Friday 26 December 2014

DWARLINKS! LUVEES! HOT AND EXCLUSIVE - IT'S THE 2014 DV AWARDS!


You can’t open a magazine or switch on a tele right now without being forcibly presented with an awards show. But you don’t care. 

You’re not bothered about Sports Personalities of the Year or the RTE Squirming Newscaster of 2014 (one contender, one winner: our Sharon, squirming-in-her-seat queen of all she surveys), because you know what matters.
 

There’s only one annual award ceremony you need concern yourselves with. Oh lucky you - it’s the one you’re attending right now.
 

So let’s get on with the show, and the winner of year’s first coveted DV goes to Garth Brooks, who wins the Bertie Ahern DV for A Name We Need Never Hear Again.
 

Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks. For days, weeks, months, aeons it felt as if every news bulletin, every conversation, every tweet was about Garth Brooks.
 

I could see why so many in Ireland became so het up about it, but sadly they couldn't see how pathetically tiny the debacle was in the order of things. Syria was burning. Patients lay on trolleys in Irish hospitals. Yet for an age the only story in town was Garth Brooks. It was nothing but a classic Old School screw-up of planning and paper, pockets and puppets.
 

Then I heard a politician asking on the news:
“What will the world think?”
 

I squirmed in my seat with an arse-ripple that put Sharon ni to shame. Sometimes I feel slightly and uncomfortably embarrassed for Ireland, just as you do when someone you love doesn't know they have a piece of spinach on their teeth
 

What will the world think?
Frankly, dear Ireland, the world doesn't give a damn.
 

Moving swiftly on into the realm of dark despicable beasts, himself the Castlebar Cowboy Enda Kenny is this year’s clear winner of the Paddy Through The Looking Glass DV for Creative Political Thinking.
 

At one point during the McNulty appointment farce, the country was being led by a Fine Gael Taoiseach whose final vestiges of credibility lay in the hope that the vote going through the Dáil would be won by Fianna Fáil.
 

Fair play to you, Enda. That takes some doing.
 

It also takes creative thinking to name the same person winner and runner-up in the same DV category, but hey, there’s a reason why it’s called 'Through The Looking Glass.'

Winner of simultaneous Gold and Silver DVs for Creative Political Thinking, an Taoiseach Blond Bombshell Enda Kenny’s promotion of a non-Irish-speaking TD to the role of Minister for the Gaeltacht was gold dust. Lucky Joe McHugh asked the people of Ireland to go with him “...on a journey...” as he attempted to learn the Irish language.

Good luck with your cupla, Minister. You’ll need it.

The Mary Robinson DV for Most Consistently Pleasing Thing goes to stepping outside of my house. Front door or back, I breathe deep of the clean sweet air and relax, as if my strings have been cut. Surrounded by constant corruption and gombeen antics, I find it vital to remind myself why the west of Ireland is so wonderful. 


It only takes me a few minutes to feel infinitely better, calmer, happier. I watch the clouds, the way the wind is blowing. I listen to our neighbourly pheasant having a croak, watch a far-off fox, hear the waves on the lake in the distance and give thanks to the universe for allowing me to live in such a splendid place.

There’s only one Mary Robinson, but there are runners-up for her DV. Coming in second for Most Consistently Pleasing Thing, the stuff of life in the shape bread, specifically Griffins Bakery’s brown pan.
 

Loaves come and go, and there’s more types of bread available in Galway now than ever before, but you can keep your seaweed and pummelled fig loaf, your knickerbocker seed and sparrow spit dough. Wondrous in its simplicity, Griffins brown bread does the business every time.
 

Mind you, I have to deduct points from Griffins Bakery, as they have been co-guilty of winning this year’s DV for Bad Language, by adopting the word ‘Artisan.’
 

The catering industry is guilty of being fickle with words. We had years of ‘Gourmet’, then everything was ‘Craft’ this and ‘Craft’ that. Now you can’t buy a parsnip that hasn’t been grown, picked and dribbled upon by an ‘Artisan.’
 

Indeed, 2014 was a bad year for words. Thanks to modern life’s craving for hyperbole, the majesty of the word ‘Icon’ is long gone, while ‘Genius’ has now become an adjective, as in 'a genius film.' 

Meanwhile, ‘Legend’ loses its power and substance. Recently I heard a film reviewer on NewsTalk describe Bill Murray as a legend. He is indeed a great comic actor, but was it necessary to use the glorious word seven times in one brief radio item?
 

The Michael Noonan Will Meet You With A Red Carpet And A Bunch Of Tap Dancing Leprechauns DV for Dire Customer Service goes to Bank of Ireland's local branch. The BOI employee explained that they could only deal with cash in the bank on Tuesdays between 12-2 and on Fridays. Apparently the policy was designed to “make it easier for customers.”
 

Coming after that minor business of we the people saving their banking backsides, words like ‘Disingenuous’  and ‘Chutzpah’ would be too kind.
 

It was like being told I’d see better if he cut off my head.
 

The Charlie McCreevy Did You Say That Or Was I Hypnotised By Your Teeth? DV for Ineffectual Journalism goes to an RTE radio anchor reporting on Irish Water, who assured us on November 3rd that the government would deliver “clarity next week.”
 

Finally, tragically, my much-missed friends Marky Logan and Tim Lacey win the DV for Died Way Too Early.
 

Life’s short, people. There’s a new year a-comin’, so let’s go out and live it!
 

Have a Happy 2015 and thanks for your continued colyoomistic support!

 


©Charlie Adley
16.12.01.

Monday 22 December 2014

THIS ATHEIST JEW PRAYS FOR PEACE IN THE HOLY LAND!


At Christmas we’re meant to think of others, but I’m going to spoil all that by writing about myself.
 

During the war in Gaza earlier this year I felt something that I never wish to feel again. If you don’t sympathise with me I will understand. Wittering about my own woes appears magnificently egocentric and selfish, when compared to those endured by the suffering masses involved in that terrifying conflict.
 

I’m always fearful of writing about Israel, as in the past I’ve managed to simultaneously upset my family and my Irish friends. Both essential pillars that support my life, they exist on differing extremities.
 

