Sunday 21 October 2018

Arlene Foster gets up my nose!



We all have limits, personal and professional, and sometimes they blur, one into the other, producing thoughts that are plainly unacceptable in our 21st century woke culture.

Thank goodness we are allowed to express dislike of politicians’ policies and on occasion even admit to disliking a politician or two, for their failings; their corrupt or ambitious natures.

What you cannot do is say you dislike a politician’s appearance. How many times did this colyoomist want to write about Charlie McCreevy’s teeth, but no.

Beyond the confines of morally respectable prose, I have a personal loathing of disingenuous behaviour, so I’m not going to write some kind of half-humorous apology for my struggle.

I’ll just cough it up and take the flak.

There are at the moment so many reasons to disagree with Arlene Foster, so many causes threatened by her policies that we could all fill many pages with heartfelt discord and righteous debate.

Yet my feeble spirit has already lost the plot.

I have gone from feeling mildly irritated by her, to outraged that the British and Irish people are being held to ransom by her, to so viscerally furious with her that my insides cramp as I see her floating around the corridors of Brussels in her special white dress, twitching with excitement, her hubristic hands writhing over each other with the evangelical enthusiasm of a person who knows that this is their moment.

Her tiny life is suddenly being played on a world stage. She’s got the UK government by their short and curlies, to such an extent that Theresa has had to resort to pleading with moderate Labour MPs opposite to support her uniquely unpopular plan.

If it were simply a matter of intractable political differences that’d be fine, because that’s just falling to see somebody else’s point of view.

But that’s not it.
It’s her nose.

There, I said it.

Hands up, folks: this is below me. The only reason I’m sharing it with you is because this feeling troubles me so deeply, excuse the painful pun.

I wouldn’t take kindly to another scribbler writing about my asteroid of a belly, or the orchestral bowel brass section that is the soundtrack of my morning ablutions. If anyone’s going to have a go at me on a base physical level, it’ll be me. That’s my job.

I can write about me but you can’t, so it’s bugging the hell out me that I’m so obsessed with Arlene Foster’s nose, but I am.

Maybe it’s a mental defence mechanism. She offends so many different aspects of the values I hold dear, that now, as she smiles with the knowledge that for this instant her hand is writing the book of History, my brain retreats back inside itself to stay safe.

I know I have to see her, listen to her and read about her, because I am fully obsessed with the future of this island, so I need an escape route.

But really, why did it have to be something physical?

I’ve managed to embarrass myself all by myself, and confess as I wrote that just now, I resisted the urge to cry aloud with maniacal roar

“And it’s all YOUR fault, Arlene, yes it is! Haaaa-ha-haaaaaaa!”
 

Who am I? 

When I see her, my eyes and mind now focus only on her nose. Away from matters personal and politically incorrect, it’s all so unprofessional. 

Who might ever take my work seriously if I witter on about pantomime step-sister noses, and now this colyoom must change tack, for fear it drifts into the aforementioned disingenuous tripe.

Judging a person on how they look feels utterly infantile. I suspect my reaction comes from encountering hypocrisy on so many and such fundamental levels, I feel free to share instinctive responses. 


This has become biological, because hypocrisy twists my guts like nothing else.

On the BBC 6 o’clock news a couple of weeks ago I watched Foster insist that her red line was very simple. 


There was no way under any circumstances whatsoever that Northern Ireland could ever be considered different to the rest of the UK. That was not up for negotiation. Never would be, in any way, shape or fashion.

Three items later came the cake story. On its own the case and controversy created a very healthy debate about the conflicting differences between the freedoms of worship and expression, but it was not a story that could ever run in Manchester. It‘d not happen in Halifax.

It had to be in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, where LGBT rights are completely different to the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Most of any modernising legislation against such vile discrimination in Northern Ireland has come despite the worst efforts of the DUP, via direct rule from Westminster or lengthy hard-won court cases.

