Monday 8 February 2016

BURNS, CUTS AND SCARS? BLAME CREATIVITY!




My body is covered with scars and scabs, bruises and burns. I’ve not been in a fight. Just waking and sleeping, I pick up knocks and scrapes all the time; always have done.
 

The Snapper tells me that it’s because I’m not in the moment. Apparently, when I burn my arm on the handles of the roasting tin, I’m not concentrating. 

I know those handles well, as I’ve burned my arm on them on countless occasions, but as I raise the heavy tin from the hob, to pour the roast’s deglazed goo into the gravy, I - Ow! Bloody Dammit! Screw that bastard thing! - do it again.
 

It’s no coincidence that my house is laden with aloe vera plants. Nothing works better softening painful tissue after a burn, but sometimes even that doesn’t work. Last year I awoke in the middle of the night to find a tennis ball-sized swelling on my forearm where my most recent burn used to be.
 

Filled with fear, I could feel from the heat of this new grotesque injury that an infection had taken over, and in the darkest hours it’s incredibly easy to head down the horror trail of septicemia, lymph nodes and is it morning yet and please can I go to the doctor now?
 

While the Snapper’s advice makes absolute sense, life ain’t simple.
 

On many levels I’m a fan of being in the moment. When I see tourists clasping cameras to their eyeballs as they travel around Connemara, I worry they’re so obsessed by proving they’ve been here, they miss the point of being here. 

Equally, I try to live in the present. Right now is all we've got and all that lardydeedar. However, as a scribbler, I cannot live forever in that realm. While being creative I naturally exist in a world of my own. Off with the faeries is too specific. I wander the world with my eyes open, while my brain is somewhere else entirely. 

In that personal mental bubble, my imagination and thoughts can make joyous whoopee with each other, uninterrupted.
 

However, those poor souls who have lived with me find it frustrating and upsetting to enter a room, only to have me scream in shock.
 

“I bloody live here!” some have shouted, with justifiable indignation.
 

Built like a bear and lost in my own writer’s reverie, I never notice the damage done until I’m drying after a shower. 

Wow - there’s a fresh cut all the way down my left thigh. Must’ve walked into the corner of a table or something. 

Holy moly, look at that bruise on my back! Wonder how I did that? Bleedin' 'eck, it’s the size of Cyprus and has more colours than Jupiter.
 

Sometimes several accidents come together to create a perfect mess.  Last week I was trying to carry too much stuff in one go from the kitchen into the living room. 

A slice of toast slid from its plate into my mug of tea, creating a much larger splash that I would have thought possible. The tea erupted onto my woollen jumper, the boiling liquid heading inland so that it could also burn my belly.
 

My tea was spoiled, my toast ruined, my jumper needed changing and it was out with the aloe vera all over again.
 

While others might see such buffoonery as comic genius, my mouth emitted a different term at the time, unsuitable for this noble rag. That debacle I cannot put down to my otherworldly creative needs. It was just me being a lazy prat and paying for my sloth.
 

As if my natural clumsiness and spaced out creative needs are not enough, there is one more major item to add to this catalogue of Adley malfunctions.
 

This one I fear the most, as it usually creates a victim other than myself and is impossible to explain. Possibly driven by nervous tension, I try to endear myself to it by awarding it a name all of its own: my dreaded spasma of the arm.
 

Yes, there’s a spare ‘A’ at the end of that word, because mere spasm is not extravagant enough a term to describe the bizarre nature of this behaviour. Although it can happen at any time, it usually appears when least desired and expected.
 

20 years ago I was dining with a lovely friend of mine in an austere and quiet restaurant on Achill Island, We were laughing a little too loudly and generally having much more fun than the other diners, who were peering disapprovingly at us.
 

In one sweeping movement, my arm suddenly travelled across the table, clipped my friend’s full wine glass into the air and then batted it down, so that it smashed into pieces on the floor, having emptied its Burgundy contents all over her white shirt.
 

Despite looking unquestionably like an act of aggression, she knew me well enough to know it had been an accident, and we laughed uproariously at the absurdity of it.
 