Hence this piece does not invite Middle Eastern debate. The last thing I need is to become embroiled as arbiter between those two much-loved factions.
 

This is about something I felt, which nobody else can deny.
 

Along with everyone else on the planet, I have the right to feel safe, yet this year I have on rare but significant occasions felt less than that.
 

I have not suffered anti-Semitism any more than usual.
I have not been threatened by physical violence.
Those that I love have not been put at risk.
 

In the past, I’ve had to deal with all of the above, simply for being Jewish, yet each I managed and moved on, chin raised defiantly to my future.
 

However, as that terrible war raged in Gaza, I walked the streets of Galway under Palestinian flags, wondering for the first time if, as a Jew, I might ever become excluded from that uniquely Irish compassion and humanity which first caused me to fall in love with this country.
 

Until now I’d always imagined that Ireland’s passionate support for the Palestinian cause was the natural product of this nation’s victim mentality: a people who had won their hard-fought independence were now identifying with another struggling against an oppressor.
 

In Irish newspapers, TV and social media I encountered justified anger and outrage over the killing. Yet with a third of Lebanon’s population comprised of Syrian refugees; with DRC witnessing slaughter and massacre on a regular basis; with so much vile warfare around the world, why were the Irish focused solely on this particular conflict?
 

So powerful was your anti-Israeli venom and vitriol, I wondered if maybe there was something deeper afoot. Could it be that, despite modern secular Irish liberality, the tiniest smidgeon of religious indoctrination about ‘Christ Killers’ was contributing subliminally to such loathing?
 

While the violence wrought by the IDF was appalling to contemplate, I wondered how long it might be before this Irish anger turned from Israel towards Jew.
 

Criticism of Israeli government policy is not anti-Semitic, but I felt increasingly scared as I realised that some Irish people had not far to go before they were eaten with hatred.
 

Jewish people would be foolish not to learn from our history. We’ve have been burned out of Irish cities in the past, just as we have been burned from our homes the world over.
 

Throughout my London childhood my father told me:

“We are guests in this country. One day we might have to move somewhere else.”

His own father had left northern Europe a few years before Hitler tried to eradicate Jewry from the planet. I was born only 15 years after the end of the Second World War, so the horror of the Final Solution was fresh in the psyches of the world’s Jewish population.
 

As the war in Gaza intensified, some of my Irish friends and some of my family took up extreme positions, seeing little but absolutes. 

Everyone was suddenly an expert on the Middle East. Nobody could watch the destruction of Gaza without feeling intense pain, but when I dared to state out loud the evident truth that the entire situation is complicated, some Irish ears heard different words.
 

What they heard was a Jew saying that massacre was a justifiable option.
 

How could those so close to me think I’d changed overnight?
 

On the day that my friend's nephew was killed by Hamas fighters coming out of a tunnel, I thought I might lose my mind. Galwegians were yelling at me, as if I were a murderer.
 

They refused to talk about the conflict. They did not want to listen to me. They no longer asked for my opinion. They didn’t care how I felt or what I thought. They simply assumed my beliefs because I’m a Jew.
 

I’m a seeker of peace who refuses to see absolutes where none exist. My fathers words were ringing in my ears.
 

The more aggressive the Israeli government becomes, the less I like it, yet the more I require Israel to exist. The more antagonistic the Irish become towards Israel, the less safe I feel here as a Jew. Israel is the only country where Jews need never fear discrimination, but I want to live in the West of Ireland, not Israel.
 

More importantly, I’d never allow my safety to come at the expense of another person’s. Still, as a Jew, life quickly feels unsafe when friends refuse to talk to you.
 

People separate racism and anti-Semitism, but they are one and the same. As an atheist I would not have survived the Nazi gas chambers, and as a human being I am proud of my Jewish identify, my cultural traditions and a unique sense of belonging.
 

So however bizarre it might sound, this Christmas this atheist is praying for peace in the Holy Land. 

We need a miracle to stop a 3rd Intifada breaking out in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

Atheists are notoriously poor at performing miracles, so I pray to your God; to yours and yours; to the universe; to nature; to anything out there that might bring peace.
 

I pray we stop seeking absolutes and try to listen. I pray for peace in the Holy Land.
 

Enjoy a Happy Christmas, a splendid Hanukkah and I wish you all shalom, peace.

©Charlie Adley
14.12.14.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

MY PHONE COMPANY HAS NO PHONE NUMBER FOR COMPLAINTS!


When I write about consumer issues it’s not because I think my problems are unique, but rather because I know that so many of you suffer cruel inequities and hideous iniquities as the customers of large corporations.
 

My credit card’s expiry date came and a new card was issued. Same number, same name, just a new expiry date and authorisation code. So off to the web went this obedient little punter, updating my card details on various websites, all very easy-peesy lemon squeezy. On one site I was a little disturbed to find that the expiry date had already been altered. Cookies? Bots? Who knows what cyber-creatures managed that feat?
 

Then my monthly bill arrived from eMobile, with twice the normal charge, so I called them up to find out why, only to be told that the direct debit on my credit card had been declined. They suggested I should call my credit card company.

Straightaway I did just that, as I needed to know if my card had been compromised. I wanted neither a black mark on my credit rating, nor to pay for a brand new three piece suite for a bunch of criminal skangers.
 

After a rake of menus I spoke to somebody who told me that no attempt had been made to take money from me for that bill on those dates. There had been no decline as there had been no request. 
They said I needed to speak to eMobile about it. 

So off I went back to eMobile, remembering tales of woe told long ago by my good friend The Body, who had many travails with this crew in the past. More menus came and went, more shifting me around departments, until I had a Homer Simpson moment. D’oh! It’s the card’s expiry date! Could that be the cause of the problem?
 

“Oh yes!” said eMobile, “That’ll be it.” “Great! So can I update my credit card with you now?”
 

“No, we’ll have to send you out a Credit Card Direct Debit Mandate form in the post.”
 

“You’re kidding me. But I already have a Direct Debit with Eircom and when I signed up for Emobile you took loads of security checks, and anyway, here I am trying to pay you, not defraud anyone, but you’re insisting it has to be done by mail? Can’t I just go on your website and do it, as I did with everyone else?”
 

