Wednesday 20 June 2018

BLISSED OUT ON BEACHES WITH AGEING BLADDER!



After days of solitude in Ballycroy, I head to Achill Island, where I find the same stunning scenery. Yet instead of contemplating my navel, the universe and all points between on a silent empty beach, I sit at Keem strand listening to the diesel rumble of the tea van’s generator.
 

With its turquoise waters and golden sand tucked into a tiny cove between the mountains, Keem will always be a spectacular beach, but now, under the wiggly metal Wild Atlantic Way logo statue, you can buy plastic toys and flat whites.
 

“Bloody great!” I hear you say.
Indeed, but not for me.
 

People are everywhere, and I'd rather be alone.
 

Everyone else seems more than happy to be part of a crowd, so acknowledging yet again how weird I am, I hit the road.
 

My drive into Achill passed as a melancholy song of faded tourist glory. Broken down hotels and boarded up pubs, and everywhere places called ‘lifestyle shops’, to attract the surfing crowds.
 

Everywhere has two contrasting sides, so I take a left turn to Doogort, and yes, great choice!
 

Here is the west of Ireland in its natural old-fashioned glory, ready and willing to embrace any tourists who happen to pass by. Such an admirably laid-back ethic was always going to fail economically, and now, by merely changing ‘West Coast of Ireland’ to ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ the miracle of marketing is working wonders.
 

Sitting on a rock at Doogort Silver Strand, I sup my soul food to the rhythmic
Ssscrusssssshhhhh 
of gentle waves pulling pebbles. 

Just me and way down the far end of the beach, a mother and child.
 

Above a huge gull spirals on the thermals, its vast wings flapping not an inch.
The only sound: the ocean.
 

Much as I could sit here for hours, the noise of the water has hastened my need for a pee. In effect there are two states of middle-aged male existence: needing a pee or not needing a pee. Fuss not, I’m all medically checked out, as we men must keep an eye on our prostate glands.
 

Yoga helps with that, I find. Otherwise there’d be no way I could get down there for a look! Mind you, prostate cancer is no laughing matter.
 

Men in their 50s discover a new sense of urgency, as I do now, but no chance. 

An old fella with his Scottie dog has been keeping a disapproving eye on me for a while.
 

There's no natural cover, only a gap between two Portakabins, but no. That’d just confirm the old fella’s suspicions.
 

He would love that.
 

A couple of minutes later, knees locked together, I come upon Doogort Strand, an empty crescent of golden sands and foamy breakers. Banks of rushes border the grasses between me and the ocean, perfect for hiding behind methinks, so I race down there at top speed, discovering on the way the grass is completely covered in sheep shit.
 

As if approaching the winning tape 
I bundle through the rushes, 
which tragically don't turn out to offer any cover, 
and then I’m through them 
and charging onto boulders and rocks. 

My stumbling has broken my concentration.
I was not only focusing on the physical accomplishment of running on several different natural surfaces at high speed from a sitting start.
 

I was also using my well-practiced mental powers to instruct myself that
 

I do not need to go
breathe
I am in charge of my own body

breathe
I do not need to go

breathe ... kind of stuff.
 

Thinking is over. 
Now has to be the time for action. 

Feeling sufficiently obscured and past the point of control anyway, I do what I have to.
 

Then I stretch my arms wide, in triumphant relief, and turn to face the glorious Atlantic, noticing-for the first time to my left the two camper vans and families, sitting at wooden tables, sipping their tea.
 

None of them seem particularly disturbed by my unexpected floorshow, but I resist the quite strong temptation to take a bow, instead exiting stage left pronto.
 

It's hard not to love Doogort. Schoolchildren yell “Hi!” as I drive by, their mothers in rolled up trackies and well-loved T-shirts feeding carrots to donkeys at the roadside.
 

Everywhere I drive the powerful women of Mayo are out there working. On a lonely isolated bog, there she is, under the baking sun, cutting turf on her own; there she is, working a mower up that hellishly steep hill of a lawn, there she is, stepping out in her safety visor and hi-viz jacket, to strim the hedge.
 

While all this is happening, I am simultaneously writing this colyoom in my head.
 