Another time, in a restaurant in Salthill, I greeted the lovely woman who’d agreed on a first date by sending my arm towards the lit candle in the centre of the table, and then in what appeared to all (including me!) as a deliberate and extremely precise movement, my fingertip flicked the molten candle wax from just below the flame onto my date’s right shoulder.
 

So lovely a woman was she that she spent the entire meal with her arm covering the solidifying wax on her blouse, so that, in her generous words:
 

“You wouldn’t spoil the meal by worrying about the wax.”
 

I’m willing to suffer the bruises and burns if it helps retain my creativity, while my occasional clumsiness is a sad fact of life, but my spasma of the arm hurts others, so I would happily banish it from my repertoire of strange behaviours.

©Charlie Adley
28.01.16.

Monday 1 February 2016

Don't hate Winter - it's stunning!



When I told my Galwegian friends in 1994 that I was leaving Salthill to live in Connemara, in a little house between Ballyconneely and Slyne Head, they collectively shook their heads and rumbled worries.
 

“The Winter wind will drive you crazy.” they warned. “People go bananas, living alone out there, mate.”
 

While I knew they were only being kind, they were underestimating my own madness, the built-in bonkers brain I carry that loves people but finds them hard to be around. Connemara couldn’t drive me crazy because I was already there.
 

After washing up on Ireland’s shores a couple of years before, I was lucky to find myself befriended by an excellent crew local lads, now life-time friends.
 


Our nights out ran from an Tobar to Taylor’s to Vagabonds, and I enjoyed every one, but the lifestyle was causing my body to crumble, my spirit to wane. 

After countless exploratory hitching trips I’d fallen desperately in love with Connemara, and was raving with excitement at the prospect of living there, in rural solitude.
 

I longed to turn off my bedside light at 11 and awake at 7, so that I could lie there snug for another hour, feeling smug and grateful that I was neither on a crammed tube train, nor freezing cold waiting at a bus stop.
 

I loved my first Winter alone in that bleak moonscape. With the ocean not more than a mile to the north and west and only three to the east, I’d rise after my hour of smugness and walk to a beach before breakfast.
 


No distractions, no demands; simply walk and sit and write all day.
At 4 I’d walk the 1.8 miles (I told you I was crazy and yes, I need to know distances like that) to Keogh’s pub where I’d make myself perfectly squiggly before walking home for dinner.
 

Many days I’d speak to nobody, save for the bigots on Marianne Finucane’s Afternoon Call - yes, Ireland had ritualised daily moaning before Joe Duffy - yet never did I feel lonely.
 

After ten days of this healthy productive living I’d climb into my transit van and race along the N59 for two days of guiltless hedonistic consumption in Galway City. 

Three mornings later, I’d load the van with shopping at Quinnsworth, and drive slowly and carefully back along the N59, my aching head and trembly body desperate for recovery and solitude once again. 









Being an awful contrary beast, it wasn’t the wind that drove me crazy, but the lack of it. One night I lay in bed and couldn’t sleep. There was nothing of consequence running around my mind, yet something was spooking me.
 

Opening my bedroom curtains I thought the sheen on the land meant it had snowed, but no: it was simply a full moon. Born in light-polluted London, I’d no idea of the power lunar light had on the natural landscape. 

Deeply moved, I stepped outside and saw those stone-walled famine fields bathed in the silvery wash of a freezing Winter’s night. Ponies were grazing as if it were midday, while the shrieks of vixens and cry of their prey shattered the ethereal silence. Arching across the heavens over my house, the Milky Way shone as a luminous reminder of my own insignificance.
 

Then I realised why I hadn’t been able to sleep. 
There was no wind.
 

Although I’d lived there for six months, I’d not yet had the chance to experience the utter stillness of motionless air. Holding my breath I stood still, listening carefully. Brooks that I hadn’t known were nearby babbled and spluttered. I could hear the grass being ripped from the ground by horses’ teeth.
 

