Thursday 14 May 2015


Is your love better than my love? Is it a stronger love, a purer love? I have no idea and what’s more, I have no desire to wonder.

One thing I know with absolute certainty is that the love men feel for other men and women for other women is as wonderful as the love I feel for my wife.

Do you feel threatened by the idea of a man marrying a man?
Does the idea of a woman marrying a woman in some way weaken your own marriage?

I dare you to ask yourself why? 
Why does the love of two people you don't know weaken your love?

I find there are plenty of challenges, of both day-to-day and long-term varieties, involved in a successful marriage, but it never occurred to me that somebody else’s pairing might make my marriage feel worth less.

You might say that I feel the way I do as I am a Godless mutant atheist-pantheist Jew, who has no regard for the deeply-held religious views of others.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I first arrived in Ireland back in 1992 I wrote carelessly and disrespectfully about abortion and divorce. Born in pluralist multi-ethnic London, I was shocked to my core to discover a country in which it was illegal to telephone certain information help lines. I had never imagined a country might forbid divorce in its constitution.

After being sent used condoms, a dog turd and obscene photos in the mail, I eventually stopped writing about religious matters, until one day I realised that I’d been successfully intimidated.

If your objection to same sex marriage is held on Christian religious grounds, why not ask yourself what Jesus would do?

A supremely compassionate figure, Jesus was never a man to compare one love to another. He saved an adulterer from being stoned and dated a prostitute. I’m sure that were he walking the streets of Ireland today, he would ask us to respect the love any human feels for another. 

The Church disagrees, but sometimes life requires we show more wisdom than the words of men. I believe that if we all loved our neighbours and turned the other cheek, just as Jesus suggested, the world might be a peaceful place.

Anyway, this referendum is not comparable in any way with the matters of abortion and divorce, in that both of those are options we choose to make, or not, depending on our conscience.

Sexuality is not a choice. I think it’s fair to assume we have all evolved beyond believing that homosexuality is an illness that might be cured. We know that each of us is made up of varying amounts of characteristics from both genders.

A nurturer to a degree that belies the stereotype of my gender, I can appear quite effeminate on occasion. However, just because I hate to lose a seedling and knock up a fair roast dinner, I still fancy women. Another man, way more macho than me, might hate plants and not know his carrot from his celeriac, but fancy other men.

What we need to do is look deep into our hearts and souls. Forget the trivial reaction you might feel about what makes others happy, and ponder love: in love we are all equal and all our love is equal. 

Equality, like sexuality, is not a choice. Equality is a right: the most basic of human dignities to be afforded. No love is more equal than others.

You might mean well with your ‘Vote No’ posters about babies and mothers, but this referendum is not primarily about children. If passed however, it will have a beneficial effect on their lives. 

Beyond nourishment and shelter, children need only two things to flourish: time and love. As someone unable to have children, I find it utterly abhorrent that you might prevent someone from being a parent.

With a quarter of our marriages now ending in separation or divorce, Ireland has over 215,000 lone parent families. If you vote for love and accept marriage equality, more children will have two loving parents to cherish them.

Now I need to step off the eggshells upon which I’ve been tip-toeing and state clearly that this referendum represents a choice between love and hate. 

It wasn't only my people that Hitler killed in the gas chambers. Burning alongside the Jews were gays, lesbians and bisexuals. You wouldn’t feel right stopping me from marrying, so why do you feel you have the right to stop others?

Do the Irish love their neighbours enough to allow a generation of Irish gays and lesbians to grow up as equals, proud to belong to the Irish nation, or is there still room for hatred?

I dare you to think of love as you place your cross on the referendum ballot. Think of love and if you feel threatened by the question, ask simply: 

Is your love better?

©Charlie Adley

Monday 11 May 2015

Never press the 'Mute' button during a nightmare

It may sound silly, but I’m a bit scared of going to bed tonight. Wary might be a more adult way of describing it, but to be honest, the way I’m feeling has very little to do with being a grown-up.

Last night I had the Grandaddy of bad dreams. Being a prolific dreamer I file them away in my mind, and this one would fit into the ‘Anxiety’ folder, although it was one of the most detailed, long and creative dreams I’ve ever had; to this man who regularly dreams three times a night, that feels significant.

I’ve been unable to focus on anything else all day and have to make my deadline. Maybe by scribbling all the horror out of me and dumping it on you, my poor colyoomistas, I’ll find some release.

