Monday 30 July 2012

I’ve had enough of my toilet seat depression!

A month ago my friend Soldier Boy gave me a T-Shirt printed with the slogan:
'I hate being bipolar - it’s great!'

Thankfully I’m not bipolar, but I do live with depression. I refuse to say ‘suffer’ from depression, because there are benefits to this condition. When the darkness lifts I enjoy a (manic?) upswing of utter clarity, accompanied by an energetic boost which I would never choose to live without. Anyway, there are an infinite amount of levels of depression. It’s not just a matter of being ‘depressed’ or ‘happy’.

For the past few weeks I’ve been trapped in what I call low-level depression, whereby I’m able to function, exercise and even appear to be having a good time, while privately I’m feeling horribly vulnerable, with tears permanently half an inch behind my eyes, unable to focus mentally, unsure who or why I am.

This present episode, which I’m calling The Toilet Seat Depression, has come at a really frustrating and most unwelcome time, as right now life is good. I am happy, and have much to be grateful for.

It’s bloody inconvenient and I wish it’d just go away. I know that one bright morning I will awake and feel myself again (that didn’t come out quite right, but I’ll leave it to your imagination, my poor colyoomistas). That happy morning will start at 7 or 8 am, and not at 4.56 am, which is where my days are starting while I’m going through this mental chicane.

In my bad old days, depression used to knock me off my feet. I’d be immobile, alienated and useless, but since I’ve been taking omega fish oil supplements, the frequency of truly dark depressions has lessened dramatically. I don’t know whether this is a purely psychosomatic reaction, or whether there are medical reasons why it works, and I don’t care. I’ll take what I’m going through now over my old-style mental prison any day.

But, as I said, it’s very frustrating, because this is a period of time that I want to enjoy, to live to the full, and to be so tantalisingly close to happiness yet so far from fully grasping it is maddening.

So what’s all this about toilet seats?

Well, a month ago it was the Snapper’s birthday, and being a dutiful husband I’d taken note when she complained that the toilet seat in our new home felt so cold on her delicate female butt cheeks that she found it hard to fulfil her lavatorial destiny.

‘Aha!’ I thought to myself. ‘I will buy her a wooden toilet seat, which perchance, unlike the existing one, will be able to remain upright, so that I can finally take a stand-up manly peeper in my own home, while herself can perform her duties without going into shock.’

So in what very possibly qualifies as the least romantic birthday present of all time, I wrapped up the wooden toilet seat and presented it to her on her birthday morning. In my defence, I had also arranged for her to enjoy several extremely romantic presents, none of which were wrappable. A calla lily was planted in the garden, just as she had requested; she enjoyed a tea party with her friends and a posh dinner out with her loving husband.

But you have to unwrap something on your birthday morning, and she laughed as she supped on her glass of bubbles, thanking me as much as anyone can thank another for a toilet seat.

A few days later, when I found myself in this funky mental rut and unable to scribble at this keyboard, I decided to fit the new wooden seat.
Sadly, at the best of times I am far from a wizard with a screwdriver, and this seat came with a dearth of instruction and a plethora of washers, bolts and nuts, but I could not then and still cannot accept that a grown-up almost intelligent man in charge of his limbs might be unable to fit a toilet seat.

So I lay on my back and fiddled and screwed and placed the washer here and the bolt fell off there. I muttered and twisted and pushed and pulled and finally, it all seemed to be done, except as soon as I tested the seat with my voluptuous arse, it proved dangerously mobile, off-centre and unstable - 3 things that you just don't want in a toilet seat.

Since then I’ve had several more bouts with it, lying dirty sweaty agitated and disgruntled on the bathroom floor, scrunched and twisted into several anti-yogic positions, squashed between the bath and the wall, with washers dropping into the bowl, screws falling into my eyes and patience a thing of the past.

As I sit here today, the seat is only attached on one side, and the lid falls down against your back when you sit on it. Despite herself’s request that I replace it with the old one, I’m now unable to remove the new one as there is a bolt that just will not budge.