Ever since that moment of ecstasy I have loved Winter. The following November hurricane force winds bent in the glass of all my windows, but I felt no fear, as there was no shed door, no roof tile nearby that might smash into my house.
 

Such a brutal and majestic power fuelled that storm, that the following day we villagers bounced around with a spring in our steps, thrilled to have survived to see another blue sky morning.
 

So many of you claim to hate the Winter, but that to me is something of a crime. Why choose to write off 25% of the year? I love the burgeoning power and promise of Spring as much as I enjoy the reflective scents and prolific harvests of Autumn. 

Summer is the only season I have problems with here in the West of Ireland, and that’s because it only arrives once every 7 or 8 years. 

Yet Winter is reliable, in both of its forms.
 

There will be a succession of brutal Atlantic storms, dumping floods of rain upon the land carried by tree-felling gusts, and then we’ll have the cold stillness of high pressure, when blue skies emerge slowly from deeply frosty misty mornings.
 

Winter is the only season in which each day you can enjoy both the sunrise and sunset. Out on the bog walking Lady dog, we pause to watch as the crimson sun rises above the horizon, bleeding onto the stark silhouettes of distant hills. Eye-dazzling low sunshine cascades into the coal black clouds, creating a harsh cocktail of vivid beauty.


 We stand in silence; absorbing the colours; soaking up the tranquility of winter.


 
Above us, the palest of blue skies carries a solitary grey cloud. Eager to drop a freezing cargo, its cascading fringes touch the ground a mere mile away.
 

Unsure whether it’ll be dumping sleet or hailstones. I decide to experience neither, and click my teeth.
 

“Come on girl, let’s head home for breakfast, before that hits us.”
 

Much as I adore heat and sunshine on my bones, I love Winter for its stark dramatic light; long cosy evenings by the fire; exceptional periods of silence; those mornings when I wake to find the land glazed by a wicked frost, the air chilled to perfection.

©Charlie Adley
22.01.2016

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Learn the craft of writing on a weekend break in a fishing village!



Would you like to learn the craft of writing? Fancy a Spring weekend break in an unspoilt fishing village? Combine the two this March, by enrolling in Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Weekend.

Spare time is such a valuable commodity, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to make the most of it. Do you simply need to chill out, or do you want to learn a skill that might change your life?

This March you can spend a weekend away in the beautiful Co. Mayo fishing village of Killala and leave with your creative buds tingling and stimulated.



During a fun and fascinating weekend Charlie Adley will show you how to overcome fear and write a first draft. In his friendly and supportive lessons you’ll learn how to develop characters, structure, plot and voice, while discovering how to use shape, pace, tense and dialogue to enhance the power of your words.


...explore the wonders of north Mayo...

Charlie’s enjoyable course will boost your confidence, enabling you to write as you’ve always wished. With over a million published words, the columnist and prize-winning playwright will also give advice about how to sell your writing.

“My course is designed for anyone who would like to improve their writing skills, from complete novices to published novelists.” explains Charlie. “Just as carpenters must learn how to use their tools, all writers benefit from learning the craft of writing. Anyone can learn this craft. There is no mystery to it.”



The Old Deanery Holiday Cottages

Arriving on Friday March 11th, you’ll be welcomed by a roaring turf fire in your lovely holiday cottage, on the site of the Old Deanery, overlooking the harbour. Couples and friends attending together may have their own cottage, while others share with attendees. Each cottage has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, so privacy is never an issue.

The village of Killala offers lively pubs, welcoming smiles and great craic, while an expert local guide offers foraging tours and walks in stunning local countryside, virgin white sand beaches, sea stacks, stone circles, ogham stones and the famous Ceide Fields.


Friendly pubs in lovely Killala

Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Weekend starts at 6pm on Friday, March 11th, with a glass of bubbles and a short introduction, after which everyone can relax together in one of the local pubs. Lessons start at 10am and finish at 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

Charlie only allows six attendees on his weekend courses, so to guarantee your place please book right away. If there’s someone special in your life who would enjoy this weekend, we can send them a personalised gift voucher - this course runs the weekend after Mother’s Day!