In return, so that I don’t appear excessively self-indulgent and needy, you’re all allowed to come up with theories as to what the heck is wrong with me. However, pray spare the lead in your pencil if all you have to offer exists under either of the following umbrella banners:

“Adley, you’re a sick sad bastard!” or “You need help! Eat grapefruit and meditate!”

The Snapper, Lady Dog and I are living in a ground floor flat somewhere I do not recognise. It’s sunny, warm and there are tropical plants outside.

We notice over a period of time that things in the flat are not where they are supposed to be. Loaves of bread appear in the fridge and mugs in the cereal cupboard. The shape and furniture of the kitchen starts to change. Each time we come back home the place looks less and less like it did before.

One evening I take Lady Dog out for her peeper, and the garden has disappeared, replaced by a sand dune. At the foot of the white sand hill lies a large pool of crystal clear water. Somehow I know it’s fresh water, and as Lady runs off to jump in, I suddenly feel very afraid.

By the time I’m at the edge of the pool the dog had shaken herself off and run off to do what dogs do, so I stand and marvel at this absolutely still pure clean water, until I see what at first I imagine to be a crab moving across the bottom.

A plume of fine grains of sand are being disturbed by something underneath, and I watch as little by little I realise that this is a child’s finger. Then two. Then some hair, a rag doll blond crop of corn-roll locks emerge, then a head. Finally, without the slightest drama or struggle, a young boy calmly claws his way out of the sand, up on his feet and out of the water.

By now I am gripped by pure terror. However innocent and benign this young lad might seem to be, not much good in human form disinters itself and stands there, looking as if nothing unusual is going on.

The depth of my fear knows no bounds. I can barely breathe.

Deciding it’s probably best to flee, I turn for the house, where hopefully the Snapper will tell me that I’m an old hallucinating fool and nothing like this ever happened.

Lady Dog will make her way back home so I tun away, with neither a hello nor a good-bye to this apparition.

Yes, that’s a good word for him, I decide in my dream. That makes me feel just a little less terrified.
Well, it might, were it not for the fact that the child is waiting for me when I get back to the garden gate. Standing there naked, silently, head tipped slightly down so as not to even make eye contact.

But he shouldn’t be here. Even if you discount the fact that he recently rose from beneath the earth, he had not passed me on the way back.

This silent child starts to appear in front of each door until after a while, wherever I run, however hard I try to escape, he’s in every line of direct and peripheral sight.

The lad has done nothing threatening, apart from appear in all places at all times, which might just feel a mite unsettling, even if you weren’t dreaming.

Finally I pluck up the courage to approach him.

“Why are you following me? Leave me alone.”

For the first time he looks up and without the faintest trace of facial expression nonchalantly replies:

“I died in 1943, when I was five years old.”

Finally losing it completely, I try to run away but all of a sudden there are thousands of the boys, marching along the street like soldiers, each lad now accompanied by an identical tall dark man in his early twenties, who I know in the dream is the young one’s brother.

Trying to hide in a café, I hear them all yelling for me outside.

So profound is the horror I’m feeling, a tiny part of my mind delivers a sliver of blissful lucidity, allowing me to realise it’s a dream, and suddenly, into my hand is delivered a TV remote control.

Aha! Brilliant! Turn it off. It’s only a dream.

Without looking I press my finger onto a button on the remote, but instead of switching off the nightmare, the ‘Mute’ symbol appears in my vision.

Hell! I hit the wrong button. Now there is no sound, nobody can hear my screams for help. Several of the young tall men grab me and are just about to drag me away, kicking and raging, when quite outrageously, my sense of humour makes a long-overdue appearance. 

Down the bottom left of my mental picture, a tiny subtitle appears, right next to the ‘Mute’ symbol:

“This is where it all gets so scary, you pooh yourself a little.” 

I roar and yell for help yet again I make no sound, and then I wake up.

Sweet dreams colyoomistas. I’m looking forward to one.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 3 May 2015

Never let politics get in the way of a good giggle!

The evening was going fairly well until the subject of food banks came up. Considering the blue sky Spring evening outside, there were a surprising number of potential voters in the hall of Stanmore Community College.

I was born in Stanmore and my family have a huge connection to the place. My sister has her shop there, my brother took his A levels in this very college, while I misspent my entire youth in the place.

Politics has always been a subject central to our family, so excited and intrigued by this most unusual of UK elections, it’s natural that my mum and I attend the local hustings while I’m staying with her in London.

Raised by a brace of dedicated Conservatives, my brother introduced me to socialism at the tender age of 13 and despite endless heated debates (I gather non-Jewish people call them ‘rows’) little has changed in my family’s political outlook.