Yesterday I called my friend The Guru for help, so by the time you read this I’m sure he’ll have sorted it, but the fitting of this damned seat has coincided with those feelings of self-doubt which come to the fore when my poor old brainbox is addled by depression.

I knew I should never have attempted to fix it while in this state, but I’m a stubborn fool, who finds it tremendously difficult to come to terms with my own mental weakness.

Indeed, the most unerringly reliable first sign of depression coming along is my own refusal to accept that there’s a depression coming along. For a couple of months I live in denial, doggedly carrying on as if nothing has changed in my cerebellum, until such time as I’m forced to accept that I can’t manage to do what I usually can.

I can’t fix a bloody toilet seat.

Monday 23 July 2012

Are the English becoming more Irish?

“So what is it that you write about?”
“I write about my life as an Englishman living in the West of Ireland.”
“And why would the Irish enjoy reading the opinions of an Englishman?”
In her straw hat and Laura Ashley dress, she couldn’t look more perfectly English. I’m in Gerard's Cross, an affluent outer-London suburb, where large houses have remote-controlled entrance gates and oaks have great girth.
My uncle’s funeral finished a couple of hours ago and we’re now back at my aunt’s house, where the strong summer sun is baking the back garden terrace.
The hot afternoon air is heavy with sadness and nostalgia. Tea is drunk from bone china cups. There are strawberries and cream. Looking down the steep slope of the long green lawn to the other side of the valley, I watch horses lackadaisically munch lush pasture in the distance.
Whoops! While I’d lost myself in the utter Englishness of the scene, the lady was patiently awating an answer to her question.
“I’m not sure if they enjoy it, exactly, but I think it engages them.”
She smiles with a manner well-practiced by affluent society types, suggesting equal measures of boredom and fascination.
A little later I seek shade, sitting inside on the sofa, taking a breather from making smalltalk, giving myself a moment to appreciate the emotion of the occasion.
Just beyond the French Windows, around a shaded table on the terrace, sit a group of my late uncle’s friends. Most of them are over 80. All of them have lived through the war, worked hard and become financially successful. Even though I have diddly squat in common with these people, I completely understand why they think the way that they do, and smile as I listen to their banter.
“Oh, so you went to the air show did you? Were the Red Arrows there?”
“They were indeed, and most splendid they were! They had a Spitfire and a Hurricane too!”
“Should’ve had a Messerschmitt going down in flames!”
Much laughter.
“I don’t suppose that would have helped relations with our neighbours in the Eurozone.”
“Who cares!”
Much laughter and general loud guffawing.
My political views are a world away from theirs, yet I can’t help but respect them. They’ve come through times of hardship that make our present predicament look like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Each of them has already regaled me with tales of visits to Ireland in times gone by, just as each retains an affection for the country that mirrors my own.
There’s a reason this colyoom is called Double Vision, and it has nothing to do with alcohol: having lived in other English-speaking countries, I fell in love with the one next door, where everything which looks familiar proves to be slightly yet intriguingly different. These days the political borders and cultural barriers between England and Ireland have become ill-defined in ways that never applied when I lived in Australia or the USA.
On my previous visit to London, my mother and I ate fish and chips as we sat together watching the Eurovision Song Contest. I was surprised when she said she liked Graham Norton, who replaced another Anglophile Irishman, Terry Wogan, as the BBC’s commentator on the show.
It wasn’t so long ago that she found him loud and irritating, but now his show is series-linked on her Sky+ box. At one point Norton says “We” referring to a score allocated to Englebert Humperdinck’s British entry, and I turn to my mum.
“Don’t think they’ll appreciate that pronoun in his native Cork.”
“Oh yes, I keep forgetting he’s Irish.”
Well done Graham. You’ve replaced Jonathan Ross in the hearts of the nation.
The next evening we watch Dara O’Briain hosting the BAFTAs. My mother is upset. As a fan of The Apprentice, she preferred Adrian Chiles as the host of its follow-up show, You’re Fired!, complaining to me regularly on the phone how
“That Irishman is so hard to understand. He mumbles, he talks so fast and he seems to think the show’s all about him.”
I sit and marvel at how blurry the lines between the country of my birth and my adopted home have become. Two potentially very patriotic English TV shows are now fronted by two Irishmen, while Dara is also actually nominated for a BAFTA.
Mind you, these days there’s a Bafta award for a category called ‘Reality and Constructed Factual’, so perchance the award has lost some of its cachet of old.
Have the Irish have become more English, or the English more Irish, or are we all simply homogenising into a lesser European beast?
If there comes a time when you can barely tell the difference between the two peoples, I’ll be out of a job. I need you to be different from me, because for every glaring gash of obvious difference between us there are the millions of subtly similar yet quintessentially Irish quirks that I love, which end up here on the pages of this noble rag.
As he’s wrapping up the BAFTA show, Dara refers to the fact that Graham Norton can’t attend tonight’s ceremony, as he’s still in Azerbaijan, where
“… poor Graham has spent the last 24 hours consoling Englebert Humperdinck. Ah well, that’s his cross to bear.”
Oh thank goodness and vive la différence!
Only an Irish TV presenter would ever use that expression.
On Thursday next, 26th July, your ‘umble scribbler has the honour of performing alongside Tuam’s very own and most excellent songwriter and wordsmith Seamus Ruttledge.
‘A Night For Celia’ is a fundraiser for the Galway Famine Ship Memorial and the Celia Griffin Children’s Park, taking place upstairs at the Roisin Dubh at 9.00 pm. I’ll be reading three short pieces, and then the musicians take over, led by Seamus and special guest Don Stiffe.
Hope to see you there!

