Monday 27 January 2014


The bloke behind the counter couldn’t be nicer. He’s relaxed, smiling, honest, chatty and helpful. You can’t ask for much more from anybody working in a shop, but things are not going as well as they might.

I’m on a mission to buy a smartphone. The time has come. If I lived in my native London I’d have had one years ago, but up until now, living at the end of Europe’s western road, I’ve got away with using a Nokia dinosaur that’s held together with Sellotape.

These days my work demands I have online access away from my home office and although it’s embarrassing to admit it, there’s a marketing element at work here too. Over the last few months I’ve watched a succession of my clients’ eyebrows rise when they espy my ancient mobile. I take my work very seriously indeed, but if to them it looks in any way like I don’t, then that’s not good enough.

So I did a pile of research and pretty quickly came to the conclusion that all the deals are much of a muchness. Ooh mumma, what a surprise. Each network provider gives with one hand and takes with the other. Fine, then what I’ll do is stick with Meteor, because they haven’t given me any reason to leave them, and stay with Apple, because I’ve been using them since the Mac ’84.

What joy it then was to find out that Eircom own Meteor and because I’m an Eircom customer through my landline, I get several hundred squids of the price of a spanky iPhone 5. Great, this is all going well and I can keep my number, and himself behind the counter talks me through the jungle of plans and contracts until we find something that sounds just right.

Well it sounds just right right now, but gordknows what it’ll look like in two years time.

Now he needs to debit a euro off my credit card and run it through a check just so that they know I’m not a gangster. I tell him that my credit card's already cleared with them, for topping up from my phone.

“Sorry!” says he, “We still have to do it. Can you come back in an hour?”
“Hmm, well, no, not really. No bother, go ahead and do it, and I’ll come back in another day to pick up the phone and sign the paperwork. Oh, and there's still over 30 quids worth of credit on my mobile, so can I have that transferred to my new bill pay account?”

“Sorry, no that’s not possible. Different companies, you see.”
“Well no, I don’t see, because both names are above your shop’s door and one wholly owns the other.”

But I let it go and wander off, thinking to myself that I’ll use up that credit before I commit myself to my new phone. I’ll call everyone on my mobile and roar through it, rather than just let Meteor walk off with my dosh.

Bloomin’ right. Sod ‘em. Then the bad thing happens: the niggling unpleasant voice in my head goes from a nagging whisper to a demanding dirge, spreading all over my cerebellum like Nazis annexing the Sudetenland.

Oh you sly little bastards. You're off checking my credit card and nicking 30 quid off me while I’ve done nothing but show you supreme customer loyalty. There’s no need for you to check out my credit rating as you’re already creaming me through the direct debit set up from my bank account that pays my Eircom landline bill, as well as a credit card mandate cleared and already set up with Meteor. 

I’m about to spend hundreds on a new phone with you and sign a two year contract with you and I’ve just approved a direct debit from my credit card to pay the bill, and you oh no, you can’t simply allocate a 30 quid credit to my bill pay account, because that might make me feel justified in showing you loyalty. It might make me feel you truly gave a damn about my custom, and the way I keep bringing it back to you.

Sadly customer loyalty means nothing at all these days. If fact, loyal customers appear to be the only people to suffer in our 21st century corporate culture.

Everywhere I go I hear tales of car insurance renewal premiums that suddenly go through the roof. No claims have been made, yet the insurance companies have taken their loyal customers and royally shafted them where it hurts. The same companies are simultaneously offering new customers excellent rates.

Silly me. There I was thinking that insurance companies might give better prices to people who’ve proved they can drive for years and make no claims.

Then there’s the banks, who reward the Irish people for rescuing their greedy repugnant backsides by closing windows in high street branches. There’ll be three employees doing naff-all behind the customer service desk and another prowling the massive queue, asking if anyone doesn’t actually need to be in the queue.

Some stupid part of me likes to believe customer loyalty is a two way street; that if I’m already a long-term committed customer of both parent company Eircom and its subsidiary Meteor, with direct debits pouring forth from me to them in various methods and directions, they might reciprocate with a little goodwill gesture.

Actually, stuff that. It’s not a goodwill gesture I’m after. I want my money back. I’ve paid them something and not used it, so I should just get it back. But if they ever do recompense me, you’d better believe they’ll call it a ‘good will gesture’, and maybe throw in a ‘without prejudice’ or two for good measure.

No, it won’t come to that. I’ll take the hit, sign the contract and buy the phone.

But not until I’ve used up the credit on my old phone. Oh no. I can be a horribly stubborn man, especially when someone won’t give back what is rightfully mine.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 20 January 2014


Now let’s see, the beef weighs 1.5 kg and the Chelsea game kicks off at 3pm. That’ll do nicely. So 1.5 kg in pounds is 2.2 plus 1.1, so just under three and a half pounds, at 20 minutes a pound plus your extra bit, that’ll be ... but no, hang on. 