€295 per person, includes accommodation for 2 (or 3) nights with

breakfast packs and light lunches on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as attendance of Charlie Adley’s Craft of Writing Weekend.

Please confirm your place now by calling  Liz Keane at: 

086 345 1960
096 32 221

email:   killalacottages@gmail.com

Web:    www.olddeanerycottages.com

    Old Deanery Cottages
    Joe Keane Creative Centre

    Charlie Adley



John McArdle: Thanks for a fabulous course. It was practical, factual, educational and jovial - a masterclass in how to teach with fun - and you managed to get stories from us every lesson!

Willie Quain: I booked this course with no real expectations. Little did I know that it was going to be one of the most enjoyable courses I have ever attended and that I was going to learn so much. The course layout, notes and your personal involvement made it a very easy and enjoyable way to learn. To anyone thinking of attending your Craft of Writing Course, all I can say is do it!

Margaret Curran: The time flew. It was a great learning experience, good fun, great insights. The students were all involved, encouraged and heard, which is so important.
 

Michael Kavanagh: Charlie has an encouraging and affirming personality, always highlighting the positive aspects of every effort, yet showing how it might be improved.
 

Paul and Donna McGee: Your teaching style is very communicative and open, which allows your participants the opportunity to relax and enter the process, with an open mind and an enthusiastic attitude. This is a true gift and allows real growth to be achieved over such a short space of time.

Sindy Kelly: I am learning so much. Thank you. You have an amazing passion for words - it oozes out of you - and a great energy that is wonderful to be around.

Monday 25 January 2016

DO THEY FEAR CORBYN SO MUCH THAT THEY NEED TO DESTROY HIM?


It’s difficult to think of two more different people than Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, yet their success and probable downfall is the result of the same phenomenon: speaking for the disillusioned masses, who feel politicians in no way represent their views.
 

Both men embody the essence of their nation’s social culture. After making his outrageous fortune as an industrialist, Trump added fame to his quiver by fronting the US TV version of The Apprentice

He’s the archetype of the American Dream, proudly declaring he needs nuttin’ from nobody else. 
 

It’s easy for Europeans to see America’s social culture as selfish and uncaring, but thanks to one of my best friends out there, I grew to better understand the American way. 

With the blond hair, cheekbones and body of a Norse god, Erik explained what he wanted:

"I'm going to build my own house and work my butt off to cover my nut. If I achieve that dream without help, why should I have to pay for an illegal Mexican immigrant to go see the doctor?"
 

Although we see the term ‘Frontier Spirit’ as old-fashioned and anachronistic, it exists still at the core of every American. Whether Democrat, Republican, rich or poor, nobody will tolerate criticism of the American Way. 
 

Trump personifies these ideals, while Jeremy Corbyn’s social policies incorporate the core values of our culture. If the USA has an individualist society where ‘I’ is king, Europeans prefer the word ‘We.’
 

We believe that happiness comes through living in a compassionate society; feeling if not proud then at least comfortable with the notion of being a human being.
 

Jeremy Corbyn believes that you cannot claim to have a civilised society until you prioritise health, housing and education for all.
 

The confounding world of politics has forced out of me many differing emotions over the years, but rarely has it made me feel sad. Yet ever since his Labour leadership victory, Corbyn has been the victim of such constant ridicule and assault, from so many different directions, I have had to dip my chin and sigh.
 

Not prone to believing in conspiracy theories, I’m scrupulous when I sniff one of my own, but a couple of days ago I heard a Guardian columnist on Newstalk comparing Jeremy Corbyn to Chauncey Gardiner, the naive simpleton superbly portrayed by Peter Sellers in the film ‘Being There.’
 

For me this was something of a last straw. Such a comparison is ignorant and inexcusable.
 

Granted, the man is not a charismatic leader. He has neither the shiny polish of Blair, nor the domineering authority of Thatcher, so when the other leadership Blair-lite candidates were voted into the oblivion of mediocrity whence they came, it was clearly the will of the people. They wanted a man of substance.
 

