Sunday 17 November 2019

FRIENDS FORM THE FLESH AND BONES OF LIFE!



“I’ll meet you under the clock in Marylebone station at midday on Saturday.”

“Brilliant mate. That’s perfect. Chelsea kick off at 12:30, so we’ll find a pub, watch the game and then go somewhere plush and comfy to sit and talk properly.”

Being prone to romantic notions, I’d envisaged the clock at Marylebone Station being similar to the legendary 4-faced clock, which forms the focal point of Waterloo Station.

I was also nurturing memories, only two years old, of Marylebone Station being a relatively quiet and gentle place, compared to London’s major compass point terminals.

Turned out I was wrong on both counts.

The District Line train I’d taken from Putney Bridge to Edgware Road had been wedged. I grew up in London, and it never crossed my mind that I might not get a seat and some space during Saturday’s off-peak hours.

Instead I was reacquainted with the essential London skill of tube surfing, which involves looking as nonchalant as possible, while gripping the leather straps that hang to hold you up, as your body sways, dips and jolts with the train.

Slightly unnerved by the way my native city had changed so much, I stepped out of Edgware Road Station, unsure of my route to Marylebone.

Ah but there’s the Euston Road! Instantly I became a local once more.
Spring in step, right down Lisson Street, and boomph, there’s Marylebone Station.

Even better, attached to the station shone the bright signage of the Marylebone Sports Bar and Grill.

“Luvvly jubbly Batman! Well ‘andy!” as they say … here!

Before I even enter the station I see rivers of people flowing in and out of each portal, and inside it’s not far from mayhem.

Well, actually, that’s not true. I live in such a ridiculously quiet spot that a pair of finches feuding over birdseed can seem chaotic. Suffice to say the station was bustling, noisy and there was no clock.

Up and down I paced, searching for a dial, and as 11:59 beckoned, aha! Over there! A digital strip, declaring platforms, trains and the time.

Underneath, my mate waiting

We hugged and headed straight to the Sports Bar, where a boisterous bunch of large lads down the far end were watching Nottingham Forest v Derby, collectively contributing decibel levels that’d make Lemmy’s ears bleed.

It was fantastic to see English football’s second tier creating such fervent support. Trouble was, along with the cries of all those watching gordknows what on who knows how many big screens, it would have been great if the lads from the East Midlands calmed down a bit.

Not like I was going to ask them.
Kidding?

Let ‘em roar.

We slid along the seating of a freshly empty booth, with a TV screen at the end of the table where the jukebox used to be. Then, as I headed to the loo, my mate gave me a most enigmatic order.

“Think 40 years.”

Distracted only by the hysterical mosaic in the Gents, portraying Messi peeing into the pan over someone's head, Ronaldo curving his effort in from far away and Neymar laying in a puddle of his own making, I subtracted 40 from 2019 and realised where my friend was coming from.

Back in our booth I smiled and declared: “Jerusalem!”

“David’s Gate!” he smiled back.

“Jaffa Gate!” I replied, tempted to burst suddenly and completely inappropriately into song:

“Ahhh yeeeessss, ahh remember it weeell!”

In May 1979 we’d arranged to meet in Jerusalem, at midday on August 5th. We both then left London, to hitch and travel separate summers, and as today, 40 years later, we met at midday.

We clinked glasses and ordered something called the Matchday Combo. As we tucked in to our decadent platter of Southern-fried chicken, garlic bread, onion rings, potato-wrapped hot dog, corn-on-the-cob, spicy wings, skinny fries and dips, I reflected on the conversations I’d heard each night, where Londoners discussed their 5:2, paleo and vegan diets.

That day we didn’t care about high fat foods, salt or anything really, because we were being boys, enjoying the occasion, the food and footie, and each other’s company.

After the game (which Chelsea won, thanks for asking) we walked under the covered concourse to the Landmark Hotel where, just 20 yards from the footie fanatics, others ate and drank in a grand marble pillared ballroom, under towering indoor palm trees, at tables covered by crisp white linen.