“Well, you could because our website does have that functionality. But at the moment that functionality isn’t working.”
 

“Sorry, did you just say that the functionality isn’t working?”
 

“Yes, that’s what I said.”
 

“Do you realise how crazy that sounds?”
 

“Yes, I do. You're not the first person to query this procedure.”
 

So they said they’d transfer me to the department who would send me the form but instead they cut me off, so I had to call back and plough through god knows how many menus to get to the right department, who assured me they’d send a Credit Card Direct Debit Mandate form.
 

Several days later a Bank Account Direct Debit form arrived in the mail from eMobile, which I refused to fill in with my credit card details, as I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to say I’d filled in the wrong form.
 

 Unlike every other company I deal with, eMobile were the only ones insisting on this arcane procedure, while simultaneously making it impossible to carry out their instructions. Yet again I called them, paid my bill over the phone (oh yeh, they have the functionality to take money from my credit card over the phone, but not the functionality to update that card!), and then I once again called their Customer Care to explain how frustrated I felt and could they please make sure to send me the right form this time?


“Yes, I’ll just transfer me to the right department!” they said and promptly cut me off again, leaving me to do all of the above all over again, only to receive a few days later yet another bloody Bank Account Direct Debit form.
 

At this stage I lost it. I’ve got better things to do with my life than be made miserable by eMobile’s incompetence, so I called to make an official complaint.
 

That was when the woman at eMobile Customer Care said there was no telephone number for complaining. I could register a complaint online or send a letter.
 

For once your colyoomist was temporarily lost for words.
 

“So you’re a telephone company with no telephone number for customer complaints. Can you see how that looks to me, as a customer?”
 

“Well you can complain online.”
 

“Yes I can, but if I were a 75 year-old living alone with no internet I’d have to write a letter, to which I am sure there’d be no reply. Is it even legal to deny your customers the right to speak to a representative of your company?”
 

By now I knew I was going to write about this debacle, to speak up for myself and all you other customers who are treated like pooh by corporations every day.

As I sit here I’m waiting to hear back from the Head of Communications at Eircom, who seemed unaware that eMobile customers did not have access to a complaint telephone number.
 

Well, in a world where telephone companies don’t have telephone numbers, I suppose it’s naive of me to assume that communications companies communicate with themselves.
 

We live on a planet that is ruled by Corporate Culture. As customers, we are nothing but an income stream.
 

They don't want to hear from us. They don't want to have to deal with us.
 

Please, don’t put up with that attitude. Speak out, make a noise, be a pain in their corporate behinds.
 

Instead of us fitting in with all their instructions, it’s time they started to serve us.

 


©Charlie Adley
08.12.14.

Monday 8 December 2014

TONIGHT I’M GOING TO LET GALWAY CITY LEAD ME ASTRAY!



I’m going out tonight. It’s time for my staff Christmas party, and seeing as I’m a one man band, that’ll be me, happy out and alone, on another of my organic Galway rambles.
 

When I say ‘organic’ I don’t mean I’m going on a righteous expedition to forage for wild sorrel.

No, I’m not going out to save the world. Tonight will be a celebration of a few things going well in my life, propelled by the fact that nearly half a year has gone by since I last took myself out.
 

Organic in this instance is nought more than a description of how the night will proceed. I’ve lived in the west of Ireland long enough to know that the best way to have a good itme is to let it happen to you. Galwegians don’t like making plans and are blessed by living in the perfect-sized city for bumping into people. So I’ll start off down at PJ McDonagh’s for fish and chips, then wander into the Quays front bar around 7 and from there, well, who knows?

Much as I love Neactain’s during the day, I find it a little too crammed in the evening. My tired old pins prefer to sit down in pubs, but I cannot resist a few runs through the wondrous old pub, in the Quay Street door, linger by the fire in the middle bar, chat to a few in the main bar and then slip out onto Cross Street to -
To where?

We shall see. My ramble will grow in its own organic way. There have been hundreds of rambles over the years, and as time passes the pubs that I aim for have changed.

Well, that’s not entirely true. 20 years ago I couldn't have given a damn about standing in pubs, so long evenings were spent hovering in the woody cosiness, the modern and ancient history of Neactains. It’s a special pub that stands the test of time and whether I’m inside or sitting outside watching Galway TV walking by, I’ll always love it.

However, as much as it’s the central social hub for so many people, it has never become my ‘local’. Although your ‘local’ sounds like it should be the nearest pub to your home, it’s really more about how a pub feels; whether it can be your home from home.

When I first landed in Galway I lived in Salthill, and O’Reilly’s Stroll Inn was right at the top of our road. Long afternoons were spend idly drinking and playing pool as we youthfully frittered away the days, while in the evening my housemate and I would make the slightly longer walk down to the Cottage Bar, ages before it was yuppified.

It was my first Galway local. There’d be a raging fire to warm my bones and steam the rain out of my clothes. Maybe Ruth and Bernie would play a few tunes, or we’d have a game of Gin Rummy with our pints. It was all fairly calm and civilised, and as I recall, the place never seemed to close. I left fairly late but was never anywhere near the last to go.

Then I was happily kidnapped by a bunch of local lads who introduced me to my second Galway local, an Tobar, which back then was crammed with characters, eccentrics and lost souls looking for kindred spirits.
 

I fitted right in, humbled by the way I’d been accepted by this inner sanctum of locals.Sitting at the bar long after 11 one night, The Body turned to me and asked“Are you going out tonight, Charlie?”

At first I had to blink and pinch myself, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. There I was, my arse long-ensconced on a barstool, pleasantly inebriated and certainly not in my living room, nor my bed.

“Er, I am out. This is out. “
“No!” retorted my friend. “I mean are you going OUT?", shouting the word as if I’d been unable to hear him the first time.

Ah. So the five hours we’d spent in the pub didn’t count. He meant am I going to one of the nightclubs in Salthill. You knew that all the time, because you're Irish, but to me it seemed  a bizarre question.

Later we’d wobble out of Tobar and ramble to Salthill. There’d be a stop in Taylor’s and another in the Blue Note, (once the Hibernian was gone) and then on to shake our 30something butts in vulgar fashion at Vaggies.