Corbyn might not be a skilled performer, but to suggest he is a simpleton is ridiculous in the extreme. Doubtless he never expected to be a leader, but as one he has stuck to his principles and his desire to offer a new kind of politics.
 

The Labour Party is and always has been formed of people who would rather pay for schoolbooks than missiles. They’d rather tax the rich than have to choose between dialysis machines and heart transplants.
 

After years of austerity people all over the EU are voting for parties that promise to prioritise people over profit. After the rise of Syriza, Podemos, the SNP and Sinn Fein, it came as no surprise to me that Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership contest with a massive mandate. 

People are crying out for compassion, for something completely different to what has gone before, but evidently Corbyn’s victory upset many in high places.
 

Given his success representing his own constituency for over 30 years and his massive recent mandate, it’s clear that Corbyn is eminently electable, so why have Labour MPs thrown themselves into an agonised cauldron of confusion, declaring Corbyn an electoral liability?
 

True to form, Britain’s red top tabloids have attacked Corbyn with trashy irksome scandalmongering, while supposedly respectable institutions such as the BBC have poured scorn on his efforts.
 

Ever since Laura Kuenssberg replaced Nick Robinson as the BBC’s political editor,
she has been on a mission to patronise, ridicule and diminish Corbyn's efforts to break the bad mad mould of old.
 

On the BBC Six O’Clock news, Kuenssberg summed up what was admittedly a protracted shadow cabinet reshuffle as
 

“… a damaging pantomime.” 

When journalists use that language they are being instructive, not informative. She continued by sharing further personal insight:
 

“It's hard to see how they're going to be able to present anything convincing to the general public.”
 

When Corbyn invited his party to debate differing views on his policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, he was presented as a madman surrounded by rabid dissenters.
 

On the very same day, when Prime Minister Cameron announced that his own cabinet would be allowed to offer diverse opinions on his EU Referendum, there came no jokes about inadequate powers of persuasion. Instead Cameron’s decision was universally portrayed as sign of strength.
 

That's how it works when the media is in your side.
 

Given he’s endured so much ridicule from several divisions of the British establishment, it makes me wonder: do they really fear Corbyn? Do they realise he might win a General Election and fundamentally change their comfy status quo?
 

I don’t think Corbyn has all the answers but what he does have is the support of millions of people who feel so ignored they wouldn’t bother voting for more conventional candidates.
Sadly I suspect he will not survive for long.
 

As for Trump, clearly the American people’s choice, Republican Party representatives know he’s not a viable world leader, so extra funds will be found for the campaigns of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
 

Mind you, history shows the dangers of underestimating the popular vote. Should we ever face the reality of President Trump, I’d feel a whole lot safer if his crazed aggression was tempered by the considered pacifism of Prime Minister Corbyn.


©Charlie Adley
08.01.16.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Bowie changed himself, the art world and my life.


When I heard that David Bowie was dead, the air involuntarily rushed from my lungs. I was so shocked I temporarily lost the use of my legs.
 

Ever-present throughout my youth, David Bowie not only completely changed the way I looked at music, but life itself.
 

My brother is four years older than me so it was thanks to him that I was aware of Major Tom’s first incarnation in 1969’s Space Oddity. We wondered if and why the astronaut had killed himself and lingered on that line
 

‘Tell my wife I love her very much
She knoooows….’

 

As I write this I’m more than ever aware of the power of the man’s music. It’s impossible to mention any of his songs without hearing the tune in my head, his imperious impeccable voice soaring, stretching, subtly English.

The next year we enjoyed The Man Who Sold The World, and throughout 1971, we sang hit after hit from Hunky Dory.
 

“Oh you pretty things, don’t you know you’re driving your mummas and puppas insane…” rang out in the Adley household, great teenage anthems of rebellion, but our efforts to shock our parents failed, as my mum ended up singing along with Life on Mars: "Saaaai-lors fighting in the dancehall, oh man, look at those cavemen go-o-oh….”
 