Contrary to the endlessly patronising assurances I endured from adults throughout my teenage years, my views have not changed as I’ve grown up. My sense of social justice is as strong today as four decades ago.

It all comes down to housing, health and education.

Until everyone has a safe home, access to healthcare at all levels and an education that not only prepares us for life but instils within us the desire to continue learning, I will continue to agree with Mahatma Gandhi. When asked what he thought of Western civilisation he replied:

“I think it would be a good idea.”

So far these hustings of England’s Harrow East constituency have felt quite convivial and good-tempered. Upon on the stage sit five candidates with a variety of skin colour that implies a civilised society. Proceedings might be running slightly smoother if there were microphones available, but although it’s impossible to hear questions asked by anyone sitting in front of you, the politicians’ answers are so predictable, we manage to deduce the questions.

This constituency is a key marginal, with the distinction of being the only Conservative-held seat in the country with a majority of ethnic minorities. The polls suggest that Labour might take it, and their young candidate, Uma Kumaran, is doing an excellent job tonight. 

Gradually the candidates descend into their familiar trenches, each party representative trying to outdo the other. The incumbent Tory MP Bob Blackman claims that unemployment in Harrow is “ a thing of the past.”

If so, I’m impressed, yet somehow I doubt it.

He promises the Conservatives will build 88,000 houses. 
Uma then claims Labour will build 200,000 houses. 
Emma Wallace, the slightly ineffectual Green Party Candidate, who sometimes seems unsure exactly what her party’s policy is, refers once again to her notes and perkily pipes up to announce the Greens will build 500,000 homes.

With the greatest respect Emma, I’m as likely to form the next UK government as you are, so if voted into power I promise to build everyone a home, and send the bill to that fella in Nigeria who keeps trying to send me money by email.

The most energetic and likeable of the bunch is Ross Barlow, of the Liberal Democrats. Looking barely old enough to vote, he's amiable and at ease, attracting a laugh from the crowd by hoping that if he’s elected, it’s because people have voted for the party they like the most, not just the one they hate the least.

The Chairman rambles on far too long inbetween each candidate, and for some reason he seems to think it’s okay for him to disagree with certain candidates, even though he is meant to appear neutral.
Rumbles of discontent start to rise from the floor about the Chairman’s rambling. 

A whiff of the Vicar of Dibley threatens to disturb proceedings. The atmosphere starts to change, just slightly and still comically, as people turn to tell others to stop talking because they can’t hear what’s being said. Then the others explain back that all they were saying was that they can’t hear what’s being said either, and why is the Chairman rambling on?

Then someone has a go at my 86 year-old mum and I have a go back at him. Again, for the umpteenth time in my life, I remember how we English exist so close to aggression; how it affects me; why I love life in the West of Ireland so much.

At which point, quite unexpectedly, things turn very nasty.

A woman asks the panel why, in sixth richest nation in the world, the number of food bank users has risen from 61,000 in 2011 to over 913,000 in 2014?

Bob Blackman invents a response that immediately reminds me why I loathe the Conservative Party. Wilfully ignoring the question, he complains how awful it is that some people abuse the food banks, taking stuff they don’t need.

Given an evident failure of modern society, he manages to dredge Daily Mail blame culture from human tragedy. As Aneurin Bevan so aptly described them in 1948, the Tories truly are “Lower that vermin.”

This despicable attitude is the reason why I’d still vote Labour, despite the fact that these days they are little more than Tory-lite.

The woman who asked the question is outraged, as am I and we both shout our disgust. Suddenly the previously relaxed man sitting next to my mother growls fiercely and disrespectfully at the woman for expressing her feelings. These are hustings, for goodness sake! We’re all meant to be heard. That’s why we’re here.

Back at my mum’s later, we rerun the events of the night over a cup of tea.

“I was impressed by Nana Asante.” she says. “She made a lot of sense.”

Then I point out to my life-long Tory mother that Asante is the candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and we have a good laugh together.

Love and laughter are the stuff of life. Politics should never get in the way of a good giggle.

© Charlie Adley

Sunday 26 April 2015


“I’m off to the shop lads. Want anything?”

“What’re you getting?”

“Tea, milk and something to munch on.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll have something hot. One of those chicken baguettes.”

“Sound, see you in a bit.”

As I wander around the corner to the shop I wonder why what I was going to buy in the shop made any difference to my mate. If I’d said I was going to buy chocolate biscuits or half a giraffe, would he have felt like eating something other than a chicken baguette?