Love scribbling.
I should probably give that a hashtag but I can't be bothered.
 

I'm so up my hole about being a writer that I manage to get lost. The road comes to an end by a pier beside one of those yellow signs showing a car falling into the sea.
 

That'll learn me to be a pretentious fool, but hang on, could that there be be Inis Bigle? I’ve visited it often from the mainland, and if it is, I can check exactly where I am on my nerdy ordnance survey map.
 

I make no excuses. I love maps and right now I'm adoring this one, because it’s telling me that is indeed Inis Bigle, and all I need to do is drive down here, turn left and left again.
 

For some sad reason I find it ridiculously pleasing that by using a blend of local knowledge, observation and map reading, I’ve gone from being utterly lost a minute ago to knowing exactly where I am, and how to get out of here.
 

Time to head to Newport for lunch! I deserve it!


©Charlie Adley
09.06.2018


Sunday 10 June 2018

IRISH GOVERNMENT MUST INVEST IN IRISH GENIUS!


All these years I’ve written you, and now I don’t know what to do. It was all so safe and comfy, seeing you through my English eyes, sometimes in awe, occasionally mocking with affection, yet always different; always other.
 

This citizenship malarkey is confusing. I’m still the same bloke I was two weeks ago, but now I’m Irish too. Does that mean I have to change the pronoun? 

Do I now have to write we instead of you? I haven’t suddenly become one of you, any more than I’ve stopped being a London-born Englishman.
 

My late father’s face comes to mind as I ponder this quandary. After a bruising day at school at the age of 10, I turned to him.
 

“What are we, Dad?”
 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, some of the boys at school were saying I’m not English, ‘cos I’m Jewish, so I don’t belong here.”
 

“Ah, well, here’s what you are. You’re English, Yiddish and rubbish, and never forget it!”
 

As he said the word rubbish he twinkled his eye at me, so that I knew he was being ironic; that we were, in fact, very far from rubbish.
 

“English, Yiddish and rubbish? Is that what I tell them?”
 

“No! Not like that. Say it with pride and they’ll leave you alone.”
 

Hey Dad! There’s a new one on that list. Now I’m English, Irish, Yiddish and rubbish.
 

All in all quite a cultural cocktail.
 

That suits me well. I’m happy being an identity mongrel. I’m proud to be English, Irish and Jewish. More than mere labels, each identity means a lot to me, yet none wholly defines me; nor would I want it to.
 

As my freshly-conferred Irishness gently assimilates into my soul, I realise that my confusion over pronouns was slightly crass and premature.

Nothing needs to change.
I will always write of you.
 

It’ll always be you, because I’m a blow in, and always will be. I’ve a shiny new certificate that says I am one of you, but I am not of you, and never can be.
 

The west of Ireland has been kind to me, but sadly that was because when I arrived in 1992, the Irish people were still suffering from a national lack of self-confidence, pummelled into their souls throughout their lives.
 

At first it mystified me. Why were these hard-working creative people just sitting round feeling sorry for themselves?
 

As a self starter, I found that compared to the time and energy I’d need to invest in London, great reward was available in Galway, for very little effort.
 

Ever since Ireland’s inception, an overbearing establishment of legal, political and clerical institutions did their darnedest to make sure the Irish felt bloody awful about themselves.
 

No surprise then that this State reached out to the EU and USA for solutions. 
'Sure we’re only a small country so what would we know?' and all that nonsense.
 

Only a politician could call the changes Ireland has made over the last 25 years a “quiet revolution.”
 

Quiet up in your ivory tower maybe, Leo.
Down here, where us proles live, it has been exuberant and exciting. 


This is a great time to be Irish. Now the Irish people are modern, compassionate, assertive and confident, while their establishment is ancient and tired, constantly trying to seduce global conglomerates to be Ireland’s latest post-empire overlords.
 

Everything has changed in Ireland since I’ve been here, save for this.
 

Now is the time for those in power to stop wasting Irish money subsidising overseas corporations, who come and go without a care for the Irish. 

Why must everything big from elsewhere always appear better to a ruling Irish eye?