’Twas ever thus. There will always be rich people, and for us it provided the prefect venue for a long catch-up conversation.

We drank coffee and then the waitress bought us a bill.

I explained to her how I hadn’t asked for one yet, because we might be ordering something else.

“Ah yes sir, but we have to bring a bill after each drink, as so many people run away without paying.”

My friend and I both physically flinched. I suppressed my anger, suggesting to the waitress that she discuss with her boss a better way of dealing with their problem, so that customers don’t feel accused of being criminals.

We upped and left, mildly offended, yet delighted to have spent good time together.

I smiled gently to myself. That day we were clean shaven and well dressed.

How might the staff here have reacted if we’d arrived wearing the tattered denim shorts, dust-dried skin and variety of body odours that accompanied our 40 year-old reunion in Jerusalem?

If family forms the blood of life, friendships are the flesh and bones.



©Charlie Adley
17.11.2019.

Monday 11 November 2019

TENANTS ARE TERRIFIED TO SPEAK OUT!


The landlord on the radio is complaining about his tenants. They’ve half-destroyed the house, upset all the neighbours and they’re six months late with the rent.

Of course I feel sorry for him. This is far from the first time I’ve listened to landlords giving out about their tenants from hell, but my sympathy is tempered by a massive omission.

You never hear tenants giving out about their landlords. Well, you do, often and emphatically, in private conversations, but rarely in the mainstream media, and even less frequently to their landlords.

I’ve been living in rented accommodation since 1981, and up until the middle of the last decade, the relationship between landlord and tenant remained mutually beneficial.

The landlords had their mortgages paid by tenants, who in turn lived without the fear of something in their home breaking or going wrong.

Of course there were always areas of contention, usually involving periods of notice and the return of deposits, but the lines were clear and well drawn, with both parties getting something out of the deal.

In Bradford, West Yorkshire, I lived in an attic room with a long window running the length of the building. My view reached out beyond the city, to green fields and the mighty Pennines.

One afternoon the entire window fell out and crashed to the ground.

Within minutes my landlord Majid (who lived next door) had boarded it up, and the next day a new window was in place.

That’s the way it worked. If a pipe leaked you called the landlord, and they had it fixed.
 

It felt good.

You were paying for their building, but in return you lived without worry of paying for repairs.

Not any more.

These days everything has changed. Despite the valid and furious cries coming from this bloke on the radio, the market presently favours landlords to an extravagant and cruel extent.

The balance of power has shifted so fundamentally that now the tenant is supposed to feel grateful to be given the opportunity to pay excessive rent.

In San Francisco in the 1990s I first sampled what has now become standard procedure in any major city: the queue outside every property at viewing time, each applicant clutching their approved credit rating report and references.

Instead of feeling protected by a symbiotic relationship, millions of tenants are now terrified of contact with their landlords. 


They wouldn’t dream of asking for refunds, in case they’re seen as troublesome tenants, and served notice to leave.

If something goes wrong in your rented home, you now either fix it yourself, or if you can’t afford to do that, you live with it broken.

There are of course laws to protect tenants, and clauses in each tenancy agreement that offer reimbursement and support for tenants, but they are, to a great extent, worthless.

As soon as a tenant demands help, their landlord starts looking for ways to get rid of them.
 

In the present market, there are always new tenants lining up, eager to replace evicted ones, so nobody demands their rights.

Instead tenants now keep their heads down, paying plumbers and electricians themselves, so as not to worry their landlords.

There’d be hell to pay if tenants arrived to picnic on their landlord’s lawn, yet landlords feel it’s fine to appear, unannounced, at the front doors of tenancies.

There is no escaping the fact that tenants are seen socially and politically as second class citizens.

Our society shows more respect to homeowners who can’t pay their mortgages than tenants who pay their rent each week.

Nobody speaks out. You don’t hear tenants on the news, asserting their legal rights, because they don’t want to be identified by their landlords or blacklisted.

