Sunday 19 February 2017

I MAY BE ALL OVER THE PLACE BUT I’M GOING NOWHERE!


Sometimes looking after your body feels like such hard work. After over two years on a waiting list, I’m eventually awarded an appointment at a local clinic, where the very excellent physiotherapist gives me a programme of 10 exercises to do each morning.
 

Along with my everyday warm-up, the whole caboodle takes only a half hour, and after a few weeks I start to feel amazing. My body is moving as one unit - apart from the more wobbly bits - and after full-speed walks with Lady Dog I feel no pain in my back.
 

Fantastic! My spirits are finally lifting. After a long bout of that coughy flu bug everyone had this winter, it's wonderful to feel once again the spiritual and emotional boost of good physical health.
 

Whispering Blue is out visiting for the weekend, and I’m finishing my stretches in the living room before we take Lady Dog out.for a good long ramble The sky is cloudless and blue, a heavy frost encrusting the land, and I’m very much looking forward to heading outside when -
 

Wooooaaooohhhh…….
 

My legs collapse under me and I fall into my chair, clinging onto its arms as my lounge suddenly spins round and around, up and down, just like a carousel.
 

Facing the fireplace I watch with pure horror as the windows arrive in front of my eyes and disappear behind me, below me, above me, and then come round again. 

This was not your average dizziness in the head. I felt stationary (as I was) but the world around me was whirling and dipping and rising, as if I was sitting inside a raffle barrel.
 

Finally it dissipated and I wobbled into the kitchen.
 

“Whoah mate! Just had the weirdest bloomin’ dizzy spell. Up was down and round about and total madness, but I reckon it was just something to do with my exercises. Look, it’s gorgeous out there. Let’s head off and tramp some hoary bog!”
 

Not such a good idea. My legs felt as if they’d been at sea for three months, so we came home quickly and I sat down and did not dare move for a very long time.
 

A few spinning rooms and a fairly unpleasant night later, I see the doctor who tells me I’ve a form of labyrinthitis. If it’s viral it will pass in ten day or so, and if it’s not viral then there’s a tiny piece of calcium lost in a middle-ear tubule and only a certain manoeuvre, performed by a physiotherapist, can get it loose.
 

As I write now I’m not sure which it is. I’ve been to the physio and she seems to think it’s non-viral, so I’m doing the required manoeuvre. 

The Snapper isn’t convinced, because she knows well how foolhardy and stubborn I usually am in the face of illness, yet for the last few days I’ve been utterly wiped out, sitting in my chair, snoozing and dribbling in particularly sexy fashion.
 

There are vital things we take utterly for granted and it’s not until they are robbed from us that we understand their importance. The first time I was in an earthquake I felt slightly traumatised, not so much because I felt my life had been in danger, but more the result of feeling the earth move under my feet.
 

Orgasmic innuendos aside, it was the most troubling experience. 
Throughout my entire life the ground was there: solid; trustworthy; something so fundamental to everyday life that it never crossed my mind it might somehow disappear, until … whoooooaaah!
 

So it has been. Long periods of relative calm and then I’m clutching the mattress, as the universe’s fairground worker whirls my personal waltzer.
 

All this will pass, but it made me wonder about perception. Of course I know what my living room windows look like, but how did I see them in front of my eyes when the back of my head was turned to them?
 

Very similar to vertigo, this particular number I’ve got feels as if an external force is reeling my environment around, up and down.
 

Compared to some though I’m lucky. Consider those who suffer from Glass Delusion, which first appeared back in the 17th century, when a new clarity of glass was achievable, and considered by some supernatural.
 

Much rarer, yet still suffered by some today, Glass Disorder victims believe they are actually made of glass, and therefore in imminent danger of shattering.
 

Then there are syndromes known as ‘parasomnias’, which include Sexsomnia and the splendidly named Exploding Head Syndrome. 