Years later, when I returned to Galway after life in Connemara and San Francisco, I lived in the Claddagh and Taylor's Bar became my third Galway local. 


Oh how I loved that place, sometimes because of and sometimes despite of the equally irascible and enjoyable antics of Seamus Mulligan. Front bar during the daytime, doing the Simplex while chatting to the lovely Una; middle bar in the evening with the hardcore drinkers and ne’er-do-wells, and occasional forays into the back bar where Dalooney and others skilfully rolled out jigs and reels for tourists and the odd loose-legged Guru.

The only rambling I did from Taylor's was to Padraig's down in the docks, for late night pints and scary games of pool with lads off boats from places where men had Popeye biceps.
 

After Taylor’s was sold and turned into a lap-dancing club I was bereft of a local, and to be honest, although I’m now recognised and feel welcome in many pubs, I have never found another. So where once my rambles were grounded, anchored from a central pub, they have been for years loose and free form affairs, during which I have neither any idea where I’m going nor who I’ll see.

That’s the way Galway likes it. Keep it simple, react as you go and let the city take you out for the night.
 

This evening might well end with a few luscious pints of Guinness, downstairs at the Crane with Dalooney, and then again it might not.

By god, I’m looking forward to it.



©Charlie Adley
27.11.14.

Monday 1 December 2014

WHY MAKE LIFE HARD FOR YOURSELF? TAKE THE EASY WAY!



“She didn’t put in one single ounce of effort. Never bothered herself about anything. Fair play to her now. She completely deserves her success!”
 

That’s not the way it goes, but maybe it should be. We prefer to hear tales of those who have toiled and sweated, overcoming obstacles and all manner of hardship to achieve their goals. We see them as worthy winners. Somehow they have earned their right to kiss the sleeping princess.
 

For a while now I’ve been wondering if we haven’t got it all wrong. If life, as people say, is a jungle, then the easiest way to get out is to follow a path. Why would you hack and scramble your way through the thorns and unknown predators lurking in the dense growth, when you can follow the path of least resistance, out onto the relative safety of the savannah?
 

All over the world we’ve created monolithic institutions that require us to hack through the jungle, to suffer for joy, but as time goes by, I’m increasingly becoming a fan of the easy way.
 

My good friend’s little girl was born into an English family, living in Barcelona. Every day of her life she heard English, Spanish and Catalan spoken all around her, and we noticed that as she learned to talk, she invariably chose whichever word required the least effort, regardless of the language. Instead of saying ‘water', she’d choose ‘agua’ because it was easier.
 

This was not an intellectual decision. She was way too young to consider the correct language for all social situations. No, it was simple. When she wanted water, her brain just directed her speech towards the easiest way.
 

The easiest way must be our natural state. To thrive and reproduce as a species, any animal aspires to the easy way. Yet humans have contrived to spoil it for themselves by injecting kudos into torment.
 

The young woman that was that little girl is now perfectly trilingual, thankfully intellectually able to choose the right language for the right person, yet other childhood speech patterns can last a lifetime.
 

Last week I was listening to the England football manager, Roy Hodgson, droning on in his particularly sanguine style and then I heard him say “Wayne Wooney.”
 

Wayne Wooney? I had heard Wayne Wooney before, but where?
 

Aha, yes, it was on the Jonathan Ross show. He’d made some joke about how little he knew about football and blah blah blah Wayne Wooney.
 

My mind had wandered and missed the chat show host’s slick blather, but my attention switched back to the screen when I heard ‘Wayne Wooney’, because for a second I thought that the England and Manchester United captain, a.k.a.‘Shrek’, might be on the show. He wasn’t, but what was all this Wayne Wooney stuff, with Ross back then and Roy Hodgson?
 

Then I saw the link.
 

We all know that Roy Hodgson can’t say his Rs. He’s Woy Hodgson and his captain is Wayne Wooney. Jonathan Ross is also notorious for his lack of prowess with Rs, being affectionately referred to by the British public as ‘Wossy.”
 

Let’s also throw into the mix one Roy Jenkins, the erstwhile British politician who made massive changes to English punitive systems as Home Secretary, while upsetting a lot of Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland.
 

Later he went on to form the SDP, but all we need to know right now was that he was another Roy lacking the ability to say his own name without substituting an ‘R’ for a ‘W.’
Roy Jenkins was and always will be remembered as Woy Jenkins.
 

So what’s the deal with all these Roys and Rosses who can’t say the 18th letter? Well, might I suggest that you think of them all as little boys.
 

“What’s your name, boy?” booms asks an adult.
“Woy, miss.”
 

Much cooing and many ‘Oh isn’t that sweet?’ noises from all gathered grown-ups.
 

“And you little fella?”
“Jonathan Woss miss.”
 

Oh how adorable. Look at his smile. Much laughter.
Currents jump synapses, burning fresh routes through the tiny child’s mind.
 

Throw in a W and they love you.
 

A Home Secretary, a national football coach and the highest paid TV personality: all found an easy way to ingratiate themselves in formative states as children. No effort; just a lucky break. Success disguised as a speech impediment.
 

So you see, survival doesn’t have to be hard. We strive to make it so, but even the corporate world has learned that making life easier for their employees creates a fatter profit.
 

Several recent studies have shown that the American Model, where workers were given the minimum vacation and sick time, alongside the longest possible working day, is counter-productive.
 

The best way to get the most out of their staff is to impose a system of longer holidays, more time at home, naps in the afternoon, daytime workouts and longer sleeping hours.
 

However counter-intuitive this all might sound, here we have yet more proof that the easy way is the best way.
 

If employers invest in the mental and physical wellbeing of their workers, they will benefit in productivity, loyalty and performance.
 

I reckon the workers would feel a lot more motivated too. If you’re suddenly forced to go on lengthy holidays with your family, you might be happy to get back to work!
 

Studies and reports are never to be trusted implicitly, but the biology behind their findings is sound. Apparently our minds have the ability to work at their optimum in cycles of 90 minutes. Longer than that and we are more likely to fail.
 

The most successful people tend to be those who work early in the day, taking breaks every hour and a half to have a snack, a nap or do a little exercise.
 

So don’t overdo it. Take it easy.
 