Last year thousands danced in the street when Galway was named European Capital of Culture 2020. Yet if you remember the Volvo Ocean Race, you cannot say you're genuinely surprised that much of the 2020 affair has been, so far, something of a farce. 

In 2009 Galway fell prostrate in front of the hi-tech billionare boats, while Irish talent, in the shape of Irish chefs, Irish musicians and local Irish suppliers were left unpaid in its wake.
 

At the same time, over the river, the Claddagh Boatmen - Bádóirí an Cladaig - were forced to battle bureaucracies that would break lesser groups. 

Yet they survived and thrive today, traning a new generation of Galwegians to build, sail and navigate Galway Hookers, the traditional boat that brings global identity to our county, our flag and crest.
 

This year Galway hosted Edfest for ex-Galway busker Sheeran, whose gigs bought serious green folding to the local economy, whilst simultaneously the council was trying to legislate against busking in the city.
 

Why do Irish politicians fear others’ success? 

Now is the time for the Irish establishment to reflect the talent, graft and enthusiasm pouring forth from Irish people.
 

Now is the time to invest in Ireland’s best resource: the Irish people.
 

Never mind the 8th. Take a look at Article 1 of your own constitution:
 

“The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.
 

It’s been right there, ever since your independence.
 

The founders of your nation trusted the genius of Irish people. It’s evident to the rest of the world, so why do successive Irish governments refuse to acknowledge that the Irish people are ready to be believed in, encouraged, invested in and trusted, in accordance with their own genius and traditions?
 

Or should I say our?
Hmm.


©Charlie Adley
28.05.2018

Sunday 3 June 2018

I walked in the rain and became Irish!



Truly the Kingdom of Kerry is a magical place. I went to Killarney, drank a pint of Guinness, walked in the rain and the next day I was Irish.
 

As I stroll the rain-sodden streets I wonder whether they chose this town for Citizenship Ceremonies because walking around Killarney is like being dropped into an essential oil of Irishness.
 

Strains of Wild Rover and Maggie permeate the dripping air.
 

What could be more Irish than the rain?
 

It rains soft rain and then it rains summertime rain, with huge wet drops that pierce your clothes as arrows through armour. 

It rains drizzly rain, and then it rains more wet-making rain, and then the wind picks up, lifting the wetness and turning it into sideways rain.
 

It rains all night and it rains all morning, all afternoon and evening.
 

Never mind your forty shades of green. Forget Eskimos and all their words for snow.
 

The Irish have as many for the rain.
 

There's a power shower in the bathroom of my packed B&B. This is Killarney and Americans demand such things, but the complimentary soap is so tiny it actually fits inside my tummy button - such is the tireless research done for you by this colyoom.
 

Is this Ireland? A failed attempt to keep Americans happy?
 

The Full Irish breakfast is delivered by the same smiling Eastern European staff member who checked me in at reception yesterday. She brings me coffee instead of tea, and no butter for the toast, but her smile makes me happy.
 

Is this Ireland? An immigrant workforce making the best of a bad job?
 

I’ve a few hours to kill before the Citizenship Ceremony so I drive along  sodden roads listening to Pat Kenny discussing a murder.

Doesn't get more Irish than this, surely?
 

I'd forgotten the glory of this drive from Killarney to Kenmare, even when pelted by the rain. The road winds and drops to reveal sumptuous lakes and mountains under cloudy veils. Ladies View, Torc waterfall, all the famous spots are simply wonderfully splendidly Irish.
 

Sitting on a comfy sofa in a tea shop in Kenmare, staring at tourists walking in the rain, I try to decide what to wear for the Citizenship Ceremony.
 

Although aware of the significance of this day, I feel this is a two-way deal. Of course I want to be Irish, but equally, Ireland must want me too.
 

I’d rather present the real Charlie Adley, in his t-shirt and jeans, than some trussed up replicant in a shirt and tie.
 

Beyond the tea shop window, American tourists appear to believe they need six layers of Gore-Tex to protect them. 

Maybe to be truly Irish is to embrace the rain. My dear friend Orla was the first Irish person to tell me, 26 years ago: 

"It won't melt ya!"
 