As a Jew only two generations from the holocaust, I am very aware that we were not the only community gassed to death. I will not turn my back on the LGBT community who died alongside us and still struggle for freedom.

Don’t even get me started on how Northern Irish abortion law differs from Britain.

Good! Discovered what’s wrong with me.
 

There are just too many reasons to dislike the DUP and disagree with Foster.
There’s too much at stake for her and them to hold so much power at this crucial time.

I’ve regressed and now just watch a nose.


©Charlie Adley
21.10.2018.

Sunday 14 October 2018

A BIT OF CRAIC AND A DROP O’LIQUID, ’TIS ALL YOU WANT!



With the closure of the Westwood Hotel I feel I’m saying goodbye to an old friend. It was for years the place for a toastie and pint of Guinness when I’d an hour to kill; an emergency peeper stop on the way back from town; the bar where I took my students for a celebratory pint after the last lesson of my Craft of Writing Course; the place where I meet friends flying in from abroad.

Whether they landed at Dublin, Knock or Shannon, they have all found their way to the Westwood, and from there after hugs and welcome pints, I lead them back to my gaff.

If you’ve not been a regular customer you don’t have the right to feel regret at the folding of a business, but emotions don’t follow the rules. Even though it’s been 15 years since I stepped into the place, I was truly sad to see that Jordan’s in Ballina had also closed.

As I drove past last week my heart sank to see the boarded buildings in the terrace looking drab, deflated and dilapidated. It might have been closed for some time.

Back at the turn of the millennium I used to enjoy going in there while waiting for the bus from Galway to arrive. There was an intangible quality about the place that I loved. I felt as if I’d been immersed in a Virtual Reality version of Reeling In The Years.

Deep red carpet, wooden bar stools and a long well-polished brass hand rail that leads the eye to the far end of the bar where, clustered around a comforting coal fire, the daily gathering of The Brethren of the Bar is in full swing.

Pure Irish culture, ancient and alive.

Arriving deliberately an hour before the bus, I’d plant my arse on a barstool, order a Jamie, approach the Observer crossword and sigh with contentment, as the bar’s entertained by the old fellas’ banter.

Evidently they’ve enjoyed a fine day. Pleasantly oiled and well humoured, they are ripping the proverbial out of each other with the cruel sharpness of men who have drunk together for years.

The young brunette barmaid hums happily as she keeps herself busy, well able to handle her regulars.

“I love you Aoife!” exhales Tall Rakey-Thin, as she hands him his ‘pointa spesh.’

“I’m glad somebody does!” she replies, leaving himself with a gaping three tooth smile, mumbling “Ahh, but I do! I do, I really do I do do...”
as his mouth sinks towards his beer.

Chunky Beetroot-Faced Flat-Hat turns to his mates.
 

“Here’s one! Here’s one, I tellya! Tink of a number. Go on!”

“Oh, hmm, yesh, I have one.”

“Double it!”

“Ohhhh, jusht a second now. Hmm. Okay.”

“Now, times it boy, boy, boy shix!”

“Ohhh jeeze Mikey, what’re ye feckin’ at?”

“Just do it man. For feck’s sake, it’s not dat hard izzit? And now, now add ten, divoide boy two, and take away the cofff coffff wheeze coff oh feckin’ Jayzus Mary and Jo Jo Jo cofff coffff wheeeeeze take away shix, and you have da nomber ye firsht tort of!”

His toothly-challenged friend disagrees.

“No. No, I don’t. I have terteen, and I shtarted wid sheven!”

“No you don’t!”

“Yes oy do, ye old bollox!”

“Well, ye got it wrong den, dincha? Can ye not add and shubtract? I feckin’ said double it and add 22!”

“Ye never shed nuttin’ like dat, not a bit of it, oh no, not a bit of it!”

“Ah well, try it again!”