If the rewards of triumph over adversity are tempting, think how much you’ll enjoy victory the easy way.

©Charlie Adley
20.11.14

Friday 21 November 2014

DEATH VISITS THREE TIMES, THE LAST A FRIEND AND GOOD MAN!



We are a fantastic species. For millennia we saw comets in the sky as messages from gods, omens of defeat and disease, yet now we have landed on one. A tiny craft made here travelled 300 million miles through the void, hit the bullseye and then plonked itself down on the comet’s surface.

You’d think we were almost gods ourselves, were it not for death. Struggling with the knowledge of our inevitable death we show our humanity, rather than our divinity.

We’re going to die one day. We don’t know why we’re here and we don’t know how to face death so comet schmommet, we’re not gods at all.

We are human, blessed with the 4 Effs of Humanity. We are fallible, freaked out, fucked up and fantastic.

I’m a big fan of humanity: both the race and the emotion. In the last week death has visited my life three times, in wholly different ways, and I’ve given thanks to humanity for easing my pain.

You might mock the first of my deaths but tread carefully. There can be more to a plant than mere vegetable matter, and Perfect White Geranium and I had history. Back in 1995 I left the West of Ireland to make a new life in California. 

Tragically it didn’t work out, so when I returned years later, I shared a place with my friend Artist In Blue Towel. I’d given her all my plants when I left and then forgotten them, so I was thrilled when she handed me back my white geranium.

I cut a branch off it, stuck it into another pot and gave it to my friend. This new plant thrived, as did the mother plant, for decades.

Over the years I lost count of how many cuttings I took off Perfect White Geranium. I became quite cavalier, even showing off a little at how easy it was to create a new plant. 

Look, just take this central stem, chopped at both ends, and d’naaah, another plant.


Perfect because the plant’s leaves were flawless, large, deep dark green: memories of a life loved, lost and regained.

So when the stem went black in the pot, I knew its time had come. Everything dies. Being a nurturer I’d be sad to lose any plant, but this one was almost a friend.

If I wasn’t writing this in public, I’d say Perfect White Geranium was a friend, but generally people expect friends to have heartbeats, so when I then heard about the dog that had died, I was deeply sad.

Admittedly at the time I had consumed a small bucketload of whiskey, as we were mourning the loss of a true human friend, but Una didn’t know that I hadn't heard that Boogie had died, and all of a sudden tears were exploding from my eyes.

Una looked a little surprised and distressed, until I explained that her black labrador and I had formed a strong and permanent bond years ago, while her family, all of us in fact, were experiencing trauma.

Death makes little sense at the best of times. When it takes a tiny spirited unique child, you find yourself hugging the dog.

Third of the three and left until last as it hurts the most, the death of my friend Tim. Another gone far too young, we knew death was on the agenda as he’d been living with cancer for a long time. Throughout the surgery and the ensuing disfigurement, Tim remained as stoic, brave and dry witted as he ever was.

Tim was one of those people who are built purely of the essence of themselves. When I visited him in UCH a few days before he died, he showed not one single change of character.

Of course he felt emotions just like any human, but Tim was English: he kept a lid on it. 

So when I ran out of football smalltalk and dared to venture from the safety of Boy Chat into the No Man’s Land of Human Talk, he had no time for it.

I asked him if he’d watched the game the previous night. He nodded but explained he’d not seen all of it.

“So tired.” he whispered, leaning back on the pillow.
“That’d be your body fighting the illness.” I offered, knowing it was no such thing.

Tim looked over to me and smiled.
“Nah. T’isn’t.” he said, forcing me to nod in agreement.

The silence that followed was laden with truth; the simple yet devastating truth that he was struggling to stay alive.

After my visit Tim texted me to say thanks for coming in. Away from his bedside I was allowed to once more leave the shores of Safe Man Talk, and text him back that he was a good man. 

Smily emoticon came back, his way of saying “Goodbye” to my “Goodbye.”

He was a good man. It was said in the church by many. It was said in the pub by many more. It was the summation of the man. If our lives are to be summed up in five words, I can think of none finer.

Once you’ve popped your clogs it makes no difference whether you climbed Everest or won X- Factor. Did you live a just life? Did you do harm? Did you love others?

The sadness that accompanies each death is as different as the human gone. When Tim’s coffin came around the corner of the street, carried by close friends of mine, my emotions went into spasm.

Yes, he was loved by them and I am part of them and even though I now live far away I am still so much a part of this and whooosh ... my tears flowed.

Tim was humanity on legs, the human race in a single person. Yes, he was flawed; a smile appeared on my face each and every time I saw him; he was a good man.
When death comes to us, I hope we might all match Tim’s legacy.


©Charlie Adley
13.11.14.

Sunday 16 November 2014

MY HEROES ARE THOSE WHO SAVE LIVES, NOT LOSE THEM!


Four years after 9/11, I was standing beside New York City’s ‘Ground Zero’, reading the hoardings hung on the wire fences around the site of the attack.

One of them declared: “In memory of all those great American Heroes.”

Turning to my friend, I observed:

“It’s strange the way the word ‘hero’ is used these days.”

I was about to explain how they were innocent victims rather than heroes, but I never got the chance.

A hand grasped my shoulder. I was spun around to face a grey-haired man in an anorak and spectacles.

“Hey! Show some goddam respect!” he hissed at me.

Had I shouted to my mate, I might have understood this man’s rage. But I had whispered. The scene before my eyes had filled me with sadness, and my voice went quiet as if wev were in a church.

So I was showing respect. Had I been more foolish I would have tried to explain to this man what I meant. But I could see the pain behind his eyes, the loss, the anger, so I dipped my chin and simply said “Sorry!”, walking away with my tail between my legs.

Who knows who he loved in the towers, but as much as my heart broke for all those lives lost and broken, my sadness was spreading far wider, to the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in Iraq who died, as a result of this attack. Members of the public killed for no good reason. The powers that be have long referred to civilian deaths during wartime as ‘collateral damage’.

It’s a hellish long way from ‘hero’ to ‘collateral damage’ but they are one and the same person.

Very sad.

Whenever particular wars flare up, foreign populations become especially agitated, seeing one ousted overpowered people as more important than others.