How else might an Irish Citizenship Ceremony start but with a queue in the rain?
 

Inside the INEC centre, right here in the capital of Paddywhackery, the brass band on stage plays those two quintessentially Irish tunes: New York, New York and It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.
 

Minister Charlie Flanagan continues the showbiz theme, stepping up to the microphone with a
 

Helloooo! No, come on, I didn’t hear you! Hellooooo!
 

He tells us that one day our grandchildren might be so lucky as to officiate at a ceremony like this. Looking around at the thousands of happy faces, I hope many will aim their sights higher than politican.
 

Then, quite beautifully, he instructs us not to forget the country from which we came.
 

Your history's not contraband. We welcome your diversity. Bring with you your songs, your music and your stories. If you’re from India and Pakistan, please bring your cricket bats!”
 

Well, that’s righteously spurned all the Australians, South Africans and West Indians in here, not to mention this Englishman, but the Minister’s message is welcoming, warm and well-intentioned:
 

Then he performs the sacred rite of talking about Ireland’s 800 year dispossession.
 

Then we take the oath, and it’s done.
 

Was there ever a better time for a celebratory whiskey? I walk through the crowds and rain to the nearest bar. Inside there's plenty of thirsty punters but no barman in sight.
 

Now, that’s Ireland. Or is it? 

Ah here he is!
 

“Jameson please.”
 

“We have no Jameson.”
 

“You are kidding.”
 

“No.”
 

“Okay. Give me a Crested 10, please.”
 

Top shelf, as it should be today. I'm Irish, but more than that, I’m safe. 

After 26 years in this country, my healthcare, pension and status are no longer at the mercy of incompetents like Gove and Rees-Mug. I didn't want to lose it all.
 

The clouds are lifting off the mountains. It has stopped raining.
 

I'm safe. 
I'm Irish.
 

Unlike the whiskey, it's going to take a while to sink in.

 ***

I need to thank the wonderful Katya Okonkwo, of the Galway City Partnership, whose free advice and patience was immeasurably helpful.
 

Also, thanks to Ann the lawyer, who gave great counsel, stamped all the forms yet took no money. Where else in the world would a lawyer insist that as she had been our neighbour six years previously, she couldn't possibly accept payment? One of the many reasons I love the west of Ireland.  

©Charlie Adley
23.05.2018

Monday 28 May 2018

LOVE CURES THE CHALLENGE OF SPINNING LONDON!

Charlie 'Chipmunk' Adley and Johnny 'Bad Blues' Bendel at the helm...

My eyes open. The world looks different.
 

No, it doesn’t look different.
It feels different.
 

What day is it? 
What am I meant to be doing today? 
Why do I feel it’s important?
 

Oh yes, I’m going to England today. 

That’s it. 
But no, that’s not the real it.
 

I’m dizzy again.
 

That’s why everything feels so weird. The stationary world is moving.
 

Oh bloody hell, not today.
Not today of all days, please.
 

Forgetting what I’d learned last year, when this inner ear condition that could be either Meniere’s Disease, labyrinthitis or vertigo first hit me, I climb out of bed way too quickly.
 

Stumbling on what feels like fluid ground, I shoot my arm out towards the wardrobe and steady myself.
 

My bedroom has become a cabin on board ship. Thankfully the sea isn’t too rough today, and within a couple of seconds everything has returned to normal.
 

Phew. 

Maybe just a one-off.
 

Yeh, that’s all it was.
 

Not going to make any drastic judgments on a bit of early morning light-headedness. Today’s one of those days when everything has to run smoothly, because there’s so much in it.
 

I have a box of pills for this condition, but yesterday I took an antihistamine. After months of breathing the sweet clean air outside my back door, dusty polluted London can instantly turn me into a vile allergy snot machine, so I’d wanted to be prepared.
 

Trouble is the anti-dizzy pills are histamines and I remember my doctor telling me not to combine them with antihistamines.
 

Sort of like matter and anti-matter.
 

Bugger. 

Well, I’ll just have to stick to Plan A: Denial, fortified with a splash of It Never Happened.
 