There’s the Yorkshire pudding to consider.


When they’re scattering my ashes they won’t be debating whether I could write or not. They’ll be talking about how I supported Chelsea FC, and that I made a decent roast dinner.

So lucky me, when I can combine the two. Happily, putting together a roast dinner is an incredibly simple process, perfectly designed to be wrapped around a Chelsea game.
In the morning I do all the prepping. Carrots and green beans are ready to go, and normally I’d have the spuds peeled and ready to parboil, but not today; not when there’s a Yorkshire pudding to cook.

Roasting meat is a process of cooling down. Start with a very hot oven, and then reduce the heat all the way, but when you’re cooking a Yorkshire pudding, you’re going to need a burning hot oven in the last half hour of cooking.

Lacking the discipline to follow recipes, I’ve never actually measured the flour I sieve into the bowl. Does that look right? Hmmm, just a bit more. Yeh, that’ll do. Dump in 2 room temperature eggs and then whisk in a half pint of what we used to call ‘milk’, but now has to be described as Full Fat Milk. Absolutely none of those grey insipid liquids in yer Yorkie, for goodness sake.

A hit of salt, a twist of pepper and because I have testicles I count 100 whisks this way, 100 whisks that way, a few more because life is chaos and not order, and whack the mix in the fridge to do its stuff.

A quarter of an hour to kick off, heat the oven to 220, slap the heavy-bottomed skillet on the hob and fetch the beef from my bedroom. It’s been out of the fridge to loosen up for a couple of hours, stashed at the back of the house so as not to torment the dog, or inadvertently feed the dog 1.5kg of raw beef!

Hold the meat down into the hot skillet and seal it up until it’s caramelly and smelling almost burned on the outside all over. All those juices are locked in and there’s the lovely outside that makes roast beef extra yummy.

Blimey, I just had a Nigella moment. Isn’t this the bit where I’m supposed to dip my finger into a bowl of something, lick it and turn to camera with a seductive smile?
No, this is bloke cooking, so slide the beef into the oven, turning the heat down straight away to 180.

That’s it! That’s all you do. Except oh yes, I’m going to want a glass or three of red wine with my meal, so I’ll open it now to let it breathe, and while I’m at it, I’ll let some of it breathe in my glass.

Settled on the sofa for kick off, Chelsea come out like they never saw a football before. Oh dear, what’s this round thing that everyone’s kicking? It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the Chelsea strip, over the decades we’ve always been a team which doesn’t really start playing until we’re a goal down. If we get an early goal, I spend the following 87 minutes anticipating the moment when, as my much-missed Dad used to say,

“Chelsea once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

At last we’re losing. One-nil down from a corner. Bad defending, Cech fluffs the ball and it rebounds off a defender into the net. Phew. That’s good, now we’ll start playing.
Sure enough, just before half time, Torres has one of those rare fits when he temporarily turns into the player he used to be, passes two defenders and whacks in the equaliser.  Half time. Lovely jubbly. Off to the kitchen

Line another roasting tin with sunflower oil, get it in the oven and peel the spuds. Load the spuds into the spitting hot fat, toss ‘em around a bit, take the beef out, move it about a bit and baste it all over.

Sorted. Back to the sofa with a re-loaded glass of Bordeaux for the second half. In the 62nd minute Mourinho makes his customary tactical substitutions and all of a sudden we’re flying. Chelsea leading 2-1, then 3-1, the wine’s disappearing and spirits are up.

Final whistle, cheer out loud, turn the radio off, the tele onto Sky Sports News, hit pause and make haste to the kitchen.

Chelsea won, the wine’s working and you can call me Captain Kirk. Out with the beef, wrapping to rest in several layers of silver foil. Now turn that oven up to 220, baste the spuds, splash a spoonful of the meat juices into the sunflower oil in the Yorkie tin and put it in the oven to heat up.

If your Yorkie’s going to succeed, that oil has to be smokin’ hot. Take the pudding mix out of the fridge, whisk it and be patient. Wait for that oil to be frazzling, pour the mix in, and leave it in that super-hot oven for 25 minutes. That’s why I didn’t parboil the spuds today: they’re getting a full-on roasting in this final half hour.

Put the roasting tin on the hob, splash some wine in the pan and heat it up, deglaze all the gooey bits and pour it into the gravy. Mmmhmm.

Boil the veg, add the Snapper’s favourite frozen petit pois, carve the meat, lift the risen Yorkshire pudding from the pan, add the veggies, crispy spuds and horseradish sauce. Now retire to feast while watching post-match interviews with a plate of food bigger than our heads. Come on you Blues!