Sexsomnia involves a sleeping person unknowingly instigating and performing sexual acts, whilst far way in the Land of Nod. Although a verifiable condition, Sexsomnia has become controversial, as it’s been cited as a defence against rape.
 

Exploding Head Syndrome usually shows itself very soon after the victim has fallen asleep. From inside their own heads they then hear either bombs going off, gunshots, screams, wild animal roars or, as suggested by the syndrome’s name, the sound of their own head blowing apart.
 

Sitting at the kitchen table, the Snapper and I chat about all these horrible illnesses and I try to convince myself that what I have at the moment is in some way preferable to other weird stuff.
 

As I witter away I see herself idly looking at a piece of junk mail that’s just been delivered.
 

Leaning over I take a look myself, only to see big bold wording announcing: Over 50s Funeral Plan.
 

“Steady love!” I offer. “I may be all over the place but I’m not going anywhere yet!”
 

We both laugh out loud. Always the best medicine.
©Charlie Adley
09.02.17.

Sunday 12 February 2017

ADMITTING YOU'RE WRONG IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH!


Friendships are formed around fault lines. Relationships emerge from ravines of failure and vulnerability. When someone first shares their worries or fears with you, they are throwing a line over the chasm. 

You catch it, and then by revealing your personal frailty or feeling of guilt, you throw another back. Together you may then build a bridge, a friendship, and the canyon below will fill with mutual trust and empathy.
 

It’s all a bit of an eggshell dance, this trading of confidences. We could be more open and direct with each other, but this is the way life works. Given that we know exchanging our mistakes makes us appear less threatening and more likeable, why then do we fear being wrong?
 

If such an important part of our lives is governed by the understanding that we all make mistakes, why are we so eager to prove, to ourselves and the universe, that we don’t screw up?
 

We do experience joy: random and often fleeting moments when the soul lights up and everything makes sense, but for most of our lives we’re trying not to make mistakes, as we struggle with problems financial, physical or mental.
 

Human life is a messy plate of spag bol, so why would we waste a moment hoping that everything will go perfectly? I’ve made so many mistakes in my life I’ve learned to appreciate them. 

Equally important as social tools for forming friendships, mistakes are the way we learn, if we want to. When everything is going zippetty dippetty, you’re thinking in a two dimensional linear way about being blissed out. You learn only what that feels like.
 

Yippee! I am happy! This is fantastic! Long may it last!
Oh pooper, life’s a bitch.
 

Up against it, we are forced to employ our imaginations and physical beings to get out of whatever mire we’ve dumped ourselves in.
 

After climbing out, you’re silly not to then stand back, catch your breath and work out what the hell just happened. How did you let yourself get into that mess?
 

Mistakes are benefits, but sadly many choose to feel regret, which serves no purpose.
 

Why would I cast a shadow over my present life with my past? I was eager, chomping at the bit to do it at the time. I remember now how passionately I felt back then, so why be down on myself about it now?
 

Things may not have gone well, but I will have learned from it. To dwell on what life might’ve been like had I not done it is as pointless as regretting doing it.
 

Whatever you’ve done wrong, understand it and move on. Regret and evasion are not the way to enjoy our brief strut on this stage.
 

In the last 12 months I’ve had to admit (to myself as well as you) that many of my political pontifications have been wrong. I was wrong about not bombing Assad’s forces in Syria. I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn and I was wrong about Trump.
 

My mistakes were utterly harmless, in that I’m sure my opinions in no way affected you, but by having seen things so erroneously, I now understand a bigger picture.
 

Just as with friendships, so it is in the workplace, where respect relies on the same rules.
 

Anyone who has worked for somebody who refused to admit they were ever wrong will wholly understand. Frustrating beyond belief, these weak leaders and managers just don’t bloomin’ comprehend that strength comes from the confidence to show weakness.
 

By apologising to your staff and admitting that it’s your fault, you are impressing and motivating your workers. At the same time you’re earning their respect, by showing yourself strong enough to lead whilst being fully human.
 