The human mind is truly a wondrous thing, designed and primed to help us live long, prosper and ideally reproduce. Over millennia our minds evolved to deal with choices that some time way back in our history would have meant the difference between life and death.

While there can be some ugly and aggressive beasts prowling the aisles of the corner store, I’m pretty unlikely to encounter a hungry sabre-toothed tiger at the deli counter. Given that we no longer live in fear of our lives every day, you’d think maybe our brains would have eased up on the decision-making. 

Sadly rather than grasping the chance to simplify things by disposing of pointless options, we’ve been beguiled by commercialism into unnecessarily complicating everything, by creating as many different choices as possible.

What first appears as too many choices can later make perfect sense. To virgin European ears, the endless options offered when ordering something to eat in America become, after practice, a simple and efficient way to eat exactly what you want. Proud of their product and aiming to please, Americans really care, so you just learn to say “I’ll have the Hunter S. Andwich, with mayo, no butter, radicchio and rocket, no dressing, tomato, wild turkey, cranberry sauce not jelly, mustard and olives, on cracked wheat bread.”

Not so difficult really, but it’s so much simpler in Ireland; or is it?

“Hello!” says the smiley woman at the hot food counter. ‘“What can I get for you?” “I’ll have a spicy chicken baguette please, with mayo and lettuce. That’s all thanks!”

As she toddles off to prepare the roll, I turn around to stare idly at muffins and take an unusual interest in the crisp selection, as I don’t want make her feel uncomfortable by staring at her.

“Do you want white or brown?”

Dammit. Forgot that. “White please.” 
“And do you want butter or mayo?”

Told you that, though. I clearly remember saying mayo. Ah well. What price politeness? She’s the one stuck working while I’m spending the afternoon drinking tea with the lads, so why would I get grumpy with her over such a stupid little thing?

“Mayo please!” I reply, still smiling.

“Is it the spicy or the plain chicken that you’re after?”

What part of spicy didn’t you get the first time? “Erm the spicy please!”

“And what salads would you like?”

Argghhh. Why did I bother to prepare in my mind what to ask for in the first place? What was the point in me ordering anything at all? This all would have turned out just as successful and a whole heap less stressful if I’d just wandered up to the counter and asked her straight out to ask me a series of questions, gradually deducing from my collective answers the ingredients I wanted her to stick between two slices of as yet indeterminate bread-like product.

“Just lettuce please!” I mutter through clenched teeth, producing what must look to the outside world like an unsettlingly scary smile.

Okay Adley, calm down. That’s the lot now. There’s nothing more to this sandwich. There can’t be. We’ve just had an interesting exchange of ideas concerning every single aspect of what was potentially a very simple roll.

Stay kind. Be happy. For God’s sake man, you’re only buying a sandwich. There are some things in this world to become stressed about and many others that are not worth a raised pulse.

Pull yourself together. Stop referring to yourself in the Third Person. You know that’s a thoroughly unpleasant fascistic characteristic.

Increasing our choices does not make the world a more wonderful place, but the freedom to choose is a precious thing. While we impose pointless options on ourselves, we choose to deny ourselves variety elsewhere. It’s ridiculous that we drink tea or coffee every day, yet for some reason everyone is meant to have ‘a way’ they like their drink, each and every time.

I’m not sure how I’m going to want my tea. Never weak, but do I take sugar? Maybe today yes, but tomorrow no. Call me crazy, call me troublesome, but call me.

Aha! She’s looking over at me again, so she must have the baguette bagged and ready to buy.

“Do you want it cut in half?”

Oh, my fault. I entirely forgot that old chestnut.

“Yes please.Thanks.”

Now please please please give me the bloody roll or we’re both going to make it onto the six o’clock news and not in a good way. I don’t want to be this petty het-up person.

I‘m in a lovely mood, la la laaah  ... having a fun day with my lovely friends ... doo bee dooh...

I have worked in jobs like hers and know how pathetic customers like me can appear to be, when displaying impatient and unreasonable behaviour.

Maybe she didn’t understand my accent. Maybe she’s just a little hard of hearing. Maybe she deliberately ignored everything I asked for just to wind me up. Maybe I should get a grip and recover my sense of perspective.

“Hello, Sir! Your baguette is ready. Would you like a bottle of coke or water with that €4.50?”

No thank you. I just want to pay for the roll, please, and get out. You see, although you had not the slightest suspicion, I very nearly killed you over the making of it.