As I grew more mature and responsible (I did. Honest I did!) I started to feel a duty of care towards each home I lived in, so each year at renewal time I’d let the landlord know anything that I’d want to know, were that house my own.

A broken gutter, wobbly roof tiles, anything that might compromise the structure of the building itself. I’d also let them know I’d had the chimney swept, and in return they’d send gentle thanks and a refund.

However, ever since the financial crash, landlords don’t care as much about the state of their rental properties.

Maybe they’re also squeezed financially, but whatever their financial situation, they own a house which the tenant does not.

When homeowners found they couldn’t afford to pay their mortgages, they stopped paying them. Lied to and living a nightmare, untold thousands are still in arrears, but many benefit from mortgage relief.

Tenants have no such support. If we can’t come up with the rent, we’re screwed. If your rent’s several months in arrears, you’re out and that’s that.

Evictions of homeowners makes prime time news, but tales of tenants being thrown out of their homes don’t make the grade, because these days, tenants don’t either.

Thankfully, apart from one excruciating exception, I have been phenomenally lucky with my landlords over the years.

Every tenancy I’ve had here in the west of Ireland was agreed upon in that gentle and benign manner, known as ‘Old School.’

After a cup of tea and a chat, there’d be a handshake.

As my current landlord put it: “Why would I want to read references from people I don’t know, when I’m sitting here talking to you?”



©Charlie Adley
11.11.2019



Monday 28 October 2019

LOYALTIES AKIMBO BETWEEN EGGY BALLS, ROUND BALLS AND BREXIT BALLS-UPS!


Saturday 19th October (yes, 10 days ago, slack git...)
 

06:10: Way too early to wake up! I told myself last night that I don’t need to get up until 7:45, so I can make tea and toast before the game. 

Everything else can wait until the gap between quarter finals.

Yeh, but I need to go to the loo, so I might as well take the next antibiotic, which means I need to eat a banana in bed with it, which means I’ll just finish reading that chapter in my bedside book.

That’s it.
Lights off.

Back to sleep now.

6:35: Sod it! Brain’s racing.

Still dark outside and no, just chill out and read another chapter.

07:45: Gave up on bed an hour ago. Made the fire and showered. Caught up with the latest from Westminster. 


In a parody of Sky Sports, they’re calling today ‘Super Saturday’, as it might be the day that sees Brexit sorted, and (yawn) it might not.
 

If Letwin’s vote fails, there’s a slim chance the government might win their vote and pass the deal. Unlikely, and right now nobody knows, so time to cook eggs and bacon.

08:05: Noshing cooked breakfast with a mug of builder’s tea, WhatsApping with my mates in London who are equally excited, sending photos of themselves in their England shirts. Come on England!

09:07: I want to live in the place where Owen Farrell’s eyes go to before he kicks. I totally understand his ritual. 


Whether he’s right in front of the posts or aiming at a crazy awkward angle, he treats each kick exactly the same way; the same rocking arms back and forth; the same peering at the ball, the same eyes rolling off into another dimension; the same run-up and the same kick.

There is no easy kick nor hard kick: just the kick. A little spooky to watch, but I get where he’s at.

11:00: Fired up for Ireland. I’ve completely bought into the hype, instead of listening to expert friends, who suggest that Ireland aren’t as good as they think they are.

More to the point, they advised me, it’s irrelevant Ireland have beaten them twice in the last 3 meetings, as the All Blacks are a different outfit when they’re playing a meaningful game.

Before kick-off, my mind wanders to the possibility of an England v Ireland World Cup Semi Final.

In previous years, my loyalty would be 100% behind my native country.

Although I’m Irish now, I have lived as an Englishman in Ireland for nearly 30 years, and nothing makes you feel more patriotic than being perpetually blamed for 800 years of history that was nothing to do with you.

Today though, I feel a bit different, and that disturbs me.

England have won the Rugby World Cup and Ireland are yet to win a knockout game in the competition.

If England made the World Cup Final, the country would be thrilled to bits.

If the Irish beat the All Blacks, this nation would be gripped in a rabid frenzy of excitement.

