked her.
 

“No, we’ve never met. But she’s lovely. Beautiful.”
 

"But how did the dog know from that far away that - oh never mind!”
 

Life is better for the good things we don’t fully understand.
 

Although our dog is very happy staying at Gabriella’s doggie care Cottage in Oranswell, the Snapper feels twitchy if Lady’s not at home.
 

Sometimes things simply work out well. We were off to celebrate my niece’s wedding. Whispering Blue loves where we live and Lady Dog adores Whispering Blue.
 

Through this mutually beneficial triangle, all of our needs were met. Three humans had a break (although the week in Israel was so hectic most of my family needed a break to get over the break!) and Lady Dog had her favourite guest pack leader to stay.
 

Talking of breaks, I returned from the wedding with an injury. My left leg is swollen, and I’m in too much pain to walk Lady Dog as I would like.
 

When she first joined our family, Lady was the canine equivalent of a petulant teenager, lost and alone after moving from care home to foster home and back.
 

All she ever wanted was to know whose dog she was. At first she coped by being self-sufficient. Forget all that stuff about your dog feeling your pain. 

Back then that was pure Disneyland to Lady, who cared not the slightest bit that my back was killing me, as she dragged me up the bog road. She gave neither a hoot nor whistle when, after sighting a hare, she pulled the Snapper over, leaving her crashing to the ground, chin first.
 

Now, however, she seems to have changed. Maybe her connection to us has become strong enough for her to experience doggie empathy. 

Even though the signs of a walk are all present (I’ve my boots on, she’s on a harness and long lead) as we set off for a gentle stroll in the Spring sunshine, Lady seems to understand it’s just that.
 

Usually she’d be roaring along and I’d be happy to keep pace with her and build a sweat, but today she’s loping along by my side, looking up at me as if to say she understands I’m in pain.
 

Happily there’s one thing about my dog that hasn’t changed; a behaviour we both share and enjoy. We love to stand still and space out. 

 

This afternoon, instead of racing along our well-trod route, we stop and stare, trying to take in all the glory of Spring in the West of Ireland.
 








The Blackthorn is flowering in expansive snowy cascades.


Out of the undergrowth gentian twinkle Chelsea blue, while all over the bog and grasslands, animal life is twitching, waking up, feeding and running for its life. 
 
Standing in silence together.
 

Lady’s nose twitches at high speed in every direction.
 

I soak up the incandescent beauty of my environment.
 

Going away is great, but I am truly blessed to live here, in this place I love.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 10 April 2017

EXPLOSIONS OF JOY AND KNEES AT A FAMILY WEDDING!



My beautiful niece as the high-flying bride - 
 All photos courtesy of the Snapper ... of course!

Right now I am filled with joy. This evening I attended my lovely niece’s wedding in a forest somewhere north of Tel Aviv. Instead of the usual allocation of numbers, the tables at the dinner were given names. We sat a table called Joy.
 

We humans can’t help noticing all our negative emotions. They hit our heads and hearts with the clout and ferocity of a baseball bat. 

Yet often we fail to appreciate the second, minute or day in which there’s not only an absence of problems, but also a bursting rush of pleasure in the soul.
 

Over the decades I’ve learned to spot happy times when they happen. I wrap them up and store them away in my brainbox. Often they’ve faded before you can appreciate them and that’s a wasted opportunity to revel and glow.
 

Joy, however, is a rare and powerful positive emotion that proves impossible to ignore.
 

Tonight I experienced joy: a feeling impressing its presence upon me like a longed-for kiss from a loved one.
 

Tonight I was surrounded by hundreds of others experiencing joy. We shared an explosion of exuberance and hope, through a traditional collision of love.
 

However you feel about the situation in the Middle East, you’d be a weak cold person to deny two people the chance to celebrate their love in public. 

Tonight families and friends from England, France and Israel embraced joy together, and your ‘umble scribbler immersed himself fully, emotionally and physically, into this roaring torrent of happiness.
 

Forgetting everything else, including my own physical limitations, I danced my arse off like a crazy gorilla, and regret not a second of it.


 ....evidence of scribbler acting age-inappropriately...

People often ask me what it means to be a writer. What’s it like to live by the word?
 

A privilege, a pleasure, it’s also painful, both emotionally and sometimes even physically.
 

Back at our hotel room after the wedding I realise that I need to take notes. Joy is always worthy of notes, but the journey from our small balcony back into the room to my phone proves incredibly painful.
 