“I will not. ‘Tis borin’ and you have it wrong anywayze. So now, c’mere, I have one for you now. Listen to dis one. Hey, Aoife, c’mere and lissen to dis one! Now, if it takes me a week to walk a fortnight, how long will I walk in a day?”

“Eh? What da cofff cof wheeze cof what da fock was that?”

“Oh, maybe I got him wrong, now, lemme tink, ah now yes yes yes let me see now, maybe what I meant was it’s a fortnight to walk a week?”

“I love you Aoife!”

“Like I said, thanks, I’m glad someone does!”

“I do! I love you Aoife.”

“Thanks, and by the way, my name’s Deirdre!”

With that the barmaid turns away and bites her lip to stop her laughter as behind her this revelation brings forth an eruption of uproarious hilarity from all, followed by some reassuring backslapping, and then, from somewhere deep inside the giggling manly huddle, there emerge words that make me wonder if this whole thing is not some kind of set up.

“Ahh, a bit of auld craic, ’tis all ye want! A drop o’liquid, and a bit of auld craic!”

Did he really say that? Had I just been entertained by an improvising installation of actors, employed by Discover Ireland to show tourists drinking near bus stations a little local life?

This quintessentially Irish collection of words felt simultaneously a cliché and powerful, because it was one, and as such, here in Jordan’s bar in Ballina, it was enhanced by authenticity.

Years later I’m able to enjoy all over again remembering those archetypal words that so many imitate and jest of, yet nobody really expects to hear.


Ireland is a much poorer place for the loss of these hotels and bars. The Brethren of Bars are now mostly dead and buried, their lifestyle, as my late father used to say, destroyed by progress.

That night, as I rose from my barstool and put on my coat, I nodded towards them, wished them well and left them to their lives.

Outside the rain had stopped, the clouds were gone.
Autumn’s cold air grasped my lungs.
Stars shone from a moonless sky.
The bus was in.









©Charlie Adley
14.10.2018.

Sunday 7 October 2018

I want that Gone Upriver state of mind!





I’m not just bad. I’m doubly bad.

Bad once, because for the second week I’m unable to write about anything beyond my tiny unwell existence.

Bad twice, as this inadequacy is wholly due to me being that pain in the backside bloke who doesn’t take his own advice.

Don’t tell me you’ve got the flu. You’ll only receive a long lecture about how viruses are pernicious little bastards who trick you into thinking you’re over them, so you go and do stuff, only for the sods to return, slamming you down on the bed like a leaden lump.

On and on I preach. Be careful. If you feel oddly disoriented when you step out the front door, don’t do it.

Blah blah blah advice which turns into pure nonsense, as before you can yell  

“Hypocritical gobshite!” 

I’ve gone and done exactly what I tell everyone not to.

After two days rest and gallons of water drunk those vile symptoms (that doubtless turned the stomachs of brave colyoomistas last week) had gone.

Overjoyed that I was getting better, I remembered my mistakes of the past and tried to take it easy, but life in its wonder and insistence does keep happening.

At the moment there is nothing small on my life agenda. Only the major stuff, most of which is, by its very nature, out of my control.

Trouble is, I’m a bit of control freak. Even though I truly accept that just about everything that happens is out of my control, I fail to resist the urge to influence the minuscule crumbs I might control.

Instead of resting and recuperating, I flee home and drive north, and stay here, where I am today, a few hundred yards from a splendid beach. There’s neither TV nor internet and I so don’t care.

On the drive up here yesterday I thought about how great it’d be to do an old favourite circular beach walk I haven’t done for years, but ’twas not to be. 


I may be foolish but I ain’t stupid. Stopping for supplies I suddenly found myself breaking into a raging sweat while merely ambling around a shop.

Bugger. Still ill.

Yes but the appetite is back and I’ve more energy, so how much harm can a wee ramble do? My spirit rises with the thought of clean sea air, space and peace, so after unpacking off I head, and 20 minutes later I collapse back through the front door, knocked corblimey sideways.