If then they beat the Auld Enemy, to make the Word Cup Final, these 32 counties would go absolutely ballistic.

November would be cancelled and we’d party all the way to Christmas.

It’s impossible to imagine not shouting for England, yet part of me would love to see Ireland make it through to the final. 


Throughout this interminable Brexit debacle, the English have shown arrogance and ignorance to the island of Ireland.

Ignoring the fact that Northern Ireland voted to remain, successive Prime Ministers have clung to and then discarded the votes of DUP extremists, as and when it suited.

The average person on England’s streets doesn’t have a clue about this island, and doesn’t give a monkey’s about it.

I know, as I was one of them.

If it comes to England v Ireland then I think, for the first time, I’d shout for my adopted home.

Ireland deserves it - all 32 counties, shoulder to shoulder - by way of an apology for all the suffering that Brexit has bought and is yet to inflict.

12:50: Oh dear. Oh dear dear dear. Make a metal note not to mention this game to any of my Irish friends.

Still, at least my heart won’t be torn in next Saturday’s semifinal. I will be wholly English, and while there’s always hope, I don’t fancy our chances against the All Blacks.

There’s always hope.

Off out to buy newspapers, milk and victuals, and back to catch up with the debate in the House of Commons.

In or out, up the wall or round the bend, whichever way they’re voting they’d better get it done before Chelsea’s 3 o’clock kick off.

14:50: Come on! Hurry it up, Westminster! Tension rises to critical levels in my living room, as I wait for the result of the Letwin vote. Aha! Amendment passed. Brexit delayed. Time to watch footie.

14:55: Not yet. Johnson is claiming he won’t ask for a delay. Like an over-excited six-year-old, through his cunning wheeze of sending two letters to Brussels and only signing the one he likes, the PM is going to obey the law and simultaneously ignore it.

14:57: Completely confused by my day’s shifting lines of devotion and feelings of belonging. 


It looks like my beloved native nation is oozing slowly towards civil war, along with Spain, and so many other crumbling countries formed of dubious unions.

Ho hum.

15:00: Off to Stamford Bridge. The eggy balls confused my heart, but this round one offers the pure and simple pleasure of one loyalty that holds no controversy for me: I’m Chelsea, through and through.

Come on you Blues!



©Charlie Adley
28.10. 2019.

Sunday 20 October 2019

BEREFT AND BROWN BREADLESS IN THE HEART OF THE CITY!


In my tiny freezer I’ve a large brown pan and a sourdough loaf from Griffin's Bakery, which closed its doors for the last time a few weeks ago.

The longer the loaves sit there, the drier and less bouncy they become, but driven by a sad desire for delayed gratification, they sit there still.

My reaction is not so much about the bread, but my attachment to Griffin’s. Fans of David Chase’s masterpiece, The Sopranos, will understand when I say I’m coming over all Bobby Baccalieri.

Realised by actor Steve Schirripa, Robert Baccalieri Jr. was a shy, comparatively gentle mobster, who was at his happiest playing with model trains.

Bobby had several nicknames,  (’Baccalà’, ’Calzone on Legs’ and ’Burger Boy’), all celebrating the way his waistline crossed several time zones.

When his wife Karen died in a car crash, Bobby focused on looking after his two young children, Sophia and Bobby III.

Unfortunately, Karen’s death caught the attention of Mob Boss Tony Soprano’s machiavellian sister, Janice, who used all her malign talents to inveigle her way into Bobby’s home.

Karen’s last baked ziti sat like a holy relic in Bobby’s freezer. He saw it as a vital final sensory link to his wife.

Driven demented by Bobby’s refusal to embrace her as his new saviour, Janice cooked up a vile scheme, which involved abusing Bobby’s kids’ grief with an ouija board.

Bobby arrived home to find his children terrified, while Janice played a manipulative blinder, telling Bobby that she’d heard them talk about Karen’s ghost earlier, but worried she’d be overstepping her bounds if she intervened.