The night before we flew to Israel, while trying to remove my jeans in haste (you decide!) my ankle became caught in the dreaded trouser triangle. 

I fell over, full force onto my knee, and now, after hours of cavorting on the dance floor, that knee is sending shooting pains down my leg, to my 56 year old plates-of-meat.
 

Being a writer means doggedly hobbling across this room, in small explosions of grunting agony, to write this note, because I know that without the note, the thought might have disappeared by morning. 

Now I am still filled with joy, but by the time I return to Ireland I’ll be trying to remember how I felt, rather than writing with joy exuding from my fingertips, as they hit the tiny letters on my phone’s screen.
 

Later, coming down from it all, the Snapper and I sit on the balcony. The seats are modern, slung at 90 degree angles to the back, so that your lower body ends up shaped like an ‘L’. 


I
 The L chair....

I’m sure it’s all ergonomic, orthopaedic and probably biodynamic, but right now the angle this chair is demanding of my knee is producing searing pain down my legs, gripping my ankle in cramps.

Rolling up my trouser leg, I touch my knee and - oh yeh baby! - that’s boiling hot and so swollen, it looks more like a bag of pear drops than a functioning body part.
 

My lovely wife looks over at me. 

“Maybe you should get out of that chair.”
 

“Yeh, babe, you’re right. It’s not the best, but that manoeuvre might prove easier said than done. Mind you, the sooner I’m upright, the better it’ll be for my knee.”
 

She nods and then confesses:
 

“That’s true my love, but actually I wasn’t thinking of your knee. I was worried that those cables slung along the chair might be damaging your nice new suit.”
 

Evidently, despite her Church of England background, my wife has been so wholly and suddenly immersed in Jewish culture on this trip, she is now displaying new behaviours. Somewhat taken aback, I’m far too happy to see anything but humour in this situation.
 

So she’s more concerned about the shmutter than my leg?
 

“Hmm, let me think about this for a second. Am I right in thinking you’re kind of saying it's a case of your leg will eventually get better, but the suit will be destroyed?”
 

“Yeh, that’s pretty much what I’m saying!” she laughs.
 

“Mazeltov! You just became a Jewish mother!”
 

We both giggle together and start to look at the pictures she took tonight on her phone.
 

“Jewish weddings are such fun!” smiles the Snapper, as we see images of the sax player on one side of the DJ, the percussionist giving it large on the drums the other side, while the fiddler walks and plays inside the densely-packed dance floor.
 

“They are, aren't they!” I agree, remembering truly wonderful weddings back home, no less loving, yet far more grounded than today’s eruption of joy.
 

 Joy!

It’s over a thousand years since the Romans threw us out of this country. We scattered around the globe, evolving into Ashkenazy, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Yet somehow, despite assimilating into so many varied cultures, we still exhibit remarkably similar behaviours.
 

We’re able to simultaneously talk to three people at once, while listening to another two. We wave our hands around as we argue and shout.
 

Also, we all love a good simcha: a celebration, where we open our minds and bodies to joy and dance.
 

Oh yeh, we love to dance.


©Charlie Adley
03.04.2017.

Monday 3 April 2017

‘BRIRISH’ IS TWO LANGUAGES JOINED AS ONE, NOW!



Twenty very odd years ago years ago I was ensconced in Pádraicíns bar in Furbo, relating a heinous anecdote to.my good friends The Body and Blitz.
 

“Whereabouts was this in Cork? Was it West Cork or Cork City?” asked Blitz.
 

“Neither really!” I replied, “More north South Cork!”
 

This produced an unexpected and uproarious reaction from my two Irish friends, and once he had calmed down and stopped coughing and wheezing and going red in the face in a particularly scary way, Blitz turned to me and raising his glass, he clinked mine and toasted:
 

“To an honorary Irishman. You’re as good as, Charlie, and that’s saying something!”
 

Even if our aim as immigrants is to assimilate entirely, there’s no chance of any foreigner becoming so Irish that the Irish cannot tell you are foreign. This blow-in wouldn’t want that anyway. We must each be proud to be who we are, even though after a few too many Jamies in a Connemara pub, my accent can go worryingly local farmer.
 

After living and working in the USA and Australia, I’d already experienced how other nations evolved my native tongue, but as always Ireland offered a paradox. 