Apart from the need of a swift clench on a metal bar in the loo at Shannon Airport, the rest of the day passes with little dizziness.
 

The wobbly spells seem to come when I jerk my head down, look straight upwards or move my head too quickly.
 

It’s very manageable and the universe is kind to me. All my arrangements proceed perfectly. The plane is half empty, arrives on time, and at the other end I get an email from Hertz to tell me my car is in Bay B24, keys in, ready to roll. Better still, it has an old-fashioned handbrake, instead of a counter-intuitive button.
 

The hotel gives me my favourite room, and by 4pm I’m sitting in my mum’s living room, enjoying a lively discussion about the Iran nuclear deal.
 

Despite my insistent protestations that when Russia, Europe and the US all agree on an idea, it might well be a good one, my mother decides to side with Trump and Netanyahu.
 

Our debate would appear to most readers of this newspaper a vicious shouting match, but such is the nature of Jewish culture, having delivered our best arguments with passion, gusto and gesticulation, we’re to be found two minutes later having a cup of tea, enjoying a slice of Victoria Sponge and a laugh, watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
 

The day has gone so well I allow myself two double whiskies back at the hotel. Sitting under stunning wisteria, I reflect how the Snapper and I were married right here, 10 years ago.
 

That night I have a brutal nightmare. Waking in the darkness, I’m still screaming for help and then, in horror, realise I’m in an hotel, and freaking out the people in the next room.
 

In the morning, I open my eyes and - oh yikes -
 

...OOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohOOOooohhh...


There it is: the full spinning carousel.
 

I know it’s not real yet I can’t stop my hands reaching out to grip the edge of the mattress on both sides, as my world rises and falls

whizzes around, speeds up 

and slows down.
 

Denial isn’t going to cut it any more, so I ask a doctor for some help.
 

He gives me more of the pills I was on before and tells me to stay off the booze. Not a problem while I’m with my family, but in three days I’m heading off to see my beloved London Posse, and in their company the desire for a wee drop might become irresistible.
 

I ask the doc what happens if I drink with the tablets and he tells me it’ll negate their effect.
 

Hmmm.
Heard worse.
 

After a wonderful few days with my family, meeting my newborn Great-Nephew, Noah (who just happens to be an absolute cutie beauty) I head off to spend time with my other brothers and sisters: this group of friends I’ve been part of since 1973.
 

The medication is working quite well, and my evening with Johnny B, Kaz and Tim passes with narry a worry, much laughing and a curry.
 

The next day I head into town, and while Chelsea play their final game of the season this True Blue fan feels a zillion miles from football, sitting on the grass in Regent’s Park, having a wonderful talk with Dave, enjoying Jyl’s company and then finally meeting her mum.
 

Heading south I decide to avoid the inner ear challenge of the Tube’s mad swaying loud banging flashing light environment, so I grab an Über and enjoy watching the city of my birth go by.
 

At Lucy and Neil’s I chill and risk a beer, but truth be told, there’s only one thing that matters today.
 

As I sip my pint of London Pride, I’m very aware that I need no artificial buzz. I’m in the company of souls who know me inside out, as I do them.
 

I’ve known my wonderful Irish posse for 26 years, but still consider them my new friends.
 

How lucky am I?
 

I wouldn’t recommend Spinning London to anyone, but I’m safe and happy, my world stabilised by intoxicants far more powerful than beer and whiskey: the bonds of family and lifetime friendship. 


©Charlie Adley
17.05.2018

Sunday 20 May 2018

THE SUN IS OUT - THIS MAN IS OUT!



 
At last our natural world here in the west of Ireland is bursting with life. I can feel underneath me as I walk a burgeoning latent power, eager to rise, erupt, unfurl and bloom, to blossom and produce fruit.
 

After that long winter our local ecosystem is in a heck of a hurry to catch up with itself. The dazzling white flowers on the leaf of the hawthorn arrived this year while there were still white flowers on the buds of the blackthorn. 

With bluebells dancing alongside primroses, everyone in the ground is shaking their natural booty thang together this spring.
 

Given a few hours of solitude and an absence of rain, your scribbler has been out there too, fulfilling - or rather, trying to avoid repeating - my annual destiny.
 