Faced with his freaked out kids, Bobby finally caved in to Janice’s pleas to move on from Karen, allowing her to cook his wife's last ziti.

Janice’s victory was so complete that by the time they ate the ziti together, it was in honour of their engagement.

Thankfully my life is far from gangsters, but I do have two Griffin’s loaves in my freezer, for purely sentimental reasons.

We all have our little routes when we head into town, and for decades mine always included Griffin’s bakery.

Their large brown pan was a thing of beauty. Unsliced, that loaf would stay fresh and last me a week. It was real bread: the stuff of life.

No more.

There’s no shortage of O’Hehirs Bakeries. Offering lovely bread, gooey cakes, and a nice little social scene, where locals can enjoy a cuppa and a chat, they’re a great chain, so what’s my problem?

Grumpy Old Man Syndrome is what we’re dealing with here. If I walk into O’Hehirs and ask for a large brown pan, sure as orders are orders, the server will ask:

“Only one?”

because if you buy two, you’ll save on the unit cost. Small thing, I know, but if I wanted to buy two loaves of bread, I’d ask for two loaves of bread.

Just around the corner from Griffin's there’s fancy fresh bread available at Le Petit Delice, but their small loaves would survive no more than a couple of days in my home.

There used to be order in my Galway cakery-bakery connection.
If I wanted bread I went to Griffin’s.

For a good cake, I’d go to Goya’s and buy their chocolate fudge cake. If I needed a mind-blowingly wonderful cake, I’d go to Goya’s and order their chocolate mousse cake.

For scrummy shmancy patisserie, you can’t beat Le Petit Delice. Many a ‘tea and buns’ session with Dalooney is enjoyed while sharing a slice of their Black Forest Gateau and a strawberry tartlet.

It may sound strange to you that I miss a shop, but I grew up in retail, with both my parents running shops, as has my sister all her life. I’ve managed several myself, and worked in many others, so doubtless that influences my emotions, but also there were personal connections.

For several years I had the pleasure of living a few doors down from Anthony and Eithne Griffin, and it was impossible not to enjoy their company.

In 2008 the business was bought by their son Jimmy, the fourth generation to run the bakery. In 2012, Jimmy made an incredibly generous gesture towards me, that unfortunately - some might say tragically - missed its mark.

In this colyoom’s 2012 DV Awards, Griffin's Bakery were awarded the More Rare Than An Honest Banker Lifetime Achievement DV for decades of consistently superb bread, the best sausage rolls ever and several inches on my waistline.”

Jimmy Griffin responded to this honour by sending boxes of hot sausage rolls over to the Connacht Tribune building.

Trouble is, I work from home, popping into the newsroom once every couple of weeks, so it said a lot about Griffin’s sausage rolls, that days later everyone still had satisfied smiles on their faces, as they teased me in wistful tones of the treat I had missed.

In Connacht we’re lucky to have loads of great places selling spectacular baked goods - loud shout out to Galway’s Gourmet Tart Company! - but I’m yet to find a bakery that simply sells me a large unsliced wholemeal pan, if I walk in and ask for one.

All colyoomista suggestions gratefully received - as long as they’re about bread!
Meanwhile I’ve still two Griffin’s loaves in my freezer.

Get a grip, Adley.
Defrost ‘em, eat ‘em and move on.

One last time, for the record: thanks, Griffin’s, for the bread; the cakes; the sausage rolls; the consistency and reliability; the charm and the chat.

We will miss all that.




© Charlie Adley
20.10.2019. 

Sunday 13 October 2019

WHAT COMES AFTER MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH?



I’m meant to be in England today, but I’m here at home, writing this.

I’m meant to be in my lovely mum’s living room, enjoying the company of the astounding, energetic, astute and lucid 90 year-old who made me.

Instead I’m staring out of my office window, waiting for hours of rain to arrive, and much as I’d love to have been there, given my health at the moment, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than here.

Two days ago I was in great form. The house was hoovered, laundry done, suitcase packed.

This was going to be a tiny trip, just two nights to see family, because back in August I’d cancelled a much longer trip at the last moment.