Monday 16 July 2012

Galway City is Frank and Shameless!

“The boats are gone.”
“Boats? What boats?”
“You know, the boats, the race, the world yacht racy round the planet boats. The reason why this place was packed like sperm inside a celibate last week. The reason we were crushed, mulched, drenched, squeezed dry and soaked again with all the drinking, and now they’re gone. The boats. The boats. They’re gone.”
“Oh right. Yeh, I noticed it was a bit mad round here last week, but sure enough d’yaknow, it’s just Galway. That’s what I said to myself. I said to myself I said ‘Sure, it’s all gone mental, everyone’s drunk and partying like there’s no tomorrow, but that’s Galway!’ "
If cities were fictional characters, Galway would be Frank Gallagher, the patriarch from Paul Abbott’s groundbreaking TV dramedy Shameless. Like Frank, Galway doesn’t care why or how it parties, it just concentrates on enjoying itself to the full, and then a little bit more.
The week before the yacht race hit town, I watched a Volvo bigwig on TV explaining how impressed all the Volvo people had been to see 10,000 Galwegians cheering and screaming in the docks when the boats arrived in the middle of the night for the 2009 stopover.
For some reason I found it more sad than amusing, because the man hadn’t a clue what was really going on that night. He said they’d decided to award Galway City the Grand Finale because of the enthusiasm the city clearly had for the race.
Enthusiasm ... for the race? Hmmm.
What he clearly didn’t know was that somewhere in that crowd of 10,000 there was a 26 year old from Athenry shifting a nurse from UCH.
“Slow down big boy! Let’s wait ‘til after the boats come in!”
“What boats?”
“Duh! The racing boats. The Vulva. There's a big race going on -”
“ - sure you’re right there girl, there’s a race on tonight, alright! A race for you and me to get naked!”
“No, choosh, y’know, the racing round the world boats are coming in now. That’s why everyone’s here!”
“Sure it’s half one in the morning on a Saturday night in Galway City - where else would we be?”
Sorry to dampen your nautical squib Mr. Racing Volvo Yacht person, but Galway’s ‘enthusiasm’ was not for the yachts, stunning and mighty though they are. In Galway City people enthuse about drinking. Come to Galway any Saturday night and there’ll be 10,000 drunks looking for a party, and your yachts coming in just happened to be the venue du jour, as they say in Oranmore.
That’s not to say the whole damn shebang was unimpressive. Just because Galway’s enthusiasm stops at the end of an empty glass, don’t think us shallow. We really were into your race: the winner, losers and craft, just in the same way you’re into the birthday girl at a birthday party. You happen to be the excuse for us to party today, right now, so that makes you special, and who knows what, who or why next week.
Except we do know. The boats are gone and Film with a capital ‘F’ is now ruling our roost for a few days. Then it’ll be the Arts Festival, followed by Race Week, followed by blood transfusions and then into the Oyster Festival, the Grand Soft Day Festival, and if my good friend The Body gets his way, the Moaning Festival, which I happen to think would be a blast.
Here in Galway we have festivals for literature; quilts; fishing; kites; food; bicycles; theatre; children; children's theatre; being GLBT and St. Patrick. We host Groove Weekenders and Cuban Fiestas and we somehow managed to create a festival for a Latin Quarter in the centre of a medieval Celtic city. We let rip with whiskey because it’s Tuesday and console ourselves with hot ports on Wednesday. We’ve got festivals and fleadhs coming out of our arse, and if anyone knows the second line of that catchy little ditty please send it in!
Galway is a pure party town. Our enthusiasm knows no bounds. So yes, boats, that was great. We went mad for the boats. They were brilliant, really inspirational.
Film this week.
We are Shameless. We’ll celebrate anything, everything, a void of things or a glut of things. Must be all the sea air that’s hurled at us by the wind. Whatever it is, I love it, and even though I don’t participate in the craic anything like I used to, I love the knowledge that it’s out there; that if I want to I can go into the city and know for sure that pubs will be filled with happy revellers any and every night.
Shameless’ Frank Gallagher would love Galway, but Frank is fictional and from Manchester, so with apologies to those who’ve never seen Shameless (particularly series 1-3!) I’ve adapted his famous opening monologue.
Were the world an honest place, this would have been the original pitch Let’s Do It Galway made to the Volvo Ocean Race committee:

“Now, nobody's sayin’ that Galway City is the Garden of Eden, but it's been a good home to us, to me and me mates, who I’m proud of, ‘cos every single one of them reminds me a little... of Galway.
“We can think for ourselves, drink for days and if the booze doesn't get us the Atlantic will blow us away.
“Come and watch students make a mess of the lives, doing Aftershock shots as they scratch up their hives. See post-traumatic drinkers with 1,000 yard stares and tourists convinced our city is theirs.
“What sounds on earth could ever replace locked Galwegians watching a horse race? ‘Cos this, people reckon is why pubs and clubs were kindly invented, to calm us all down and stop us going mental! These are Galway City’s basic essentials! But all of them, to a man a woman whoever we are, we know first and foremost the most vital necessity in this life is ...
We know how to throw a PARTY! HA HA ... SHCATTER!”

Monday 9 July 2012

Valium helps my back but scrambles my brain!

(If regular online colyoomistas are wondering what I'm on about, this is the first of the weekly print colyooms, back in the City Tribune every Friday and here each Monday...)
It’s all gone horribly wrong. The day started with the Snapper redoubtably heading off to her job in Galway, leaving me to a long country day in our new home, beautifully rural yet less than half an hour from the buzz of the city.
A bit of strimming to be done and then I'll write the first Double Vision colyoom to appear in this noble rag since 2009.
Planting my voluptuous arse on my rowing machine, I spend 25 minutes trying to concentrate on breathing and posture while instead my brain wanders off to gordknowswhere, only dragged back to reality by the clunking sound of the rowing machine hitting the plant pot on the far side of my bedroom. Seems I've rowed across the laminate flooring at the dazzling rate of a yard every ten minutes.
Today it is sunny. Bees are frolicking, cows are farting in the field over the stone wall and this scribbler is on a mission to strim.
The Snapper’s face appears in my mind.
No dear, I won’t overdo it. I know, my back, yes I know ...
But the mypex sheet that’s going to cover the strimmed remains of this overgrown jungle should have been down a month ago. The sooner the sheet’s down the better, so I attack the task.
On the third of the thirty three million stumpy lumps of mutated grass I need to cut, the strimming line breaks.
I change it.
The line breaks again.
Alarm klaxons start to howl inside my head: Jewish person with power tool! Alert! Jewish person with power tool! Danger! Bwaa-aah! Bwaa-aah!
Okay Adley, so ease up with the brutal stuff. Gently does it now.
I sway back and forth, just like real gardeners I've seen strimming. Three and a half hours later it's all gone, but I really should have stopped when I topped up with petrol two hours ago.
Stumbling over to the garden table, I take off my headphone sound-inhibitor thingies, ear plugs, protection goggles, radiation suit and body armour.
Every movement hurts, as if I'm built of brick.
Don’t overdo it. That’s what I’d told myself.
The shower is ohhhh that feels soooo good, but then my entire body starts trembling. The muscles in my lower back gather closer together, as if they’re at a rave and the DJ's building up the crowd for the grand finale.