©Charlie Adley

Monday 13 January 2014



My front gate is a pretty reliable indicator of how much rain there’s been. When it’s dry it works a treat, but as the weather becomes wetter the gate swells, so you have to lift it slightly to slide the bar into the slat.

Hmm, think I’ll give it a little spray of WD-40, stop that rust spreading and lube the bolt to ease on its slidy way.

Mind you, I’d have to be blindfolded to need to rely on such tactile evidence of recent rainfall: the bottom corner of the garden is now a lake. The turlough in the field beyond has stretched its watery edges, as this year’s conveyor belt of brutal Atlantic storms relentlessly pummels in. I find myself standing on the back step looking at the lake on what was lawn, wondering if the young oak and two year-old apple saplings will survive. They're hardy buggers at the best of times and I chose old native Irish tree stock in the hope they’d be fitting for the climate.

So I stand there and stare at the lake, the gradient of the lawn and then head inside to watch the weather forecast. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just more proof that you can take the boy out of London but you can’t take London out of the boy.

Turloughs exist almost exclusively in the limestone fringes of the West of Ireland. After more than 20 years of living here, I’m now used to the idea that lakes will rise out of completely dry ground, but when I first saw one, I was taken by surprise in more ways than one: not only because this huge lake had suddenly appeared in a perfectly dry field, but more because the summer before they’d built a mini-village of holiday homes in that field, selling them off to innocent American punters dreaming of cowslips, cold ones and bodhrans.

After the lake rose, at least half of the houses were standing in water up to their ground floor windows, and I couldn’t for the life of me believe the chutzpah of the builders, who must have known.

“Right!” said I to myself back then, “Never choose a place to live around here unless you’ve seen the house in February!”

Anyway, I’m off to get the WD-40 to spray that gate bolt. Have to admit, there’s something strangely comforting about the blue bottle with the yellow label. If I’m willing to ignore the rather uncomfortable fact that WD-40 is so called because it was Dr. Norm Larsen’s 40th formula for a Water Displacer to protect nuclear missiles; if I temporarily allow my principles to crumble into dust; to sigh and absurdly declare “Nyoocleear schmoocklear!”, then I can comfortably admit that I love WD-40.

To a man who’s no great shakes at anything practical, the little spray has, over the years, made me feel substantially less useless. I may not walk the macho path of power tools, saws and set squares, but thanks to that little spray I managed to score kudos as a young man.

Back in the days when cars had engines, rather than the plastic-encased computers of today, I lifted the distributor caps of many a young gal’s Cortina in pub car parks. A quick spray of WD-40 on their contact breakers, a flying squirt all over their spark plugs and a dollop on their coil and it was

“That should do it darlin’. You can turn her over now!”

Broom broom missis indeed. Chest hairs shooting out of me and a quick teenage snog with little cheeky Kathy, all thanks to that little blue and yellow can.

Truly, if there was ever a place and a time for WD-40, Winter in the West of Ireland must be it. I’m standing out of the wind and rain in the old pigsty, which serves well as a shed. The task in hand today is the hand shears, which have a wobbly central bolt, thanks to my strongman small brain efforts a couple of months ago.

The Snapper had arrived home with some snowdrops, and in the absence of a crowbar I repeatedly drove the shears into the ground and wobbled them back and forth to make holes for the bulbs.

Effective at the time, the tactic proved costly, as by the end of the job the blades were wobbling around independently of each other. Life has never proved lucky when I’m around and sharp objects are moving unpredictably, so I spray the bolt with WD-40, loosen it out, tighten it up, clean off the blades and spray them too. They’ll be rust free, sharp and swift in the Spring. The stuff’s safe around electricity and even un-handy scribblers.

After sorting the shears I make the most of my time in the pigsty, because it’s where they all told me I’d end up. I spray my bicycle chain and the rusty bit on top of the handlebars. It’s pretty dry in here, but nowhere stays completely dry in the depths of a County Galway winter.

The Christmas tree stand retired to the attic with a spray of WD-40 over its screws, so that next year turning the little blighters won’t require me to perform an excruciatingly painful combination of limbo dancing and pixie-wrestling. 

Last Thursday’s storm clean punched the metal mailbox from the fence, leaving it sprawled on the lawn yards away. I’ve wiped it down, stuck it back in place and now, I think the only thing left to spray is the mailbox key. There - sliding in and out as nature intended, were it not an inanimate object.

Enough! My colyoomistas deserve better than ranting product placement lectures. I’m off to walk the dog. At least I would be, if the bloody zip on my coat would do up.

Lady’s bouncing off all four paws in excited anticipation, but the zip is, oop no, dammit. Hang on, I know what’ll work on that zip...