Okay. 

You got me.
Can’t be me yet. 

Still under siege.

I give in.
 

Useless; blue; immobile.

Need to kick those viral moody blues into touch though, so instead of walking on the beach, today I walk to the beach, sit on the stone wall by the car park and breath.

Blasted by the beauty of the bay, embracing the vast Atlantic, my self-obsessed head finally emerges from my anally-retentive backside.

From my perch I can see far distant breaking wave tips whipped into sepia spume.
 

Wouldn’t have noticed them if I’d been walking on the beach.

This is soul sustenance of a different kind to the physical hit of a good walk.
Thanks. I appreciate being deeply here.

Back sitting by the stove in my hideout, I confess to a DVD drive and a decent pair of speakers.

To many of you I know this sounds mundane, unworthy of a mention, but to this ageing scribbler the chance of watching a box set represents a thrill.

When others talk of watching entire series over one or two nights, or several solid days, I quietly think to myself:

‘Where do you get the time?’

Don’t get me wrong. My armchair cushion has a deep arse groove. I sit for hours in front of the tele, but the only two box sets I could say I’ve ever ‘done’ are both ancient: The West Wing, episodes of which I still watch when I need an urgent Trumptidote, and The Sopranos.

Back in 2008, when my dad died, a box set was the size of an item of furniture. Grieving on the sofa for two months, confused patriarch Tony and his family and gang got me through.

Eat your heart out, Freud.

Thankfully right now nobody’s died, but my life is in chaotic flux, and today all I’m able to do is rest and recover; to find the strength to rebuild.

At the moment I’m pure useless to the world and myself, and if there was ever a better time for a box set, I never met it.
Coming up: another old beauty, in the shape of Northern Exposure.

Embedded for me with personal memories of time and place, this series revolves around catalyst Joel, a neurotic Jewish doctor forced by the State of Alaska to administer to the far-flung community of Cicely.

Rich in quirky characters, laden with witty writing and stunning wilderness scenery, there’s much to enjoy. Despite the many lives I’ve lived since I first watched it, I know one episode will comfort and inspire me now, as it did back then.
 

In the final season Joel heads upriver to help a Native American and doesn’t come back. His friends find him calm and neurosis-free, living in a tribal village, drying salmon and shaping fishhooks.

The ultimate urban materialist has gone native.

Joel’s discovered that once you’ve stripped away life’s veneer and chaff, left only with literally the bare bones, nothing matters but those bones.

He finds peace for the first time in his life.

I consider myself incredibly lucky, as twice in my past I’ve found and lived in deep peace.

As soon as I’m finally rid of this virus, I’ll be back on track towards that upriver state of mind.

In the meantime I’m allowing myself a box set. 



© Charlie Adley
07.10.2018.


Sunday 30 September 2018

WORDS CHANGE MEANING AS REALITY ALTERS!



The man sitting here at his computer is not the same one that wrote this colyoom last week. That bloke could breathe through both nostrils and cough without having to clench a distant sphincter, for fear of what might happen at the other end.

For those of misandrist inclination, switch off now, as you’ll be blinded to everything but a man mansplaining man-flu, but this is not about my illness, but the altered state I feel I’m in.

Think it started back when I was 17 and smashed my femur,. My biggest bone was broken in two, the tibia below had a compound fracture and I came out of surgery with a chest infection.

On the ward they slapped my leg up in a sling, stuck a metal stick sideways through my knee and attached it to weights at the end of the bed. Every thirty seconds my rasping chesty cough shook my broken leg.

When I asked how long it was going to hurt they said 6 weeks, so I took myself off painkillers. They’d been giving me 4 hourly pethidine jabs that had me floating on the ceiling, and DF 118s and all sorts, but no.

Instead I learned to see pain as simply another way of being. An altered state. Not pleasant, not to be sought out but if unavoidable, I step sideways from it in my mind and go:

“Oh look. My back’s in spasm.”