Until the compost I made last year is spread, I can’t start to make compost once again.
 

Of course I can, but within my neurotic little existence and the chaos that is my brainbox, this seasonal ritual creates a tiny bit of order.
 

Each year I lift the grey plastic sheet, reveal the new compost, and proceed to load the wheelbarrow, at some point completely screwing up my back and carrying on regardless.
 

Has to be done, dammit.
Nothing more important for the soil - gaaawooorr! - and what did I go to all the trouble of making it for, if I’m so feeble a man I can’t even spread my own


ooh ooh ca-ha-hoooghhh 

breathe 

... compost?
 

This year I set a target of weeding the wildflower bed and shifting the compost without leaving myself on anti-inflammatories and heat pads. 

Thankfully I’ve a secret weapon, in the shape of ten stretches which I do, well, not exactly every morning, but 5 in 7, or 4 maybe, but you know, I do them and thank goodness.
 

They take about 25 minutes and have transformed my life.
 

As I sit here now, a couple of hours after the muck spreading, I’m not exactly pain free, but as the enlightened physiotherapist advised me, that’s because I’ve been using my muscles. 

I am, however, intact and mobile. Victory is mine, even if it’s a feeble one over my own body.
 

Last year’s waste turned this year’s goodness has now been returned to the soil. The roses, soft fruit, forsythia and the two purply bushes I don’t know the name for have more than a fighting chance of thriving.
 

That makes me feel good, because despite living in the First World, where everything is instantly available, we have not lost our animalistic need to grow food; to excel outdoors; to understand the land we share with plants and animals.
 

There’s a reason gardening makes good therapy. What else is 'grounding' if not sticking your hands in the soil? More than anything else, planting is what has led to the debatable success of our species.
 

The soil has allowed us to thrive. Without its ability to grow plants to order, we would still be in caves. Maybe that’s why I find pleasure in restoring some of what we’ve taken, to nurture future growth: it’s a kind of a thank you, and please can we have some more?
 

There are simple delights and benefits to being outside, and much to give thanks for here.
 

Our Galway air comes clean and fresh off three thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean, as the lichens on our local rocks will attest.
 

After months of storms and floods we here in the west of Ireland drain every droplet of joy and Vitamin D from the warmth of our May sunshine, because oh, there, it’s gone again, until that cloud passes.
 

Tomorrow I’m mowing the lawn, yet as I look down at it now, I already feel guilty. The first few cuts this year I had the blades lifted, partly because it’s best for the grass, and partly because I’m a soft git.
 

All those dandelions are keeping bumblebees happy and buzzing along. By tomorrow lunchtime they’ll all be gone.
 

Admittedly in the surrounding fields there are 20 billion kazillion more, but, well, as I say, I’m a soft git: the same nurturing soul thrilled to see the birds I fed over the winter at this moment dining on beasties in the flower beds.
 

It’s Saturday morning yet inside the living room the fire sits unlit. Football Focus has not been watched (yet).
 

I’m out: a grateful animal, gambolling in pastures, physical and spiritual.
 

This morning has been great, my energy reflecting the excited levels of spring. As well as the compost, I’ve done three loads of laundry, now 
flapping on the line in the stiff breeze and sunshine.
 

The swallows who live in the barn are back and flying low, which usually means low pressure and rain coming in, but not today. 

They all agree, the BBC and RTE, the app and what we can actually see:
we’ve a couple of dry days clear and no mistake.
 

Ah there. That’s what the swallows are after. 

Another bunch of flying somethings, hatching out of Lough Corrib, just down the bohreen.
 

I know the mayflies and the damselflies, but I’m no expert. We see a lot of hatches round these parts, but I’ve no idea what these abundant little fellas might be.
 

However, I do appreciate how it’s lifting my spirits to sit here, enjoying the healthy ache of bodily labours, while a mere few feet in front of me, nature’s aerial acrobats are feasting on the wing.
 

Better go and have a shower now.
Just realised that yer man isn’t spreading slurry.
 

That whiff is me.

©Charlie Adley

20.05.2018