©Charlie Adley

Monday 6 January 2014


You know how it is when you really love someone, except for that one particular thing they do that drives you crazy? Well, I love Ireland and the Irish, but last year, racist incidents rose by a staggering 85% in this country. In the first 11 months of 2013, 142 racist incidents were reported, compared with 77 over the same period the previous year.
History shows us that poverty breeds racism, so it’s no surprise that all over the Eurozone, economically broken and bailed-out nations are breeding fascism. As long ago as October 2012 this colyoom was reporting on the rise of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, and since then parties of the extreme Right have made significant electoral progress in France, Spain and Portugal.
However, I really don’t think the Irish are about to march through the streets of their home towns in fascist uniforms. You’re far too sensible to do that, but not yet all wise enough to see, welcome and enjoy the benefits of a multi-cultural society.
My dream for 2014 is to see a change in you, yes you out there, the average Irish person, who’s not particularly fussed either way about immigration, racism and the like. Sure, aren’t you very tolerant?
The Irish are fond of saying they’re very tolerant, but tolerance is no good. My dream is that you’ll move from tolerance towards acceptance, and then on to appreciation and enjoyment. I know it’s a long shot, but having been brought up in a fantastically diverse society, I learned early to love variety.
Tolerance holds an inherent feeling of begrudgery; that something is being ‘put up with’. When you accept and embrace the reality of Ireland as a multi-ethnic society, you will come to love it in an entirely new way. Change is not always for the worse. Acceptance will bring the joy of new foods, music, fashions, festivals, humour and beauty, in all its human forms.
To be fair to you, the Irish have seen a sizeable increase in immigration in the last 20 years, but that’s because up until then, you were all white and nearly all Catholic. The reason you all felt so outraged by the Rev. Ian Paisley’s description of the Republic as a mono-cultural mono-ethnic nation was because it was true; hard to swallow, like so many uncomfortable truths.
Wiping out racism and homophobia in your domestic society is a strange process, in that it works only from the top down. Societal change usually grows from the ground upwards. A group of people start thinking differently, more join in, until the level of public opinion behind the movement becomes so large, politicians are forced to respond with legislation.
Sadly, bigotry is a fond and familiar choice made by humanity. During hard times it provides someone to blame and when the money is flowing it offers opportunity to create economic apartheids between the super-rich and minimum wagers.
People won’t stop being racist until they know it’s simply not acceptable. I saw the process happen in my native England. We went from laughing at dodgy racist TV sit-coms like ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ in the 1970s to a society where anybody acting in an overtly racist fashion is treated like a social pariah.
Any revolutionary journey will have overspills, where ideas flow further than reason, so while the excesses of political correctness are plainly absurd, I’ll happily suffer them as a price worth paying, in return for a respectful society, appreciative of all of its members.
How did the UK achieve such a massive change in attitudes over the course of a single generation? Successive governments passed and then fully imposed legislation that punished, fined and imprisoned those who acted in a racist manner. When your mate’s gone down for a 6 month stretch because he was chanting racist slogans at a rally, you get the picture pretty quickly.
So the Irish government have to legislate more clearly and vehemently against workplace racism, hate-crimes and incitement to racial hatred. Then, even more importantly, the Gardai and the legal system have to impose those laws.
I’d hate to be black in today’s Ireland. The ignorance I’d have to put up with on a daily basis has my head spinning. Truth be told, my gut is gripped by the utter hypocrisy of the notion of Irish racism. Ever since moving here 21 years ago, I have been constantly bombarded by tales of woe concerning the travails of Irish immigrants in London in the 1950s, of signs declaring ‘No Irish Need Apply’.
Even more galling in the face of Irish racism, we still see regularly on the news today’s Irish politicians lobbying President Obama to allow an armistice to illegal Irish immigrants in the USA. As a nation with a culture of economic emigration in times of poverty, you certainly are quick to forget how it feels to be a long way from your native country.
Two wholly separate issues are being addressed under the single banner of immigration. One concerns those who live here already; the other those who wish to. As a sovereign nation it is within your rights (EU permitting!) to tighten up your borders and control numbers. However, those who already live here deserve nothing but complete and utter acceptance. They are no different to your mate who’s working in Boston. They deserve to be accepted, embraced and understood.
So often those who whinge that Daily Mail refrain 'Ireland’s only a small country' are the first to remind this Englishman that before the famine there were over 8 million living here. So please, no more nonsense about immigration. Clearly there’s room for everyone.
Last year we had The Gathering, an Irish-centred hoohaah that brought in the moolar. Let’s make 2014 the year of The Acceptance. All it takes is a little empathy. Come on the Irish! I know it can happen!

©Charlie Adley