I’d say it helps put things in perspective, but what does that mean? Perspective implies that there’s a common ground somewhere, from which differing views emerge.

I’m not so sure.

Which is the real world? The one last week inhabited by a scribbler healthy and full of vim, or this drab place I live in today? Same room, same carbon based life form (cap’n) but now debilitated to the point where breathing is hard and conscious work, while a pile of crumpled soggy kitchen towels climbs higher by my side.

Beyond those we seek out through alcohol, caffeine and other drugs, we live in an infinite amount of constantly altered states, thanks to chemicals, climate and other people.

This little virus is dominating my life today, but by the time you read this it will have left me and could be inside you.

The other day my excellent friend Whispering Blue solved a mystery that’s been driving me crazy me for years.

A few years after my failure in America, I was walking my favourite beach under blue skies and suddenly experienced a joyous rush of euphoria. My mental cinema screen ran a high-speed movie montage of all the rage, depression and pain I’d suffered and caused, being morphed over time into happiness and this bliss, and I raised my arms to the sky and shouted:

 

“Thank You!” to the universe.

“Thank you, Charlie!” boomed the voice back from behind and above the clouds, and yes, as you might imagine, this troubled me deeply.

As a Pantheist-Atheist Jewish mutant, you could say I’m keeping my options open, but I doubted my sanity when faced with having to ask myself if I’d heard the voice of God.

You wouldn’t be hearing about it now if my friend hadn't explained that in my euphoric state there might be neural pathways blown open that allowed for sound to appear as if it came from far away.

Of course!
Thank goodness!

You don't have to burn me at the stake or build a shrine to me: I was experiencing an altered state.

We all are, all the time.
Normal is so last century.

Aiding and abetting our altered perception of what we think is going on, there come words that change meaning. This colyoom is always eager to give you the heads up about new wordy trends. 


Way back in March 2009 DV was on the case of the dilution of ‘iconic’ and in September 2014 colyoomistic red flags were raised about ‘so’. So now ‘so’ is pandemic. So now every sentence starts with so.

This time however DV is hands up out of date and behind the times. Sometimes trends take a while to reach us here in the West of Ireland, but I noticed in London last Spring and on the UK media the frequent use of ‘disruption’ as a positive notion.

There are disruptive technologies sold on Dragon’s Den and disruptive thinking is so cool it poohs ice cubes.

Just like our states of being, language changes all the time.

We will always be fed words designed to influence and alter our opinion, so it’s vital that we don’t swallow them without question.

Take a look at the word Islamophobic. It’s the commonly accepted term for discrimination against Muslims, but what’s with the ‘phobic’? Every religion has at some stage perpetrated something worthy of fear, yet only Islam is so tainted.
 

Christophobic? Sikhophobic? Judaiophobic?
 

On September 7th, Donald Trump went from Montana to Washington via North and South Dakota. During that single day, while talking to journalists and the public for no more than 120 minutes, he made 125 false or misleading statements.

Praise be to the wonderful people who still check facts. Thanks to their diligence we know that by the 601st day of his presidency, Trump had told over 5,000 lies.

At a time when Doublespeak rules and words threaten to become utterly meaningless, you can’t just have a crisis: you now have to have an existential crisis.

The Labour Party, Manchester Untied and Bumblebees are all in crisis, and if it ain’t existential it ain’t worth a dime.

My crisis is far from existential.
It’s very simple.
I just need to lie down and kick this virus.


30.09.2018.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 23 September 2018

GRATITUDE OILS OUR HUMAN HINGES!



There are no more joyous words in the English language than “Thank you.” You've given a child a present and they just turn and walk away, leaving you standing there with your arms lolling around like an ancient willow, chin stuck forward and eyes bulging, waiting for the magic words.

You know the present was something he wanted. You’d asked his parents, so there’s no point blaming the child.