Somehow the Irish have taken English and adapted it into a form that feels simultaneously foreign, yet sometimes more comfortable and accessible than the original version.
 

Grunt by grunt, inflection by verbal twitch, blow-ins start to osmose the Irish way of speaking English.
 

First to suddenly pop out of my mouth one day was ‘Grand!’, quickly followed by ‘Mighty!’
 

Then there are the greetings. Despite ‘Howya!’ sounding so similar to the English ‘How are you?’, it necessitates a wholly different response. Back in England it would be perfectly acceptable to reply
 

“Bloody terrible actually. The dog bit me, I got burgled and then the bloody car broke down.”
 

But here in my adopted country, I quickly learned that nobody wants to hear anything but the most positive report imaginable.
 

The only acceptable response must be either ‘Grand!’, or ‘Mighty!’ or even, for the more advanced class, ‘Not a bother on me!’ spoken as one word.
 

It’s a tactic that’s tough on depressives, especially during excessively hard periods, when one’s voice doesn’t sound as convincing as it might. At those times, so as not to draw attention to your pathetic human neediness, it’s best to string all three responses together, and utter them at speed, thus:
 

“Mighty grand not a bother on me!”
 

Linguistic challenges aplenty face the blow-in to Ireland. Take the shopkeepers’ assertive ‘Now!’ fired across the counter.

Now what? Now who? Should I do something? Takes you by surprise at first, alongside the ‘So!’ and that much-beloved enigmatic Irish double whammy, ‘So now!’ and ‘Now so!’
 

Inevitably the next Brirish embraced by the mouth of the blow-in is the positively effervescent ‘Thanks a million!’ Such hyperbolic gratitude offered upon the purchase of a single postage stamp in England would sadly be seen as taking the piss, but here it offers a delightful alternative to the bland English ‘Ta very much!’
 

Unfortunately, over two decades I’ve absorbed so much Brirish, that when I sit in my mother’s London living room, my use of idiom raises the eyebrows of friends and family alike.
 

The ‘F’ word flies out of me, furiously and frequently, much to my mother’s displeasure. Clearly the Irish swear much more than the English, yet in return you’ve created a whole new world of English expression.
 

The wonderful ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ now tumbles out of my mouth alongside all variations of ‘yer one’, ‘yer man’ and the splendid ‘no finer man.’
 

Sometimes it can take me by surprise. Never thought I’d become a ‘day that’s in it’ person, but now that’s there, and the other day I was shocked to hear myself offer ‘lookit’ in public.
 

I had to take a moment. 
What next? The ultimate ‘I do be'?
 

Now in the latter stages of my Brirish Education, I play arpeggios of my adopted lingo. String together ‘C’mere to me!’, add a little ‘Now!’ and a smidge of ‘So!’ and all of a sudden I’m inviting Dalooney to ‘C’mere to me now, so!’ and it all feels right and good.
 

Securely bundled into middle age, there are a few Brirish-isms in my repertoire that would now be considered out of date. Long gone is the ‘Gas character!’ and even ‘Sound man!’ appears on the wane, wandering off into the Zeitgeist sunset with ‘Gas ticket’ and ‘Shtop da lights!’
 

The first time I really felt I’d assimilated was actually a non-verbal experience. From the moment I arrived in Galway, I noticed how people sometimes offered agreement by sucking a sharp intake of breath onto the roof of the mouth, loud enough to be heard, yet too soft to be spelled.
 

Thankfully far from that dreaded disapproving flared nostril sniff, so beloved of older local women, this hissy breath is most often used to offer some kind of guiltily agreed censure, such as when your friend offers:
 

“Oh he’s an awful man, so he is!” you respond with the inward hiss.
 

Gathering words and picking up accents are understandable (most of the time!) but this is a physical phenomenon, so I was shocked to find myself unthinkingly doing the sharp intake response
 

My time in Ireland has changed my breathing patterns. That’s a different level of assimilation altogether, so it is now.
 

Behave Adley. Be respectful.
 

Ah well, as they used to say, ye’ll have that in small towns and built up areas.

Charlie Adley
26.02.2017.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

CAN WE PLEASE CHANGE THE RULES OF GENDER WARFARE?




To the redheaded woman wearing a green top in the lift last night:
I am truly sorry you felt I had been so rude. In fact I felt gutted that my efforts were wasted. Everything I’d done was deliberately planned so that you’d not feel threatened in any way.
 