I cannot. I just see a human life, each as vital as all the others. So now, enveloped as we are in memories of the First World War, my heart bleeds fiercely, as it always does when I contemplate that horrendous debacle.

There is no way to wage war tidily. Even the crisp technology of remote-controlled drone warfare kills innocent victims aplenty. However there is something especially tragic about the 1914-1918 war.

The odds were stacked against the innocents for so many reasons:

The weapons of war had changed. Artillery fire had become faster and more furious, leaving the infantry hiding in putrid trenches. The makers of war still envisaged two armies facing each other in the field, so they used all their powers to recruit as many men as they could, yet technological advances meant that no such battle was possible. Shells, shells, endless shells pounding exploding killing maiming, followed by poison gas, as soldiers sat impotent and rotting in their muddy holes.

Then there was the pointlessness of the war, fighting over 100 yards of Belgium to satisfy the hubristic Empire aspirations of European aristocracy. Those soldiers were expendable: 1c and 2c coins in the coffers of the continent's Crowned Heads.

Then of course, there were the lies. The idea that it mattered at all. I’m not being disrespectful of those who died by saying that their war was pointless. They were brave men and women, doing their duty.

Lies lie behind many wars. For a reason that is beyond me, people swallow these lies to this day. Two months ago the UK government said that by fighting ISIS they’d make the world a safer place. Last week the BBC reported that the government was warning Britons abroad to be vigilant, as their participation in the war on ISIS has made the world a more dangerous place.

Lies abounded back then. Lloyd George promised surviving returning soldiers ‘A Land Fit For Heroes’, yet there was nothing for them. Post-traumatic and unemployed, decades before either ailment was treated by the State, a generation succumbed to the Spanish Flu epidemic. Dark times indeed.

Lies. It was the Great War. Nothing great about it, except the number of innocent victims.

It was The War To End All Wars, but clearly, it was merely the overture to the symphony of modern warfare.

They’d be back by Christmas.
I don’t think so.

Far from being disrespectful to the dead, I am honouring their sacrifice. They were innocent victims. Most of them were out there so the children back home could afford to eat. Putting yourself through hell so that you can keep your family healthy: that, to me, is heroic. Getting killed for a government who quite frankly doesn't give a damn: that is truly terrible.

Of course there were heroes out there. Incredible daring and courage was displayed on a regular basis. When it was employed to save lies rather that destroy them it was particularly heroic.

I’m not saying that all killing is bad. Give me a gun and I’d shoot a Nazi stormtrooper, no problem.

But my heroes tend to be those who dare to save their troops. Give me Shackleton over Scott every day. Scott was an amazing man, brave and honourable to the core. But in the same way that the English celebrate Dunkirk as a victory, they worship a man who came second and perished with his comrades.

Shackleton’s expedition failed spectacularly, yet he didn’t lose a single man. I have just read his own account of the Endurance expedition, the ensuing landing on Elephant Island, the incredible journey in the James Caird and the epic crossing of South Georgia. These were tough men, hard and steely in a way so far beyond your sofa, your iPad and cappuccino that I suspect it no longer exists.

Despite his strong ambition and a desire for glory, Shackleton made every decision based upon his greatest chance of keeping everyone alive.
That’s my kind of hero.


©Charlie Adley
06.11.14

Monday 10 November 2014

Feverish dreams of Albert, Mary and ... doughnuts?


Not fair. Absolutely not fair. I return from a splendid trip to London with a passenger inside me. The night before last it showed its thousands of faces by keeping me awake coughing and yesterday it unleashed the full force of its snotty fury, turning me into an explosive disaster of a man.
 

While a semi-reclusive life is helpful to my head, my lack of exposure to other people clearly isn’t good for my immune system. 

On the heaving trains and thronging buses of London’s megatropolis, I rubbed shoulders in confined spaces; held onto escalator rails that had been touched by tens of thousands; breathed air on planes that recycled everyone’s assorted bugs every seven minutes.
 

I was unlikely to make it out intact.
 

When I was little my next door neighbour used to say
“You have to eat a bag of dirt before you die.”
 

As a child I never understood what she was on about. I used to worry that one day I’d come home from school to find my mother eating a bag of dirt, and then know she was about to die.
 

Thankfully I’m fairly robust and rarely suffer illness. In the 22 years that I’ve lived in Ireland I can only remember two occasions when I’ve had the ‘flu - and when I say ‘flu I mean the number that knocks you off your feet, wiping out your ability to function for several days, rather than that peculiarly Irish illness, so often offered as:
 

“I had the ‘flu yesterday, but I’m fine now.”
 

No, you didn’t have the ‘flu. You had what I have now: a nasty cold and chesty cough that, while debilitating, in no way compares to the severity of influenza.
 

Back in 1994 I was living in Salthill when the Beijing ‘Flu was raging around the country. Alone in my home, I started to come over a bit dodgy in the late afternoon and by the time I went to bed I was delirious and incapable. Sweat poured over my entire body (sorry if you’re having your tea!) and as I climbed into bed I noticed that the veins in my arms were swollen up like lengthy black puddings. 

The lymph glands in my armpits were - ouch! -tender, enlarged, and as I sit here now, I remember the very thought that went through my bewildered head.
 

“Oh. Infected blood, swollen glands. Looks like septicaemia. If that infection makes it past my armpits I might die.”
 

With that, I ho-hummed and slid under the duvet, knowing there was no way I could make it to the phone to call for help. So powerful was that fever, I was able to accept calmly that if I died, I died.
 

Influenza’s hellish combination of shivers and sweating stopped me from dropping off to sleep, so I picked up the book I was reading, which happened to be Robert Kee’s ‘Ireland - A History.’ After a couple of pages the fever swept through me like wavelets around pebbles at low tide. Neither asleep nor awake, I was lost wandering the mental prairies that stretch between dreams and hallucinations.
 

Those feverish visions from 20 years ago still send a chill through me now. Albert Reynolds climbing Vinegar Hill, scratching his bare hairy chest as he roars at the English invaders. Blood, limbs, heads and guts are splashed, slashed, severed and spilled on that Wexford battlefield.
 