Trouble is, most of life exists in the grey area between right and wrong. 

Reading the paper the other day I saw that Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California - how does he fit that on a business card? - is taking stem cells from adult humans and introducing them to early stage pig embryos, with the aim of growing an animal that is wholly pig, save for human organs inside it, ready for transplant patients.
 

Even though I’m a massive fan of stem cell surgery, there’s something about this that doesn’t feel right. It sounds dangerously like a sci-fi horror film, in which somewhere in the future there’s a colony of wild chimera beasts roaming free, with too much human in them to become bacon, but too much pig to share human rights.
 

No thank you. Enough with the wrong and the mistakes. I’m human and base and need some right stuff right now.
 

Quickly turning the pages of the newspaper, I find to my delight something fabulous and lovely.
 

Both residents of the same nursing home, Joan Neininger is to marry Ken Selway. Steven Morris of The Guardian explains that the couple, now in their 80s, met soon after the Second World War, when Joan noticed Ken rifling through bins near her shop.
 

Homeless Ken refused her money, so she started to leave sandwiches out for him. A life-long friendship ensued.
 

“Although he was living on the streets, I knew straight away that Ken was a lovely man with a beautiful soul.” Joan said of her fiancé.
 

Thanks so much Joan.
 

Being wrong, knowing it and admitting it are important, yet it’s vital to acknowledge that sometimes we are simply and wholly good.

©Charlie Adley
30.01.2017

Monday 6 February 2017

FREEDOM IS FRAGILE: WE HAVE TO USE IT OR LOSE IT!



I rarely become involved on Twitter, but when a fellow Galwegian ridiculed Galway’s protesting women and what he called their “...silly little march...” I dived in.
 

Maybe I acted out of character because I’d been wrong about Trump, erroneously believing he’d become more realistic once ensconced in the White House. Instead, his first outburst in office chilled me to the bone.
 

Even more than his pussy grabbing and vile travel ban, I was deeply disturbed by the nonsensical claims of crowd size at his inauguration. Seeing him and his team adjust reality on day one in the job, brazenly denying the plain facts paraded in front of our eyes, l felt truly fearful for the first time.
 

History shows such behaviours to be an hors d’oeuvres to dictatorship.
 

Do I think that America will become a fascist state?
No, I don’t, not for a second.
 

America fought a war of rebellion to exist, a civil war to become one nation. From Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter, protest pulses around America’s veins, and they, the people will not allow for totalitarianism.
 

With personal freedoms and human rights now seriously under threat in America, protest and resistance will prove more vital than ever. While we must respect the democratic process, we first have to respect each other.
 

Electoral systems are inherently flawed, and sometimes they spit out a dangerous answer. That’s when you have to stand up and be counted; to get up off your arse and stand by people of colour; women; the disabled; anybody who justifiably feels threatened, because if you wait, there’ll be none left to stand up for you.
 

More, you do it because you’re a compassionate human being, driven by what you know is right and good.
 

What you don’t do is sit back, comfy and safe in your West of Ireland home and mock those fighting for their own freedom, or others displaying solidarity with them.
 

Yes, there’s something gratingly irritating about Generation Snowflake, the young people whose worst nightmare has been an ill-fitting pair of jeans, out on the streets going boohoo, my candidate lost, but now this is about much more than them.
 

On the day after Trump’s inauguration, 3.5 million Americans marched in their streets. They will not go quietly into this president’s dark night, while in 20 countries around the world others marched alongside them in defiance.
 

When yer man on Twitter said that these people should “get over themselves”, a picture of my father flashed across my brain. We had this the same argument, over and over again, for years.
Each time I returned from a protest march in central London he’d rustle up something he considered ver’ ver’ witty, along the lines of:
 

“Humph. Well at least you managed not to get arrested. So, do you feel you’ve changed the world?”
 