Before I start scribbling I have to drive down to the village, send a letter to an agent, go to the butchers and do the weekly shop at the supermarket.
Quite a lot really. Better get it done then, before I seize up completely.
Over the weekend we had a freezer meltdown, so along with the regular bags, there are bags and bags of freezer essentials, and that’s a lot of heavy bags for my now bent double frame to carry out of the shop, load into and out of the car and haul up onto the kitchen counter.
Ohh. Pain.
I know! I’ll make a slap-up lunch of eggs and bacon and then take a valium, to relax the muscles in my back. That’s what I’ve got the little divils for, as well as the now happily-distant panic attack.
Lunch munched, dishes done, I sit down here in my office chair to muse upon what's happened to you, me, Ireland and the world since last we met on these pages, but my mind is a woolly boolly blank …dum dum dooby doo ...
Ah, that’d be the valium, Ted.
Maybe not such a great idea after all.
Ah but then again, just sitting in this chair right now is hurting me quite a lot - yes, I suffer for you, my colyoomistas - and that’s with the valium relaxing those knotted scrunched-up muscles.
So if I hadn't taken it I’d be in utter agony, incapable of writing a single word, whereas now I'm only in mild pain, my thoughts scratching patterns around my brain akin to those of a bumble bee trapped in a packet of marshmallows. Occasional heart-stopping ideas light up my cerebellum, only to simper and die a gentle drug-infused death.
So what’s happened since 2009? Oh lordy, do we have to? I'm driving this colyoom so we'll live in the present. Ireland is behaving itself, doing whatever Angela M and Christine LG tell it to, which feels to this Englishman crushingly sad, because after centuries of resisting occupation, you are now being led placidly and obediently by the nose back to a loss of sovereignty and the end of Irish democracy.
When the Euro finally does goes belly up, having been bled to death by medieval methods of economic surgery, the dreadful irony will be that all these years of Ireland’s suffering, through taking the ECB/ IMF/IVF/Dutch Cap/Contraceptive Bailout route, will prove to have been a complete and utter waste of time.
Isn’t it good to have me back.


If you’re under 25 years of age, chances are you didn’t buy this newspaper. Just as the entire music industry was revolutionised by digital, print as a medium is under threat.
Being a successful freelance writer these days requires luck. I know there are other columnists walking the streets of Galway who feel they deserved this spot, just as I know that there are loyal and hard-working people employed by this newspaper group who have suffered financially in recent years.
To both groups I plead that along with you and everybody else in Ireland, I too have recently been through hard times, yet never want my good fortune to come at others’ expense.
Having said that, it’s great to have Double Vision back in print, exactly 20 years after this colyoom first appeared in this noble rag. I’d like to thank all those who followed Double Vision online over the past few years. If you want to read that archive just Google my name and hit the first link. If you have opinions you want to vent, vomit, grumble or mumble, email me at