Suddenly there comes a blast of heavenly light from the sky, a shaft of love from above, heralding the appearance of Mary Robinson, as if an angel, accompanied by a choir of cherubim singing swirling ethereal chants.
 

Towering above the two warring factions, Mary raises her presidential arms high above her head, and in an instant, all the soldiers on both sides stop fighting and drop their weapons.
 

Truly this was a powerful woman, yet still only the creation of a very sick scribbler, so I was not surprised to see that Ireland’s grand dame of diplomacy then produced a big box of doughnuts.
 

Everyone cheered. Maybe she was about to close her act by performing a miracle akin to the feeding of the 5,000.
 

Sadly no. Instead of eating the doughnuts or passing them around, my demented brain had other plans. Mary Robinson sat down and most unexpectedly and quite obscenely, did something with those doughnuts, slowly and deliberately, one by one, that I will leave to your collective imaginations.
 

You might well wonder why on earth I’m sharing this vile vision with you. Well, it’s partly because in my present state I’m unable to think much beyond illness, but more importantly I’m reminding you all how dangerous and nasty the ‘flu can be. If you have an older neighbour or relative, keep an eye on them, because viral infections can play havoc with frail bodies.
 

Evidently I made it through that torpid night, waking the next morning to discover staring back from the mirror a panda withdrawing from heroin. As if the huge black patches under my eyes were not enough, I now also sported on my left cheek an infected carbuncular spot the size of Cyprus.
 

Yuk!
 

My body had so many toxins to deal with they were starting to erupt out all over the place. Off I went to visit my first Irish doctor, who couldn't have been nicer. Mind you, even though I know that there’s very little medical people can do to help viral infections, I’m not sure about the advice she gave.
 

Had she told me to rest, drink lots of fluids and keep in touch I’d have felt satisfied.
 

What I wasn’t expecting to hear, when I could barely stand up from the fever, was:
 

“Well now Charlie, you’re grand. Go off home and drink a good couple of stiff hot whiskies and then take a brisk walk along the Prom. That’ll have you right in no time.”
 

“Er yeh, thanks Doc!” I mumbled, wondering if she was real or just another hallucination.
 


©Charlie Adley
02.11.14.


Monday 3 November 2014

GHOSTS DON’T SCARE ME AS MUCH AS THIS CAR PARK TICKET!

Bruce by the barn

I saw a ghost but it didn’t frighten me. However, there’s a car park ticket that’s scaring the hell out of me.
 

On a late Somerset Summer’s evening in 1977, my friend Bruce Wallace and I were stumbling from the village pub, heading back to the farm where I’d spent blissful holidays ever since I was a toddler.
 

Towering hedgerows are a feature of England's arcadian south-west, so the narrow lane was shaded dark as dusk. Before the road curved toward the farmyard, there was a gap in the hedge, looking across to the river and the little stone bridge.
 

Naturally, as the fading sunlight suddenly hit us, we both turned our heads toward it, where we saw a tall uniformed man, standing by the bridge.
 

As the hedgerows returned, we lost sight of the man, who was gone before we crossed the bridge ourselves.
 

It was an entirely unremarkable encounter. Doubtless the farmer and his wife had taken in more guests. The farm was listed in several guide books, so later, when the new arrival failed to turn up for dinner, I asked the farmer who he was.
 

He turned his tanned creased handsome face to me.
 

“By the bridge was he?”
“Yes, in some kind of army uniform.”
“Ah, that’d be my granddad. He likes to stand by the bridge.”
“No, couldn’t be him. This bloke was youngish, in his 20s I’d say.”
 

Flicking his pitch black fringe out of his eyes, his deep Somerset accent betrayed nothing but nonchalance.
 

“Arr, that’d be him. Went off to the Somme. Tends to pop up around this time of year. Always loved standing by that bridge. More spuds?”
 

Hunching our shoulders, staring wide-eyed across the table, Bruce and I made stupid faces and went “Bleeeeeaaaayyyyaaarrr!”  at each other, allowing comical shivers to run through our bodies.
 

Over the years I’d seen and heard so many magical things in that farmhouse that I knew better than to question this. My father was no small man, yet I’d seen the farmer levitate him high up from the floor, using just his little fingers.
 

The house itself was listed as haunted, but while I never saw the official ghost, I became relaxed around the atmosphere that prevailed in their home: all things were possible.
 

One morning at breakfast the farmer's wife was talking about the dream she’d had the night before, in which she and her family were sitting in the guest dining room, eating their dinner in front of a huge fireplace.
 

The family kitchen had just such a fireplace, with a massive and ancient oak beam running above the cavernous grate and many little nooks, baker’s ovens, and cubby holes in which to dry herbs.
 

Without uttering a word, the farmer finished his breakfast, left to return with an axe, which he proceeded to pound into the wall of the guest dining room.
 

Nobody cared to find out why the house’s previous inhabitants might want to seal up such a magnificent fireplace, yet there it now was, revealed, oak beam intact.
 


 Blissful childhood memories and spooks galore.

“Always wunnered why it was so cold in here.” said the farmer.
 

To my teenage eyes his response to her dream represented such an act of faith and love, I barely spent a moment pondering the implications of her vision. So when he told me that this figure we’d seen was simply his grandfather spending a few hours by bridge, before heading off to die in the Somme, it all seemed perfectly reasonable.
 

In the memorable words of Dr. Who, it was probably nought but a “...timey wimey jumbly wumbly thing.”
 

A proud atheist-pantheist mutant, I accept wholeheartedly that there is much to the universe we cannot see. We sense so little compared to other animals, it’s clear there’s more to life and death than we can perceive.
 

None of that scares me at all. The wonders of the Cosmos are truly awesome, as in ‘worthy of awe’, rather than ‘awesome frappaccino.’
 

Death scares me, because I’m an atheist, and now this little car park ticket has given me a roaring bad dose of the hairy bejeebers.
 

Just like every other Friday, I drop Lady Dog off to the wonderful Gabriella’s ‘Big and Small Daycare’ and head into town.
 

Returning to Roches car park, I pay for my ticket and put it onto the flat fascia beside my car Bennett’s clock.
 

Ten minutes later I’m driving up College Road when I look over to see the ticket still sitting there.
 