As I walked up to the lift I saw you and other man waiting. He was clearly not with you, so as the doors closed, I was aware that you were in a late night lift with two strange men. Each of us blokes took a corner, as did you, and where normally I’d prefer to make eye contact with another human being, I declined, because in that context it might seem a bit dodgy.
 

All of us were going up to the fourth floor. I’ve stayed in that hotel many times before, and know well its long lonely corridors, punctuated by twin swing doors every twenty paces. Beyond each set of doors you can see only darkness, with motion-sensitive lighting coming on as you walk further.
 

The system works well, but if you were a woman late at night with two blokes behind you and darkness up ahead, you might feel it’s scary as hell.
 

That’s what I reckoned anyway, which is why, when the lift doors opened, I resisted every instinct in my body to sweep my arm in gentlemanly fashion and offer you the chance to step out first, ahead of me. My Dad instilled in me manners, of the old school variety, which are deeply engrained in my being.
 

Heading swiftly out of the lift, I was followed by the other bloke, who was also large and heavy-footed. Holding each and every door open for him, I could feel the sink of the floorboards as he paced close behind me. I was pleased he was behind me, as with both of us ahead of you, neither man could know which room you stopped at.
 

Then his footsteps disappeared, and as I went through the final twin swing doors, I was sure I was alone.
 

You were still behind, so that was my only error. I was just about to walk into my room as you came walking by, and in an American/Canadian accent said:
 

“You're a real gentleman you are!”
 

Given what had just passed, at first I thought you were sincere, so I said thanks very much, but then you lingered and blustered around, evidently upset, at which point I realised that your observation had been ironic. You were upset with me, but what could I possibly have done to offend you?
 

Genuinely mystified, I turned to look at you for the first time and asked:
 

“Did I do something wrong?”
 

You straightened your back and threw your hands loose, as if to shake of the stress.
 

“Yes. You left the lift first and you stormed off ahead and you didn't hold open a single door!”
 

For a second I grabbed my room’s doorframe. I’d held every bloomin’ door, save for the one where I hadn’t known you were there, but it was clear that reasoned argument was not on the menu.
 

Upset, a little angry, but mostly blindingly frustrated, I turned to you once more and failing to fully disguise my emotions, asked if you wanted to know why I’d left the lift first, and why I’d walked ahead of you.
 

You didn’t seem to want to know, angrily suggesting:
 

“Don’t know. Because I’m ugly?”
 

That completely screwed up my head. Nevertheless, as you walked away, I called out to explain that in fact I was trying to stop you feeling nervous, but by then you’d gone back through the doors whence we came, and disappeared into a room.
 

Aha! So you hadn’t even needed to walk through those final doors, the only ones I didn't keep open for somebody else.
 

Because you were ugly? Are we all meant to go “Ahh…” at that and feel compassion for you?
 

For men in the 21st century life can sometimes be very complicated.
 

As I sit here I’ve no idea whether she was good-looking or not, because I had barely looked at her.
 

Isn’t that what we men are meant to do in potentially threatening situations? Aren’t we constantly accused of sexually objectifying women?
 

Yes, it’s a scandal that any woman should ever have to perceive any social encounter as threatening, but we’ll never make progress if the rules keep changing.
 

I’d enjoy scant pity if I wrote about being a man within the same parameters used by female columnists every week. I read about how tough it is to be a woman; how we men are a violent, ignorant bunch of useless lovers and slothful house partners.
 

Increasingly I don’t even bother to finish the piece, because I’m utterly fed up with this slagging off of men, ad nauseam.
 

Obviously not all women would react as that stranger did to me, and all men are most certainly not rapists. We are all different, in the infinite ways there are to be human.
 

In this age of gender fluidity, isn’t it time we stopped talking about gender behaviour in massive generalisations?
 

Haven’t men come far enough now for women to ease up a little on the aggression and criticism, and accept the dazzlingly obvious: that there are good, kind and considerate souls of both sexes, and to besmirch either half of the population on grounds of gender is absurd.
 

For every Mary Robinson there’s a Margaret Thatcher; for every Rosa Parks a Marine le Pen. There’s more to life than gender politics, and while we’ve all a long way to go before we stop offending each other, it’d really help if we acknowledged that we’re all intensely and wonderfully fallible.
 

Sometimes we men simply have your safety and peace of mind at heart. Now let's stop attacking each other and work together.

©Charlie Adley
02.03.2017.