Both my father and this bloke on Twitter seemed to feel that democracy starts and ends with a cross on a ballot paper. To me the vote is a key to a host of freedoms, each precious. You either use them or lose them.
 

It’s not hard to understand why people choose to mock some protesters, yet had they ever been part of a protest movement, they might respect the importance of such events. People don’t solely march in protest to change things. When times become scary, we gather on the streets to feel the safety of numbers.
 

As a youth I faced the horror of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby the Soviet Union and USA threatened to annihilate us as a species. To me that end felt terrifyingly close.
What comfort then to join hundred of thousands and march together from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, to listen to Tony Benn and Monsignor Bruce Kent speak sense.
 

For some reason I never truly fathomed, I think my father felt I was abusing my democratic rights by marching in the streets, while I felt I was exercising them.
 

We marched and sang and joked together and laughed and cried and wailed together. If you had felt lonely you now felt comforted. If you had felt angry you now felt empowered. If you were feeling down and blue you now felt energised and hopeful.
 

There’s so much more to protesting together than trying to change the world. The good stuff starts with ourselves, igniting our souls, spirits and minds.
 

“One two three four, we don’t want your nuclear war!”
 

It’s all very well having a plethora of protest marches as Trump takes office, but the resistance must continue. It’s not good enough to sit back and think it’ll all be over in four years, because the damage done by then might be irreparable.
 

The death and destruction of fascism lurks only two generations away from this Jewish scribbler. Resistance and protest must be supported, not smugly mocked.
 

Without the comfort and catharsis of protest marches, people either hide away, crumbling in desperate isolation, or collect together in small groups and plan violent retribution.
 

I’d rather have collective camaraderie than Al-Qaeda any day.
 

The argument progressed no further on Twitter than it did with my Dad.
 

Sit back, say nothing and your right to argue with me might be gone.

©Charlie Adley
25.01.2017.

Sunday 29 January 2017

A GALWAY RAMBLE BRINGS UPS, DOWNS, MUSIC AND DANCE!


Inevitably, my evening is headed for the Crane...


 Just as I first did 25 years ago, I'm arriving in Galway City on the bus to Eyre Square. Now, where and what is drawing me in?
 

As then, so too now, it’s O’Connell’s great pub that first suffers my arse on a barstool. Friendly and full of characters, I could stay all night, but it’s barely evening and there’s much rambling to be done.
 

I’m too early into both Murty Rabbits and An Púcán, both empty, save for the bands who play away. Is there a lonelier sound than a banjo in an empty bar?
 

Barr an Chaladh in Woodquay is already buzzing with GAA buzz and bluster, but as I plonk myself down, backs both sides of me are turned to the stranger, so I head south, like a swallow in Winter, seeking warmer climes.
 

Crossing Eglington Street feels tonight like the border between strange and familiar. The lads told me to visit Tribeton, for the spectacle of the building, but truly, I can't be arsed.
 

This Tuesday in January proves an absolutely perfect night to be out in Galway City. Dry with a gentle mild breeze. Nary a festival in sight. Empty roads.
 

For a second I’m overcome with nostalgia and head towards an Tobar, but then I remember it’s closed. Open everywhere are a host of new eateries. Taquerias, chili cafes, sushi bars, kebab, falafel and coffee shops. A long way from the dearth of food that greeted me when I first came to Galway in 1992. 

Then it was considered classy if a little tinned sweetcorn was served with your sangidge, and never mind the brine soaking into the meagre pan, making it soggy and yuk.
 

Strolling past Tig Coili’s I can hear my excellent friend Dalooney and the crew playing up a storm, but it’s onwards for me, past the Kings Head, which is now a live music whiskey bar bistro. Used to be that being a pub was enough, but evidently not any more.
 

Lovely - ahhhh! 

That’s me flopped into a chair outside Tigh Neachtains, where my Jamie comes in at €5. Ouch indeed, but sitting here on a calm evening, watching Galway walk by feels comforting, like a gentle recurring dream.
 