Fear grips me. Am I finally losing my mind?
How is that ticket still there?
How did I get out of the car park?
 

In an effort to quell the wobbler I’m about to throw, I try applying a little rational thought.
Sadly, despite its fantastic reputation, I often find rational thought something of a letdown.
Maybe the car park barrier had been open and I’d simply driven through.
 

Hmm, I don’t think so. If the barrier was open, I’d enter into some kind of neurotic quandary about the chances of getting my car chopped in half when the barrier came crashing down on me as I tried to drive through it ...
 ...I’d remember that.
 

Maybe, instead of swallowing the ticket, the machine had spat it back out and I’d reflexively put the ticket where I always put my tickets.
 

No. I doubt I’d have seen if come out, as I was just watch the barrier, eager to exit. Anyway, if I’d noticed that it had popped out, I’d have wondered about whether I’d mistakenly been given the Galwegian parking equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.
 

So now I’m scared for several reasons:
I cannot remember how I left the car park, which is unsettling.
I don’t know how this ticket is still in my life.
I fear my noodles might have prematurely stewed into mush and that I am no longer an able sentient human being.
 

Now that is scary.
 

Ghosts shmosts, have a Happy Halloween and fear what you must.


©Charlie Adley
19.10.14.


Tuesday 28 October 2014

DESPITE MY MOANING I LOVE THE WEST OF IRELAND!

Thanks to The Snapper.

“Hi Charlie! I’d like to introduce you to my friend. He writes about Galway too, but not like you: he loves it here!”
 

Ouch.
 

On their way to saddening my heart, his words met the memory of an observation made by the legendary Vinny Brown of Charlie Byrne’s bookshop:

“So Double Vision is a bit of a grumpy old man outlet, really, is it?”
 

Well, if it appears like that to such discerning readers then yes, it must have been of late.
 

If in recent weeks it has appeared to colyoomistas that I no longer love living in the West of Ireland, then I have failed to share with you the truth, the whole truth, the joyful truth.
 

Of course there are times when my 54 year-old bones ache a bit more, when my mind turns to its darker side and temporarily dwells in the Land of Grump.
 

Yet there are infinitely more moments when I declare my gratitude to the universe. On several occasions each day I simply give thanks for living here.
 

25 minutes from the friendly bustle of Quay Street, I can stand in my back garden and see no evidence of human life. Well, there are stone walls that didn’t build themselves, but also there are rare and wonderful moments when the power tools of the townland are downed, and silence reigns.
 

Silence comes in many forms, and the one I enjoy around my house comfortably includes the swish of wind though wet willow leaves, the song of birds, the buzz of a thousand flies around the flowering ivy and the occasional belch of my dog or her owner. Beyond that, blissfully, there is no distant roar of traffic, no crash of construction nearby, no human rage to interrupt my peace, nor any antagonism to fuel my angsty fires.
 

Before we adopted Lady from the fabulous folk at MADRA (madra.ie, or text Marina on 086 814 9026) I was fearful that I’d no longer be able to step outside and stand dead still, as I am prone to do, watching the clouds change shape, the journey of the sun and the starlings washing in the puddle in the bohreen.
 

Happpily it turned out that Lady has the same space cadet tendencies as myself. So we both stand by the gate and enjoy being immobile members of the scene together.
 

Well, apart from those starlings washing in the puddle. They’d send her mental.
 

Lady and I head up the bog road each morning around 8.30, and recently I have had my breath taken away by the autumnal beauty that greets us.
 

With thick mist lying low on the ground, the diffused sunlight picks out stretching fields of golden grasses, rusty ferns and perky heather, all linked by a diamonte chain mail of ten thousand spiders’ webs, piercing the gloom with shards of glistening eye-dazzling light. Every gate post and gap in stone walls is sealed with one of these graceful creations, lighting up as the low sun bursts through the mist.
 

High up above us, on the ridge of a grassy bank, the outline of a stallion emerges through the haze. 

He’s standing still, as if a statue built by Neolithic natives, but by the time we come back down the road, he is gone, along with the mist.
 

Now we walk under a blazing sun, plucking swollen bursting blackberries from the bramble bushes, stopping to fill my pockets with the hazelnuts that have been blown down by last night’s wind.
Every morning, when Lady stops at yet another bush to try and eat a frog, I look around, breathe deep and give thanks for my life here.
 

I love the West of Ireland. I love its space, its emptiness, its staggering and gentle beauty.
 

I love the compassion of its people, all those who made me feel so welcome when I first arrived and the friends that they have since become. I love the opportunities this place has offered me, to make a living doing the things that I love.
 

In my native London you have to play the tedious networking game, and put in a massive effort to earn a tiny return, yet in Galway and the rest of the west of Ireland I found that a small investment of ingenuity and energy takes you a long way. Having had innumerable jobs that meant very little to me, 

I appreciate every day the privilege of earning my living doing work that I love, be that writing, teaching or editing.
 

I love the fact that if I turn right on the main road I’ll be past Oughterrard and in the magical world of Connemara in 20 minutes.


 Scribbler spoils view...

I love the Twelve Pins: those smooth curvaceous hills that form God’s own fruitbowl.
 

I love the myriad of perfect lonely pristine beaches around Claddaghduff. I love the Inagh Valley, where the Maamturk Mountains and the Pins meet up, reflected by Lough Inagh.
 

I love to sit outside Neactain's or the Quays and see who comes up Quay Street, because sure as there’s food and drink in a pint of Guinness, somebody will.
 

I love PJ McDonagh's fish, chips and peas. A night out on the amble and tear would be
unthinkable without that wondrous ballast.
 

I love to watch the River Corrib as it crashes through Winters and meanders the rare dry
Summers; to marvel at how salmon do still leap, even in the centre of a major city.
 

I love the fact that we live at the end of the road.
 

Possibly more than anything, I love the way the West of Ireland has allowed me time. Yes, I know last week I was giving out about how exhausted I was, but as the locals here say. “Ye’ll have that!”
 

Compared to the many faster more demanding and debilitating places I have lived, I love having the time to stop; to stare at clouds and appreciate how good life is.



©Charlie Adley
16.10.14.