That one was going to be my holiday. Family and friends in London, but I couldn’t do it.

The tiniest sniff of conflict was setting me off. After I’d cried three times in public in six days, I pulled out of the trip.

Back in July this colyoom told of the arrival of a depression. It has been fierce, intense, long-lasting and extremely useful, because the foundations of my life have fundamentally altered.

Being a control freak, I find it hard to let go, yet I desperately needed to grieve.

Within a depression I have no defence against my emotions, so I’ve been able to engage each as they presented themselves, took the hit, took it again, marvelled at how ridiculous life is when this 59 year-old can still feel pure naïve pain, and tried to simply accept the different losses and conflicts that have dominated my life over the last year.

That sounds good, that ‘over the last year.’

Hopefully I’m now emerging, and soon will be able to enjoy looking forward, without carrying the past on my back.

That’s my target.

I’m not quite there yet, although writing about those dark periods in the past tense is pure therapy.

You poor downtrodden souls who read Double Vision regularly may have noticed that recently there have been many colyooms of whacky things Adley did in the past.

Some colyoomistas wondered what was up (Bernard! John!), so as a general guide the way Double Vision tends to work is that the more fluffy my copy, the darker my mental state.

When pumped up with courage and positivity, it’s easier to delve into deeper, possibly more meaningful fodder.

However, after last week’s fascinating exposé of my cleaning routines, I sufficiently disgusted myself to come clean with you too.

It has been yonks since this colyoom told new tales of drunken wobblings around the pubs of Galway, or (apart from Brexit, which feels personal) virtuous rantings on social justice and the lack of it.

Apart from when I teach my Craft of Writing course or visit the homes of friends, I’ve simply not been up to socialising with people, so there’s been precious little life to write about.

I’d planned this summer to reach out to my new town, because I still don’t know a soul here, but as Dylan or Lennon said, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making plans.”

Bang! Depression hit, and while it temporarily kiboshed my chances of creating a new social life, it delivered the chance to heal.

I stay home alone. Not always pleasant, but for the last three months infinitely better than any alternative.

I’m an extremely lucky man to have this space, and even through the most wretched times, I make sure to give thanks for my wonderful friends and family.

They worry that such solitude is not healthy, but for my mental health this peace has been perfect.

Galway is an hour away, and my (not so new) local town awaits: an opportunity still very much available, which I intend to grasp, with all social skills blazing, as soon as I’m up to it.

Thankfully I do feel I’m gradually emerging from this depression, so hopefully the content of these colyooms will soon improve.

Two days ago, mentally and emotionally ready and eager to go to London, I zipped up my suitcase.

Two hours later my entire body started to shake, inside and out.

My legs, arms, fingers and toes were beating out macabre jazz riffs, my guts cramping and twisting, my lungs grabbing whatever air they could.

Scared the hell out of me, it did.

Felt like an adrenaline drenching, and since having two panic attacks in the past, I keep a couple of emergency valium in the house, so I took one and texted my friend, who’s rashly agreed to be my medical emergency person.

I asked him to call me in a few hours, to check in, by which time I’d stopped shaking, but felt weak and beaten up.

The serenity and solitude that I enjoy here may be great for my spiritual and mental health, but knowing nobody local when you’re physically unwell is an unsustainable situation.

New friends are nearby, I just haven’t met them yet, and there is: my life reduced to a beer mat slogan.

Next morning I awoke with a fever, zero energy, physically knocked out.

Oh no.
Please not now!
Not the day of my England trip!

I called my mum to tell her I had to cancel the trip.

I’ll never know if those two hours of shaking were a form of panic attack, or a ridiculously ostentatious way for a virus to announce its arrival in my body, but holy guacamole Batman, they were terrifying.

In August I cancelled because of my mental health.
In October physical illness made it impossible.  

I’m booked to go again in November.

Never mind all that 'things coming in threes' malarkey.

I’m backing ‘third time lucky.’




©Charlie Adley
13.10. 2019.