A little later I go into the middle bar to say hello to an old friend I haven’t seen for ages. I ask after another old friend, and she points to an empty stool and tells me he was sitting right there, and now he’s outside smoking a fag.
 

Oops! Hadn’t even noticed him, so I dive outside to apologise.
 

Sadly he doesn't want to know and takes issue. The more I try to explain, the less he's having any of it. He feels very strongly that I am talking rubbish, so I leave feeling disproportionately and profoundly sad.
 

Unbeknownst to them, certain long-term challenges that do not make the pages of this newspaper have left me exhausted and emotionally fragile.
 

What I need is gentle support and encouragement, not unfair accusations. 

Tonight I want to bump into friends, not fall out with them.
 

Persisting in my pursuit of happiness, I sit outside the Quays, where a man in a Galway jersey is describing his female friend as a Tan. I laugh and interrupt to say if she's a Tan then so am I. Despite my admission - or maybe because of it - he offers a strong smile and a slightly over-firm handshake. 

We chat for a while, swapping stories of the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, and warmed by this craic with a stranger, I gradually start to feel I'm getting back into my night out swing.
 

Heading west, the roads are still void of traffic. Along the riverbank beside Jury’s, I stop and stare at the roaring Corrib, mighty and wild with fresh Connemara rain.
 

Down into Dominick Street, where both Aniar and Dela are closed. 
Given an absence of diners, the lass in Creole is on her knees, taking photos of a cocktail that is doubtless about to hit several social media platforms.
 

Into Monroe’s, where I’m calmed by the welcoming odour of woodsmoke. It’s wonderful to see that some things never change, and in Monroe’s, Tuesday night is still set dancing night. 

My thumbs tap the bar to the music as I watch local Galway alive, well and shtomping their feet to a fiddle and two boxes. Up around down and hoop up around again: magical.
 

Here there’s change from a fiver for a Jamie, and I leave with a smile on my face, kindling glowing anew in my soul.
 

Inevitably, inexorably my evening is headed for the Crane. 

Hmm, the Blue Note? 
No, I’m too old, but I might take a wee one in Massimo’s front bar. Holy Moly - Mo’s is closed too!
 

Running out of options I head into the Crane, where I find a barstool next to an old friend. To the accompaniment of the massed young musicians of Trad Soc, (truly, there’s a whole lot of fine music in a traffic-free Tuesday Galway City) I enjoy my friend’s wit, wisdom and wealth of experience. 

Our conversation has put on my night the ideal cap, so saying farewell I walk along Sea Road, only to spot my two friends from earlier, walking towards me.
 

I offer them a goodnight and rather drunken slightly strange bowy swirly gesture with my coat.
 

They both walk past me in silence.
 

Having ended my night out consumed by sadness, the next morning 

I walk the Salthill Prom to remind myself how good life is. 
The universe does not disappoint. 

Above a bay teeming with dark high tide water, a piercing gold sheen shatters the sky over Kinvara, with gentle silver tones dusting the roofs of Bellharbour. 

Behind, the Burren sits somehow solid yet also amorphous; a grey pastel gift.


©Charlie Adley
19.01.2017

Sunday 22 January 2017

BEING A YOUNG PERSON IS COMPLICATED WORK!



That hall had never looked so vast. My back clung to the wall, beside the backs of all the other boys, while across the wooden floor, clinging to the other wall stood the girls.
 

To gain admission to a legendary Scout Hall Disco, we’d formed two long queues arching away from each other, boys in one and girls from two nearby schools in the other.
 

To us English Public School boys, females were an alien species. Across the Quad we eyed each other from afar, pointing and laughing now and then, daring to dream just a tiny bit, our individual fears still eased by the safety of numbers.
 

During the night we danced with - or as near as possible to - as many beings with different bodily bits as possible, but now it was the business end of the evening.
 

Time for the last dance, always a long slowy - the make or break moment of the evening.
 