Off goes the head in imaginary circles of erroneous thinking: it’s the parents’ fault.
 

Clearly they never bothered to teach their son manners.
 

What a shame. Tut tut.

What a load of tosh. Every parent tries to teach their child which words to use in order to say thank you, and if we learn other languages we’re taught how to give thanks in several different ways.

We are not, however, taught gratitude. We are not taught how to want things and we are not taught how we feel when we are given them.

That’s down to who we are.

Of course our education and socialisation influence whether we enjoy or shrink from generosity or thankfulness, but the way we react to another’s kindness forms a seminal part of who we each are as individuals.

Random acts of kindness are well trendy and truly wonderful, but deliberate generous gestures can be pretty bloomin’ splendid too.

I’ll never forget the woman with the dogs, because she was silently kind and I never had the chance to thank her.

I was living in Salthill where a sunny Summer’s day threatened to turn parking into a nightmare. Arriving back from a shopping expedition I was delighted to see two clear spaces just round the corner from my home.

After unloading the weekly shop and dropping it into the house, I drove back to discover that someone had parked their car in such a way as to take up both spaces.

“Inconsiderate bastards!” I muttered aloud under peevish breath, and then, as if I had drunk of a magic potion, I began a slow but steady metamorphosis into my own personal Mr. Hyde: Bear From Hell.

Stubborn to the last, I tried to squeeze my car into the space and failed, became a bit more Bear From Hell, tried again and failed better.

On the last of my pointless reversing runs, I spotted a woman walking her dogs around the small park just over the road.

Aha!
There she was!
The driver of the offending car.

Maybe I should just nip over and have a word with her.

Leaving my car obnoxiously double-parked, I strode into the park and approached the lady in question, asking if she would mind moving her car a bit, so that two cars might park where now one occupied two spaces.

She nodded and immediately headed out of the park and back over the road, to do just as I had asked.

Without wanting to alarm her, I tried to catch her attention by following her and waving my arms, because I wanted to offer to hold her dogs’ leads.

She saw neither me nor my gesture. Leaving me feeling increasingly embarrassed, she opened the hatch door of her car, eventually encouraged both of her dogs to jump in (they were not best pleased, thinking their walk had been cut cruelly short) and moved her car the requisite few metres.

As I climbed into my car to move it out of the centre of the road, I saw her open the back door of her car again, encourage her somewhat bewildered pooches to jump out once more and head again towards the park.

By the time I’d finally parked my car she was off, gone, out of sight.

After quick reflection I decided that it’d just look plain weird and potentially scary if I suddenly charged off to seek her out.

Instead I walked home, grateful for the polite calm way she dealt with the situation, feeling rather guilty that what I’d thought at first would be a pretty easy task had turned out to be a time-consuming laborious effort for her, not to mention her confused dogs.

Most of all though I felt bad because I hadn't thanked her.

Even though now it’s a tiny sliver of memory, the fact that over a decade later that feeling remains strong serves to show me how powerful is our species’ need for kindness, decency and generosity of spirit.

We are assaulted every day, minute and second by an onslaught of news, images and sounds that relentlessly impose upon us the notion that we, the Human Race, are a terrible beast.

We wage war. 

We murder.
We rape and abuse.
We torture, beat and maim.

Yes we do, but we are not all bad.

Far from it. Just like yer Grannie used to say, it’s the rusty hinge that makes the most noise. Billions of human hinges work perfectly peacefully. Speaking as one of the planet’s most oxidised hinges, I know I create an unholy racket.

Displays of gentle generosity and heartfelt gratitude lubricate the pathways of the human spirit. When someone acts as that woman did, this hinge is suddenly silenced, oiled by kindness.

I take solace, comfort and hope from these sweet injections of humanity.

Don’t believe all the hype raining down upon us from our 24/7 media culture. We are a gentle, loving, caring and generous species.



©Charlie Adley
23.09.2018