My fondest memories of Bowie’s 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars were formed later in my teenage years, so I’ll come back to that, because in 1973 I fell hopelessly in love with what I consider Bowie’s masterpiece: Aladdin Sane.
 

The critics hated it but I remember right now the afternoon I put that album on my turntable, eased the needle onto the groove and heard for the first time music that energised me, inspired me and left me simply elated.
 

Even better, that young teenager now loved music that his parents would hate, that nobody else in the house understood, that had me bouncing off the bed, dancing and strumming, twirling and yelling. 

Mick Ronson’s guitar and piano riffs grabbed hold of the boiling bag of hormones that I was and gave me direction, thrills and a reason to wake up before two in the afternoon.
 

If all that sounds rather melodramatic, remember being thirteen. If you’ve teenage children, you’ll understand.
 

The songs on Aladdin Sane were amazing. Panic in Detroit, The Jean Genie, Time, and that rarest of beasts, a cover version that’s better than the original song (especially given it’s a Jagger/Richards number), Let’s Spend The Night Together: all brilliant. 

I won’t waste space listing all the tracks, but I want to. I’d never heard anything like it, and if I played the album today, I’m confident I’d feel just the same.
 

Wrapped in his Ziggy persona, Bowie was prolific, releasing Pin Ups (Sorrow, Friday on my Mind) and Diamond Dogs (Rebel Rebel) within months of each other, but the apocalyptic political tinge of the latter was a sign of changes to come.
 

Bowie didn’t only sing about changes. He constantly evolved his stage persona, from the hippy longhair of Hunky Dory through the glam pre-punk Ziggy Stardust, all the way to the Thin White Duke of his Berlin years.
 

Trying to discover what kind of man I might become, I followed Bowie’s mutations and transformations, realising that change was not only inevitable but often preferable. 

You didn’t have to stay the same to be successful. In fact, if you embraced change, then life could become an amazing creative adventure.
 

Abandoning the fading days of glam rock, Bowie reached into both his own soul and the heart of American soul music, and came up with Young Americans in 1975. 

A smile spreads onto my lips as I remember the countless post-pub parties where the title track and the James Brown-inspired Fame had living room dance floors packed, as we dared to sing out loud
 

“Hit every woman like a sock in the jaw…” 
because the world was yet to change for the better.
 

Bowie’s style changed completely in 1976. The eerie sound of an approaching steam train introduced The Thin White Duke on Station to Station, a persona part-inspired by his work on Nic Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell To Earth

Then, combining cocaine, heroin, electronic Krautrock and the genius of Brian Eno, Bowie created his stunning Berlin Trilogy: Low, Heroes and The Lodger.
 

Anthemic and ironic, Heroes is probably Bowie’s greatest song, but I remember trying to play Golden Years at my grandparents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary, screaming at my complaining parents:
 

“But you’ve never heard a song like this before. I didn’t even know a song could sound like this!”
 

Eschewing needles and Nietzsche, Bowie reverted to glam type in 1980 with Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), strutting his funky stuff in Fashion before letting rip on the dance floor with his next album, Let’s Dance. Despite great tracks like Modern Love and  Iggy’s China Girl, that was the last Bowie album I bought.
 

Around then I quit my career in marketing and travelled around the world, working on a novel. Thanks David Bowie: job done.
 

My most cherished memory of Bowie’s music came in 1979, when, seven years after its release, I became entranced by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
 

Before classic tracks like Suffragette City and Rock 'n' Roll Suicide, the album opens with the irresistibly terrifying Five Years.
Somewhere in Europe, on a train speeding between Who Knows and We Don’t Care, myself and my friend Martin sat opposite each other in the carriage, engaged in an interminable shrieking duet:
 

Fiiiive yeeeeears, that’s all we’ve got, we got fiiiive yeeears, that’s all we’ve got, we’ve got….”
 

Although I was upset about Lemmy, he lived and died an archetypal rock star. 

There was nothing typical about David Bowie. 
He changed my life as much as he changed the world of music.

©Charlie Adley
11.01.16.