Tension filled the air as powerful teenage urges collided with pure terror.
 

You had three ways to approach it: if you’d already ‘got off’ with a girl (as loosely defined a term as your own Irish ‘shifted’) you were sitting on the edge of the stage, ostentatiously exploring far-distant parts of her lung with your tongue.
 

However, if you were not superhuman and entwined with a lass from Northwood College, you either had to go for it or admit defeat, by uttering a barely believable
 

“Nah, don’t fancy any of ‘em!”
 

To the sound of that week’s number one (10cc’s I’m Not In Love) I decided the time had come. 

I’d identified the girl I was going to ask. Somehow I’d found out that she was called Christine, and I also knew that she was wearing Charlie perfume, so I could greet her by name, ask her to dance and then maybe make her smile by telling her my name.
 

As plans go it was far from great, but it was all I had, and man, fwooh-hooh, she was beautiful!
 

Despite being at that time an insecure unhappy boy, I was born with a daring spirit. As a gasp rose behind me, I strode out into the empty dance floor.
 

Driven by a teenage libido matched only by my huge inexperience, 
I felt as if I was rowing single-handedly across the Pacific Ocean.
 

She said yes. We danced slow, smooched in public and later kissed in private behind the carpentry workshop. My first proper kiss was tender and clumsy and mysterious and over way too quickly.
 

Many of you from my generation went through similarly terrifying rituals, but oh my goodness we were so lucky.
 

Yes, I could feel the eyes of all the boys on my back as I headed off on my mission, the stares of the girls as I approached them, and of course it was utterly terrifying, but that was as far as it went.
 

No texts were flying around that hall, slagging off my cheesecloth shirt and denim jacket. No boy was sending sly and sarcastic messages to a girl across the floor about me as I walked. 

My hair, in those days long but not in a good way, lost somewhere between a Jewfro and a Beehive, was not being trolled on Twitter. 

Nobody was filming me on their iPhone. 

When I finally inexpertly kissed her, our mouth to mouth encounter was not going live on Facebook, not being mocked on Instagram.
 

I’m so glad I’m not a young person now.
 

Yes, there was bullying, both mental and physical violence in my school, but when you were the victim, you tended to be there, physically present. If somebody had an issue with you, it was dealt with face to face.
 

After less successful weekend ventures with the opposite sex, I dreaded Monday mornings back at school, but while things occasionally became vicious, it was direct. There was no background group mockery in the ether.
 

Well, apart from the stuff my own paranoid nature invented.
 

Boiling bags of hormones, half adult half child, teenagers have never had it easy, but now, with all their peers eternally connected, their lives have become incredibly complex at a time when they are least able to deal with subtleties.
 

With diagnoses of anxiety disorders growing exponentially among young people, I wonder where they go for sanctuary. Back in the 1960s I used to find comfort in collecting football cards. They weren’t stickers. You had to use one of those rubber-tipped glue bottles to stick the cards in the album. I prowled the schoolyard with my piles of swaps, looking for Jimmy Husband of Everton and Derek Dougan of Wolves.
 

In a pack of Match Attax, today’s equivalent, I find a card showing what it describes as a unique online code, that will unlock free digital cards, so I can play for the chance to win exclusive Pro 11 cards.
 

I refuse to believe that our brains have evolved so quickly in 40 years that a nine year-old today would not feel satisfied by simply completing an album.
 

Now, however, children are not allowed to feel that’s enough. They must need more, to become solid members of our consumer culture.
 

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. My encounter with Christine did not end well. Awaking with a telephone number on the back of my hand, I joyously dialled the numbers, only to discover she had betrayed me. Through dark hours of teenage angst I called different combinations of that number, but Christine was never there.
 

If the internet had existed, I might now have trolled her on several different platforms, but the family phone was all we had. 

Teens have always been cruel to each other, and are now provided with so many ways of going about it.

©Charlie Adley
11.01.17.