Just kidding. Or am I? You choose.

©Charlie Adley

Wednesday 22 April 2015


As I lay out my things for the morning I find myself laughing out loud. Onto the blue velcro knee brace that lies on top of the chest of drawers I put the blister plaster and the heat wrap. Collectively they look like a First Aid training kit, but right now they’re just the items I need to walk the dog.

Somewhere between the arthritis in my right knee, the sciatic cramp and numbness that runs from hip to toe down the other leg and my new walking boots that have bored a hole into my left ankle, middle age has become so established I don’t know where it ends and old age begins.

All this for a bloody walk? That’s when I laugh out loud, wondering who the hell I am and what happened to that bloke who used to walk effortlessly for hours?

From the age of 15 I felt a strong desire to hitch and quickly discovered that I was good at it. Back in those days hitchhikers were a common sight, groups of longhairs clumped around service station exits, sitting on guitar cases, relaxedly unperturbed by the prospect of getting anywhere.

While they sat waiting for someone to stop, I walked further to a spot where a car could easily pull over. A few minutes later I was climbing into a car accompanied by the distant sound of hippy wailing.

As so often in life, empathy is the name of the hitching game: if you want a lift think like a driver. Stand still where drivers can see you from as far away as possible. Give drivers somewhere safe and easy to pull in. People used to ask me if I’d ever been stuck, to which I replied that if I was stuck I’d still be there. Every time I put out my thumb I enjoy a thrill of excitement along with the assured knowledge that I will reach my destination.

Some people, apparently unable to stand still, hitched while walking along the edge of the road. I never understood them. If you can walk to where you’re going, why are you hitching? If you can’t then what good will walking do you? Drivers won’t stop if they can’t see your face and by the way, the car that just passed you on that tight bend was the one which would've stopped for you, were you standing in a good spot.

Always an early start and then walk out of town. Walk and walk until the buildings are far behind you, yet the traffic’s not speeding up too fast. Find a good place and stand there until you get a lift. 

No signs, because you’ll miss out on the shorter interim lifts that might bring you somewhere better.
Innumerable fascinating one-to-one talks with drivers from every walk of life. Some want silence, happy just to help. Others need to pour their hearts out to this stranger who they know they’ll never see again. Then there’s the ones who want to convert you to their belief system, be it a world religion or vile racism. They expect you to agree with them as you’re riding in their car or truck, but instead at the sound of

“Bloody Pakis!”

I’d simply smile and explain how much I loved living in Bradford.

Hitching wasn’t just about moving from A to B. The purely random length of lifts requires sometimes being dropped off in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere.

I love that.

Watch as the car disappears into the distance down a side road. 

Wait for silence to fall once more. 

Now take a look: you’re standing alone in a magnificent wilderness. Walk a few paces up the road and stop to look at the view from a perspective that possibly nobody has ever seen.

For a couple of months in New Zealand I went with the lifts, persuading each driver that just because I had no destination in mind, it didn’t mean I was a dangerous psycho. I went wherever they went, and gradually there grew within me a profound state of calm.

Faith is an essential ingredient of hitching. Smile and believe that you will get there and sure enough, you will get there. A friend used to start hitching up the M1 from Brent Cross, harbouring thoughts in his mind that he’d give it three hours and then go to Golders Green and get the 3:30 bus.

He was doomed to failure, due to the doubt in his heart from the off.

I used to hitch to the pub where I worked when I was 17 and in my early 20s I flew all around England’s motorway network. Working in warehouses each winter, I saved enough to board the Cross Channel Ferry in the Springtime and hitch around Europe once again.

I’ve no idea why I loved sleeping out in French fields so much. Long before I’d read Kerouac or Guthrie I savoured waking up in a ploughed furrow on a dew-soaked morning, feeling fantastically unleashed.

After walking the dog and removing all my medical support systems I walk down to the crossroads. The Snapper has promised to drive me home later, so I’m hitching into Galway to have a drink or three with excellent friends arriving from London.

After fifteen minutes the first car comes along. It stops and takes me into the city. Looking out of the window at this road which I’ve driven ten thousand times, I’m reminded how much drivers miss of the world around them.

Wow look at that house! It’s huge and I didn't know it existed! Oh and over there, see where that stone wall curves and rises along the crest of that hill, with that beautiful little shed built right into it?

It feels great to be sitting in the back seat; invisible yet welcome. I miss the worlds that hitching reveals, but between my knee, blister and back I suspect my freewheeling days might be behind me.

©Charlie Adley